Candidate Profiles: Moose Lake School Boardmoose lake School Board, District No. 97 (3 seats) Jamie Jungers • Scott Benoit • Adam Kamp • Lisa Anderson-Reed Kristi Skelton-Weisert • Byron Kuster
Question 1. How does your past experience, job or education qualify you to serve on the Moose Lake School Board?
Question 2. Pick one single priority item that you believe would improve the Moose Lake 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?
As an alumnus, a parent of children who attend our school, and a current Board member, I have a grasp of past school history, present school conditions, and future needs. Through my education and job experiences, community service positions in which I have served, and my current incumbency on the MLSB, I have developed a strong sense of leadership. I am able to actively listen to all information and use good judgment to make the best decision. I understand that change is hard and I’m willing to answer the difficult questions asked by those we serve.
The physical plant. Over past four years on the board, I have spent many hours researching our current physical plant and touring other facilities to learn what may be best options for needed change. I was a strong proponent of improving and/or rebuilding on the current school site, but the flood of 2012 created a new reality for this location. The school was quickly cleaned and repaired for the school year; however, the aging building continues to cause concern that we can provide the necessary academic environment for our children. As change is considered, it is important to keep our community honestly informed and ensure the financial impact to taxpayers is the minimum possible.
If the board is actively doing their job, there should be no unexpected budget deficits. In the event “trimming” became necessary, the board would have to take a hard look at all aspects of school programming. Would an elective need to be cut? What would be the impact? Could we avoid cutting one area altogether and consider taking a little here and there? For example, for sports that have more than one coach, a cutback of one coach per sport might make more sense than completely eliminating an elective course or an entire program.
I regret to say that I have withdrawn from the race because I will not be able to devote the time to my role that the position deserves. As my name is still on the ballot for the election, I would appreciate it if you published that I am withdrawing, so no one will erroneously cast a ballot for me.
I am a licensed teacher with a BAS Degree in Teaching Physics and Chemistry and a Master’s of Education degree from UMD. I have worked as a teacher for the MN Dept. of Corrections for the past 20 years. I understand the importance of a quality public education in improving people’s lives and the problems of illiteracy when a quality education isn’t obtained.
I have also served on the Moose Lake-Windemere Sanitary Sewer Board for the past 16 years. This has given me a lot of opportunity to learn and practice long term planning, budgeting, problem solving, and goal setting. As a board member, I have worked with attorneys, auditors, engineers, township boards, and other government officials.
I was the president-elect and president of the Minnesota Correction’s Education Association for two years. I have been the race director of the Mercy Foundation Moose Run for the past five years and a board member since its inauguration in 2000.
I believe the single best way to improve the Moose Lake Public Schools is to build a new school on the land owned by the school near its bus garage on Highway 10. I am aware that three referendums to build a new school failed in 2004-2006. What has changed since then that now makes building a new school a much higher priority is the flood of 2012. Unfortunately, the school will likely be flooded again. And the old issues with the school still remain. The high school is old and energy inefficient, it has handicap accessibility issues, it has life-safety issues, and it’s ugly. Because the construction sector of the economy has not fully recovered from the recession and because interest rates are at an all-time low, the cost of building a new school could be lower than past estimates. Depending on the outcome of the upcoming elections, state grant money might be more available to help offset the cost of a new school.
The benefits of a new school are many! It would be something in which everyone in the area could take pride. It would (be?) a visible statement of the importance that this community places on education. It would likely draw many open-enrollment students to the district, resulting in additional state funding. A new school would increase property values and entice people to move into the Moose Lake School District rather than to the surrounding areas. A new school would likely attract new businesses to the Highway 73 corridor, increase the Moose Lake tax base, and revitalize the Moose Lake region. A new school would be good for students and for the local economy.
It is difficult to say how to manage a budget deficit without knowing the size of the deficit. My priority would be to take actions that impact students and learning as little as possible. After looking for ways to increase efficiencies, I would look to trim small amounts from several line items in the budget. Perhaps the library could purchase fewer books for one year, maybe some non-essential maintenance could be delayed, or maybe a set of text books could be used an additional year before being replaced. Combining several small savings could be enough to offset the deficit.
If the unexpected budget deficit were large, it would probably be the result of reduced enrollment since school income is tied to student enrollment. If enrollment was down, I would try to combine some of the smaller classes and reduce staffing, but initially only through attrition. Ideally, staff could be reorganized in a way that would eliminate the need to lay off any teachers or support staff.
The real solution to a school budget problem is to avoid it in the first place by doing everything possible to keep the students we have and try to attract new students to the Moose Lake School District.
I am completing my second term as a Moose Lake School Board member. During the last eight years I have worked hard at always making the most informed decisions that I can in the best interest of the students at Moose Lake School. I have six years of experience working as a substitute teacher at our school which has given me first-hand knowledge of school operations and an inside perspective of how our school functions on a day-to-day basis. I not only hear about issues as a school board member, but I have dealt with them personally as a substitute teacher. Finally, I received a Masters in Education from UWS in 1991 which provided me with not only a great education but also a passion for educating.
Moose Lake School, like all school districts, has had to deal with the issue of bullying. We have been very intentional about addressing this issue, however, due to the intense emotional damage that can be done to those students effected (AFFECTED?) by bullying, I think we need to be even more diligent about involving the parents, staff and students in helping to eradicate this issue. Eliminating bullying would provide a much safer and more comfortable over atmosphere in our school.
I feel that a school districts first priority is to ensure a strong academic curriculum for all students. Sports as well as other extracurricular activities, although very important to a student’s overall school experience, should remain secondary to academics. Therefore, if there were unexpected budget cuts, I would be prone to examining and making budget cuts to our overall sports budget as opposed to cutting teachers, administrators or support staff.
Candidates Scott Benoit and Lisa Anderson-Reed did not reply.