On Aug. 11, voters will narrow the slate of District 624 School Board candidates from 10 to six. Voters may vote for up to three candidates and the top six vote-getters will advance to the general election.

Lynn Albee

City of residence: White Bear Lake

Contact info: 612-387-9283, lynnalbee@gmail.com

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? My husband Brodie and I have a daughter, Madelynn, who will start preschool in the district this fall. We also have an 8-month-old daughter, Isabelle, who will join the district in a few years.

Education: B.A. music performance/education Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota; M.A. instruction Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota; Ed.D. disability and equity in education National-Louis University

Occupation: Program director and assistant professor, Master of Arts in Education Program, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota; and private music teacher with All Things Musik

Civic/volunteer experience: My passion in life is to establish and maintain inclusive communities. My way of doing this has been by devoting much of my time presenting at TASH (a disability rights and advocacy organization) and Disability Studies in Education Conferences, college symposiums, as well as publishing in various journals and education related books. As a parent of young children in White Bear Lake, I am looking forward to volunteering much of my time with various aspects of their education and extra-curricular activities in the Suburban East Conference. Being a member of the White Bear Lake School Board is how I am hoping to volunteer my time with this wonderful district.

Why are you running? I am enthusiastic about the opportunity of running for a position on the White Bear Lake School Board.  Serving as a liaison among the parents, community members and the district, as well as keeping community members informed of school and district initiatives are key objectives of mine.

First and foremost, I am a parent in this great district. I've also had experiences as a K-12 teacher and am currently a college administrator at a local university. I understand the needs of teachers, students, parents and administration and I want to facilitate and nurture a culture where everyone is represented and valued.

As a member, I will use my education background to best evaluate and adopt policies that benefit all schools and students in the district. I have effective conflict management skills, and I look forward to collaborating with people on all sides of the table when it comes to finances for the district.

As a kid, I loved music class! I had an engaging and passionate band director who integrated himself in all areas of our education. Because of him, I decided to become a music teacher. I saw how easy differentiating instruction could be with the simple change in mindset that all students belong. Everyone loves music and deserves to be in an inclusive classroom, and that is the kind of classroom I created while I was teaching in K-12. I have seen firsthand the positive affect that an arts education has on students in all areas of their education.

If elected, what would be your top priorities? Ensuring the success of all students in the district is a top priority. Our community is only as good as our members, and thinking to the future, we need to provide our students with the best education possible so they will live in a world where opportunities are endless. I believe a quality education includes a strong arts program, and I support the ongoing arts, world languages, technology and STEM initiatives. Finally, it is essential that our schools are culturally responsive. Ensuring equity in the classroom is crucial to this district, and this would be a top priority for me as a school board member.

My goal is to accomplish these objectives in a fiscally responsible way that will allow for an optimal education for our students while not leveraging our communities economic future.

What do you think the district does best? I think the district is fantastic at staying connected to the community and communicating with families. I am impressed with the districts comprehensive long term planning as evidenced by the 2011 strategic plan. It is my hope to collaborate with fellow board members on the next leg in the strategic plan, and to further develop the vision of the district.

In terms of communicating with families, the district website is user-friendly and comprehensive to include the many opportunities provided to students. For example, students are exposed to the arts through partnerships with the White Bear Center for the Arts, Ashland Collaborative Theatre and MacPhail Center for Music. Students are able to connect with nature in outdoor classrooms with the districts connection to the Minnesota DNR Forest Program. The joint program with the YMCA allows children in the district to learn water safety, a necessity living in a state with so many lakes!

Extended day programs offer students additional exposure to quality educational programs while at the same time giving family members the peace of mind of knowing their kids are in good hands in an educational environment.

Through the REACH program, gifted students are challenged at a high level and partnerships with local universities give students opportunities in physics. And, Hope for Tomorrow and Young Frontiers provide students the skills to make good decisions.

International Baccalaureate curriculum gives students a global view of the world, creating a culture of where everyone can work together toward a common goal. This directly aligns with the districts strategic plan goal to connect students to the global community.

The Area Learning Center provides student-centered curriculum, individualizing learning to the needs of every student. The Early Childhood programs (and the partnership with Tamarack Nature Center) kick start preschoolers off on a great start to a lifelong love for learning and exploring.

The Community Services provided through the district keep our community members engaged in all things 624! Day programming, services for adults with disabilities, senior programs and youth enrichment are just some of the many opportunities the district offers our community members.

