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6 candidates up for Brainerd School Board

Two more names bring the total to six candidates running for the three open spots on the Brainerd School Board. Filing closes Tuesday, Aug. 14, with the general election Nov. 6.

Tiffanie Knapp

Tiffanie Knapp has children in the Brainerd School District and aims to be as involved as she can in the education process.

"I think as a parent the best way to be involved is to be a part of the system and a part of the larger decision-making that goes on within the district," she said.

Knapp is a longtime member of the Parent Teacher Association at Harrison Elementary School, serves on the district advisory committee and substitute-teaches in the district from time to time. She has a background in biology and environmental studies and previously worked for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' exotic species program.

Her decision to run for the school board came from watching the referendum process and seeing what kinds of decisions board members got to make and how they communicated with parents.

Consistency throughout the district—especially within elementary schools—would be a priority for Knapp if elected.

"I went on a tour with the school district when we were looking at referendum issues, and we looked at some Duluth schools, and they did some amazing things where they created similar opportunities and facilities within each elementary school," she said. "I don't think it has to be that cookie cutter, but I would love to see if there's kids that are pulled out at one school—because they're maybe a little bit of a high flyer—to work on math, I'd love to see that happening in all the schools."

Ultimately as a board member, Knapp hopes to advocate for the students.

"I feel passionately about kids and especially kids that are hurting or maybe come from homes where they need a little bit more support within the district," she said. "I think every kid should have the chance to do their very best, no matter what that is and that we need to equip teachers to help them at all stages, from preschool all the way up to high school. And I think that the Brainerd School District has awesome opportunities, and I think that we can make it even better."

Sarah Speer

Sarah Speer, also a parent of students in the district, thinks she has the right qualities to be a positive addition to the board.

"I am passionate about public education and am willing to spend the time and energy needed," she said. "I feel like I'm trusted and able to make difficult decisions. I'm collaborative, I would say, and function well as part of a team. And I'm a strong communicator, and I'm also willing to listen."

Speer said she has a long family history in education and spent time as a high school English teacher herself. She now works in business marketing, is set to earn her Master of Business Administration in February and also has a background in journalism.

"I come from a family of educators and administrators, and so they really took personally the commitment to help kids find success," she said. "And I know that looks different for every student, but it kind of taught me that whatever path you take on, you should do it with a growth mindset and be a lifelong learner, and so I think that's what I am."

Speer said the Brainerd School District has a lot to be proud of right now, and she values the dedication of teachers and staff members.

"I see teachers that love my kids, and they're creative and resourceful and collaborative in ways that a lot of districts this size can't really pull off. I think there's a lot of great leadership in our district right now, and their vision in easy to get behind," she said, adding her excitement for what's to come after this past spring's referendum.

Speer said she believes school board members are "called to help create and support the vision for the district" and advocate for and communicate that vision to the community.

"I welcome the challenge and commend the team in place that's been working toward that vision," she said. "And I think the particular challenge in place right now is just helping that vision come to fruition for the district."

Other school board candidates are incumbents Ruth Nelson and Tom Haglin and parents Matthew Avery and Charles Black Lance.