Do you support public education, and do you think public schools are adequately funded?
We have four children that currently attend EP Schools. I believe that public schools are the foundation from which an educated electorate is able to exercise democracy. Insufficient funding and commitment to educational excellence for all students, leads to longer-term systemic societal issues.
It is important to note that Eden Prairie spent more per pupil in 2019 ($13,602 per MDE District Level Expenditures Report), than all the major west suburban schools districts other that Osseo/Maple Grove ($13,907).
What do you think the role of a school board member is?
In Eden Prairie, the School District is run by our Superintendent (CEO) and the School Board (Board of Directors) provides oversight to his strategic plan, operational effectiveness, and academic outcomes. It is our role to provide the citizens of Eden Prairie a conduit to express concerns, happiness/frustration, and support for these plans/vision. We are the guardrails that guide our district leadership, teachers, and students towards becoming the most respected school district in Minnesota.
In addition, our role is to hold the superintendent accountable to the very high academic standards we have for our school district. It is our responsibility to ensure the financial resources assigned to the schools are adequate and used efficiently and effectively. We are to act as stewards of the taxpayer’s money, and ensure every dollar spent supports the objectives of academic excellence for all.
Finally, our job is to advocate for the excellence of our school district in the Minnesota. Recognition plays a significant role in attracting new residents, students, teachers, and maintaining property values. The quality of the school district is often an important decision in attracting and retaining residents and the best teachers.
Do you have children in Eden Prairie schools?
Yes, 4: Two- 3rd Graders (Prairie View), one- 6th Grader (Prairie View), one- Freshman at EPHS. And they keep me busy!
How do you see the issue of equity and diversity in Eden Prairie schools, and what would you do about it?
I am proud of the diversity we have in our school district. I have had the opportunity to live in two other districts in the Twin Cities, have close contacts in other metro districts, and lived in school districts in three other states. My experience is that EP Schools are more diverse than any of these. We are fortunate to have a population of students that reflect the diversity of America.
I do my best to live by principles, and I believe in equal protection and opportunity under the law. I know there is an achievement gap in MN and EP, so we are not accomplishing that objective. I do not subsume to know the right answer today, but I am committed to academic excellence for all- regardless of race.
What issues are important to you that the school board should address?
It starts with our number one goal: Academic Excellence! A few other areas I believe are important include:
· Proactively preparing school district finances for the impending reduction in funding due to the economic consequences of COVID, unemployment, the deepening recession in Minnesota, and the significant decline in MN State Tax revenues.
· Recognizing and balancing the risk and rewards of technology and screen time.
· Increase exposure to vocational education/trades earlier in high school- eliminate any stigma associated with alternatives to college.
· Ensure focus on change management execution and communication with all constituents (Parents, Students, Teachers, and Citizens) during times of significant change.
What are your qualifications for this job?
I believe having kids in the district is a very important qualification. I have four kids that are in, and will be in, the district for the next 10 years. I am invested in our community as demonstrated by being a coach, Cub Scout leader, church youth group leader, and PTO volunteer. I think living the experience of the schools, with my kids, is a great starting point.
In addition, I have been a financial professional for over 20 years. I have lead teams at two Fortune 500 companies: performing financial analysis, risk management, audits, and team building. More recently, I started my own business that focuses on due diligence and financial consulting with technology companies under $50 million in revenue.
I will to listen to all sides, but will ask tough questions in order to find the best solution. I am not afraid to make difficult decisions.
If there is a budget shortfall, would you support a property tax levy?
Eden Prairie has demonstrated its commitment to supporting our schools through recent tax levies which have provided a foundation for improved academic outcomes.
There will be budget shortfalls in 2022-2024 given the economic outlook in Minnesota. As one of the highest spending school districts per student, we must respect our responsibility to EP taxpayers to exhaust all options before requesting increased tax levies. It will be the job of the EP School Board to challenge the Superintendent to think of new ways to deliver education, to become more efficient across every aspect of school operations, attempt to develop new revenue sources, and maintain enrollment to keep costs in line with revenues.
What should be the criteria for re-opening the schools for full time in-person instruction?
Governor Walz has defined the requirement for opening schools for full time in-person instruction. At this time, the MN Department of Health and Education will be the primary drivers of that decision based upon the emergency orders and prescribed metrics set forth by the Governor.
That said, my principle in this area is that education happens best in person, in school, with our amazing teachers. In 2019, we had 5 of the top 134 teachers as recognized by Education Minnesota- more than any other school district other than Anoka-Hennepin and St. Paul. In addition, online learning will likely make the achievement gap in Minnesota worse due to inequity in broadband and student support.
There are so many other benefits to being together in community, with loving and caring teachers, and supportive friends. I want to get kids back into school as soon as their parents are comfortable with the risk. We are fortunate in Eden Prairie that we can offer options to parents and teachers, but I hope to see our kids in the classroom ASAP.
How do you feel about the current school board’s plan to re-open the schools in Eden Prairie?
I believe our Administration and the School Board have made heroic efforts to meet the objective of delivering high quality education in a safe environment. We will be one of the few districts to return to school, with a risk-based approach, that balances parent’s and teacher’s desire for academic excellence and safety.
I think it was unreasonable to provide local school districts 30-40 days to prepare for a return to school. Although EP has moved fast, it is clear from my interactions with teachers and parents that the change management process and communication must be improved. We must bring everyone along to be a part of the solution- although that does not mean everyone gets everything they want. In the year of COVID, we all have to do things differently, make sacrifices, and be patient while still working to achieve our goals.
I expect we will have a bumpy first few weeks of school, change will be hard, and mistakes will be made. I hope the Superintendent and School Board can bring all parties together to focus on the goal of delivering academic excellence in a safer environment.
Are you in favor of comprehensive sex education in schools?
First and foremost, I have a responsibility as a parent to define and reinforce my family values when I speak with my kids about sex.
I am not sure how you define “comprehensive.” I think we all have very different definitions of what that means. But, I absolutely think that our schools have a role to play in educating our kids about sex and the consequences of sex. However, we must be very cognizant of age appropriate discussions and provide all parents information and transparency on what is being taught. The programs I have experienced in Eden Prairie Schools up to high school have seemed reasonable.
Would you work to successfully recruit and retain teachers of color in the district?
I would start by asking our current teachers of color why they chose to teach in EP and why they think some of their peers don’t. Additionally, I would follow-up with teachers we have lost to understand exactly why they chose to leave and if there are issues we need to address. With that understanding, I can work with other board members to prioritize this discussion and determine the best course of action with our Superintendent to ensure we can attract the best talent to Eden Prairie.
Eden Prairie School District has a large annual budget of around $165 million. Do you have any experience managing large budgets?
The district has a CFO that is responsible for managing the district budget on a day-to-day basis. Our role as school board members is to understand how the general fund operating budget ($113MM), the capital budget ($16.9MM), debt service ($8.7MM) and the external services budget ($26.4MM managed at a zero budget) work together to provide the resources necessary to deliver world class education and community programs.
I believe a successful candidate has to have two critical skills within the financial oversight role: (1) knowledge of how financial statements work, (2) confidence to ask the tough questions about items that don’t appear correct, even when you are at a significant knowledge disadvantage to the person presenting them. My experience auditing financial documents/processes of large businesses provides a relevant skillset for a member of the school board.