Name: Esra Riggs
Address: 9265 Talus Circle, Eden Prairie
Family: Husband Trent; daughter Leyla, 10
Employment: VP compliance manager at Wells Fargo. I am a risk and compliance management and internal audit professional with 20 years of experience in compliance, governance, financial statement, operational controls and process design reviews. Experienced in SEC, FINRA, OCC, SOX and FDICIA rules and regulations.
Education: B.A. in banking and finance, MBA with finance concentration. I also hold Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) and Certified Investments and Derivatives Auditor (CIDA) designations.
Community involvement: I have chaired the annual fundraising dinner for the last two years for Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion School to help bring Spanish-speaking interns from around the world to the school. I volunteer at my daughter’s school regularly for class parties, reading to the kids in the library and decorating the class door. In addition, I volunteer at various charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Feed my Starving Children and packing teddy bears for kids in hospitals. I also volunteered at the Festival of Nations for over 10 years, hosting a cultural exhibit to promote cultural awareness and unity in our broader community.
Previous experience: I have the experience and business acumen and soft skills needed to work with various business partners and stake holders in setting policies, designing action plans to fulfill the vision and goals of the organizations and creating and implementing meaningful, long-lasting solutions. I am well versed in communicating complex issues to all levels of management as well as audit committees and board of directors. I have also served on the board of a 501(c) organization Turkish American Association of Minnesota for many years in the treasurer, vice president, president and past president roles. I have led and successfully completed the 501(c) application process for this organization. I have started a Turkish Language and Culture school for the association and volunteered as the school’s director and one of the teachers for over two years. Secured grants and raised funds for the school.
Why do you want to be on the Eden Prairie School Board?
I am running because I believe a strong public education system is the most valuable asset of a community and a country. I want to give back to the community by putting my years of experience and expertise in to this role. I want to increase parent representation on the board. I want to be the parents’, teachers’ and voters’ voice and our children’s advocate. I want to make sure that our children are equipped to face the unique challenges ahead for them. I also want to ensure that the Designing Pathways initiative is implemented with success and certain aspects of it such as bringing pre-K students in to the elementary schools is done carefully and responsibly.
What is your view of the state of the school district?
We have a very strong school district, otherwise we would not have chosen Eden Prairie to raise our daughter. But there is room for improvement and challenges to overcome. We have a very dedicated district staff and body of principals and teachers alike that we owe the strengths of our schools. If elected as a board member I will dedicate my efforts to ensuring that they have the support and resources they need to continue on providing an exceptional education experience to our kids. I will ensure that we continue to hire and retain top tier educators. We have instances in some schools where teachers dealing with challenging conditions/issues did not have adequate support. Many parents attended school board meetings in the last two years and voiced their concerns over their children’s safety and well-being. I want to ensure that all parent concerns are heard and promptly addressed at every level, up to and including the board.
What would be your top priorities as a School Board member?
Safety and well-being of all the students. Smaller class sizes. Better interactions and communications between the board, the district administration and the parents. Financial solvency and accountability. Having only healthy food options on school grounds and a lunch menu that accommodates various food allergies. More recess time for students to socialize, move around and be physically active during the school day. Making sure that each student gets the support and attention they need to excel academically, be happy and well-adjusted socially. Making sure that our schools and teachers are supported adequately to provide the highest quality education possible.
What, if any, areas in the district budget should be adjusted?
We need to allow for adequate resources for teachers dealing with difficult situations in their classrooms for additional substitute teachers or behavioral aids. We also need to reduce classroom sizes. In some grades there have been 32 kids per classroom, which does not support a calm and organized teaching environment.
What should be done to address achievement gap?
We need to look at the root cause of the gap in each situation and be prepared to provide the right kind and amount of support at the right time. Kids can fall behind for many reasons. Lack of language proficiency requires different resources and approach than lack of concentration. Similarly, concentration issues may have biological reasons such as a learning disability or could be resulting from lack of nutrition, stable home environment, etc. Technology can be used to help special needs students with specific apps and exercises to help them learn the way their brains are wired to learn, rather than forcing one style of learning on to all the kids. We also need to provide the human interaction, expert tutoring and mentoring the kids need to catch up to their peers.
What skills should be added or emphasized in classrooms to educate students for a 21st-century career or workplace?
They will not only need to complete globally but with artificial intelligence as well. We need to raise them as well-rounded global citizens not only equipped to use the technology to its fullest capacity but to communicate and collaborate globally to improve the human condition. They will have to reinvent themselves and the world we live in many times over throughout their lifetime. They will need a strong education in humanities, languages and arts as well as technology and science. Their critical thinking skills, innovation, creativity, passion and curiosity need to be fostered.
How should Eden Prairie Schools ensure the safety of its students?
Behavioral issues need to be spotted and addresses promptly. Bullying, disrespectful behavior towards other students and teachers, shows of aggression, inability to control emotions should not be brushed off as something the kids will grow out of but seen as the warning signs and cry for help that they are. Building entrances should be secured and we need to have the ability to lock down and close off multiple parts of school buildings. Multiple exit routes should be identified. Staff should be trained on multiple scenarios and provided clear guidelines to follow for each. With the Pre-K kids moving into elementary buildings, we need to ensure that there are dedicated play areas and play structures to the younger kids that are age and ability appropriate.
Have you ever been charged with a misdemeanor or higher, or been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy or foreclosure?
Getting to know you
Favorite book or movie: Movie: “Sliding Doors.” Books: Too many to name but I will list a few: Patrick Suskind’s “Perfume,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “100 Years of Solitude,” Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”
Last live show or concert you attended: Circus Juventus Summer Show “Twisted”
Favorite subject in school: Economics, finance and psychology
What would be the title to your life story? “The Journey”
Dream vacation destination: I would like to just live like the locals and lose myself in southern Italy