Candidate Profiles: Esko School BoardEsko School Board, District No. 99 (3 seats) Jerry Frederick • Jeff Salo • Julian ‘Bert’ Bertogliat • Brandon Crotteau • Rick Liljegren
Question 1. How does your past experience, job or education qualify you to serve on the Esko School Board?
Question 2. Pick one single priority item that you believe would improve the Esko 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?
The things that best qualify me for a position on the Esko School Board are not so much my past experiences, but what I bring to the table for the future. I have two little boys with my oldest starting kindergarten in Esko next fall. I cannot think of a better opportunity than this for a parent to place themselves in for the future of their children’s education. I have spent 15 years in the Army, most of them in a direct leadership role. I will bring those leadership qualities with me to the school board. In my career, I oversaw $80 million dollars in equipment and currently manage all logistics budgets for my unit. I experienced many of the same budget shortfalls and program cuts that could possibly be looming in the future for our schools. I know that the common tie between the future of our community and the future of my children is our school.
Obviously the single and most important thing that would improve Esko School in the passing of the levy and referendum this fall. We need to pass this. The budget shortfall associated with not passing this would be difficult to surmount at best. Along with this comes public education about what they are voting on and how it affects them. Finally, should the referendum pass, we need to position ourselves to be proactive and successful for the future.
It is hard to say what would be cut without knowing how the budget will look after November. Hopefully nothing will be cut. I can say that I would never advocate for cutting any programs, teachers or funding without direct and sincere staff, student, and community input first. The budget shortfall we could be facing would put us at risk of losing whole programs.
In the past, I have been a member of your Esko School Board. I was Vice Chair for 2 years and Chair of the board for 1. In my 2 year absence from the board, I have kept up on what's been happening and can hit the ground running. During my time of the Board I tried to bring my experience from other boards with me. These include IBEW Local 31, Arrowhead Radio Amateur Club, Esko Education Advisory Board, Grandma's Marathon Board of Directors as well as being one of the newest members on the Esko Educational Foundation to name a few.
At work at Minnesota Power, I have been an Electronic Technician or troubleshooter for nearly 3 decades. Many folks have commented how someone in my field looks at things in a different way. We are trained to break down how something works into small tasks and by doing this, you see what is wrong and therefore how to fix it or in many cases how to make something better. I've found that this is also transferable to every day life.
I also have a personal interest in making the Esko School District the best that it can be as I also have 2 students that are enrolled in the district.
Pick one single priority item that you believe would improve the Esko Public Schools in the most meaningful way. What would it be and why?
One of my goals would be to get an Industrial Technology program back into our school district. Not only has it been many years since we have had an industrial Tech program, but we are the only school in the region without one.These, by the way, aren't your "father's shop classes" but could be something much more advanced to fill immediate needs of area companies.
There are many employers in our area that have a shortage of well trained individuals for great paying technical jobs. Our students that are interested in a one of the post secondary technical institutions are finding themselves behind other students in the area because of the lack of these type of classes in our district.
I believe that one of the most important goals for the district is to find opportunities for every student and to bring out their full potential, whether they choose a 4 year program, or decide on a 2 year technical degree.
Other than finding greater efficiencies, what areas would you look to trim first if there are unexpected budget deficits?
I wouldn't go back into a position on the school board with any preset agenda on cutting anything. A board member should always keep an open mind and listen to all the facts from all parties involved before making a decision to cut a program and then it should be a last resort. They should also be thinking "What alternate resources or funding can we find to continue to offer this service to our students?” If something had to be cut, it would first be a program that isn't working or one that has outlived it's usefulness or secondly it would be the thing the has the least affect on the least number of students in the district.
The job of a school board member is to be a representative and a voice for the taxpayers of their district. I have always tried to do my very best to meet that objective. I have a strong work ethic and strong listening skills, two of the most important traits needed to represent you on the school board.
