This is the third  and final story in a series looking at the people running for Sioux Falls school board. You can find part one here, part two here and all three stories combined here.

Simplified: Five people are hoping to win one of two open seats on the Sioux Falls school board this spring. So far, we've heard from them on everything from teachers to taxes to post-pandemic life. This week, it's time to talk about students.

Note: Candidate answers are listed in alphabetical order.

Let's talk students

Question: What is your biggest concern or focus area when it comes to student achievement?

Cory Begley

"We've got to trust and listen to our teachers when they tell us what these students need," he said.

Begley also mentioned a desire to increase reading and math interventions in elementary school to make sure kids are prepared for middle and high school.

Paulette Ludens

Ludens noted the importance of meeting kids where they're at academically. Maybe a fourth grader needs second-grade level math assignments to help catch them up, for example.

"Put them in the grade they're academically ready for," she said, instead of "pushing them through."

Marc Murren

Murren's main focus is ensuring all students get an equal, equitable education.

"The district has to try and have every kid learn to the best of their ability ... not everybody's going to be an A student, but we want people to learn as much as they can," Murren said.

Kate Parker

Graduation rates and students' ability to read by third grade are always top of mind, Parker said.

"Our reading at the third grade level was still a challenge, especially with last year," Parker said. "We probably didn't make the gains we would've liked to."

But it's also a good time to look at what other priorities in student achievement are, especially as the district works on its strategic plan moving forward.

Anthony Pizer

Pizer aims to look at achievement at the youngest grades first and making sure the district is laying a strong foundation with K-3 students.

"If you have a system where kids are falling through cracks already in that K-3 block and also that they're not coming to kindergarten prepared ... you've already lost them," Pizer said.

His goal is to bolster success in the younger grades so kids are more likely to be successful in middle and high school.

What about workforce development?

Question: It's no secret that Sioux Falls businesses need workers. What role do you see the Sioux Falls School District playing in developing the workforce of tomorrow?

Begley

Finding what students are interested in can help them develop the skills they need for future jobs, Begley said.

He also sees programs like New Technology High School and the Career and Technical Education Academy as setting students up for success with practical technical skills.

"We've got to look more at what's best for our students," he said.

Ludens

Ludens recognizes some kids go straight into the workforce after high school graduation, and she's seen the success that can bring firsthand in her family. One of her sons now owns a construction company in town.

"There's so many more options than just college, and those are a lot of things I like stressing to children," Ludens said. "I really strive to get them work-oriented starting out at Hy-Vee or the fast-food places."

Murren

"Educated kids make good workers," Murren said.

What schools can do to help the workforce is provide every kid with a quality education, and he sees preparing students to go out and get gainful employment as one of the district's jobs.

He also noted the career-focused class options available to students now, from welding to health care to media production and more.

Parker

Parker says in her tenure on the board, whenever the business community has expressed a need, the district has stepped up both with K-12 offerings and programs at Southeast Technical Institute, which is also overseen by the Sioux Falls school board.

"We heard there was a need for vet techs in the community, so we got some business partners to help build that program (at Southeast Tech), and we'll be getting that going," Parker said.

Pizer

Pizer sees the relationship going both ways. Schools can help the business community in Sioux Falls, and the business community can help support the schools through philanthropy.

"The business community and the school district should be walking down the sidewalk hand-in-hand because they are very interconnected," Pizer said.

Election details

Election Day is May 18.

Early voting starts Monday, May 3, the same day as the voter registration deadline.

Two candidates will be selected to sit on the five-member board.