On the Issues: Jamestown School BoardThe Sun asked each candidate the same five written questions and limited their answers to 150 words per question. Here are the questions and candidates’ answers
Employment: retired National Park Service ranger; currently stay-at-home mom and substitute teacher in area school districts.
Education: S.R. Butler High School, Huntsville, Ala.; Bachelor of Science in biology, University of California, San Diego; teaching licensure, Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe.
Immediate family: husband, Kim; sons, Ben, eighth-grader at Jamestown Middle School, and Zachary, 4, Kid’s Kingdom preschool.
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, United Methodist Women, North Dakota State School Board Association and National Association of Retired Federal Employees.
Roger J. Haut
Education: Mortuary Science.
Immediate family: wife, Margo; three children, two sons, Truman, North Dakota State University, and Chandler, sophomore, Jamestown High School; daughter, Lexus, University of North Dakota.
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: St. James Basilica, Elks Lodge 995/Camp Grassick Committee, Knights of Columbus/ 4th Degree, Jamestown YMCA and Jamestown Eagles Aerie 2337.
Employment or occupation: associate professor of education at Jamestown College.
Education: Master of Education and additional course work in education.
Immediate family: Two sons, ages 18, 24.
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: North Dakota Reading Association, Prairie Reading Council, North Dakota Education Association Ambassador Minority Affairs Committee, The Art Center Artisans and St. James Basilica.
Employment or occupation (former if retired): Employed by US Bank for 32 years; for approximately the past 15 years, manager of the Jamestown office.
Education: graduate of Jamestown Public School and University of North Dakota.
Immediate family: Husband, Bob. Two children, Carrie Orn, Jamestown, and Jill Martin, University of North Dakota law school.
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: Jamestown Public School Board, Presbyterian Church, Rotary Club and Homemakers.
Employment/occupation: Lutheran minister serving Montpelier Lutheran Church on a half-time basis. and as an adjunct professor in the leadership department at Jamestown College.
Education: four years of college (Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.) and four years of theological education (Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.)
Immediate family: wife, Sue. Two adult children: son, Matt, New York; daughter, Tiffany, Seattle, Wash.; four grandchildren.
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: former service on the board of directors for Lutheran Social Services; delegate to the Concordia College Corporation; Jamestown Regional Medical Center Board of Directors, and Jamestown Arts Center.
Employment/occupation: church/financial secretary at Immanuel Lutheran Church and secretary/bookkeeper for James Valley Youth for Christ.
Education: Associate of Arts in business.
Immediate family: husband, Robert; Children, Megan, Jamestown Public School transition program; Sarah, seventh-grader at Jamestown Middle School; Nolan, fifth-grader at Louis L’Amour Elementary.
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: Victory Lutheran Church, Jamestown; PTOs at schools my children have attended, and Buffalo City Karting, secretary/treasurer.
Why do you want to be on the Jamestown Public School Board?
Terry Anderson: I have always had a passion for education. My mother was an elementary school teacher. My wife is a college professor. We stressed education with our children. I have many years of education, also. After attending most of the School Board meetings for the past two years, I believe I could be of help as our district continues to strive toward excellence. Through my experience on other boards and working with church councils through the years, I have learned to listen well to the concerns of others, to collaborate well, and to lead and guide others toward consensus. I believe I could also help unify the board. I believe I have strengths when it comes to visioning and planning for the future.
Melissa Gleason: I want to have a say in decisions that will affect my children and others in the district. I know there will be difficult decisions to make; I learned that firsthand when I was appointed to the School Board for a short time several years ago; and I am up for the challenge. I have a vested, long-term interest and knowledge of what is happening in the schools as all my children are still in school, and also participate in various activities in the district. I am actively involved in the schools, will listen with an open mind, and make unbiased decisions based on the best interest of the district as a whole.
Diane Hanson: I have a lifelong passion for children and education having been raised in a household of educators. I was appointed to the Jamestown School Board a year ago and I have a firm grasp of the issues facing our district, including budget issues. On the board, I’m a team builder and mediator. I’m not afraid to express my opinions but I’m also a good listener willing to hear every side of an issue. I do my homework, I seek public opinion, and I vote my conscience. Much of my career as a park ranger was centered on environmental education and I’ve held a teaching license for over 12 years as a second career. Besides substitute teaching, I’ve taught math and science in two districts and I’ve served on two school boards. I have a lot of experience, yet because I’m new to the board, I bring fresh perspective and ideas.
