Name: Adam Seidel
Address: 9075 Gould Road, Eden Prairie
Family: Fiancée, Claire
Employment: Nonprofit executive director
Education: B.A. in economics from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois
Community Involvement: Eden Prairie School Board since 2015, Eden Prairie AM Rotary
Previous Experience: Four years on the Eden Prairie School Board, one additional year representing Eden Prairie on the ISD 287 Intermediate District Board, 13 years as a student in the Eden Prairie School system
Why do you want to be on the Eden Prairie School Board?
Eden Prairie Schools are the centerpiece of Eden Prairie continuing to exemplify what it has for many years: A great place to live, raise a family, grow a business and thrive. In my four years on the Eden Prairie School Board and 27 years as an Eden Prairie resident and homeowner, our community has continued to grow and change, but we’ve always stayed committed to that position of leadership as a city and our emphasis on great schools. It takes continuous, carefully-planned efforts to provide a world-class education. I’m proud of the work we’ve done in the schools over the last four years as I’ve served on the board and want to see our progress continue. Growing academic achievement, continuous diligence on school safety, stable leadership, and some of the most sustainable finances in the Twin Cities metro are hallmark positive results that we must work to continue and expand. As the only incumbent on the ballot, I am eager to mix my experienced voice on the board with new perspectives the other candidates bring forward.
What is your view of the state of the district?
I’ve been proud of the world-class education Eden Prairie Schools provides for my whole life, and we’re in strong position to continue to progress further. Our commitment to each student − treating each student as an individual with unique talents and needs − has allowed us to set and meet bold goals on academic achievement. We’ve continuously reexamined our curriculum and the resulting improvements have really begun to net noticeable results over the last few years. When I first ran four years ago, we’d just passed a major operating referendum, and I listed protecting the promises of that investment of tax dollars as a top priority. Four years later, we’ve been diligent in our use of those funds and we’re now projected to succeed in fulfilling the promises of the referendum for years beyond the original proposal. This is crucial, as it takes over a decade to educate each EP student, and resources must be available over this long haul. After spending significant time as a board reviewing our safety policies and procedures, I’m also confident we have good systems in place, and have made smart and targeted investments to keep our kids safe in school.
What would be your top priorities as a school board member?
I will continue to insist academic and financial decisions are made with the long term in mind. Decisions in education play out over years, not weeks, and the consequences of short-term decision making can grow for many years and take significant resources to correct. Budget decisions tend to grow in impact over time, so we must be making every decision with a long-term mindset. On the board, we’ve planned our finances over the last four years with an eye toward the entire 10-year lifespan of the 2014 referendum. This has placed us in one of the strongest financial positions in Minnesota. Many districts nearby and statewide are facing cuts, but Eden Prairie remains in position to continue to provide a world-class education for our students, all while offering some of the lowest residential property taxes in the metro. However, as many districts have seen, including even in Eden Prairie in the past, many years of careful decision making and community trust can be damaged if we don’t stay diligent. It takes constant personal and organizational work to maintain this discipline, and continuing this effort is among my top priorities.
What, if any, areas in the district budget should be adjusted?
Budgeting success takes constant careful attention and incremental adjustment. The reality of state law and education financing makes fast, sizable budget changes nearly impossible and usually unwise. Our district has been extremely careful over a timeline of years in how it invests our tax dollars, and it shows in our great long-term financial stability. A great example of this diligence is the welcome center project. Originally proposed in my first year on the board by our former superintendent, it carried a large price tag and required a new source of funds. While the goal was well intentioned, the price tag wasn’t right, and I advocated against the project until it was put on the shelf. Two years later, our new superintendent revisited the idea, but through efficient use of planned maintenance work and a critical eye toward unneeded elements of the proposal was able to accomplish the original goals for a small fraction of the price and do so within normally scheduled maintenance funds. The result has been a win for our local student enrollment efforts − which also help boost state revenues to the district − a key district and board priority.
What should be done to address the achievement gap?
Our approach to treating student achievement is a district-wide commitment that starts at the board in our highest priority policies: focusing on the achievement of each student. This means we view each student as an individual with unique academic talents, capabilities, and challenges. This is a very different mindset than lumping students into different sorts of clusters or groups and treating them as a block. By combining our highly skilled teacher workforce with smart technology tools and a well-designed curriculum, we’ve been able to achieve modern teaching methods a step above the traditional “everybody at the same pace” classroom. In this way, teachers can monitor the progress of students across a more granular set of fundamental academic skills and intervene where an individual student needs help or provide more challenge in an area where a student is finding success. This is the key to boosting student achievement and has had noticeable positive impacts on students of all demographics, including noticeably narrowing the achievement gap. Many districts talk about the gap and utilize a variety of different approaches, but they should all visit Eden Prairie and see how our approach has actually gotten results.
What skills should be added or emphasized in classrooms to educate students for a 21st-century career or workplace?
Our emphasis on the education of each student gives us the capability to teach bedrock academic skills to a modern kids. While the needs of the modern student entering a 21st century workforce have changed more than ever, the traditional core academic skills are still indispensable and remain central to our overall academic approach. We will not sacrifice these fundamental skills for our kids under any circumstances. Delivery of these fundamentals is where we’ve seen the most opportunity for change. For one example, the modern workforce prioritizes self-motivated problem solving students, so we continue to expand these opportunities in our schools, such as the increase in project-based learning techniques. Use of technology is critical in the 21st century, so we’ve incorporated coding basics throughout our curriculum. Students are also receiving important options in technical education, leadership opportunities, STEM, and arts and music. We are carefully balancing these innovations with time-tested techniques so our students can grow without risking an unproven path. Our results in preparing students for their next step speak for themselves: more Eden Prairie students succeed in their pursuits after graduation than in any district in the state.
How should Eden Prairie schools ensure the safety of students?
Ensuring safe schools is a continuous and ongoing process, not something we can revisit occasionally and set aside. Last year, I initiated a series of School Board examinations into our ongoing safety policies, resources and processes. While state law dictates that many of the specifics of our safety work remain confidential, our district has a constantly improving process of continuous reevaluation of physical and procedural safety standards. This process also led to targeted, smart improvements in physical security, from the secured entrances across the district to other, less visible but equally impactful adjustments. While physical changes are most visible, it’s continuous personnel work that’s most crucial. It’s also important to note that safety considerations extend beyond high-profile risks and into day-to-day interactions between students and teachers. Our close partnership with the Eden Prairie Police Department remains strong and vital. Our teachers and staff are trained with techniques that help identify and support emotionally or academically struggling students so they can be restored to healthy achievement before they begin to act out. Nothing is more important than our kids’ safety, and we will continue to do this work with careful consideration and expert assistance.
Have you ever been charged with a gross misdemeanor or higher, or or been personal or business bankruptcy or foreclosure?
Getting to know you
Favorite book or movie: I am currently reading Hemingway, though I tend to read mostly varied nonfiction.
Last live show or concert: Minneapolis Basilica Block Party
Favorite subject in school: Math
What would be the title of your life story? “I’m not clever enough to answer this question well”
Dream vacation: My Hawaii honeymoon
Favorite local business: The temporarily closed Pipers Coffee Shop because I met my fiancée there