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School board selects new member

School Board President Brent Seaks (right) swears in interim school board member Jason Rodakowski Monday night. Rodakowski will serve until the next school board elections this summer. Courtesy of Twila Peterson / Dickinson Public Schools

The Dickinson Public School Board selected a new member Monday evening, Feb. 12, filling the vacancy left by former president Sarah Ricks, at least for an interim period.

The position drew plenty of applicants from various career fields.

"I think the biggest obstacle facing any school district is apathy and people not caring," President Brent Seaks said, addressing a full audience during this month's school board meeting at the Central Administration Office. "So it's wonderful to see that many applicants willing and able to serve."

With that, he continued, the board had to make "a tough decision." The applicants were invited to come forward one by one to introduce themselves and make a case for why they should serve on the board.

The board ultimately selected Jason Rodakowski, a Dickinson resident, for the position. He will serve until the next school board election.

Rodakowski had some strong competition for the position. Of the five candidates who made pitches, three were singled out as key candidates: Adam Ballesteros, a civil engineer, Katie Schlosser, a pediatric physical therapist, and Rodakowski, a self-employed CPA. All three presented reasons for why they should be chosen for the position.

"I would like to thank you for your initial consideration as a Dickinson Public School Board member to fill the vacancy left by former president Sarah Ricks," Ballesteros said. "I believe I can add to the variety of skill sets currently represented by the Dickinson School Board."

Schlosser described her credentials in the medical field—not only does she practice pediatric medicine and physical therapy, but she is the only certified clinical specialist in pediatrics to the west of Bismarck, and one of only six in the entire state.

"I hope this special certification and my job demonstrates my passion to learn more and provide the best ... for children in our area," she said. She added that she is a co-founder of a nonprofit devoted to fighting childhood cancer and she serves on the board for the proposed Friendship Park.

Rodakowski put forward his knowledge of finances and his involvement in the community, including serving as the current president of the Jefferson Parent Advisory Committee, as well as the fact that all three of his children have gone through the Dickinson public school system, which his oldest just recently graduating from Dickinson High School.

"My oldest kid ... graduated from Dickinson High School last year, so she went to Lincoln, Berg, Hagen and Dickinson High," he said.

After the meeting was concluded, he spoke further on what he hopes to bring to the role.

"I feel excited to help and see what I can use my skills (to do) to help the community," Rodakowski said. "Being a self-employed CPA, I feel I am in tune with the community and I talk to a lot of different people during tax season. Going through the school system, watching my kids grow up and get educated, I feel like I can help throw in my tools."

He said the biggest issue he feels DPS faces is the expansion of the schools and finding the money to deal with that expansion. He specifically mentioned the bonding issue as a challenge he thinks his financial acumen can be an asset in handling.

Certainly, that specific qualification was a factor not just in Rodakowski's selection by the board, but it was a quality Seaks himself thought the board would benefit from. In a consolation email sent out to one of the applicants for the position, Seaks said he had encouraged Rodakowski to apply for the position, thinking his CPA background would be an asset.

"Knowing that there's an application process, I encouraged him to submit his name for application," Seaks said. "What I thought Jason brought to the board was a lot of his gifts ... his oldest daughter has already been through the schools ... I knew he was invested in the district (and) I knew that whoever was selected (may fill) an opening on the budget committee."

Seaks said that while Rodakowski was his personal choice for the role, he had no influence over the other board members' decisions. He said other board members similarly encouraged applicants they felt ideal for the position to apply. Seaks later said that Schlosser had been the recommendation of Ricks herself, for example.

"As individuals, anybody has the opportunity to encourage other individuals to put their hat in the ring," Seaks said. "We all have to vote. There were three other board members, I was the one who had checked with Jason and see if he was interested in the board ... in that sense I had no idea who else was going to apply."

Rodakowski will have to run for his seat in the upcoming summer election, as will fellow board members Tanya Rude and Kim Schwarz, whose terms will end at that time.