School Board Election Thoughts

At this time, two years ago, I was campaigning for election to our school board. I was working to share my vision to meet our families’ goals of success for each of their children, tackle our communities’ concerns, and further accelerate  our district’s outstanding programs for our scholars. Two years ago, my heart was squarely centered on our scholars, who are the entirety of our mission, and today I remain committed to anchoring to our scholars’ success in all my decisions. 

As an engaged resident this cycle, I have been watching candidates at all levels of government in our district – each office directly impacts how we execute our district mission.  Whether it’s the partnership in joint assets and programs with city and county entities; funding, academic standards, curriculum, and COVID decisions at the state level; or federal funding and mandates; these races matter, and those who win this election will directly impact the work of the school board and the delivery of education to our scholars – YOUR children.

As a school board member observing the race that will determine who becomes or remains my colleague in our critical work and decisions ahead, it is a vastly different experience than when I was a candidate.  The work we’ve been doing to develop a new long-term strategy, decisions related to students returning to school, budget and operational choices, increasing oversight tools to ensure accountability and results, and strategies and tactics to tangibly close the achievement gap are all areas that members of the current board have been activating against. The make-up of the board after this election, as with each cycle, will determine if these priorities remain and how they are executed in the future.

In considering the role of the board member and the future ahead, I am hopeful to see future board colleagues with the skills, capabilities, experience, and strategic thinking to:

  1. Perform the board role of governance and oversight with excellence. Our foundational role is to set the  school district’s strategic direction, enact policy, ensure accountability to our mission, allocate financial resources, levy taxes, and hire and sustain the Superintendent role of the district. These core responsibilities of a school board member require a broad set of experiences and expertise and the ability to operate beyond a single issue. Board members must also integrate many pieces of information quickly to make critical decisions in the public eye.
  2. Make decisions to move in and out of learning models amidst COVID. At this time, I believe this is our most immediate priority. In this area, we have two main jobs. First, we will decide the learning model according to the  state’s guidelines, our own district decision-model, and the recommendations of our Superintendent. This job means we must be responsive to our families and scholars while ensuring we include stakeholder perspectives into our decisions to ensure we are all ready, safe, and aligned to execute the models soundly. Second, while our Superintendent has operational accountability for  delivering the learning models and all management decisions within it, the board has ultimate accountability for outcomes.  Ultimately, we are responsible for all decisions and actions within our district and must require the data, monitoring reports, and information that enables us to understand how our district is performing and to provide the guidance and support to our Superintendent to ensure our students are being well-served and achieve success.
  3. Set a strategic plan that will equip our students to be successful in the world they will enter in five, ten, and fifteen years from now. This past year, the Superintendent and board began work on a strategic plan  covering multiple areas, including: Academic Excellence for All Students, Elimination of the Achievement Gap, Stakeholder Engagement, Operational Excellence, and Professional Growth and Educational Capabilities (my words of in-progress category definitions).  Board members need to have a strong pulse on the skills and capabilities that students need to be competitive in the job market and college or trade school entry now and in the future. I look forward to colleagues who can articulate a clear strategic vision to best serve our students in these areas and have specific solutions and ideas to work with our leadership and as a board to advance together. Personally, I have continued to emphasize the need for earlier language programs, potential immersion programs, retention of native languages, continued support for career and technical programming, and skill development in innovation, entrepreneurship, critical analysis, and more.  In the achievement gap area, we need solutions that target specific root causes and demonstrate effectiveness in outcomes. I believe the more we connect and unlock our scholars’ passion and ability, the more we can make progress to ensure ALL scholars are successful. Approaches such as individualized learning roadmaps and programs that support the whole child (academic intervention, mentorship, social-emotional) can be most effective in solving this challenge and includes both district initiatives and connection to private organizations for support. I am hopeful to work with colleagues who are focused on specific solutions rather than broad and non-specific concepts. I am very excited to continue our work on the strategic roadmap. Beyond  COVID, it will be the school board’s top priority in the next year, and the final plan will impact scholars for years to come.
  4. Make difficult and sound financial decisions in a constrained environment. Previous school boards’ decisions have led to a sound financial position for our district while enabling a long-term improvement plan for necessary investment to address core infrastructure needs. In the future, this roadmap will take us beyond the foundation to create new opportunities for our scholars (athletic fields, MG & BP dome assets, flexible learning spaces, innovation, and technical spaces, etc.). At the same time, significant fiscal realities are developing. Minnesota’s financial forecast has changed dramatically due to the economic impact of COVID. (https://www.startribune.com/minnesota-now-facing-a-4-7-billion-shortfall-in-future-budget/571972332/)  There is a strong possibility that we will need to navigate difficult financial waters ahead, in addition to the shift of students in and out of our district and our own operational costs due to COVID.  I am hopeful that future colleagues will have strong financial and analytical skills to partner with our district leadership and fellow board members in making sound budget and resource allocation decisions.
  5. Build community across our entire district family. As a large and diverse district, we need leaders who will focus on uniting us, leveraging our district’s scale and uniqueness, and bringing everyone to the table to solve common challenges and create new ideas together.  I have observed that our community organizations and business are supporting schools across our entire geography, families, and PTOs are serving one another across our district, and our district leaders go to where our families live to ensure they can participate and have their voices represented.  Our Superintendent and our current board have focused on accelerating this work and community engagement. When I began my campaign more than two years ago, this was a central concern and focus of my vision; I used #OneDistrict because I believe we have something no other district has – we have a global educational environment. Our students are already graduating into a global workplace, and we can access the diversity of our district to create cultural knowledge and skillsets essential for future success. Our district should never become one-size-fits-all. We should use our scale to share ideas and become best in class at core instructional elements. We should leverage our diversity to create unique opportunities, curriculums, and programming that all students in our family of cities can access. Going forward, I am hopeful to have colleagues who are positive, solution-oriented, and innovative in how they view the strengths and opportunities that exist in our district now, and that will work to further a one district vision.

As a current board member observing the election process, these are my thoughts after nearly two years on the board and considering the work we have accomplished and that I see ahead. Each candidate has their own unique experiences, perspectives, passions, and positions. I hope to continue working with some of my current colleagues and new colleagues who will bring their experience to tackle these critical focus areas.  As I continue to serve, my focus remains on my commitment to deliver on our mission in service to our scholars. I will always strive to do so professionally and thoughtfully and in such a way that helps us all grow and excel as One Osseo District.