FAIRBURY, NE — School safety and keeping and attracting staff members are at the top of mind for several school board candidates in Fairbury.

Five candidates for the southeast Nebraska town’s school board speaking at a public forum Thursday night.

Incumbent Jonathan Winter is a Fairbury alum and now has kids in the school system. He talked about ongoing efforts to hire and retain staff members. He says it's a nationwide issue that’s coming to a tipping point.

"We have to stay competitive," Winter said. "My plan, my hope, my dream is to make Fairbury a destination for quality educators, not just a pit stop in their educational journey."

Fellow incumbent and Fairbury alum Barry Schwab discussed the district’s ability to make improvements to its elementary and high school buildings while lowering its tax request.

He did say there are still improvements — not necessarily physical ones — to be made.

"I know in the past few years there have been some questions and concerns about the culture of our district as well as our community," Schwab said. "People I think might think we are in a bit of a funk. That's probably what I would put most of my energy toward if I'm re-elected."

Non-incumbent Jarold Ebke says he decided to run when his wife, Sharon Ebke who is currently on the board, said she would not run for a third term.

He focused on the role a board of education has in the community as a whole.

"It is best if board members do not bring any personal agendas to the board, that they be open-minded and ready to work," Ebke said. "I have no agenda."

Andrea Schmidt has multiple kids attending Fairbury Public Schools. She says she decided to run after hearing stories from them, and staff members about safety and disciplinary issues in the district.

Schmidt told the crowd she’s been told multiple times the kids causing disruptions don’t have good home lives. That answer is not good enough for her.

"That is unacceptable to me," Schmidt said at the forum. "We are a school district, and if these kids are not coming from a good home life, as a school it's our job to love them and to teach them so they can grow up to be good citizens in our community."

The last candidate to speak Thursday was Neil Lucking.

He also addressed staffing, saying a possible solution is getting student teachers to stick around once they’re ready to go full time.

"I want to work to get the district to be a place to where when someone does come to student teach, they absolutely want to stick around and love this community as much as I have in my life," Lucking said.

Early voting in Nebraska begins October 11th. The General election is set for November 8th.