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

  • The two people elected will be among a five-person group of folks who decide policies that affect 25,000 kids in Sioux Falls.
  • Candidates were all asked the same set of questions as part of the broader election guide for Sioux Falls Simplified, but they were given a chance to add any other thoughts they want voters to know ahead of Election Day.

Is there anything else I didn't ask you about that you want voters to know ahead of election day?

Marc Murren: "If anything would keep me up at night ... it's school safety. We have to have a secure atmosphere where kids and employees feel safe. We all know the reality of what's going on in the world today.

  • The biggest thing I would tell the people of Sioux Falls, kids, parents, whoever – if you see something, if you hear something, let us know immediately. To me, that's the best way to be safe."

Gail Swenson: Swenson said she's got three priorities in her campaign: engagement, safety and excellence.

  • On engagement, "The more we can engage, the more we can bring people and businesses into our schools to see what's going on – that's really important."
  • On safety, "Even nationally, to me it's just overwhelming if I think about it. I can't imagine saying good bye to a little one and not having them come home. It's too much. We need to deal with it legislatively not only in our state but nationally. The other thing that's a little more focused is bullying – we need to take a look and make sure our staff is well-versed on the bullying policy we have."
  • On excellence, Swenson noted concerns about pandemic learning loss and a desire to see academic improvements.

Bobbie Tibbits: "I think the big thing about me is I'm not a politician. I'm not doing this for any reason other than I care, and I'm committing to rolling my sleeves up and getting to work. And that matters.

  • "I'm bringing to this position the same level of grit – I'm going to take it on like a job. I'm going to ask questions, and I'm going to listen to community members. I want to hear what the teachers have to say. We've got children in school and getting to talk to them is incredibly insightful.
  • "I want to be able to bring that to the board to say, well what about this?"

Stuart Willett: "AI (artificial intelligence) is the absolute biggest issue. It has to be addressed today – the sooner the better. We have to figure out how to embrace it and how to figure it out how to protect the kids from being bamboozled by deepfakes and all these things. ... And this is something that's far too big for one person."

  • Willett also noted that he was in New York when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened. He expressed some concerns about South Dakota's school sentinel program because "accidents happen, even with highly trained professionals," and he doesn't want to see teachers carrying guns.

Patrick Starr: "Schools are a little bit different because there is protecting the student and parents' privacy rights, and that is a fine line that's little bit different than what the legislature, the city, the county does.

  • "But again, it's about the overall good of the school district."