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AUSTIN EDITION Four file to run for school board

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

All three Austin School Board members whose terms end this year have filed for re-election; a challenger also is running.

Board member Susan Fell Johnson filed Tuesday -- the first day of the filing period -- to run for her second four-year term.

On Wednesday, board members David Simonson and Richard Lees filed for re-election. Loren Bellrichard also entered.

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Johnson, 44, who just started her own Web development business, said she feels there's a lot more for her to do after one term. The board has done a lot in recent years and has a good team in place, she said.

The mother of two children in the district said she wants to keep working on curriculum and with staff to give kids the best education possible. She'd also like to work more with other local government bodies.

Lees, an 11-year member of the board, said he is running again because he's still interested and concerned about the district. The district seems to be in good shape, with a solid administration that's working more tightly than ever, he said.

It's satisfying to have been part of the district's recent progress, such as implementing all-day kindergarten for this fall, said Lees, a probation officer for Mower County Corrections. He taught for more than 30 years in the district.

Simonson, 53, an Austin Police Department lieutenant in his 14th year on the board, said he has enjoyed working with the board and Superintendent Candace Raskin in her first year. He also wants to keep working to address issues related to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

It's tough to meet those federal requirements with the district's resources, Simonson said. The district has a relatively high number of students receiving English as a Second Language instruction, free or reduced school lunches and special education services, Simonson said.

Bellrichard, 59, who recycles for an occupation, said running for school board has been on his mind for a while. He said having more candidates makes for an interesting race.

He questioned why the board approved all-day kindergarten even though the state only funds a half day of kindergarten. Now district officials will go to the state to lobby for more funding, Bellrichard said. "It seems backwards," he said.

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Filing for the election is open until July 19. A $2 filing fee must be paid before 5 p.m. that day.

If more than six people file for school board, the district will have a primary election Sept. 13. A new state law requires a primary if there are more than two candidates per open seat.

The general election is set for Nov. 8. Those elected will begin their four-year terms in January.

Staff writer Roxana Orellana contributed to this report.

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