I have worked for Minnesota Power for 37 years, the majority of which has been in a real-time operations. I have managed a multi-million dollar budget, and overseen the training needs of operations personnel including development of training programs. I managed our control center operations for 15 years, and am experienced at working with various operating areas to reach a common goal of “keeping the lights on.” I have a no nonsense approach to solving problems, and am always open to input from others in making decisions. I feel this translates well into the educational environment, where we are similarly trying to leverage taxpayer resources to meet district needs and community expectations while providing the very best for our kids.
If I had to pick a single item, it would be securing adequate, sustained funding for the District. Certainly the economy has been difficult for many. This is also true of our schools. It is very difficult to make long term planning decisions when districts experience funding decreases, delays in funding, funding “shifts”, and one time monies from the state in-lieu of regular funding increases that keep up with inflation. This directly affects the programs, resources, and opportunities we are able to offer our students. Adequate sustained funding allows a district to focus its efforts on development of programs that best prepare students for future job opportunities and to become the knowledgeable leaders of tomorrow.
I have been on the board for close to 15 years. Our board has always taken appropriate actions to ensure a sound fiscal budget. I have also been on the board when tough budget decisions needed to be made. In those situations, we always look to trim areas as far away from students as possible.
I am presently the Chairman of the Esko School Board. I have served on the board for four years. I received a B.S. Degree in Biology and Geology at UMD and Masters Program at UWS in Science Education. I worked in education for 35 years, 33 years at Esko. I worked as a teacher, Activities Director and Administrator during that time. I presently work for the Minnesota State High School League administering all post season activities for about 50 schools in Northeast Minnesota. I believe my experience qualifies me to serve in this position.
My first priority is to maintain the high quality of education in Esko. The high standards we have attained in Esko happened over many years, and we need to be progressive to maintain our position of leadership. To do this we need to maintain our existing class sizes, add to the high school curriculum, and increase the Title One opportunities for elementary students. I believe in a well-rounded education experience for all students. Academics, activities (both athletic and fine arts), social skills and opportunities for special needs students are all very important in a quality educational system.
We don’t have much room to trim our budget. Unfortunately we had to cut $90,000 last year and still had to deficit spend. If we have to cut again it will have a larger effect on our educational program. Staff could be reduced and class sizes could be increased. State funding has not seen an increase in years. We are the second lowest funded operating school in the state. It is because of this we are asking the taxpayers to support the Operating Levy this fall.
I have been serving on the Esko School Board for the past four years. I was given some very sound advice from a former educator and friend, “Listen and learn because to be an effective board member it will take two years.” I can honestly say that I can’t disagree with that advice. I also believe that my 12 years as a union official representing over 500 union brothers and sisters gave me the experience and leadership skills to be able to make difficult decisions.
I would like to see the District be able to offer our students the ability to be able to take some sort of Industrial/tech ed classes. We are proud of the fact that we have had 100 percent graduation rates for the past several years and that 90 percent of our students have gone on to four or two year schools or into the military, but I believe that we are doing a disservice to students that would like to pursue a career in the trades because we do not have those offerings in our school. With the expansion of the mining industry and some of the other industries in the northland, we need to create opportunities for our students to be able to go into the trades and have the ability to stay in the area rather then leaving in search of something else. I also feel that our Jr High students should be given the basics so they not only learn how to safely use tools as well giving them the ability to see if this would be something that they would like to pursue later. Esko is the only school in the area that does not offer these classes to our students.
I don't believe it would be fair to our students our staff or the community for anyone to say this is what needs to be trimmed first. I believe the Board will have to sit down and evaluate everything working with staff, administration as well as taking input from the community, as we did this past year when we were forced to make cuts. At that point whatever cuts are proposed the Board will have to consider what will have the least impact on the quality of education our students receive as well the effect it will have on the great staff we have here in Esko. Being a lifelong resident as well as a graduate of the district I believe the school is the hub of our community and whatever effects our school effects our community.