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Recount possible for fourth spot on West Fargo School Board after close election

Jim Jonas, candidate for West Fargo School Board. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 4
Jessica Heilman, candidate for West Fargo School Board. David Samson / The Forum2 / 4
Kara Gravley Stack, candidate for West Fargo School Board. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 4
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WEST FARGO — At least two board newcomers and one incumbent have been chosen to serve on the West Fargo School Board, with the fourth spot in limbo over a possible recount.

In a crowded field, 14 candidates vied Tuesday, June 12, for four open seats on the seven-member West Fargo School Board.

With all 15 precincts reporting, retired West Fargo teacher and coach Jim Jonas led the field with 13 percent of the vote, followed by newcomer Jessica Heilman with 11 percent and incumbent Kara Gravley-Stack with 10 percent, in unofficial results.

The fourth spot was too close to call, with incumbent Jon Erickson and newcomer Summer Kristianson at 7.5 and 7.4 percent, respectively.

The two were separated by just 19 votes, with Erickson receiving 1,183 votes and Kristianson receiving 1,164.

The race was tagged on the North Dakota Secretary of State's website for a possible demand recount.

Another incumbent, Allan Skramstad, garnered 6 percent of the vote.

A fourth incumbent, Shauna Vistad, withdrew from the race prior to the election, but her name still appeared on the ballot and she received 7 percent of the vote.

Rounding out the field were Jeff Shirley, Shelley Treib, Matuor Dot Alier, Barry D. Miller, Russell Novacek, Aaron Mitchell and Ben Haney.

Jonas retired in 2016 following a long teaching career after West Fargo High School Principal Jennifer Fremstad recommended he be fired for not being able to change his classroom behavior.

An evaluation prior to his resignation showed Jonas was put on an improvement plan over allegations of inappropriate interactions with students in 2015.

Asked about the past situation, Jonas said he's looking forward, not behind, and former students and teachers put him over the top.

"They know the real Jim Jonas, not the one portrayed by the media and the principal," he said.

Heilman said she's pleased to be able to serve on the board after growing up in the district.

"I'm thrilled. It's a dream come true really," Heilman said.

Kristianson said she was in disbelief at her finish, especially because of the large field of candidates.

She wasn't sure what to make of a possible recount, with the results still unofficial.

The new School Board will deal with big challenges ahead, including how to handle rapid growth and the need to build new schools.

New board members take their seats in July.