What are a few areas in which you believe the district should improve? I think the district should continue to facilitate learning experiences for students that inspire innovation and creativity in the classroom and continue to develop students life long learning.

I think something that can always be improved is allocating resources for the needs of the district. A great way to do this is to continue collaborating with community partners, especially local businesses!

What new programs do you think the district should add, if any? What programs should be expanded? Are there any programs you think should be eliminated? I would encourage a conversation on the board and with the community about ways the district could be more effective in helping students succeed. Keeping parents engaged is an important part of this because often parents have insight into the needs of their children that teachers and administration need to know in order to provide appropriate programming.

I think it is important for the district to continually look at the current initiatives, programs and curriculum to determine whats working and what is not. Districts need to audit their operations continuously in order to ensure we are allocating our resources in the most efficient way possible.

Name two challenges you believe the district faces and describe how you might approach helping solve them. One challenge the district faces is addressing the Achievement Gap. District, State and National data rank Minnesota as having the widest Achievement Gap. We need to find a way to ensure that students of all backgrounds receive the same quality of education and are given equal opportunity to succeed.

The second challenge, is ensuring that all students are appropriately prepared for the real world after high school. This is essentially the goal of all K12 education, to make sure students are equipped with skills and tools needed to be successful. Today, schools work for students who are “good at school.” How can we make this K12 education valuable for everyone? We live in a time where post-secondary education is not the answer for every high school graduate, so we need to make sure that all 624 graduates are career ready.

The Legislature increased the state funding formula by 2 percent each of the next two years. Do you think that is sufficient? The number one state investment should be in education. Without a strong foundation in a quality education, students enter the work force ill-prepared for what lies ahead. Investing in students is investing in our future. As long as the needs of our students are being met, the actual dollar amount spent on students becomes inconsequential. It is my hope that the district would find a way to ensure that our educational institutions are properly funded regardless of what kind of increase that would entail.

Under what circumstances would you support a tax levy increase? A tax levy is one tool we have in order to raise the necessary resources to respond to the needs of our students. Circumstances change, and I would evaluate the district’s needs in light of those circumstances. If there is a situation where additional tax funds would improve our students’ education, then it is something that has to be considered.

Ellen Fahey

City of residence: White Bear Lake

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? No

Education: B.A. biology/secondary education, master of education, K-12 reading specialist license

Occupation: Teacher (retired)

Why are you running? After 39 years of teaching, I have recently retired and would like to continue to support public education and contribute to the community. As a member of the school board, I will be able to share my professional skills and personal experiences developed throughout my career in Australia and White Bear Lake. I understand the impact of decisions made by the Legislature, school board, and administration on students in the classroom.

If elected, what would be your top priorities? 1) The implementation of classroom technology with an emphasis on the effective use of technology as a learning tool and providing support for staff, students, and families.

2) Continue the development and implementation of the Equity Plan to understand all students' needs and interests, to ensure all students are engaged and making progress, and to connect families, students and staff.

What do you think the district does best? The development of community partnerships to expand enrichment opportunities for students.

What are a few areas in which you believe the district should improve? Since there is an emphasis on using data to guide instruction and improve student learning, staff need adequate time to study the data and for collaboration. We need to provide assistance for all families to access and effectively use online systems such as Schoology and Skyward.

What new programs do you think the district should add, if any? What programs should be expanded? Are there any programs you think should be eliminated? As part of the Equity Plan, the district is introducing a new program this year, Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), to foster partnerships between parents, students and staff. It is a free nine-week course that will be taught in Spanish, Hmong, and English. As an educator I was an advocate for working with parents to help their child succeed. This is the type of program I would suggest adding

Over the past few years the district has added an assortment of programs such as IB MYP, All Day Kindergarten, AVID, School Within a School Gifted Program, Elementary Stem Program, K-5 World Languages, Chinese Course Offerings and Exchange Programs, Response to Intervention Program, Orchestra, and other programs. Before making any decision on expansion or elimination we need to assess the success of the program and whether they are financially sustainable.

Name two challenges you believe the district faces and describe how you might approach helping solve them. 1) One challenge is addressing the needs of all students with the available finances. We need to work with the state legislature to address school funding that places all schools on an equal level. Federal and state governments should fully fund their mandates.

