Tim Hendrickson and Helen Lehto are the newest members of the Menahga School Board.
Following a half-hour interview on Tuesday, they were appointed to one-year terms, which will expire the first Monday in January 2022.
Asked why they want to belong to the school board, Lehto replied, “I would support the school and traditional education. Also, because we have seven children, ranging from a senior at the moment to preschooler, so we have, you might say, a lot of skin in the game. I’m interested in what they are being taught and how they are being taught.”
Lehto said her children are currently being homeschooled.
Hendrickson said he received a lot of community support when he expressed interest. His children are also homeschooled. Hendrickson noted he grew up in Menahga and has been involved in the community his whole life.
Both candidates were asked to describe the role of a school board member.
“Research and make decisions that the admin put before us. Taking a look from the community and bring that to the school board or admin,” Hendrickson said.
Lehto said she has expressed her opinions on a variety of school subjects, but she’s willing to be on the receiving end of those calls. She’s also interested in solving the school district’s financial issues. She said she’s in favor of eliminating the middle school, since student enrollment declined. “It seems fairly obvious we’ll have to cut some staff,” Lehto said.
She also said she’s keen to learn the ins and outs of school curriculum.
Lehto said she has participated in the school building committee, the English language arts curriculum committee and World’s Best Workforce committee.
Hendrickson, a local business owner, said the kids are his first priority, followed by the budget. “I’m not afraid to ask questions, dig into stuff a little bit,” he said.
Board chair Andrea Haverinen said the board had the option to fill the two vacancies at the Jan. 25 meeting, wait until the Feb. 16 regular meeting or leave the vacancies open to seek additional candidates.
Superintendent Kevin Wellen said that “time was of the essence” because of pressing budget decisions that must be made.
Haverinen noted that only two people submitted letters of intent for the vacancies, so there likely aren't hundreds of interested applicants.
Board member Katie Howard commented that when there is a large number of candidates seeking to get on the board, “it usually signifies that our community doesn’t think we’re doing a very good job. The fact that we only had two and didn’t have any in the fall, I think is a good sign.”
The board unanimously approved Hendrickson and Lehto.
There is a 30-day waiting period before appointees become official school board members.