Why are you running for this position?
I have served and advocated for education in various venues and communities for over 30 years. I believe my background, business, financial and educational experience can continue to serve this community. Some of the items I fought for and succeeded: the release of financial data to the board and public, open forums inside of the recorded board meetings, increased public and board representation on key committees such as curriculum and finance. We still have a long way to go and on some issues such as board access to schools, educator engagement and the district’s relationship with city leaders.
What are the top three issues you would face during your term?
Financial. The district came into the pandemic with an existing budget shortfall that caused us to layoff educators and cut educational programs. The pandemic and concurrent economic situations have exacerbated the issue.
The student achievement gap. Our achievement gap has widened. Closing the gap may be further hampered by the pandemic, larger class sizes, reduction in teachers and current ratios of paras and counselors to students.
Independent oversight and transparency. This requires mature leadership, critical thinking and conversations in public. And it requires a board who can provide independent, unbiased oversight and direction to the superintendent.
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?
As a board member, how would you foster communication with teachers and parents?
Board members serve on behalf of the community, should be easily accessible and responsive. Communication about issues and board discussions should be proactive, timely, and via mediums used in the normal course of student/parent interaction. Before board discussions and votes, the board should proactively solicit input from staff, educators, parents, community and weigh all facts, and then represent those issues in collaboration with the full board before making decisions. Board access to educators and parents should be professional, ethical but uninhibited. The board should continuously build public understanding, encourage engagement and ensure all students, parents and teachers are valued.
Do you feel students should be attending the school year virtually, in-person or via the hybrid model as they are?
Each family circumstance is unique and decisions are personal. Education was never a one-size-fits-all made more complicated by a pandemic. I am proud our district/state is providing choices for families. Periodic adjustments and options should be available as family and pandemic circumstances change. The district has an obligation and duty to educate all learners, regardless of circumstance or choice, while providing for the health and safety of staff and students. The board is responsible for making sure the district has the resources and capabilities to fulfill that duty.
Should the 2020-2021 school year have been prolonged to further prepare students and families for the academic year?
All options and plan permutations should have been presented, discussed in public very early in the process, with input from educators and parents. Discussing and developing the plan in the public allows everyone to understand the challenges/constraints, provides opportunity for input and ask questions. The overall process is circuitous, questions asked by the board, educators and parents help the district and educational leaders create a more solid plan with each iteration. The result of that process should have determined the timing and method of school start. Backing into an edict without the process and stakeholder participation rarely works well.
Would you have changed anything in regards to the board’s response to COVID-19 and fall education?
Absolutely. In June, it was known the governor was not going to mandate the method of school opening. Minnesota has local control. We knew there would be a framework and health guidelines. Therefore, all options and considerations should have been discussed very early, in the public. BILT team and other educator involvement, including health care representation, should have been involved in June — from the start. This would have greatly increased the public’s awareness of the complexities involved, allowed for feedback and a straightforward consistent messaging, less confusion and parents to make the best decision for their own circumstances.
What changes, if any, would you make to the district budget?
The board should review assumptions made that led to the budget shortfall, reduction and staff and programs prior to the pandemic. Improvements cannot be made without an honest and open review of the variables under our control such as overestimating district student growth, construction costs absorbed into long term facilities maintenance costs, calculation of levies, and long term strategic planning that includes the impact of the pandemic and the likely stagnation of state funding. Decisions going forward should be informed, transparent, strategic and prioritized — resulting in a stronger district with improved educational outcomes for all students.