Six candidates running for three available seats on Meade 46-1 School Board – Election Tuesday

News StaffJune 7, 2021Local
Meade 46-1 School Board Election

STURGIS, S.D. – Six people are running for the three Meade School Board seats up for election June 8. Vying for the three three-year terms are incumbent Charlie Wheeler, Piedmont, past candidates, Terry Koontz, Sturgis, Shelia Trask, Elm Springs and new candidates, Aaron Odegaard, Black Hawk, Megan Snyder, Sturgis and Kassi Barry, New Underwood. For information about polling locations and absentee voting click here or call the Meade School District Business Office at 605-347-2523.

Terry Koontz has been a past member and president to the Meade School District school board and served 15 years (1991-2006). Terry and her husband, Hardy, have three sons and one daughter, all of whom are SBHS graduates. They have three grandchildren in the Meade School District. Terry has a BS in Business Management from BHSU and is the owner of Fabric Junction in Sturgis.

Terry is running for school board because she would like to help it become an even better district than what it already is. She believes “in being a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars and that her past experience on the school board will be of help as we move forward”. Terry is pleased with what the district has done to “keep up with the technology changes”. She appreciates that the district gives “students the ability to earn college credits and works with the community on drug and alcohol intervention and prevention.”

When it comes to what the Meade School District could improve on, Terry believes “improving moral in the district. Moral suffers when the leadership is split, and miscommunication happens.” She would like to see “that the high school curriculum meets the needs of both the college bound and vocational student.”
Terry would like to see changes be made with the “student to teacher ratio, providing hot lunches for all students and improve communication at all levels”. She would like to make sure “our playgrounds are fun and safe for our students.”

Terry is a member of the Foothills Community Church and the only Meade 46-1 member to earn the South Dakota State School Board Member of the Year in 2005.

Aaron Odegaard is a new candidate to the Meade School District school board. He has been a teacher with the Meade School District at Stagebarn Middle School since 2015. Aaron and his wife, Samantha, have five children that attend Meade School District. Aaron is a 2012 SDSU graduate with a BS in Biology and a 2017 BHSU graduate with a MS in Biology Secondary Education. Aaron is the owner of Garage Solutions as well as an Evaluator for Western Governors University.

Aaron is “passionate about the community, and the basis of any good community requires a focus on the children.” He “believes he will bring quality perspective and insight to the school board.” Aaron has interacted with a large number of community members at various community events including all Sturgis schools, Piedmont Valley Elementary and Stagebarn Middle School, a large variety of extracurricular events, church and community-wide projects in both Sturgis and Piedmont.

Aaron believes the district does “a good job of providing for the needs of its community members in times of crisis as well as times of need. He thinks “the district made a great choice to provide in-person learning as well as online options for families with concerns.”

Some improvements that could be made according to Aaron, would be “communication, collaboration and inclusiveness district-wide.” When it comes to concerns about education in Meade School District, statewide and nationwide, Aaron believes “larger class sizes across the district are pushing some of the focus of educators and staff toward behavior management and removing some of the focus from educational content.”
Aaron would like to find more ways to “continue to implement technology in engaging ways while also balancing those times with non-tech activities.”

Aaron is a huge advocate for sports and other extracurricular activities. “I want to ensure all students have access and good experiences as part of our athletic and activities programs.”

Aaron is a member of Partners with Ethiopia, Reeces Rainbow Adoption Organization,
Anonymous Angels Grant Organization, RODS Racing, and Rainbows from Raya Organization. He is also a coach/mentor for Piedmont Panther Football; Hoop City Warrior Basketball; Stagebarn
Stallion Football, Basketball, and Track and Field; Rapid City Youth Soccer.

Charlie Wheeler has served on the school board for six years this June. Charlie’s three children have all attended the Meade School District. He received a BS from SDSU and owns a vacation rental company. Charlie is running again for a variety of reasons, one being he “likes to serve.” “We have some big decisions coming up in the next few years and I would like to be a part of the discussion. I want all our students to have a voice and be heard. I want to continue to be a voice for our teachers and administration.”

