2022 Wrenshall School Board candidate: Mary Carlson
"I’m running for office to shift the focus back to our kids, to support our teachers and to ensure our future," writes Mary Carlson.
Editor's note: This questionnaire was edited for grammar and style.
Family: Married with two children.
Occupation: Self-employed and a stay-at-home mom.
Community service involvement: I am the founder and president of the Twin Shores Wedding Association. I serve on the leadership team for a local MOPS group. We also foster horses for a well-known horse rescue.
Previous Experience in elected office: None.
Why are you running for office?
I’m running for office to shift the focus back to our kids, to support our teachers and to ensure our future.
We need to have a student-first mentality. In every decision the board makes we need to ask, “How will this affect the students in the district?” By framing our decision making around this question, we will ensure we are keeping the kids our focus.
We also need to support our teachers by listening to their concerns and needs. Then, the board needs to support those needs as best they can while still watching the budget. Our teachers are on the front lines educating our kids — the success of our district begins with them.
My platform is based on four pillars — the budget, enhanced communication, increasing enrollment and student safety. By focusing on these issues, we can get the focus back on what matters and we can ensure the future of the district.
What are the big challenges you see facing the community?
I’ve chosen my platform based upon the biggest issues facing our district: the budget, enhanced communication, increasing enrollment and student safety.
Budget — We are facing a massive deficit within the district. The public hasn’t received a report of how large that deficit is, which is concerning. We deserve to know how our taxpayer dollars are being spent and how short the budget has fallen this year. The rumor is that the deficit is $300,000, which would indicate a massive failure of the current board to watch the bottom line.
Enhanced Communication — There is a communication and transparency crisis in the Wrenshall School District right now. As a result, the small town rumor mill is rampant. We need to increase the transparency of the board and support more effective communication between parents and teachers.
Increasing Enrollment — Our enrollment is down and this should have everyone within the district concerned. By increasing enrollment, we increase the budget, which will help with the budget deficit. I recognize the importance of open enrollment in Wrenshall. However, I really want to focus on increasing enrollment of students that live in the district by listening to the concerns of their parents and driving change in the school.
Student Safety — With current events, student and building safety is at the forefront of every parent’s mind. Just this week, I found the door to the school stuck open on the rug and it did not latch until I pushed the door firmly shut. This is alarming and needs to be addressed.
If elected, how would you work to address those issues?
When elected, I want to put in place plans that address all of these issues.
As a person who runs her household on a budget, I want to sit on the budget committee. I will work with the committee to put together a short-term plan to fix the deficit while also strategizing a long-term plan to ensure a deficit does not happen again. These plans will be based on feedback from our staff and community, but will also be built in the reality of needing to balance the budget. I know this will be a difficult balancing act, but I know it’s doable.
Fixing the communication and transparency issues within the district starts with the board. I will make sure that our board is being as transparent as legally possible. We need to communicate the happenings of the district to parents, hiding nothing about what is happening within the classroom and during special programming. Open communication will foster trust in the district.
I’d like to have a listening session to hear from parents that are currently driving their kids out of the district. I want them to speak their minds. Then, the board can work with the administration and teachers to address some of these concerns.
I also want to sit on the safety committee. After I have a better understanding of the current safety plan, I’d like to find ways to better protect our loved ones in the building, while also ensuring our students feel safe and happy. This is a tough balance. I do believe strongly in regular compliance checks to make sure that the building is secure at all entrances.
What successes do you hope to build on if elected?
I’m excited to see through the final steps of phase 3 and to see the CTE building come to life.
While the building has seen significant improvements, there is still work to be done. We need to figure out how to fix and fund getting hot water to the elementary wing and nurse’s office. We also still have some hot/cold classroom issues that need to be addressed. A significant amount of the building also still requires tuck-pointing. I’ll work hard to find a way to see these projects are funded.
The nearly completed CTE building is an exciting step for the Wrenshall School. I’m proud of the previous boards that have worked to bring this project to life. However, now we have to fill it with educational experiences that will prepare our students for the world beyond school. The building isn’t enough — the curriculum will set this space (and our district) apart. Whomever is elected needs to prioritize the implementation of the educational opportunities that this space can facilitate.