Decline in state funding
The Minnesota State school funding formula directs cash payments to schools primarily through per pupil payments and annual inflationary increases. Due to the economic consequences of COVID and recession, the state will face significant deficits and this has historically led to zero percent inflationary increases (typically 2-4% annually). In addition, the loss of students to private schools that offered full-time classroom teaching will result in lower per pupil funding (approx. $6800 per student lost). The school board will need to challenge the Superintendent to be proactive in budget planning, identify cost synergies, develop new revenue sources, and implement new and innovative approaches to these challenges. This all must be done without an impact to our mission to deliver world class academic education to every student. This will be hard.
Closing the achievement gap
The District Administration initiated a new “Strategic Plan” spanning 2018-2023, focused on personalized learning, eliminating achievement disparities, and student engagement. As school board members we must hold the District Administration accountable to this plan, metrics, and results. As a school board, we should be partners to identify where we are not making progress, peel back the layers of problems, and bring our personal experience to help address the root causes where we can. Until we do better for all, we cannot achieve academic excellence for all.
Managing Technology: Rewards and Risks
Technology is a wonderful tool. It can bring the Pyramids of Egypt into a classroom, connect you to an author in Europe, it can help deliver education during a pandemic; however, it can’t be the caring heart of the teachers and staff at a school, a hug of a supportive friend, or the voice of reason when you are lost/confused. Technology has so much to offer, but it can also have negative consequences. We must be thoughtful of how we use technology, understanding the risks and rewards. We must preserve the many benefits from community education; and ensure we don’t isolate our children from those that care about them.
Knowledge vs Critical Thinking
In the near future, the value of knowledge will decline to practically zero, as artificial intelligence enhances and replaces our ability to harvest information/knowledge. We will have to adapt how we teach our children: moving even more quickly towards development of critical thinking skills, problem solving, relationship building, and creative ideas. We must ensure we maintain our support of the arts, as they inspire our children to come up with new ideas. We need to support our industrial arts, as they teach our kids problem solving. We need to continue the emphasis of relationship building, teamwork, and accountability. Finally, we need to challenge our kids to look under the surface to understand: how things work, root cause of problems, and bias in presentation. We need to ensure we invest in the skills our children will need for the next 50 years, not the last 50 years.
Increase focus on Vocational Opportunities
Although a significant majority of our graduates go onto college, vocational careers provide incredible opportunities for personal growth, career happiness, and success. Jobs in these areas are plentiful and should remain stable even with AI and automation. College is for many, but not all. We should increase focus, awareness, and partnerships with these options and remove any stigma associated with these career paths.
What do I think about these challenges?
We invest significant resources in preparing our most successful students and those facing educational challenges. However, the "majority in the middle" deserve the same level of resources and commitment in order to maximize their achievement. The EP School District has embarked on the individual learning pathway process to deliver academic excellence and inspiration to every student. We should work with the Administration to develop and monitor key performance metrics to measure success across all student achievement groups. I know this area is important to many parents in Eden Prairie, and although I do not have a solution today, through collaboration with other school board members and the Administration we can drive academic excellence for all.
The Majority in the Middle
I attempt to approach problems, by starting with the question “what are the principles we can all agree on?” I have found that when you start from common principles, you can build durable solutions that are grounded in consensus not compromise. Consensus is not always possible, and compromise is sometimes the only option. However, when teams can come together to solve problems with agreed upon principles, amazing things are possible. Unfortunately, often we begin problem solving by focusing too much on the areas we disagree on, rather than the areas we do. I will work with the other members of the board, the administration, and teachers to find these common principles.