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St. Charles School Board candidates consider impact of DMC

ST. CHARLES — With population expected to grow in the region because of Destination Medical Center, candidates for the St. Charles School Board are looking to plan for the future of a growing district.

Seven candidates are running for four open seats on the school board. Only one of the candidates is an incumbent, Roger Leistikow, who said he is most proud of how well St. Charles students have performed on standardized tests. And he hopes to continue offering a high quality education to the district's students.

Mena Kaehler and Travis Gransee agreed that the top issue facing the board will be planning for the future. "With the DMC project, many families will look to relocate in southeast Minnesota," said Kaehler, a former county commissioner. "Vibrant, successful schools attract young families."

The future is full of possibilities, Gransee said, and communities such as St. Charles need to prepare.

"It is important we plan for the future while ensuring our students are best prepared for entering the workforce or post-secondary education with the skills necessary to succeed," he said. "Technology is advancing at an amazing rate, and it is important our schools and students are equipped to maintain pace."


There are also needs to improve the physical space in the schools, he said.

Peter Snyder said he believes St. Charles needs to maintain its fiscal strength to continue offering a quality education.

"I would strive to maintain that fiscal strength, understanding that we, as a district, must continue to maintain and upgrade our facilities and technologies to meet the needs of today's students and the students of tomorrow," Snyder said.

Amy Berends said she hopes to bring a female perspective to the school board. "Whether it's funding, technology, space or any number of ongoing issues and needs, I want to make sure to keep a female perspective on the board."

Berends said listening to all the voices in the community is important.

"Growing up, I was at a school where each child was not valued, where an administrator told students they would never become anything in their lives if they didn't fit a certain mold or vision of what an ideal student should be. I was that kid. I was told I would never amount to anything. I believe I proved them wrong."

As a school board member, Berends said she can help those students like herself.

Infrastructure needs will be vital to the next board, said Todd Cage. That includes new construction and renovation to existing buildings.


"Repairs to existing buildings include roof replacement and a new boiler system," Cage said.

"I would like to focus on is increased communication between the school, parents and the community," Cage said. "I would also like to see greater parent involvement in groups like PTO which are intended to enhance the academic life of our students."

Brenda Hansen

Age: 47

Residence:St. Charles

Education:University of Minnesota

Occupation: Registered nurse

Family: Married with 3 children


Political experience: None

Top issue:Keeping up with Minnesota Standards or exceeding expectations, keeping students interested in school

Mena Kaehler

Age: 53

Residence: St. Charles.

Education: Mathematics/secondary education

Occupation: Owner and operator of both Novel Energy Solutions LLC – Energy Management Company and K-LER Cattle Co.

Family: Husband, Ralph, two sons


Political experience: Served on the Winona County Board of Commissioners for four years.

Top issue: Planning for future growth

Travis Gransee

Age: 43

Residence: St. Charles

Education: Bachelor's degree in criminology from the University of Minnesota - Duluth

Occupation: Director of Dodge, Fillmore, Olmsted County Community Corrections

Family: Wife, two sons


Political experience: None

Top issue: Planning for future growth and technology

Peter Snyder

Age: 51

Residence: St. Charles

Education: Bachelor's degree in social studies from Mankato State University

Occupation: Human resources information systems analyst I at Mayo Clinic

Family: Wife, Barbara, three children


Political experience: None

Top issue: Offering students the best possible programs and educational opportunities

Amy Berends

Age: 40

Residence: St Charles

Education: Bachelor's degree in child psychology, University of Minnesota, nursing degree from RCTC

Occupation: Registered nurse at Mayo Clinic

Family: Husband, Jerry, one daughter, two sons

Political experience: None

Top issue: To be a female voice for those who need it

Roger Leistikow

Age: 45

Residence: St. Charles

Education: Graduate St. Charles High School, associates degree from Rochester Community College, bachelor's degree from Concordia University

Occupation: Assistant supervisor Mayo Clinic department of finance patient access

Family: Wife, Kathleen, three children

Political experience: St. Charles School Board

Top Issue: Continue to offer a high quality education to our students.

Todd Cage

Age: 43

Residence: St. Charles

Education: Bachelor's degree in healthcare administration from Winona State University; paramedic certificate from South Central Technical College; master of education in adult education from the University of Minnesota.

Occupation: Paramedic and adjunct college instructor

Family: Wife and two children

Political experience: None

Top issue: Existing and future infrastructure needs.

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