2) Maintaining acceptable class sizes with falling enrollment. The district has worked to reduce class sizes from highest in the metro area to at or just below the metro average. When I speak to parents who have open enrolled their child in another district their reason for doing this has been large class sizes. We need to publicize the work the district has done to reduce class size, particularly at the elementary level. We also need to continue to address this at each level.

The Legislature increased the state funding formula by 2 percent each of the next two years. Do you think that is sufficient? The Minnesota School Board Association was hoping for an increase of 3% to keep up with state mandates and provide more stability. The reality is school funding has not kept pace with inflation and over the past decade the state legislature has increased the amount of delayed payments to schools. The job of the school board will be to balance the needs of the district with the available finances.

Under what circumstances would you support a tax levy ? It is our responsibility to provide an education for all students. If the funding from the government is not sufficient to maintain the programs to do this I would support a levy.

Carol Fish

City of residence: White Bear Lake

Contact info: 651-773-3159

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? Two sons attended and graduated from White Bear Lake Schools

Education: Graduated from White Bear Lake High School, Anoka Ramsey Community College with A. A. degree, University of Minnesota with Bachelor of Science in elementary education, Bethel University with Master of Education Degree in special education, and recently completed licensure in K-12 reading (U of M).

Occupation: Special education teacher with Minneapolis Public Schools

Civic/volunteer experience: Girl Scout leader, religious education teacher/coordinator, early childhood family education task force committee

Why are you running? I filed as a school board candidate because I wish to serve the community in which I live using my knowledge, experience and expertise in the field of education. I grew up in White Bear Lake and graduated from White Bear High School, my family has a history of community engagement, and I feel this is an area in which I could serve.

With over twenty years teaching experience, plus fifteen years of substitute teaching experience in this district and others, I have worked at all grade levels, early childhood through beginning college. My experience has been with diverse cultures and abilities. I recognize the value of parental involvement at all levels. I participate in district community education, and am familiar with the senior programs.

If elected, what would be your top priorities? My top priorities would be to become acquainted with the duties of a school board member and carry out those duties with the same professionalism I practice in my teaching career.

Safety in our schools is of prime importance today. Meeting mental health needs is also important. Another priority would be to improve the learning outcomes for the fifty percent of students who are reported to be achieving at less than average. Reading ability is basic to school success. It is important for all students to be college or career ready in reading, writing and math skills.

Nathan Nelson

City of residence: White Bear Township

Contact info: cell: 651-329-7367, website: www.nathannelson.us, email: info@nathannelson.us, www.facebook.com/wblschool, just have a quick question txt it to me 763-316-9652

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? No current children

Education: Graduated high school from White Bear Lake in 2006. Graduated North Dakota State University in 2013 with a degree in political science and pre-law.

Occupation: I work as a personal banker for Wells Fargo.

Civic/volunteer experience: Fargo flood fight (2010, 2011, 2013): helped save the homes of Fargo; mentored pledges in my fraternity (2010 -2012): The pledges that I worked with improved one full letter grade in their Political Science Classes; Freeze-a-thon (2009 – 2011): each member of our fraternity spent over 10 hours outside during February to raise money for Nokomis Child Care Center; Homeless and Hungry: (2011): I along with my fraternity spent 30 hours fasting, can food collecting, and time in the Fargo community helping various organizations; Miss NDSU Beauty Contest (2009 - 2012): stage coordinator, team organizer, video editor, escort and lead photographer); Trick-or-can (2009-10): collected canned food for the food shelters in Fargo on Halloween; Fill the Dome: for two years helped organize, fill, and sort the canned food into bags; NSDU Move in Crew (2009-2010): helped freshmen move in to their new dorm room.

Why are you running? I am running for school board because I believe I can bring a young perspective to the White Bear Lake School board. I have been through every White Bear Lake school from Vadnais heights elementary to graduating from south campus. It takes a candidate who has actually been in the White Bear Lake system to understand our needs. Many of my opponents bring many years of past education or other experience, however nothing tops firsthand knowledge of how White Bear Lake actually works. I am fresh out of college and want to bring a new vision to White Bear Lake, a new point of view on how to approach new and old ideas. White Bear Lake cannot succeed when we have the same likeminded individuals sitting on the board. It is important to have a young member bring a new way of looking at ideas, seeing problems, and a strong sense of personal responsibility. When I am elected to the school board I will listen to you, your concerns, and your values. I am running because I believe in the education system, being a voice of my populist, and most importantly representing you. I am here to fight for you.

