Candidate Profiles: Barnum School BoardBarnum school board, District No. 91 (4 seats) Michael Line - Lenore Skoglund - Patrick S. Poirier - Colleen Fetters - Jason Montgomery
Question 1. How does your past experience, job or education qualify you to serve on the Barnum School Board?
Question 2. Pick one single priority item that you believe would improve the Barnum Public Schools in the most meaningful way. What would it be and why?
Question 3. Other than finding greater efficiencies, what areas would you look to trim first if there are unexpected budget deficits?
Question 1: I have lived in this school district most of my life, graduating from Barnum High School. I have a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from UMD and I retired in January of 2011 from the Minnesota Department of Human Services where I worked for nearly 32 years with folks with developmental disabilities and mental health concerns. The last few years I supervised crisis services for northeastern MN. I have always wanted to run for school board but raising my son and working were full time plus jobs and I didn’t feel I could put the time that’s needed into being a good representative for this school district until now. I love how this school is the heart of this community and how people in this community don’t hesitate to make sure our kids have what they need for school. I also think I have the skills needed to be an influential member of the school board. I understand the job the school board does in supporting the administration of the school board. I know what it’s like to live within a budget both personally and professionally and the need to make educated decisions on budgets when it comes to finalizing them. I have been and still am a union member and I have sat on both sides of negotiations. My faith, family, friends and being part of this community are most important to me.
Question 2: I believe there is a real disconnect between teachers and the school board. I have had excellent teachers who have been here for many years tell me this is the first time they have ever felt disrespected by the school board. There is also an element of fear that really concerns me. People are afraid to say what they believe or feel to the board because they believe they will be retaliated against. We want our teachers to be the best that they can be because they are teaching our children. It is difficult to teach in an atmosphere of disrespect. I would work to get to the bottom of what is going on. If this means bringing teachers and the school board together for an honest discussion I wouldn’t hesitate to help facilitate that. There is nothing more divisive to an organization than to have this type of behavior. It not only affects our teachers but it trickles down to our children.
Question 3: We all know that usually 85-90% of a budget goes for wages and benefits. I would like to look at the feasibility of sharing resources with other school districts especially in the area of administrative duties. It always seems we cut back at the “front lines” or eliminate classes or activities when there is a budget deficit but you can only do that so long before the quality of the education you offer is being compromised.
In 1999 I started and have run a small private business that has required that I become knowledgeable in the many disciplines required to manage such an enterprise. This includes human resources, accounting, IT, marketing, and regulatory compliance. I have previously held jobs in Quality Control, Application Engineering, Regional Sales Manager, Military Sales, National Sales Manager, Marketing Manager, and General Manager. As a general manager I was responsible for a 4.5 million dollar corporation with 30 employees. I have also spent the last 3.5 years attending the school board meetings to become knowledgeable of the issue facing the school.
If elected my main objective would be to work with the board, school management, and school employees to make the necessary changes to increase student achievement to world class levels.
Some cost reduction could come from cutbacks in extra curriculum programs but about 80 percent of the budget is salaries and benefits. So any large cuts would probably include proportional cutbacks in wages and/or employees.
Patrick S. Poirier
I feel that the past four years serving on the Barnum School Board has allowed me to gain a firm understanding what makes a school district move from good to great. The past three consecutive years my fellow directors have elected me as Chairperson of the board. I took the initiative to serve on every sub-committee of the board and have become knowledgeable in public education. Albeit, I am always learning, I can say with confidence that my passion for the Barnum School Board has been an asset. As a small business owner I know the importance of having high performing staff and administration so the ultimate goal of the company is met, in this case, ensuring student
The single most important priority of any school board member is the success of all students. An effective educational system is created with students being the focus and teachers being the “soul.” My goal as a member of the school board has been and will continue to be an effective and reasonable voice working with our superintendent and staff to enable our teachers to do what they love best: teaching students. As education changes/improves, we have to have forward thinking and be abreast of the cutting-edge trends and data to ensure our students have success upon graduation.
With the ever-changing, technology-driven world we live in, the first area I would review for spending reductions would be the use of hard copy textbooks. Investment in technology such as iPads or laptops would be more economical and have more broad usage than traditional textbooks. The advent of e-books and having the ability to download updates of books makes “brick and mortar” textbooks antiquated.
I have been a school board member in Barnum since 1998. I have been involved in planning, budgeting, negotiations and all aspects of governance for this district. I am a school board representative for the Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium (ARCC) and the Northern Lights Special Education Cooperative (NLSEC). I have completed the Minnesota School Board Association’s (MSBA) training programs and served as a delegate for MSBA’s legislative assembly. I have a degree in Finance from St. Cloud State University and work as a Regulatory Advocate for United Healthcare.
My priority for the district is to maintain and grow programs that give students from early childhood through graduation the best opportunity to be successful while being fiscally responsible. Our commitment to early childhood programs gives children a firm foundation to begin their education. Our commitment to rigor, technology and the arts are important for student success. By continuing to evaluate our programs and the needs of the current world, it also makes our district more attractive to families that are looking for quality educational opportunities.
Because of the district’s fiscal management over the years we do have the ability to weather small unexpected deficits. However, we will be striving to balance the budget and would look to cut items that have a minimal impact on students. Unfortunately the only place significant dollar amounts can be trimmed would be to eliminate or cut staff hours. The board has already discussed the need to review all expenditures and prioritize our future needs. As a district we have not made cuts in many years. It is a very difficult process and one I take very seriously.
Jason Montgomery did not reply