Investing in Our Schools

I believe there is no smarter investment for taxpayer dollars than in public education. Our communities have and will continue to experience growth and prosperity by ensuring that future generations are prepared to respond to the modern challenges of our world. In fact, the symbiotic relationship between strong public education and vibrant communities is well-documented. Studies consistently show that community investment in public schools is linked to upward economic mobility, in addition to increases in both self worth and good decision-making in young people.

While it’s important that members of the school board advocate for taxpayer support of public education, it’s also absolutely essential that they engage in critical examination of district budgets. Analysis and scrutiny on both the revenue and expense sides of the equation help ensure that each dollar is being spent wisely, with the intent to maximize impact.

I do not believe that these two concepts are mutually exclusive, and I know firsthand the great responsibility that comes with managing resources entrusted by others. I administer a significant budget at Gustavus Adolphus College, an institution that has received national recognition for its operating efficiency. We take great pride in providing exemplary education with a smaller pool of resources relative to our peers, and I will bring that commitment to efficiency and excellence to my role on the school board. I also serve as chair of the District 112 Foundation Board of Directors, and with that role comes an obligation to steward gifts given by our community members. Both of these examples demonstrate my expertise with budgetary oversight, and I look forward to bringing these skills to the position.

Leveraging Innovation to Drive Strategy

We are living in unprecedented times of significant upheaval in many industries, and arguably few sectors have been as greatly impacted as education. Teachers, staff, school leaders, and of course, our students and families have been tested in significant ways as we’ve adapted to an environment that continues to change beneath our feet. While incredibly challenging, this pandemic has required teachers and staff to carefully reconsider EVERYTHING they do, innovating and developing efficiencies along the way while accelerating integration of technology into their work. I believe that these adaptations will result in permanent changes to how students learn in our district, inviting new conversations about our most pressing issues related to teaching and learning and how to creatively address them.

As we lean on the adaptive nature of our students and the innate ability of our teachers to innovate, our district needs a school board that embraces their role as the strategic, visionary arm of public education in our communities. By shaping a comprehensive strategic plan and implementing strategies that unite learners, teachers, staff, and community members around shared, mutually-beneficial goals, we can live into the promise of world-class education for all learners in Eastern Carver County Schools.

As a higher education professional, I’ve always been committed to driving innovation, and I’ve lived through this same environment of accelerated innovation in my own work. As a school board member, I’ll bring my personal experience to lend a critical eye to our policies, procedures, and priorities while delivering a robust strategy to move us forward. In doing so, we can ensure we’re capitalizing on what we’re learning during this disruptive time, using it as a springboard to emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side with a clear vision for the future of education in the district.

Enhancing Communication

Proactive, consistent communication from school district leadership is a cornerstone of accountability and trust in any community. In fact, I’m convinced that part of what hindered a successful referendum campaign centered around the lack of a robust, multifaceted communication plan. Area residents deserve timely, transparent updates in formats that reflect how they consume information, in addition to opportunities to both hear from and engage with school board members outside of official board meetings. 

I’m prepared to face the challenge of maintaining effective communication in our communities. By day, my office serves as a primary conduit of communications between the Gustavus campus and our over 40,000 alumni, parents, and friends. I believe in authenticity and transparency in communication, and as an Eastern Carver County School Board member, I’ll take my duty to maintain open lines of communication with community members seriously while serving as a vocal advocate for public education in the district.

Expanding Access and Opportunity

Closing achievement gaps, improving access to educational opportunities, and rectifying systems that perpetuate injustice are laudable goals, and they’re critical to delivering on our mission of exceptional, personalized learning for ALL. The great news is that work toward these goals is not a zero-sum game, which means significant progress can be made without sacrificing the learning opportunities for those among us not significantly impacted by social inequities. Even better is that we find ourselves in an environment of heightened awareness, which, if leveraged appropriately, offers a unique opportunity for lasting change. 

Our communities have engaged in important conversations recently about what equity means and why it matters. We have also participated in an “equity audit” which, while helpful in exploring attitudes and perceptions, is an incomplete effort to fully understand the complexity and nuance of our district’s challenges. It is imperative that we move beyond questions of attitudes alone and spend time examining behaviors; everything from testing to literacy, discipline to policy, and much more. School board members, in partnership with superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams and other leaders, should embrace this undertaking as it will ensure we are well-positioned to live into the vision we have for our learners. At the same time, promoting low- or no-cost learning opportunities for our teachers and staff (like the MEA FIRE program) while offering positive reinforcement as we see examples of leadership on this issue will help us shine a light on allies for our students within each building.

Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Professor of African-American Studies and Psychology at Yale University, claims, “when we change the definition of racism from attitudes to behaviors, we transform that problem from impossible to solvable.” While we’re not just dealing with racial injustice in our district, I believe his assertion applies to all forms of inequity. We must focus on how, both individually and collectively, we engage in behaviors that either move us toward or away from equity and justice, and take active steps to modify “what we do,” allowing “how we feel” to naturally follow.

As we let data guide us to illuminating the landscape of equity in our district, we can also turn our sights to a fundamental truth: that equity starts with empathy. As we seek to understand the “why” behind the “what” in the lives of our students as well as their teachers, friends, and neighbors, we will unlock the true power of how our experiences humanize us and provide high-impact learning opportunities for all.

I look forward to continued conversation and action regarding the challenges we face on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in our schools. As a school board member, I’ll bring extensive experience teaching Spanish language and culture, a strong foundational knowledge of intercultural development, and a skill set that includes leading and facilitating challenging conversations. I’ll also lean on my personal experience as someone who lived much of my childhood in poverty, realizing the promise of a better future thanks to the support of teacher-mentors and my alma mater’s commitment to equity.

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