I am not only running because I believe in a diverse school board that should be made up of both older and younger members, but because it is time for someone to ask the hard questions! Throughout the past months I have sat in on several school board meetings and questioned why the board has voted the way it did. When budgets, amendments, or other proposals are presented for votes or up for debate many members sit back quietly not asking any questions and the topic moves on quietly. When I am elected I will make sure I ask the hard question that many people are afraid to ask. I am running to fight for you and that starts with making your voice heard, even if it means asking the tough questions that others are afraid to ask.

As a personal banker for Wells Fargo I am trained heavily in the background of finance and fiscal responsibility. I am trained this way because I truly care about all of my clients and I want them to succeed financially. I will take this training to the school board to make sure your money is spent responsibly. When we have fiscal responsibility it saves money, keeps the budget on track and prevents taxes from being raised.

This election is not about who can give the best speech or who claims to have the most experience. This election is about representing you, the people of White Bear Lake. Would you rather have an individual that is willing to fight for what you believe in or a candidate that just sits back and votes the way he or she sees fit?

If elected, what would be your top priorities? If elected my top priorities include making sure fiscal responsibility comes first. Using my training from Wells Fargo I will make sure the budget is balanced and spending is done correctly not frivolously. Secondly it is very important to stand up for what you believe in. I plan on asking the hard questions that others are afraid to ask and stand up for my voters. Lastly my top priority I will bring a young vision to white bear. It is about time we have the youth’s perspective when making decisions. This is important because many times the younger generation is not heard or even considered. When I am elected I will make sure I give a voice not only to parents of children in school but the school students as well.

Grace Neustadter

City of residence: White Bear Lake

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? My youngest graduated from White Bear Lake High school in 2012.

Education: MSEd

Occupation: Teacher-middle school LD

Civic/volunteer experience: Chicago Food Depository, Crisis Center of South Suburbia, Feed my Starving Children, Inspiration Cafe

Why are you running? My desire to run for a seat on the school board stems from my concern that our educational system is not meeting the needs of all of our students. I want to be a part of the change that will allow all of our children to succeed academically. I hope to be the voice of those who are not heard, an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

If elected, what would be your top priorities? My top three priorities are funding, curriculum and equity.

What do you think the district does best? I think the district does a good job when it comes to rigor in its course offerings. i.e. Middle Years IB program in middle school, world languages curriculum, College in the Schools, and AP courses, to name a few.

What are a few areas in which you believe the district should improve? One area for improvement, which the district has already begun to work towards, is the area of equity. The district is looking at ways to work with students who are struggling academically and socially. This is being done from a student perspective; however, teachers/staff also need training in order to be able to successfully work with students of diverse backgrounds.

What new programs do you think the district should add, if any? What programs should be expanded? Are there any programs you think should be eliminated? A more in-depth look into district programs would be needed in order to fully answer this question. One program I would expand, over time, is the new equity initiative.

Name two challenges you believe the district faces and describe how you might approach helping solve them. There is a need for increased parent involvement. Building relationships has become a cliché, but it is the first step in getting (parents) in the door. One way to build relationship is for teachers to personally reach out to their students’ parents at the beginning of the school year. By focusing on increasing parental involvement, the district will also inadvertently begin to address other issues, such as increasing student achievement for our students who struggle behaviorally and academically.

The Legislature increased the state funding formula by 2 percent each of the next two years. Do you think that is sufficient? For the 2012-13 school year, the state provided approximately 66 percent of the total costs of elementary and secondary education. Local revenue sources (primarily property taxes and fees for services such as school lunch) provided approximately 28 percent of 2012-13 operating revenues, and the federal government provided approximately 6 percent. (House Research Department November 2014 Minnesota School Finance, p.4). For the fiscal year 2015, the state formula dictates a $5,831 per year, per pupil pay out by the state. The funding process is complicated. What is important is determining how best to use the funds the district is given.

Under what circumstances would you support a tax levy increase? I am in support of a levy increase if needed, however that support would be determined on a case by case basis.

