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Kiefer, Shirley, Stedman earn school board seats

Two incumbents and a newcomer - who really isn't all that new - were elected last Tuesday to four-year terms with the West Fargo School Board.

Jeff Shirley, who last sat on the board in 2003, and incumbents Kay Kiefer and Patti Stedman were picked out of a pool of five candidates, and will assume their posts later this summer.

Kiefer led the way with 3,783 votes or 23.49 percent, Shirley garnered 3,674 votes or 22.8 percent, and Stedman had 3,350 votes or 20.79 percent.

Gail Flom and Shelley Treib were the other candidates.

Kiefer and Stedman both won second terms and said they are enthusiastic about continuing business as usual on the board.

"I really do consider it to be a huge honor," Kiefer said. "When you're elected the first time, that's one thing, but then to serve in such a capacity as to have those people re-elect you is humbling."

"I'm very excited to be re-elected," said Stedman, who currently serves as the board vice president. "We get to continue right where we left off."

Shirley, although a newcomer, is not new to the West Fargo school board. He first earned a seat in the late 1990s to fulfill a term for a resigning board member. The following year, Shirley won a seat in the general election, and served a full term. He was elected again in 2002, but was forced to resign early after relocating out of the district to Mapleton.

Shirley recently moved back to the West Fargo School District, and now lives in Harwood. He will replace the seat currently held by Ben Koppelman, who did not seek re-election and serves as the board president.

Besides possessing intimate knowledge of the board system, Shirley said he's been keeping up with West Fargo's happenings since leaving nearly a decade ago.

"I've been paying attention to what has been going on in the district because it's always been an interest of mine," he said.

In fact, Shirley said the biggest challenge may be simply wrapping his head around how large West Fargo has grown.

"I looked at the budgets and projections from the 2011-12 school year to 2015-16, and you're looking at maybe an 18 percent to 19 percent jump in students," he noted. "That's a lot of kids, and as the student population grows, the budget grows, expenditures grow and revenue grows."

It's a concept all of the board members are particularly aware of.

"I think of all the growth and how exciting it its, but it will present challenges to maintain the culture we have and, hopefully, improve it," Kiefer said.

West Fargo's newest school, Freedom Elementary, is slated to open this fall. A second high school, Sheyenne, and middle school, Liberty, are scheduled to be completed in time for the 2015-16 school year.

Besides tackling the problems faced by a one-high-school town transforming to a two-high-school town, the election winners said there are other important issues facing West Fargo Public Schools.

Shirley said he'd like to look into the district's growing cultural diversity. And Kiefer said raising student achievement is key, too.

But in any case, alongside current board members Karen Nitzkorski, Angela Korsmo, David Olson, and Judy Kvaale, the trio promised to always keep priorities in check.

"I'm excited for the district," Stedman said. "We have good problems to solve instead of bad problems to solve. I'm looking forward to the next four years."