Charlie wants you to know that he is here to serve. He does not have an agenda and is willing to listen even when we do not agree. ‘Because I listen, I am willing to change my mind, admit when I am wrong and say what needs to be said.” Charlie also believes that “when you are transparent, it helps immensely with people being able to understand.”

Charlie believes the district could improve on being more transparent. Another area for improvement would be to offer more alternative schooling for students to excel. “We had many students work with the online learning this year due to COVID-19. Some students really excelled with that model and others didn’t.”

Something that concerns Charlie, is a cut in funding. “Our students are a precious resource, and it is very difficult to find employees because of what we can afford to pay in every position.” Charlie would like to “see people take a more active role in education, especially in the election of the board as well as the alternative school be expanded so more students have those options.” Charlie is “proud of our staff as they are dedicated to the education of our students.”

Charlie is an active member of the Northern Hills FCU Board, Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce Board and was treasurer, vice president and president. BHSCC board and currently vice president. WSDCA board, currently serving as the board president.

Kassi Barry is a new candidate to the Meade School District school board. She is a 1999 graduate of Sturgis Brown High School. Kassi and her husband, Kyle, have 3 children, one a sophomore at Sturgis Brown High School, a 5th grader and 3rd grader at Central Meade County School in Union Center. After graduating from high school, Kassi attended SDSU for a year to focus on agriculture education. Later, she took college classes to work towards her teaching degree.

Kassi is running for school board because she would like to see the district “come together as one and quit the us vs. them all the time”. When one area of the district needs something, we need to figure out how to get that done without taking from another.” Kassi feels “we need to recognize the growth of the state and area over the past year an in the near future. We need to stay on the path of making Meade School appealing to great teachers and to the families in the district. We need to make sure our class sizes stay within reason and we aren’t overworking the staff. We need to better recognize our great staff and award them and hold our less than stellar staff accountable.”

One thing that concerns Kassi is there is “so much focus on testing over just simply educating. Every student is so unique, no one was made to be standard.” Some improvements or changes Kassi would like to see is to address the growth that is coming to our district. “We need to keep the families that are in our district happy and from leaving our district.”

Kassi and her family are involved in church, wrestling, football, rodeo, and will soon be adding gymnastics and volleyball. They jump in and help/volunteer/coach wherever is needed.

Megan Snyder is a new candidate to the Meade School District school board. Megan and her family of 4 live in Sturgis and are actively involved in the community. Megan has two bachelor’s degrees, one is a Bachelor of Arts and one is a Bachelor of Science in Human Services.

Megan is running for school board to “give a voice to the Sturgis community. She feels our current school board does a good job, but we need voices from the cities too, in order for the board to be equitable and provide representation of all students so that they may reach their full potential. Furthermore, my background in social services and education gives me a unique perspective, different from the current board, which is important to have.” Something that the district needs to improve on is “fiscal responsibility, and our primary duty is to the students, teachers and staff. We need to ensure we are also planning for growth in our district.”
Improvements that Megan would like to see is “another high school built for our growing student population.” She is proud of the district’s response to the pandemic. “We were able to safely go to school full time this entire school year.”

Megan and her family are actively involved in the Sturgis Elementary PTA, SD State PTA, Sturgis Aquatics Committee, Meade County 4-H Leader, Sturgis Soccer Association Team, a soccer coach and basketball coach as well as many other committees.

Shelia Trask is a rancher, works part time at the Philip Livestock, and at the Belle Fourche Livestock and a part time EMT. She and her husband, Tom, have three children and two grandchildren. Shelia has a bachelor’s in Business Administration from BHSU and a graduate from Philip High School.

She believes the student to teacher ratio needs to be improved upon along with a maximum of 25 students per classroom. Trask is certain that our students are getting a good education and the staff and students have adjusted well with the recent COVID issues. “Meade 46-1 has a superior set of teachers and staff. I’d be honored to be a part of the system in this capacity and support students, teachers and staff.” Shelia thinks that “it is very important for the district to keep education as the top priority.” However, she believes “funding is a huge concern.”

Other community involvements of Mrs. Trask’s are Elm Springs Hall Board Member, St. Margaret’s’ Church, volunteer EMT, Smithville Township Treasurer, and Elm Springs Fire Department Member.