Margaret Newmaster

City of residence: White Bear Lake

Contact info: Email: margenewmaster4schoolboard@gmail.com, home phone: 651-429-0357

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? My son Kyle is a 1993 WBL grad and my daughter Brooke is a 1997 grad

Education: University of MN: BS education (German, Spanish); Masters in library science; PhD curriculum and instructional systems

Occupation: Media specialist (librarian)

Civic/volunteer experience: As a 40+ year educator in the school district and as a parent of two WBL graduates, I have been a Band Booster; have supported exchange programs with other countries; promoted diversity activities and clubs; written grants which have benefited our schools and provided multi-culture programs to our students and the community. As a parent of a Korean adoptee, I have been very active in promoting diversity education and opportunities for students and the White Bear Area School District community since the 1980s. I have written grants for a Hmong resource center at North Campus and additional Asian resource materials, sponsored speakers and have served on the nonprofit Korean Cultural Association board since 2006. Our events are free and open to the public.

Why are you running? I believe my experience as an educator and parent have given me insights and skills which will help me serve District 624 well as a board member. As a media specialist I have worked closely with students and teachers in all curriculum areas and have been a technology teacher, innovator and guide through many initiatives.

As a parent I have been active in supporting student activities. As a parent of a Korean adoptee, I serve on the board of the Korean Cultural Association and have worked to provide diversity and multicultural opportunities to our school community.

I believe the role of the school board is to focus on student learning and to assure the community that all students regardless of socioeconomic status, race or gender are progressing toward achieving the same high standards.

If elected, what would be your top priorities? 1) Engage all stakeholders in the education of our children with participation welcomed. 2) Offer choices to learners and parents based on best practice and research. 3) Provide clear communication between all stakeholders with all knowing they have been heard. 

What do you think the district does best? Dist. 624’s core values of compassion, integrity, respect, responsibility and service set a high goal and challenge our children to become caring, engaged citizens. I believe our district has done a great job in offering students a wide choice of enrichment opportunities. At the high school level, for example, students can choose college in the schools classes, advanced placement classes and other programs which allow students to sample post-secondary options while in high school.

What are a few areas in which you believe the district should improve? I believe our district needs to include all stakeholders in the educational process in developing and assessing programs and initiatives.

I believe we need to support current programs that provide services to all students. Our elementary media (library) program for example, has been cut by more than 50% in the past three years. The technology, reading and research instruction taught by media specialists is critical to student development. Another area we can improve is in providing needed resources (text books, media, lab equipment, supplies etc.) to most effectively implement curriculum in the classroom. Funding needs to support ongoing needs as well as new initiatives.

I believe District 624 needs to look at the wide variety of careers our students may enter in the future and make sure our programs and curriculum reflect an awareness of the skills needed to begin post-secondary programs as well as work in entry level jobs. Our students will work and live in a world we cannot imagine. Our educational system should offer students experience on multi-platforms, digital and print curricula and the use of many software programs utilized in the work world.

What new programs do you think the district should add, if any? What programs should be expanded? Are there any programs you think should be eliminated? At this point, I am not aware of any programs I believe should be eliminated. I do think some current programs need more support.

Name two challenges you believe the district faces and describe how you might approach helping solve them. I believe the District 624 will need to face the changing demographics of our community. Our school population reflects the growing diversity of our community. The increased percentage of retirees who live in the White Bear Lake Area school district and declining enrollment in k12 schools also need to be an integral part of planning. A growing number of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and their economic reality must also be reflected in our planning. District 624 communications and services need to reach and engage our population and recruit more diverse staffing. ISD624 staff development should include opportunities to improve understanding of a variety of ethnicities and life styles.

The Legislature increased the state funding formula by 2 percent each of the next two years. Do you think that is sufficient? I would need to consider inflation rates, the number of state or federal mandated school programs which may be underfunded and any special needs in the district to know if 2% allows for growth, maintenance or would require cuts.

Under what circumstances would you support a tax levy increase? I would support a levy which was developed with the input of all stakeholders to support specific needed and underfunded learning programs, opportunities and materials.

Bob Shevik

City of residence: White Bear Lake

Contact info: bob.shevik@gmail.com

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? Three daughters have graduated from ISD 624 and one daughter attending South Campus.

Education: Carlson School of Management (MEP), Brown College (computer science), Defense Language Institute (Korean language and culture)

Occupation: President, Foundation Business Systems, LLC.