Roger Haut: I would like to be on the Jamestown Public School Board because I believe I have leadership and communication qualities that will be an asset to the present board. I also believe that better communication is needed between families, administration along with the School Board members; I believe I am capable of getting that job done. I have a sophomore at Jamestown High School this coming fall and believe parent involvement is crucial in accomplishing the over needs of the school district.
Dina Laskowski: I feel it is important to give back to the community. I have the time and energy to contribute. I have been in education for 41 years and know I can bring cohesiveness, integrity, perspective and perseverance to the position. I have been involved with education in my job and other organizations that promote literacy. Making knowledgeable, critical and beneficial decisions to promote the best for our children is an important priority. I made the decision to run for School Board to offer my expertise to achieve the best for our Jamestown community.
Gail Martin: As a native of Jamestown, I have a natural interest in the health and the success of the Jamestown Public School District. I feel that as we head into uncertain financial times, it is extremely important to have someone on the board that understands finances, how the school district operates and can “hit the ground” running. I believe my 30-plus years of banking and my past experience on the board will be an asset to the school system.
Attrition is not enough to end deficit spending. How would you work to maintain the quality of education in Jamestown while reducing spending?
Anderson: This is a great challenge. At this point, I think there are some areas to be explored: The first has to do with collaboration. Even though the North Dakota economy is strong, we still need to look to this area for possible savings. I would like to explore the possibility of collaborating with another institution or institutions on purchasing issues. There might be some savings in such a plan. Secondly, I would encourage our staff to continue to search for more grants, including those from private corporations. Another possibility is to place greater emphasis on growing the school’s foundation to the point where revenues from these investments could be used to fund certain programs.
Gleason: Reducing spending should be done by evaluating where funds can be reallocated from areas that might have a surplus, as well as seeking partnerships with others in the community to help share costs. I see the budget as being a project that requires input from all shareholders in the district; not just administration and the board. Informed decisions, made by visiting the schools and programs to get firsthand information, along with the written reports or presentations to the board are something I would strive for. The best interest of the students and district as a whole would always be in the forefront of my decision-making process.
Hanson: Attrition through retirements and new employees is one tool in balancing a budget. It will not be enough as we approach deficit spending in 2012-2013. New ideas will have to be considered. First, we need to continue to lobby our national and state leaders on the importance of funding education. Education is the future of our nation and in a booming state such as ours we must demonstrate our needs and garner our share through political conversations and the ballot. Second, we need to attract and retain students within our District, resulting in increased funding. We have an excellent school system with exceptional teachers and outstanding administrators. Pro-active programs to recruit and retain students is a creative way to reduce the deficit. Third, administration and the board will need to carefully review every program within the district, seeking ways to economize and improve efficiency. This will be difficult, but necessary.
Haut: According to projections the district will deficit spend more than $500,000 this next year. I believe that increasing budgets when a board knows it will deficit spend is exercising poor fiduciary responsibility. I believe that the number of children open enrolling is causing a severe financial problem on this district. For each child who leaves our district almost $4,000 is lost. We have a number of children open enrolling or leaving our district. If there are 100 children open enrolled the dollar amount lost is close to the amount that we will deficit spend. Each child is like a customer to the district and the district needs to correct the problems that are causing children to leave our district and which in turn will correct some of the financial loses. In the month of May 2012, five more students were reported open enrolling from our district.
Laskowski: Education is the key to a successful community and the quality of education needs to be maintained to produce a highly qualified population of students that will be successful in their lives. The ability to prioritize needed programs, teachers, support staff, and technology would need to be scrutinized and determine what programs are the most effective and necessary over the long term. You can’t spend what you don’t have, but you can decide what you need. It would be important to review overall spending and see what can be reduced without decreasing the quality of education.
Martin: I feel that I have the creativity needed to assist administration through this difficult process while not having any type of personal agenda. I am open minded and enjoy researching the facts.
What is the best way to implement changes to Jamestown High School athletics?
