Editor's note: This is part of a multi-part series on the 2024 city and school board election. Find the full city/school election coverage here.

Simplified: Five people are vying for two open seats on the board that oversees the largest school district in the state. Sioux Falls Simplified sat down with all five candidates to get their take on issues relevant to local schools.

Why it matters

  • Sioux Falls School Board members are elected officials who make decisions that affect about 25,000 kids in the city – as well as more than 3,000 employees. So, Sioux Falls Simplified asked them how they view transparency in their decision making and if they'd do anything different from the district's current policies regarding public access to information.

A quick note: Candidates are listed in the order in which they appear on the Sioux Falls School District election page. Answers are edited for length and clarity.

What does transparency mean to you, and is there anything you'd like to see done differently in the district if elected?

Marc Murren: "Transparency is huge because we're a public entity. We're not under a light – we're under a microscope."

  • Murren added that the district has been around in the community doing engagement sessions and using the "Let's Talk" section on the district website .
  • "I believe that we're very transparent. People might not perceive that, but I don't know anybody that has come to an administrator who didn't get an answer or at least you were heard."

Gail Swenson: "I think we do a really good job in some of the communications – especially a very good job congratulating people.

  • "Sometimes when it gets down to the other business, sort of the nuts and bolts of the operation, if people came to the board they'd see what's going on. I don't know if putting things on the website or a Facebook page or say, 'hey we're adopting the budget tomorrow – maybe we need to do a better job of that or make sure people know that school board meetings are held in public.
  • "I think transparency is very important. I think you really need to let your stakeholders know what's going on because you want that engagement."

Bobbie Tibbetts: "Transparency is critically important because that allows for trust. In any situation, you're not always going to make everybody happy with the decision, but if people have insight into why the decision is made, people can get comfortable with that.

  • "Oftentimes people will voice their concerns and opinions, and if you allow them to be heard and give them insight into why the decision was made, people can wrap their arms around that."

Stuart Willett: "I've talked to some teachers, and they do something different than what I did when I was a teacher. If I wrote up a kid in the school, we did it on an online program, and there were boxes I could check to say, 'let the parents see this,' or 'let the other teachers see this.' Apparently they don't do this.

  • "When I would pull up that student, I would see all the write-ups on the student. That I think is helpful. When you're teaching, you don't always know everything that's going on in the school. ... All kinds of stuff could happen, so you need this kind of communication. You need this network, and I think it leads to the safety of the school.
  • "The flip side is, you have to protect the confidentiality of children."

Patrick Starr: "I think there are a lot more things they could be open and talk about but they choose not to because it's difficult.

  • "I always start with the open meetings guidelines, what it takes, because there isn't anything that makes citizens more upset than if they don't feel like they are heard by their government.
  • "One of the things that I would do when I am on the board – I think the public input process needs to change."