Civic/volunteer experience: School Board member from 2010 – 2013; PTA member for over 20 years; baseball, basketball, softball coach; levy captain; levy volunteer and data analyst; PLTW sponsor; guest classroom speaker (too many to count); chaperone for countless field trips; avid sporting event, concert, and theater audience member

Why are you running? White Bear Lake has a tradition of excellent student performance and sound fiscal management. I would like to make sure that tradition continues long into the future.

If elected, what would be your top priorities? Fiscal responsibility, facilities, technology, Project Lead The Way. These priorities are all focused on improvement in the classroom and providing tools for use by both students and staff.

What do you think the district does best? Preparing students to pursue their post-secondary objectives. White Bear Lake offers one of the most comprehensive selections of AP, CIS, and Alternative Learning available in the state. These offerings can save students and parents a tremendous amount of money in future tuition.

What are a few areas in which you believe the district should improve? 1) Aging facilities and infrastructure that needs attention. 2) Leveraging more technology to provide cost savings in Administration and the classroom. 3) Support for the transient student population.

What new programs do you think the district should add, if any? What programs should be expanded? Are there any programs you think should be eliminated? 1) I believe the district has competitive offerings but we must constantly be measuring ourselves against other offerings in the Twin Cities area.

2) I would fully support continued expansion of the Foreign Language program, the Elementary Clustering program, and Project Lead The Way for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

3) The elimination of programs is primarily driven by participation rates and state requirements. I am not aware of any specific programs considered for elimination at this time.

4) In terms of extracurricular activities, I am very much in favor of the continued district endorsement of local club teams. This processes has allowed the school to continue involvement in a number of areas, such as skiing, sailing, archery, and more.

Name two challenges you believe the district faces and describe how you might approach helping solve them. 1) Aging infrastructure and facilities – I have experience in facilities management with larger organizations and can leverage a number of relationships to ensure a wide variety of options are considered when addressing these issues. Changing population demographics are also impacting our facilities model. The rapid growth in the north end of the district is resulting in some additional strain.

2) Technology adoption – The district has made some incredible strides recently; naming a CIO is just one example. However, there is still much to be done to increase teacher adoption of some of the tools at their disposal. As a president of a technology firm, I am very familiar with technology adoption and change management practices to assist staff.

The Legislature increased the state funding formula by 2 percent each of the next two years. Do you think that is sufficient? Yes. There are always many considerations in the reviewing the financial position of the district. Because the current forecast shows growth in student population and moderate economic projections, the current planned formula increase should be sufficient for operations.

Under what circumstances would you support a tax levy increase? I would always want to fully understand the financial situation before making any commitment. However, I would not generally favor any operating levy increase. Capital Projects or Bond debt for district improvements in facilities, technology and classroom equipment I will generally support. Investments in these areas should be targeted at both improving the performance of the district and reducing the need for future operating levies.

Leslie Sieleni

City of residence: White Bear Lake

Contact info: 612-747-0840

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? Yes, we have a child going into 10th grade this year at WBLAHS North Campus.

Education: Graduate of the Minnesota Governor’s Council for Developmental Disabilities, Partners in Policy Making. Attended Century College for child psychology and Ashworth College for construction management.

Occupation: Manager at Zachry Engineering for the past 18 years

Civic/volunteer experience: Head of delegation and coach for our WBL Area Schools Special Olympics Unified BEARS Team, volunteer for ARC MN, board of directors for the International Down Syndrome Coalition, parent volunteer for Family Voices of Minnesota, member of Department of Education Special Education Advisory Panel.

Why are you running? To play an active role in ensuring that all students in the district are given the optimal educational experience they deserve. I want the community to be proud of the school district in which their students are being educated. As a member of the Department of Education Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP) I have been involved with the processes, policies and procedures that ensure collaboration between parents and administration at the state level. I believe my experiences as a member of the SEAP will allow me to continue to be an effective advocate for the families in our district.

If elected, what would be your top priorities? My first priority would be to ensure that every student is given the same educational opportunity, despite their ability level, in the most inclusive school environment possible. Understanding that every student learns differently, we need to create schools that reach all students of all abilities, set high expectations for all, and prepare them to be career and college ready as well as in a position to be fully contributing members of society after leaving our schools (life ready).

My second priority would be to change the current system of special education service delivery, so that students in our district may attend their homeschool with their brothers, sisters, neighbors and friends vs. transporting them out of the school/district to receive their services. The dollars saved could go back to further build the capacity of our educators (e.g. through professional development or increased staffing), where it would benefit not only our professionals but also all of the students within our school community. Keeping our students within our district and building a stronger group of teachers that serve them would be a worthwhile endeavor.

