Meet the Candidate: Dustin Anderson running for Dickinson School Board
Dickinson resident and father of two, Dustin Anderson is running for school board with hopes to boost accountability and transparency in Dickinson's public school system.
Editor's Note: The Meet the Candidate series is a feature series centered on candidates for political office who have never run for office before. Publication of this article does not represent The Dickinson Press' support or endorsement of any candidate for political office. Comments and assertions quoted in the article are attributed and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Dickinson Press.
DICKINSON — Dustin Anderson is an outsider candidate for the Dickinson School Board. He grew up in Watford City and owned a business there during the oil boom. About 10 years ago he moved to Dickinson, where he works as an IT manager at Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing. His wife Cel is a lab technician supervisor at CHI St. Alexius Health.
Anderson said he has a direct interest in making sure Dickinson Public Schools are providing the highest quality education in a healthy environment, as he has a son, TJ, who just finished the second grade and a daughter, Aya, who will begin kindergarten in the fall.
“I’m a little nervous about having a young daughter going into the school system. I’ve been hearing horror stories, but I’m just trying to bring them up right and get them to watch out for others too because I know there’s issues with bullying. I’m trying to teach them not to bully, but then also to stand up if they see someone else being bullied” Anderson said. “Then with older kids we have to navigate all the social issues with phones. They have the potential of being bullied 24/7 with technology. I think we need to remind parents that by giving them access to a phone or tablet they open up that possibility.”
Accountability and transparency
Anderson noted that some of the parents he’s spoken with have relayed concerns that students who are caught bullying or engaged in violent behavior are often not being properly disciplined.
“The biggest issue I’ve heard from other parents is bullying, and the bullies not being punished,” he said. “I’d love to see something to help hold the schools accountable to let parents see the actual numbers of what’s happening. Then maybe more people will get involved, look into why the bullying occurred and why nothing happened about it.”
Anderson also said he wants students held to higher academic standards, arguing that there’s nothing compassionate about advancing someone to the next grade level if they haven’t demonstrated adequate proficiency in the curriculum.
“The schools should not be afraid to fail students these days. I know they have that No Child Left Behind policy and mindset. And that sounds great but children have to earn their education. It’s not just to be given to them,” he said. "I'd like to see a lot more attention paid to parental rights and conservative policies implemented."
Participation in local government is something Anderson said he would like to see more of his fellow citizens engaged in.
“I would love to not have to do this, but we need more and more people to get involved in these areas so voters at least have options,” Anderson said, noting that if he hadn’t entered the race there would’ve only been three incumbents on the ballot vying for the same three spots. “It’s pretty disappointing to see all these races where they don’t even have a competitor. We need to have fresh blood with new ideas.”
His opponents for school board include incumbents Michelle Orton, Kimberly Schwartz and Jason Rodakowski.
Before the pandemic DPS had a group of fathers in a program called Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students). They took turns volunteering to help teachers in the classroom, patrol the school and engage in activities with students. But Anderson said the district stopped allowing volunteers on the premises for fear of spreading coronavirus and that he hopes to see the group back in schools this fall.
“There are a lot of families that don’t have a male figure at home, so I think that was very good for them mentally… There’s been studies demonstrating that male role models are essential to a child’s development, not to diminish the role of mothers. Everyone has their place,” he said. “I also believe the presence of more male figures in the school system would help deter an active shooter situation.”
DPS Director of Communications Sarah Trustem confirmed this policy was in place for much of the 2021-22 school year, but said restrictions were gradually relaxed to allow volunteers back in. Watch DOGS will be present in at least three schools in the coming year, she said, adding that the district will also be using a new software program called Voly.
“It’ll actually be a website that our teachers, administrators and even our school programs can use to publish volunteer opportunities. It also does background checks,” Trustem said. “It’s a really neat program so we’re excited to have that available to our schools this coming year.”
The election will be held Tuesday. Dickinson polling locations include Prairie Hills Mall and the Henry Biesiot Activity Center, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.