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School board shares experience

Front row, from left: Superintendent Joe Brown, board president Rufus Rodriguez and vice president, Nicole Green. Back row, from left: Michael Edman, Dan Brookens, Student school board members Briana Joseph, Weston Loughmiller and Morgan Hoong, Mari Myren and Julie Laue.

FAIRMONT — This next week is Minnesota School Board Recognition Week. Fairmont Area’s School’s School Board is made up of six members: Rufus Rodriguez, Julie Laue, Nicole Green, Dan Brookens, Mari Myren and Michael Edman.

This is also the first year that three non-voting student school board members sit on the board. They are Weston Loughmiller, Morgan Hoong and Briana Joseph.

School board members are elected for four-year terms. The school board approves all purchases, bills, policies and contracts. The school board sets goals for the district and holds the district accountable for results. They also select and hire the district’s superintendent.

Superintendent Joe Brown shared that Fairmont is the sixth school district he’s worked at he’s worked with many school boards during his time in education.

“This one is the most cooperative, most informed and most approachable,” Brown said.

Brown said he thinks a big reason why the board is so informed is because of the committees.

In addition to serving on the comprehensive school board, each board member is also on at least two of four committees: operations, staff welfare, curriculum and policy. Whereas the school board meetings, which take place twice a month, usually last an hour the committee meetings last about two hours and typically take place once a month.

Julie Laue is a long-time board member. This is her 20th year serving on the board. Laue is from Ceylon and shared that she first got involved back when Ceylon still had its own school district before they combined with Fairmont.

Her oldest three children all attended grade school in Ceylon.

Laue said going through the process of seeing the Ceylon schools close and merging with Fairmont made her want to do more for students. So she first ran for the board in 2001.

“That’s always been my goal, how to make it better for all of the kids. It wasn’t necessarily for my kids but what would be best for all kids,” she said.

Laue admitted her original plan was to quit the board once her children were out of school.

“But now I have grandkids. Every time election year comes I think maybe this is it. But there’s always been a project or something I’ve felt strongly that I want to stay and see accomplished,” Laue said.

Laue said a major accomplishment during her time on the board was consolidating the school buildings.

“I understood what it was like to lose a school,” Laue said, as she had seen first Ceylon High School and then the elementary schools close.

“We lost Lincoln School and Budd School but look at what we did with it, conserving the funds and saving money on construction,” Laue said.

Laue has served on nearly every committee during her time. Now she serves on the staff welfare committee and also on the Southern Plains Educations Cooperative advisory board. She held the title of board chairman in the past but has been Treasurer for most of the time.

Laue is also a registered nurse and works in the OB department at Mayo in Fairmont.

Another board member, Dan Brookens, has been on the board since 2008. He’s mostly been involved in the operations committee and the athletic council. Brookens shared that he wanted to join the board because he comes from a family of educators.

“My mom was a teacher for over 40 years, my grandmother and one of my sisters also taught for many years, and my wife is a substitute teacher now,” Brookens said.

Brookens said he’s always been interested in building communities and bringing people together and being on the board gives him a chance to do both. He also said staying involved in the schools has made him a smarter and better parent.

In addition to being on the school board, Brookens is well-known as the Program Director of KSUM/KFMC/KEMJ radio stations in Fairmont. He does the play-by-play of sports and some public address announcing for Fairmont High School events.

Rufus Rodriguez has been on the board since 2014. In addition to holding the position of board president, he also serves on the staff welfare and curriculum committees.

Michael Edman was elected to the board in 2018. He serves on the staff welfare committee, policy committee and also serves as the legislative liaison.

“I’ve also been representing the school on the YMCA Community Center committee since 2018,” Edman said.

Edman shared that this past year has been a challenging time for schools during the pandemic.

“I’ve enjoyed being an advocate for our students to return to school and keeping the district mission-focused and forward-looking so it continues to improve the educational opportunities we are providing our students,” Edman said.

Outside of the board, Edman practices law in Martin County and his office is in downtown Fairmont.

Mari Myren has also been on the board since 2018. She’s on the operations and curriculum committees and CER advisory board.

Myren shared that she has four kids who went through public school. She’s also worked as a substitute teacher, paraprofessional and as office staff in public schools.

“I have an interesting perspective of how schools are run,” Myren said.

While she is from Fairmont, Myren moved to Indiana where she lived for 25 years with her husband and children. Upon moving back to Fairmont, Myren said she was encouraged to join the board.

“I really like engaging with CER. It’s a nice group of people, as is the board. We have differing opinions but we work together really well which is good,” Myren said.

In addition to being on the board Myren is an administrative assistant at Kahler Automation.

Nicole Green has been on the board for eight years and is currently vice president. Green has six children, four who have graduated from Fairmont Area Schools and two who are currently in attendance.

Green said she ran for the board because she has a passion for education and recognizes the impact education has on individuals, families and communities.

“I also believe that to make our communities and country great we need an education system that caters to individuals and provides varied learning opportunities,” Green said.

One of her goals as a new member was to expand opportunities by recognizing that each student has their own interests.

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