What do you think the district does best? I think we have some really wonderful teachers in our schools. They work hard for all students and I believe they are sincerely concerned about student outcomes. I also think the district does a wonderful job celebrating the successes of our student population and promoting pride in our community.

What are a few areas in which you believe the district should improve? I believe that teachers and students should have the resources, facilities and technology necessary to fulfill their needs. I view education as a partnership that functions with broad support from teachers, staff, community members, parents, and students. Student-centered planning and increasing parental involvement are two critical components to facilitate this partnership.

What new programs do you think the district should add, if any? Shared services with our neighboring school districts. Items to include but not limited to are: Transportation, Maintenance of athletic fields and lawn maintenance, curriculum coordination, shared technology, etc. Many school administrators are aware of the untapped potential savings available through collaboration and sharing, and many are finding new creative ways to save.

Project Search. This program is an internship program for young adults with intellectual disabilities who are ideally in their last year of high school. The program partners schools with a host business to provide the students with internships during the school year - developing work skills to help obtain meaningful employment.

What programs should be expanded? Technology advancements to include but not limited to areas of communication, increase student engagement, and interaction with students. Continue to look at expanding programs to promote positive transitions between buildings and programs for all students.

Are there any programs you think should be eliminated? None at this time.

Name two challenges you believe the district faces and describe how you might approach helping solve them. With close to 9000 students in our district, it’s vital that all students are given the same educational experience and opportunity to prepare for life beyond school whether that is college and/or career readiness. I feel our district needs to revisit our special education service placement and the benefits for all students including those with disability needs to ensure they are receiving the best possible education in the least restrictive environment.

Years of educational research is quite clear on the benefits of inclusive education for all students. In looking at the evidence for inclusive schooling and the outcomes that occur when students with and without disabilities are educated together, nowhere is the body of research more clear—inclusive schooling produces greater academic and social gains for students with and without disabilities.

For students without disabilities the results are equally as important. Students without disabilities show a deeper level of acceptance for diversity when educated alongside students with disabilities. Educating students in inclusive classrooms, as opposed to segregating them in special education classrooms helps all students (students with and without disabilities) learn to live, work, and play together so that eventually they can successfully live, work, and be together in the community as adults.

And most importantly, to speak to the common argument that students with disabilities will stunt or slow down the education of students without disabilities, again, research overwhelmingly demonstrates that achievement increases or stays the same for students without disabilities in inclusive classrooms and what a wonderful and productive way to address closing the achievement gap between high- and low-performing children.

To make the above successful, all students need to be integral members of classrooms, feel a connection to their peers, have access to rigorous and meaningful general education curricula and receive the collaborative support to succeed.

My second area of concern is teacher morale. Teachers are faced with the changing push for high stakes testing and losing control of education curriculum. They have gone from teaching the whole child curriculum to teaching to the test. We talk all the time about making our kids ‘college and career ready’—even at such a young age but I believe we need to make them ‘life ready’ first. My fear is with all this pressure on students and teachers; we are robbing both groups of the joy and adventure of learning.

Teachers continue to deal with the reality of minimal increases in professional development opportunities or time for teacher collaboration. Professional learning communities gets results and is the best form of teacher development.

Finding time to collaborate is a challenge but not impossible. Time is indeed precious in school however the reality is that we already have the time and we need to help teachers make time by changing the daily schedule and routine. This approach to making more time for collaboration can have a lasting impact on the culture of a school. In a professional learning community, a teacher’s role shifts from working in isolation to working in collaboration with others. We need to ensure our teachers have the support and training to promote student learning and create a safe and cooperative environment for learning. Shared knowledge is a beautiful thing for everyone involved.

The Legislature increased the state funding formula by 2 percent each of the next two years. Do you think that is sufficient? No. I don’t believe schools are being sufficiently funded given the increasing levels of student poverty and the expectation that all children achieve. With that said, we as a community need to ensure school funding is used efficiently and being put to the most effective use possible such as quality teaching, strong curriculum, programs for struggling students, and sufficient supports.

Under what circumstances would you support a tax levy increase? If the money were to be used in an organized fashion to address student and teacher needs, for example an organizational shift to continuously develop the capacity of our teachers in meaningful ways that aren’t happening currently at all levels of the system.

