Five spots on the Eden Prairie School Board will be up for grabs in the upcoming Nov. 8 election.
Four of the open spots are for full four-year terms expiring on Jan. 6, 2027. There also will be a special election to select one board member for a two-year term to fill a seat vacancy that expires on Jan. 6, 2025.
The four-year term seats are currently held by Steve Bartz, Aaron Casper, Debjyoti “DD” Dwivedy, and Adam Seidel, whose terms expire in January 2023. Of these four, only Seidel is not running again.
Candidates for these seats are incumbent board members Bartz, Casper, Dwivedy, and Francesca Pagan-Umar, plus new candidates Abby Libsack and Jody Ward-Rannow.
The special election seat is currently held by Pagan-Umar. After placing second in last year’s special election to Bartz, she was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Beth Fletcher’s resignation in September 2021.
Isaac Kerry and Dennis Stubbs will face off for this open spot.
Candidates (listed in alphabetical order) explained to EPLN why they are running.
Full four-year term seats (pick four)
Bartz has served on the school board since Nov. 2021, when he won a special election seat. He currently serves as a director and board treasurer.
“My priorities are academic excellence, high standards with regards to character and responsibility, and full support for our students,” he wrote in an email explaining why he is running again. He added that district transparency and accountability are vital to achieving this.
Bartz said that although great schools are a rewarding investment for the community, they do come at a cost. However, he said: “If reelected I will continue to prioritize financial stability. That means, despite the growing dependence of Minnesota schools on referendum revenue due to inflation formula lags, I will advocate to keep Eden Prairie’s school taxes among the lowest of our neighboring districts.”
Bartz said that spending allocated funds wisely will allow students to be in “safe buildings with highly skilled and caring teachers and staff who have the appropriate number of students and well-equipped classrooms.”
Bartz works as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Methodist Hospital and has been a healthcare provider for 25 years.
An 18-year resident of Eden Prairie, Bartz and his wife, Traci, have three children. His son is a 2021 graduate of Eden Prairie High School (EPHS), and their daughters are EPHS seniors.
Bartz’s community involvement includes volunteering in the schools in various capacities, including mentoring students. He has also coached sports teams, worked in youth ministries, and co-leads a men’s bible study.
For more information, visit Bartz’s campaign website.
Casper has served on the board since Jan. 1, 2020. He is running for re-election “to do my part to ensure the quality of education each of our students receives will remain as one of the top public school educations in the state of Minnesota,” he wrote in an email.
“Together with families, students, community business leaders, educators, and staff, we can build on an already solid educational foundation.”
On the school board, Casper has served as treasurer and vice-chair. His committee work has included community linkage, board policy, board development, negotiations, and citizen finance.
Casper has worked as a benefits consultant since 1998 for a firm that works mainly in the public sector. “I am fortunate to work with many K-12 superintendents, finance directors, and human resource professionals throughout our great state,” he said.
“This has provided me with exceptional insight to our own district when comparing to other districts as well as helping me frame relevant questions to the topics we’re working through as a district and board.”
Since 2021, Casper has also been an active duty crew firefighter for Eden Prairie, having been a duty crew firefighter from 2006-2010.
Casper and his wife, Lisa, have lived in Eden Prairie since 2003. They have four children: three college-age daughters and an eighth grade son at Central Middle School (CMS), all of whom attended Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion (EHSI).
Casper’s community involvement includes coaching youth basketball and football, serving on the Eden Prairie Community Foundation finance committee, and the Eden Prairie AM Rotary Club.
For more information, visit Casper’s campaign website.
Debjyoti “DD” Dwivedy
Dwivedy, who has served on the school board since 2019, says he is running for re-election because he wants to prioritize education for Eden Prairie’s children.
“I grew up in a very humble family where we could only meet our needs,” Dwivedy said in an email. “But one thing my parents instilled in me (is) the value of education.”
“They made me realize that education is the biggest equalizer and a quality education is the best thing they provided to me and my siblings for a successful career ahead. I want to pass it on to my community members in Eden Prairie.”
Dwivedy currently serves as school board clerk, is on the community linkage committee, chairs the policy committee, and is school board representative to the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) President’s Council.
In a letter to the editor published by EPLN earlier this month, Dwivedy said that as a board member, “I have worked hard to ensure the dollars provided by our community are used carefully to the benefit of our kids, and if reelected I pledge to hold the renewed levies to the same high standards.”
A nine-year resident of Eden Prairie, Dwivedy is a first-generation US citizen and a commissioned officer in the US Army Reserves. He works as system lead of the network solutions engineering group at Federal Reserve National IT.
Dwivedy is a member of Eden Prairie AM Rotary, commissioner of Hennepin County’s Race Equity Advisory Commission, a member of the University of Minnesota’s Regent Candidate Advisory Council, and a senior vice-president for nonprofit advocacy organization Immigration Voice.
For more information, visit Dwivedy’s campaign website.
A former elementary school teacher with two children in the district, Libsack is running for school board for the first time.
”I am excited to be running for Eden Prairie school board! With my background in education and experience as an EP parent, volunteer and community member, I feel this would be a great way for me to serve,” she said in an email discussing her campaign.
A Missouri native who has also lived in Colorado and Georgia, Libsack moved to Eden Prairie in 2013. She and her husband Syd have two children: Carley, a 12th grader, and Graham, an eighth grader.
Libsack has run her own photography business since 2010. With an undergraduate degree in education and a master’s in curriculum, she has also worked as a fifth grade teacher, a private tutor, and a substitute teacher in the Eden Prairie school district.
Libsack says community involvement is extremely important to her. She has volunteered in the schools, including in classrooms, the EPHS math center, and for PTO events. She has also served on the board of the Eden Prairie Volleyball Association and took part in the 2022 Eden Prairie Police Department Citizens Academy.
