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La Crosse school board candidates take the stage to discuss diversity and inclusion.

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With the spring elections just under a month away, La Crosse School Board candidates participated in a public forum to answer questions from both students and community members.

Five of the six candidates took the stage Wednesday at Logan High School to discuss their views on how to best support the increasingly diverse school district.

 Katie Berkedal, Merideth Garcia, Juan Jimenez, Kimberly Krejchik, and Kent Steinand were all in attendance. Mary LaMothe was unable to make the event.

While the forum focused heavily on inclusivity and diversity, there were also questions posed regarding the mental health crisis among young people.

“This is a really tough issue,” Katie Berkedal said. “I know firsthand how scary and frustrating it is when a loved one, especially a youth, is experiencing mental health issues and you can’t find anyone to help. I hear you and this is a very important topic for me, as well, and it is something that I will definitely be an ally for students on the school board.”

When asked about sustainability, Juan Jimenez, the current School Board president, said that the focus needs to remain on education.

“Our job is to ensure that we provide the best education possible,” Jimenez said. “If we can find ways to ensure we are using sustainable energy resources without pulling money out of the classroom, then let’s do it, but I do not want to remove money out of the classroom in order to make a choice about sustainable resources.”

The forum was organized by the groups Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT), Cia Siab, as well as students from the district.

LIT is a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that advocates for social, racial and economic justice. It has both high school and college chapters in La Crosse. 

Cia Siab is also a La Crosse nonprofit that  “provides culturally empowering advocacy to the Hmoob Community through holistic support services, with revitalization of the Hmoob language and culture as the foundation.”

Sam is a student at UW-La Crosse studying media communication and political science. She has lived in La Crosse for 5 years and loves everything about the community. When she’s not at school or work, you can find her outside hiking the state parks or watching Netflix with her two cats.

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