Anderson: For nearly the past year-and-a-half I have been working with other community members on this very project. I served on the Athletic and Co-Curricular Committee (ACAC) during which we conducted surveys and interviews to assess the current status of our athletic and other activity programs. Several recommendations were made as a result of this study. Following the work of the ACAC, I was part of the Strategic Planning Team which met for nearly three months, and produced a strategic plan for athletics in our system which is currently being implemented by the staff. The board has endorsed a plan for the athletic training staff, as well as an athletic enhancement staff person. Copies of these two reports are available at the central office.
Gleason: As a parent of children who participate in school athletics, I have discussed this with many others. Just like with academics, we need to start building the ground work in elementary school. We have a great athletic director and coaches in all the grades. We need a formal plan for consistency in developing the skills of our student athletes as they progress through each grade. Coaches and parent volunteers in the lower grades should be trained by high school coaches to ensure proper skills are being taught and built upon each year before reaching high school. Respect and encouragement among the coaches, athletes and parents, as well as spectators, goes a long way in building a strong athletic department.
Hanson: I joined the Jamestown School Board as this issue surfaced and the community joined with the administrators, the coaches, the teachers, the parents, the students and the board in discussions. If, when and how athletic changes should come was the subject. The result has been a plan (the ACAC) addressing and attempting to improve our athletic programs across all levels. Our job as a community and a district is to review, possibly modify and implement the plan. Achieving consensus and building confidence in all stakeholders is critical. To that end, an implementation team is forming and will include universal representation. The plan can be reviewed by anyone interested, but it is unlikely to succeed if the major stakeholders do not support it. Therefore, the goal is to fit the plan to our athletic programs and our community in the best way possible. I am hopeful and I am listening carefully.
Haut: The best way to implement changes to Jamestown High School athletics is to generate team spirit and pride. Trying to reinstate the cheerleadering program to our sporting events people ran into resistance. Not having the Blue Jay mascot present at games because of liability reasons. This overall suppressing attitude by administration has over the years caused this lack of spirit and pride which has had a direct impact on school spirit. Recently the Jamestown School Board implemented a committee to look into this problem. People have commented why we need a committee to instruct administration on their duties. We need to look to the schools’ Vision Statement and Mission Statement and start working using them as guides.
Laskowski: Quality education deals with the whole child and offering an equitable athletics program is needed for children to develop and have opportunities to participate in a variety of sports for lifelong health. Schools and athletic associations need to work together to provide divisions of competitive sports that encourage reasonable programs that enhance development not hinder the growth of the total child’s needs. Balance is the key to dealing with athletics programs.
Martin: The best way to implement the change is to build consensus with the people who will actually be operating under the new system. Administration, the athletic director as well as the coaches need to be on board with the new process and organizational structure and give it the necessary time to show results. This is an exciting time for JHS athletics and I truly appreciate the support we have had from the community on the formulation of the new plan.
The district of Jamestown has indicated it will donate land it owns near the high school for the proposed Two Rivers Activity Center. Is this a good idea and why?
Anderson: I think this is potentially a good idea. I do have some concerns about it, however. To my knowledge, there is no strategic plan for the high school campus. Rather than moving ahead with various plans and ideas as they appear, I would like to see a long-range plan for the development of the entire campus. Secondly, again, to my knowledge, there is no governance plan regarding the relationship between the Activity Center and the school district. This is an important item. Also, it would seem to be important for the district to be able to use the facility for some of its programs, in which case connecting the buildings would be the most productive use of this facility.
Gleason: Absolutely! The high school should have various athletic fields and activity centers around it. In fact, when the high school was built, some plumbing was put into place to be able to develop the area. It would be an asset to the community, bring people here from surrounding areas, and would hopefully be the first in many collaborative endeavors. I believe it would also be a boost for school pride.
Hanson: Yes, it’s a good idea. Jamestown is an active, athletic community from infants to seniors and an Activity Center is a wonderful way to bring our community together. Cities are addressing increasing health issues as our society becomes more sedentary. This is a dynamic, community-oriented way to reverse that trend. The district working hand-in-hand with the community and contributing to such an integral community need is something of which we should all be proud. Locating the center adjacent to the high school will consolidate and help organize parking, pool use, and athletic training. The district owns almost 87 acres at the site and future plans for additional athletic fields or buildings would still be feasible. As a community, we are considering creative ways to fund such a project. This is a win-win proposal.
