Hastings School Board candidates voiced their thoughts on the next superintendent and the district’s strengths at a candidate forum last week.
The district’s eight candidates — current board member and former candidate Russ Rohloff is no longer campaigning — are vying for four open seats. The League of Women Voters of Dakota County and the American Association of University Women Hastings hosted the Oct. 2 forum at Hastings Middle School, where about 110 people attended.
“We think that its really important that people learn about these local races, there’s so much focus on state and national [races,]” said Lynn Lewis, the league’s voter service co-coordinator. “But these smaller races are really important for the community we live in.”
In total, six questions were asked throughout the night and Lewis said that many of them were selected from the audience, with some made up before the forum.
The forums first questions — what are the district's strengths, what drove the candidates to run and what are each of the candidates strengths — were general. Almost all participants said the district's strengths were in its academics, teachers and financial position, and broke down their backgrounds for the other questions.
As the forum continued, candidates were asked about their thoughts on what characteristics they would like to see carry over from Superintendent Tim Collins to the district's next leader, and what other skill they may want to see. Candidates cited Collins's fiscal responsibility as a skill they want to see in the next superintendent and increased community engagement as a desired skill.
Questions near the end of the forum were more specific and prompted candidates to answer questions on how to protect the rights of LGBTQ students and other minority students. Candidates were also asked how they valued "specialist" things like arts in schools and how they would support funding and advocate for extracurricular activities.
Each candidate had one minute to answer questions, resulting in some of them running out of time and stopping mid answer. Despite that, Lewis said the chosen hour-and-a-half-long, one-minute-a-question format worked well for the large number of candidates in Hastings and in past forums.
Candidates for a previous Dakota County Board of Commissioner forum often didn't fill up the entire minute, Lewis said.
"It's just balancing between time and how many questions we were going to be asked. We were thinking we’d probably ... get seven in," she said.
The entire forum can be watched here.