Tom Baraniak, the electronics manager and laboratory specialist at Carleton, is running for the Northfield City School Board. A father of two, he chose to run for the position to strengthen the Northfield schools.
“I have an interest in the educational system for the kids and my kids,” said Baraniak.
There will be six candidates running for four open School Board seats in the November 8 election. Four of the six candidates are incumbents and two are newcomers. Baraniak is a newcomer.
If elected, Baraniak would join Carleton Classics Research Associate Rob Hardy on the school board. Hardy has lived in Northfield since 1990 with his wife, the John E. Sawyer Professor of Liberal Learning and a Professor of Classics, Clara Hardy. Hardy has been a member of the board since 2012 and is currently the board’s treasurer.
Baraniak was rather surprised by the sparse attendance at the School Board meetings and the shortage of candidates for the position. He believes there should be a larger Carleton and St .Olaf presence on the school board.
“It sort of worries me, as the school board should be representative of the city- and the colleges are a big part of the city,” said Baraniak
The reciprocal relationship between the colleges and the community of Northfield leads Baraniak to desire a greater representation of the colleges on the Board. Hardy emphasized the large-scale involvement of Carleton students in the Northfield School system.
“Carleton students are very active in the local schools,” said Hardy. “Hundreds of Carleton students volunteer in the Northfield schools. Carleton statistics students have helped analyze school district data, and every year graduates of Northfield High School attend Carleton.”
The Northfield school system is also important for attracting collegiate faculty and staff. Many Carleton faculty have children enrolled in the Northfield School system.
“There are faculty and staff who have kids in the schools, and so having a good school system benefits them and benefits recruiting new faculty and staff,” said Baraniak.
Baraniak and Hardy are both acutely aware of the heavy voting influence of St. Olaf and Carleton on local elections. The large student body populations between the two colleges can swing critical elections for local and state positions.
Yet, many students do not feel sufficiently informed about Northfield’s local government, compared to the more publicized presidential race. Political groups on campus, such as the Carleton Democrats, the Carleton Republicans, the Carleton Organization of Radicals and Leftists (CORAL), and the Northfield Initiative have made efforts to educate the student body about community issues and the various candidates. Hardy intends to table in Sayles and has met with CORAL in previous election years to increase student involvement in local elections.
“College students—both Carleton and St. Olaf students—can have a big effect on the election if they’re registered to vote in Northfield and turn out on Election Day,” said Hardy. “When I ran in 2012, there were three incumbents and two non-incumbents running for four seats. In most of the precincts in town, I came in third or fourth, after the three incumbents, but in the St. Olaf precinct I came in first.”
In advising students on how to approach the elections, Baraniak urges students to pick candidates that are most likely to implement their “school values” and create the kind of community they would like to live in.