“Serving is important to me, and I think I would be a positive addition to the team that helps determine the direction of Eden Prairie Schools.”
Pagan-Umar has served on the school board since Dec. 13, 2021. She says she is running to continue the work she, the board, and the superintendent have been doing.
“Our district has been doing a lot of intentional work about countering systemic inequities, and we’ve made a lot of progress,” she says.
However, she adds, “There has been a little treading backwards during COVID because of the challenges of not having kids in class for so long, and not being able to receive the support they usually get. I want to be there going forward to keep monitoring it and continue the work we’ve been doing as a board.”
Pagan-Umar currently serves on the board’s community linkage and policy committees. She is also a director of Independent District 287, which supports unique learners at 11 west metro school districts, including Eden Prairie.
“I’m passionate about public education,” she says. “I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life working around schools and kids’ education. It’s something that I’m very absorbed with, and I want to use my passion and my energy to give back to the place where we live.”
Pagan-Umar is a teacher with a background in special education and general education. She is a co-founder of Inspire Community MN, a local nonprofit.
Pagan-Umar and her husband, Muhammad, have three children in the EPS district. For more information, visit Pagan-Umar’s campaign website.
Ward-Rannow, running for school board for the first time, works as an employment attorney representing employers. “I help my clients manage risk, build inclusive workplaces, and solve problems in a crisis,” she said.
Asked why she is running for school board, Ward-Rannow said in an email, “I care deeply about supporting our schools and community.”
She added, “I think sometimes our district can be difficult for families to navigate. I think we should make it easier for families to help their children take advantage of every opportunity our district offers.
“I think it is important for our school board to help our district leadership identify ways in which our district is not reaching ‘each student’ and to hold district leadership accountable for making improvements.”
Ward-Rannow and her husband Mike have two children: a daughter going into sixth grade at CMS and a son going into third grade at EHSI. Her husband graduated from EPHS, so “when we had kids we decided to move to Eden Prairie for the schools,” she said.
As a longtime volunteer in EP schools, Ward-Rannow has been active in EHSI PTO for the past six years and currently serves as president. Last year she chaired Spring Fling, a large annual event that welcomes incoming sixth graders from EPS’ six elementary schools to CMS. She is also involved in Girl Scouts leadership.
For more information, visit Ward-Rannow’s campaign website.
Special election seat (2-year term)
Writer and Eden Prairie firefighter Kerry says he became interested in running for school board while formerly working as EPLN’s education reporter. The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, solidified his decision to campaign.
“If something like that were to happen here, my role would purely be reactive as a parent or a first responder,” he says. “And I don’t think that’s enough. I want to be in a position where I can be proactive, to make sure that never happens here.”
Kerry says, “at their core, these shootings are a mental health crisis,” so supporting students and staff is paramount. “Mental health is how you create safe schools at the local level. You make sure kids are showing up to school and have the support they need if they’re in a crisis moment, and that there are constructive ways and tools to help with that.”
“But also coming out of the pandemic, all of the struggles and difficulties and changes are hitting our kids really hard. We need to be very cognizant about putting our resources towards supporting and monitoring them.”
In addition to his firefighter and journalist roles, Kerry has written a dozen children’s books, is a developer for a role-playing game publisher, and is a stay-at-home dad.
He has lived in Eden Prairie since 2019 with his wife Brianna and their two daughters: Julia, a first grader, and Lily, a fourth grader. He coaches his daughter’s soccer team and will be in a one-act play for Eden Prairie Players in September.
For more information, visit Kerry’s campaign website.
Stubbs says he is running for school board because his young children are attending Eden Prairie Schools, so it is important to him to help support the district. “I’m very pro-district, I’m very pro-public schools here. I want to help in any way I can,” he says.
“I saw that a seat was open, and felt like I had time to contribute. I’m a fast learner and a hard worker, and I want to focus on education,” he says.
Stubbs and his family moved to Eden Prairie from St. Louis Park in 2014. He is originally from Alaska. He and Miranda, his wife of 17 years, have three children: Decker, 8, an incoming EHSI third grader; Reece, 6, an incoming EHSI first grader; and preschooler Mykah, 3.
Stubbs says he has been very happy with his children’s teachers and their experience in the district. “I’m happy with all the decisions the district has made so far.”
In terms of his priorities if elected, Stubbs says, “I’m primarily going to be focused on education first, and just keep on going in the right direction,” he says.
Stubbs has worked as a drywall contractor “pretty much my whole life,” he says. He is a small business owner with a company that does residential and commercial projects.
In the community, Stubbs also coaches flag football and teaches Sunday school. He says he enjoys meeting other Eden Prairie parents and learning about their perspectives.
School board candidate forum is on Sep. 14
The League of Women Voters of Minnetonka-Eden Prairie-Hopkins (LWV MEPH) is hosting an Eden Prairie School Board candidate forum from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
The public is invited to attend this event, but because there is limited seating, it will also be streamed live. The event will be held in the council chambers of Eden Prairie City Center, 8080 Mitchell Road.
The live broadcast can be viewed on EPTV, the city’s cable government access channel, at edenprairie.org/CityTV, and on the city’s Facebook channel. The forum will be rebroadcast on EPTV several times weekly and available on-demand on the city’s website leading up to Election Day on Nov. 8.
Only candidates and moderators will be permitted to speak at the forum. Eden Prairie residents are invited to submit questions in advance to LWV MEPH. Questions must be submitted by noon on Sunday, Sept. 9, and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or submitted using this contact form.
Candidates will not be given the questions in advance of the forum. Voters who submit questions are asked to keep them concise and be aware that they may be combined with questions with similar content.
Editor’s Note: This story was corrected on Sept. 7 to note the winner of last year’s special school board election was Steve Bartz.
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