NEW ULM - Steven Gag wants students and parents to be excited about their school.
"I would like to see more families get involved at the schools, enjoying the variety of extracurricular activities, supporting the students' education, wearing purple and being proud!," the first-time candidate for the District 88 School Board emphasized.
Excitement and pride can be encouraged by getting everyone (community, businesses) more involved, the candidate indicates.
Steven Gag is seeking a a seat on the District 88 School Board in the Nov. 2 election.
Gag, along with current Board Chairman Duane Winter, is one of two candidates who filed for three seats on the board.
Subsequently, two more candidates, Rebecca Gag Fliszar and Don Deslauriers, announced willingness to run as write-ins.
Gag is a New Ulm native and a graduate of New Ulm Public Schools. Except for attending colleges in Mankato (what are now Minnesota State University and South Central Technical College), he has lived here all his life.
Name: Steven Gag
Occupation: Co-owner, Gag Sheet Metal
Running for: first term on District 88 School Board
Stand on tax referendum: pro-levy (but levy should be reduced if other funding sources are found)
Gag has worked at Gag Sheet Metal since 1994 and has co-owned the business (with his brother) since 2000. Having been trained in heating, cooling, refrigeration and appliance repair, he manages the heating/cooling end of the business.
He and his wife Michelle, a day- care provider, have four children, attending Jefferson, Washington and the high school.
Gag has volunteered in activities revolving around his children. They include coaching hockey, softball and baseball and leadership roles in the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts.
The family has hosted foreign exchange students and foster children.
Gag said he became motivated to run for school board in part thanks to his wife's service on the district curriculum advisory committee.
Her involvement has given him an insight into "their struggles, what's holding them back" and encouraged him to do his part to help.
"I feel each member of the community needs to support the school district in their own way, so that the community is more attractive to new businesses and families.
"I can support the school district by serving on the school board, using my business and volunteer experiences to help the district move forward," he sums up.
Gag hopes his experience in construction and business management (especially in finances and personnel) will make him a good fit for the board.
In particular, with the district facing facility decisions, he hopes his industry experience can help.
Gag also perceives his ability to "see the whole picture and find solutions" to be a strength.
Like most candidates for office, Gag identified budget concerns as the main issue facing the district.
"The short-term solution is a levy - but it needs to be a short-term solution," he said.
"As we are unable to immediately change the way the state funds the schools or enrollment," a levy referendum is needed for the district to continue offering students a quality education, the candidate said.
But once the referendum passes, the school district will need to approve a budget that supports the vision of the school and is financially responsible - "a community supported budget."
If state funding increases, or the district receives other funding, it is prudent that the tax levies are reduced, once the essential needs of the district are met, he said.
This will show the community that the district will only use the funds required, gaining support for future decisions.
"If I am voted in as a new school board member, I feel it will be my responsibility to research and support changes locally that will reduce the need for higher referendums that are currently being voted on in area communities," he said at another point.
Gag gave the district positive marks for educating students.
District 88 offers a variety of classes and extracurricular activities for students of all abilities, he said.
"I feel the District is doing very well considering the current financial restraints.
"We need to continue with technology upgrades, move towards outcome-based education (making all educators accountable for their students) and support extracurricular activities that give the students an opportunity to gain a lifelong skill, including educational, physical or [in] the performing arts."