Bismarck School Board Election will be held June 12, 2018

Matt Sagsveen


If elected, what would be your top three priorities?

Maintaining our focus on student achievement is always my top priority, but I acknowledge there are many issues that might affect student achievement, such as our early childhood learning programs, classroom size, security and safety, budget, staffing, etc.   One issue or area where I have major concerns, and that I think should be a top priority for our Board and administration, is how the district manages student discipline and behavioral issues, and the mental health of our students.  I am very concerned that the district’s management of student discipline and behavioral issues has the potential to negatively impact student achievement and the retention of teachers and staff.  If re-elected one of my top priorities will be to convince the Board and administration to conduct a top-to-bottom review, or performance audit, of how our District manages student discipline, behavioral issues, and how our District is positively influencing the mental health needs of our students.

How do you plan to address the projected continued growth of Bismarck’s student population, especially in north Bismarck?

First, it appears that there may be less growth in north Bismarck than previously projected, so no immediate additional student capacity may be needed beyond our middle school expansions.  Assuming additional student capacity is needed, in the short-term, I would support the Board’s consideration of Highland Acres, Grimsrud, and Centennial, as potential candidates for expansion.    In terms of a long term plan, I have supported and will continue to support the development of a long-term strategic plan. This process might start by re-examining the Elementary Facility’s recommendations, and then building a more detailed plan through Board study and public interest committees.  

How do you plan to address the continually shifting school boundaries for Bismarck’s elementary students?

I respectfully disagree with the underlying premise of your question as I don’t think Bismarck’s school boundaries are continually shifting.  Although the recent Elementary Facilities Committee recommended certain boundary changes, the Board rejected the recommendations. Boundary changes are a necessary component of a growing city, but I am hopeful that we can find ways to minimize their impacts and find ways to avoid them.

In the face of looming budget pressures, do you see it as a Bismarck school board member’s responsibility to advocate for K-12 education funding in state legislature?

No.  Board members typically do not advocate on behalf of the Board during a legislative session.  Board members do not speak for the Board unless this authority has been delegated. Typically, the Board will delegate this role to the Superintendent if it believes such advocacy is necessary.  Board members, however, can always lobby as individual citizens if they so choose.

In 2017, BPS administration figures erroneously suggested smaller neighborhood schools are significantly less efficient than large schools on Bismarck’s outer edges, subjecting neighborhood schools to closure (the recommendation was later rejected by the school board). How do you plan to maintain the integrity of Bismarck’s neighborhood schools? 

First, it is my understanding that the BPS Business Manager developed figures and statistics to explain the economic and operational efficiencies of larger schools.  I also understand that these figures were disputed. In my experience, our Business Manager has always acted with the utmost integrity, and I have no reason to believe any error was committed based upon what was requested of him.

Finally, as an alumnus of Highland Acres, a small neighborhood school, I strongly support Bismarck’s neighborhood schools.  And, I will work to maintain the integrity of neighborhood schools just like I will work to maintain the integrity of any “non-neighborhood” school, since our Board governs all schools in the district.