SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Three people are entered in the May 16 school board election for the Sioux Falls School District, but only two will be campaigning for the spot.

Candidate Nick Zachariasen originally entered the race to oppose Brian Mattson. Now, he’s choosing to stop campaigning and throw his support behind opponent Dawn Marie Johnson.

“I’ve had a chance to speak to Dawn Marie and learn about her background and career in the field of education, which I declare much superior to my own,” Zachariasen sent in a statement to KELOLAND News.

Zachariasen said the deadline to withdraw from the race was April 7.

“I may not be able to remove myself from the ballot, but I can step as out of the way as possible and enthusiastically throw my support behind her,” Zachariasen said in his statement.

Johnson is the director of leadership and culture with the South Dakota Afterschool Network and formerly worked for the Sioux Falls School District as a CTE and community outreach coordinator.

Mattson ran for Republican precinct committeeman in 2022 where he was endorsed by the Patriot Ripple Effect. The Patriot Ripple Effect calls itself “a grassroots, America-loving organization of local activists and donors working to ensure and promote constitutional liberty in South Dakota.” 

Cynthia Mickelson, who was elected to the Sioux Falls School Board in 2017, announced she will not be seeking another term. On Twitter, Mickelson said she plans to continue to be involved in education and non-profit work.

Get to know the candidates

KELOLAND News reached out to both Mattson and Johnson to ask about why they’re running for a spot on the school board.

What inspired you to run for school board?

Mattson: As a parent and a grandparent, I understand the importance of a quality education for our children. I want to be a part of helping to ensure that all students receive the education they need to become good citizens and productive members of society.

Johnson: I chose to run for Sioux Falls School Board because I believe our best investment is in our children, and I want to continue contributing to the great work already being done. Much of my work over the last decade has been supporting youth to boost their positive self-identity and improve their mental health, ultimately leading to academic and personal success. By working together, we can help all young people have access to the education they need to succeed.

Do you have children in the district?  

Mattson: My children are grown now, but I have one grandchild, as of January, that lives in the Sioux Falls School District. I want to enable him to have the best education possible when the time comes.

Johnson: Yes, my daughter attends Rosa Parks Elementary School.

What are your priorities if elected?

Mattson: I want to ensure all parents are aware of the tools necessary for the proper education of their children. I will review what is available and would implement a way to get the information into the parent’s hands so they can make informed decisions on the direction to take with their child’s individual needs.

Johnson: My passions lie in providing students with exposure to different college and career opportunities, ensuring all families have access to quality afterschool care, educating and encouraging people on the importance of mentoring youth and expanding alternative learning options for students. I hope to expand and uplift existing programs to reduce youth homelessness, raise graduation rates, and ensure all families have opportunities for quality education and care.

Why do you believe the people of Sioux Falls should elect you?

Mattson: I bring an outside perspective to the board and its decisions. I am not beholden to any interest group. I will put the interest of our children and taxpayers first in all my decisions. Sioux Falls is the largest and most diverse school district in the state. Our challenge is to provide quality education while also being mindful of how our decisions affect the taxpayers who are paying the bill.

Johnson: Providing a background as an educator, social worker, and afterschool professional makes me uniquely positioned to provide a meaningful voice to support all students in a capacity that extends both in and outside the classroom. My ability to unite the community as a collaborator and bridge-walk diverse conversations aimed to nurture future generations is one of my greatest strengths. 

To vote in the Sioux Falls School Board, you must be a registered voter living in the Sioux Falls School District boundaries. Absentee voting will start on May 1 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Instructional Planning Center on 38th Street.