A South Washington County school board candidate who was blasted by some online commenters after posting a photo of himself in a “Borat”-style swimsuit on Facebook said the whole thing was a joke.

The photo, first posted on Raj Gandhi’s Facebook page in 2009, shows him smiling and giving a thumbs-up sign while wearing a revealing lime green swimsuit. It resurfaced Sept. 27 on the Facebook page of the Washington County Watchdog, which touts itself as “a place where concerned taxpayers can get informed and inform others.” The post had drawn nearly 150 comments as of last Tuesday.

Gandhi, one of 17 candidates running in the Nov. 5 election, wrote in response to the original post: “The background of the picture is that my wife’s uncle bought this and dared me to wear it for a big family picture. I couldn’t wear it for the family picture but was being a sport to put it on for one picture and a laugh.”

Eric Langness, the Washington County Watchdog administrator who initially posted the photo of Gandhi, defended his action by saying that he was only trying to inform parents and children, and had no intention of smearing the candidate. Langness is a former Forest Lake school board member.

As the story gained attention, people began coming to Gandhi’s defense, with one person writing that the photo was “(h)ardly disqualifying, to put it mildly.”

Gandhi, a software developer, is a member of the school district’s curriculum advisory committee.

Five board seats are up for election on Nov. 5.

Cottage Grove

Schools earn praise, visits from MinnCAN

MinnCAN, an education reform group that has pushed for quality preschool programs and strong teacher and principal evaluations, brought its “Road to Success” tour to two South Washington County schools on Oct. 2.

Cottage Grove Middle School and Pine Hill Elementary in Cottage Grove were recognized for the performance of their English language learners.

The two schools plus several others in South Washington County had top 10 rankings in report cards issued by MinnCAN for 2013. The rankings are based on state Department of Education data in the areas of student proficiency, learning gains and graduation rates, MinnCAN said.

“With more than 1,960 schools in the state, earning a top 10 ranking is a tremendous accomplishment,” Daniel Sellers, executive director of MinnCAN (Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now), said a news release.

In addition to its success with English language learners, Pine Hill Elementary was commended for its work with black students.

Oltman Middle School was ranked sixth for the performance of its Hispanic students, while four other district schools — Woodbury and Lake middle schools and Woodbury and Park high schools — earned top 10 rankings for the performance of its Asian students.

“We are proud of these schools and students and of our entire district for striving to close our student achievement gaps,” Superintendent Keith Jacobus said in a statement. “We appreciate this recognition and realize that we need to continue to work to reach high levels of achievement and growth for all of our students.”

district 622

ADHD support group to meet Monday night

Parents, teachers and adults involved with children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) will meet Monday to discuss bullying.

The meeting is the first this school year for a support group organized by the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District. Adults living outside the district are welcome.

The discussion will cover the various types of bullying, who is bullied and why, and how to intervene when it occurs, a district news release said.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the District Education Center, 2520 E. 12th Av., North St. Paul. Organizers ask that families not bring children to the meetings.

Libor Jany, Anthony Lonetree