Haut: Recently Bob Toso indicated something about donating land in the newspaper. I am unaware that the district’s board has discussed this at an open meeting. Personally I have not seen plans for the proposed activity center or how much land is involved in the plans. I believe in financial troubles one does not give your assets away. I would have to be informed on the proposed project such as costs and involvement by the school district and also the time line of when the propose project is going to proceed.
Laskowski: Jamestown is a great place to raise children. It is important to have things to do and have places available for a variety of interests. I am proud to live in a community that maintains available resources for the benefit of the citizens of Jamestown. If it supports Jamestown and doesn’t create undo hardships for the district, I see it as a worthwhile project based upon the information given to make a responsible decision concerning the issue.
Martin: The school system should be involved in the planning of this community facility as many of the functions that would be offered there directly affect our activities. For a community of our size, we need to be careful of duplication of services. As far as the donation of the land is concerned, that is a decision that the board would have to make after looking at the entire proposal.
No Child Left Behind is widely considered a broken system by educators. How do we effectively gauge student progress for funding while not placing a burden on educators to perform well?
Anderson: First of all, we all should expect educators to perform well. I have high expectations for myself, and hold high expectations for others, too. I also believe that educators have high expectations for their own work performance and the well-being of their students. Measuring student progress these days is a challenge that many people are working on, trying to find a system that will work and make sense. I believe there is a committee currently examining alternative evaluation systems. I don’t know what the system or systems are that will work best for Jamestown Public Schools, but I plan to listen to our educators who study these things, and have ideas and suggestions.
Gleason: Educators are not the only ones who consider No Child Left Behind a broken system. I personally refer to it as “Every Child Left Behind.” Under the current, constantly testing student’s scenario, it only shows how well a student is taught the answers to the tests, as there isn’t time left to teach much else for fear it will reflect poorly on the teacher. There are also so many variables to how the test is given in accordance with IEP’s that is hardly an accurate picture of how well a subject is being taught. As it is federally mandated, we need to contact our senators and representatives to push for removal or a major overhaul of the program. To gauge student’s progress locally, we need to trust our teachers to do that, based on the student’s class work and participation.
Hanson: The question of what is a “burden” and what is an “expectation” concerning our educators has been fiercely debated. Although it was well-intended, No Child Left Behind has largely failed our schools and teachers, and therefore our students and parents. It has alienated our teachers as they struggle to meet unworkable demands and at this time 84 percent of districts nationwide are unable to meet NCLB standards. We can learn from this well-intentioned, but ultimately failed, legislation. There are many ways to gauge progress without NCBL. The basics of our North Dakota Assessment testing, our retention rate, our high school graduation rate, our percentage of students requiring remedial college courses, and the transition to the Common Core can all provide ways of gauging student progress and teacher success. The Common Core are national standards due to be implemented in 2014 and with these standards will come testing mechanisms and funding.
Haut: I have talked to a lot of people about the No Child Left Behind program and people have stated that it is a broken system, but it is the law. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a United States Act of Congress that came about as wide public concern about the state of education. The question should be asked what was wrong prior to this that made people bring concerns forward. Local school boards and administrations should be listening to local parents and raise their own standards so that the government doesn’t have to tell us to. And as far as placing a burden on educators to perform well … our educators should always perform well always pushing for 100 percent.
Laskowski: Test scores alone do not measure students’ progress. We don’t often realize or report the other non-standardized knowledge, behavior, and development that children also learn. The premise of “No Child Left Behind” was important to make provisions for all children to learn but its implementation was not clear or effective. Readiness for learning doesn’t happen at the same time for every child. Teachers recognize it takes patience, time, care and experiences to make effective strides for each child. Setting goals needs to be made by students, parents, teachers and administrators. All representative groups need to be on the same page to increase performance. It is a team effort.
Martin: The theory behind “No Child Left Behind” was admirable; however, difficult, if not impossible, to implement. The states are putting together a plan for the “Common Core” initiative which should provide the districts more flexibility in assessing the students’ progress. Student achievement is more than merely a test result on a given day.