Taylor Swartwood

Did not respond

Scott Wilson

City of residence: White Bear Lake

Do or did you have children who attended district schools? Yes, all three of my daughters attended district schools.

Education: B.S. Mankato State University Geography/Earth Science (1978), Post-graduate Teaching Certificate Science Education University of Minnesota (1993)

Occupation: Parts Department, White Bear Mitsubishi (current), Earth Science teacher (retired), Army Engineer Officer (retired)

Civic/volunteer experience: North Suburban Evening Lions – various community service projects, Ramsey County Conservation District – precipitation observer/recorder, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency- water clarity observer/recorder, Minnesota Humanities Center – Veterans’ Voices Committee charter member and award selection panelist, Ronald McDonald House Charities (Upper Midwest) - Cooks For Kids program, my wife, Norma, and I host and serve Thanksgiving Dinner for the families in residence at the Ronald McDonald House Room at Twin Cities Children’s Hospital

Why are you running? I’ve always been very gratified by showing and providing young people opportunities for their personal growth and success whether they were soldiers or students. I’ve been involved with educational issues my entire adult life and over that course I’ve gained leadership, administrative, logistical and teaching experience through multiple positions. These experiences have given me a keen insight to student needs, curriculum evaluation, budgeting and resource accountability. I would bring the benefit of my past successes to our school board to perpetuate and extend student opportunities while providing responsible stewardship of district financing and resources.

If elected, what would be your top priorities? I’ve identified three issues for which I would exert concentrated effort:

1) Learning Readiness – in order for students to gain the most from their academic experiences they must be able to learn effectively. However, an increasing number of children are entering our district lacking the fundamental elements of learning. Therefore, I would seek ways and means to improve learning readiness in our students (K-12).

2) Community Engagement – I would encourage development of community oriented programs and invite community members into our schools so that they may see the gains being achieved. I’d also ask our teachers to find ways to increase parental involvement with their student’s learning and finally, I would maintain timely communications with community members, parents, administrators, faculty and staff members.

3) Stewardship – the effort for me here would be to responsibly maintain the resources and programs that are working well to allow our students to reach their full potential.

What do you think the district does best? I think District 624’s course and activity offerings are superb. Offering college credit while still enrolled in high school is a tremendous advantage academically and financially for our students (and their families). Such programs also retain more academic high-achievers in our district. Additionally, the AVID program motivates students that typically would think that college is out of their reach. Work-study programs are an excellent way for students who are seeking vocations that do not require 4-year degrees to enter the workforce with solid learning and experience to their credit. The range of activities offered to district students these days would be unimaginable when I attended high school – they’re simply great! Also, the district’s buildings and grounds are excellently maintained.

What are a few areas in which you believe the district should improve? From all of the information I’ve gained from reviewing district reports and conversations with board members, community and staff members, the state of the district is quite good, so I’m not sure that any particular aspect is in need of much improvement. I will certainly monitor the reading and language acquisition programs to enhance learning readiness in our students.

What new programs do you think the district should add, if any? What programs should be expanded? Are there any programs you think should be eliminated? At present, I would neither add nor eliminate any programs and would continue the expansion of World Languages.

Name two challenges you believe the district faces and describe how you might approach helping solve them. 1) Student turbulence/mobility (moving) compounds the problems associated with learning readiness. While we can’t prevent families from entering or leaving our district, we can offer parental guidance for working with their children on homework assignments so that if they’re newly arrived, or depart our district, students would have consistency in home support for their studies.

2) Language acquisition – I know this receives a lot of attention already, but we need to do everything possible to allow students to develop adequate working vocabularies and reading competence so that they can learn to their full potential.

The Legislature increased the state funding formula by 2 percent each of the next two years. Do you think that is sufficient? I think the 2 percent increases for each year in the coming biennium (two year period) will be sufficient to maintain our districts programs, activities and facilities given the current level of corporate partnerships.

Under what circumstances would you support a tax levy increase? Adequate funding for school programs, personnel, activities, support and facilities should be derived from our portion of state and federal funding accompanied by our share of local property taxes and activity fees. However, there are circumstances when those funding sources become inadequate, or there may be special opportunities to acquire something at an exceptional price, but the cost lies beyond the current operating budget; under those conditions, after due consideration has been given to the cost/benefit ratio and making appropriate budget reductions, then I would support the call for a levy increase.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.