Why are you running for this position?

I’m running for School Board because after the events of the last few years — the failure of the Empower learning management system; the string of racial incidents in our schools which were not always handled properly; and the contentious failed referendum campaign that resulted in $8.6 million in budget cuts over the next two years — it’s time for new voices and new leaders on the School Board to assist our new superintendent in resetting the relationship between our community and our schools. I

’m prepared to move our district forward in a positive direction.

What are the three top priorities you plan to focus on if elected?

  1. Rebuild trust with our community by unequivocally committing to building inclusive schools that reflect our diversity, as well as communicating openly and honestly and actively seeking feedback from stakeholders.
  2. Reinforce what works in a time of budget challenges so we don’t lose ground on our excellent graduation rates, ensuring we offer outstanding experiences in activities, athletics, and the arts, and focused development for teachers.
  3. Rally our community behind our schools by presenting a strategic financial and facilities plan, clearly laying out the challenges we face and the decision points that we will have to reckon with.

How would you address the current budget shortfall?

In the short run, we need to continue to be aggressive about controlling costs, challenging assumptions about how we have spent money in the past and being creative in finding solutions to save money with minimal classroom impact.

However, we need to find a longer-term solution, which will include rebuilding the relationship with the community and developing the strategic plan required to pass an increased operating levy (probably in 2021) as well as working with our state legislative delegation to ensure stable funding that at least keeps up with inflation.

What, if anything, would you change regarding how the district addresses equity?

After poorly handling many of the racial incidents that have occurred over the last couple years, the district has taken some strong positive steps to build schools that are welcoming and inclusive for all. However, the district still needs to do more in communicating the “why” behind equity as well as spelling out in concrete terms how equity is implemented in our schools — along with clearly calling out what equity is not.

Additionally, we need to make better progress at having a curriculum and staffing model that reflects the diversity of our students.

How would you navigate in-person and distance learning during the pandemic?

During these challenging times, leaders need to listen and be flexible. As the year goes along, we need to be listening to the guidance of state and local health officials regarding how best to manage students across the three learning models.

We also need to be open to feedback from parents, students, and teachers about what is or isn’t working about the models that are currently in place. It’s critical that we are proactively seeking their input and responding to their concerns during these times.

Have you been charged in the past year, or ever been convicted, of a misdemeanor or higher, or been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy or foreclosure?

No.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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