It's the job of the School Board to have necessary, tough conversations to prevent potential problems from becoming emergent realities. Because, as the saying goes, Hope is not a strategy.
If current assumptions hold, our district will run a deficit next year and exhaust its reserve funds in the next five. Open enrollment, while important, is not an infinite revenue spigot. District bonds cannot be refinanced forever, and while the legislature did come through for schools in the most recent session, the state won't be sitting on a record surplus of one-time money every biennium. On top of that, the local appetite for levy increases is not limitless, even if the state were to increase the formula.
The Board needs to address the district's projected budgetary shortfall sooner rather than later, before we end up running a deficit and being forced to make drastic cuts like our neighbors.
SAFETY, SECURITY, WELLNESS, and BELONGING
Keeping our kids, teachers, and school employees safe is the most important thing we do as a district. Without safety and security we can't fulfill our Mission and Vision.
Buildings need to be safe and secure. Fortified is an unfortunate word to have to use when talking about our schools, but I'm at a loss for a better term considering the prevalence of mass shootings these days. Beyond its building by building efforts to secure its facilities, I'd like to see the district, as part of its legislative effort, push for stricter gun controls.
Who loves car line? The need to charge for bussing has to be balanced against the need to alleviate traffic and pedestrian safety issues around district facilities. Pickup and dropoff are serious congestion issues, and getting more students on buses - even students living within a mile or two of their buildings - could seriously alleviate those traffic headaches. The key to this is figuring out how to make bussing more convenient and cost effective for families without substantially increasing the financial burden on the district. I'm open to ideas.
Mental health. The pressures of achievement expectations and current events take their toll on all of us. I've personally struggled with depression, needed professional help, and lost a friend to suicide. Life is not easy, and social media - comparing our insides to other people's outsides - only makes it more difficult. Developing EQ, resilience, and a healthy sense of self and purpose is far more important than developing IQ, so we need to normalize discussion of mental health, and update our Wellness (533) and Health Service (545) policies accordingly.
Belonging. School should be a refuge; a place where students can find friends and community and can see their identities reflected back at them in the personnel, policies, and practices of the district. And that takes daily effort and acknowledgement. Are we doing everything we can to help our kids feel like they belong, both in word and action? Do they have adequate mental health resources?
Excellence. We have to look beyond students as revenue inputs and test score outputs. Soft skills, creativity, and flexibility matter far more than ever before. College graduates no longer expect to grow within one company for the entirety of their career and retire with a pension. These incomplete metrics of excellence and success are predicated on graduates entering an employment landscape that no longer exists. Our district must work to broaden its definition of excellence and strive to identify new ways to help our students enter a fragmented, gig economy.
TRANSPARENCY, ACCESSIBILITY, and COMMUNITY
The Board's operations should be as open to the community as possible and communication expectations should be clearly set:
all meetings (aside from sensitive personnel matters) should be live-streamed and transcribed
meeting agendas and supporting materials should be available online, including all drafts and revisions that were available to the public
community members should be able to participate and deliver comments remotely
the district should provide translations of all board materials and meetings for all languages spoken in the district
where Board processes are not detailed, they should be
community members should know what kind of response they should expect when contacting the Board
the Board should actively seek to enroll as many voices as possible when setting goals and implementing policy
create a student- and teacher-led study group to regularly field emerging issues in the community
create non-voting student Board positions to bring concerns of the student body to meetings on a regular basis
I support the new literacy standards adopted by Minnesota this past legislative session. Furthermore, I would like to see the district abandon debunked literacy programs like Balanced Literacy / Fountas & Pinnel / Leveled Literacy / Whole Language as soon as possible. Ideally, the district should rename its program from Balanced Literacy to something that doesn't carry the baggage of these failed programs.
GOVERNANCE & POLICIES
I favor a wholesale revamp of the district's Policy webpage:
establish a working committee dedicated to overhauling the districts policy page
reorganize the policies page not by number, but by common-sense category
identify when policies were passed, how often they require review, and when the last review occurred
update all policies to specifically outline the district's implementation, or lack thereof
update all policies so they reflect who is responsible for the implementation and ongoing oversight of said policy
all policy pages should have a method wherein concerned students, constituents, or employees can flag policy violations or suggest policy improvements that are routed to the appropriate person responsible for said policy
reported suggestions/violations should be public unless they contain identifiable personal information
I believe the school board should be a reflection of the community's desire for the district, as well a shield between the vagaries of public opinion and the district's students, teachers, and administration.
the job of the board is to proactively identify problems and potential solutions to keep issues from becoming emergent situations
when possible and practical, board goals should be more prescriptive and include tangible steps against which progress can be measured
to this end, board agendas should consist of substantive district business; self-congratulatory/PR communications can live outside board time
the board should also be a wall between hyper-politicized headwinds and the district's business of educating our kids
at the same time, the board should encourage partnership between parents and teachers, advocating for the substantive role of each
how can the schools be a better partner for the issues and responsibilities facing parents at home, especially the most vulnerable?
how can the board protect district teachers and ensure they provide students the freedom to learn with minimal outside disruption?
How can Minnetonka partner with neighboring districts to share resources, save tax dollars, and provide more opportunities for all students? How can it lead legislatively?
Education is not a zero-sum game, and I believe opportunities for innovation and excellence would be expanded by joining with neighboring districts and learning from their successes. It is incumbent upon a district as celebrated as ours to build community with those around us and advocate for public education statewide. As the MNBSA states, a thriving school board should, "Advocate on local, state, and national levels."
We need to start by pooling our collective expertise as school districts to work to eliminate equity gaps in our youngest learners.