School Board forum draws small crowdThere was a low turnout on both sides of the speaking podium Thursday evening at the Red Wing League of Women Voter’s public forum for Red Wing School Board candidates.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
There was a low turnout on both sides of the speaking podium Thursday evening at the Red Wing League of Women Voter’s public forum for Red Wing School Board candidates.
Just a handful of people made up the audience in the City Hall council chambers. Only two of the four candidates — current Board members Mike Christensen and Heidi Jones — were able to attend.
Candidate Janie Farrar had told organizers early on that she would not be able to attend due to a prior engagement.
Candidate Mark Ryan had to go to England unexpectedly to care for ailing parents, said his wife, Marilyn.
Still, both Christensen and Jones answered about 10 questions on topics ranging from the upcoming referendum election to school bullying.
The first question asked how candidates would encourage more people to run for school board, stating that with four vacancies and four candidates, there’s “virtually not a race.”
Christensen mentioned that the district’s new communications plan outlines organizing a district parent action committee, which may get more people involved. Still, he said recruiting people is a challenge.
“How do you get people involved?,” Christensen asked. “You’ve got gold if you can find that one.”
Jones added that the “key is communication,” adding that having community members sit on school committees is important. She also suggested that the district hold “candidate training” workshops, where perspective candidates could get an idea of what being on the board is like.
“Those are avenues that we need to pursue,” she said.
Jones and Christensen generally agreed on topics throughout the night, including the use of a district newsletter to improve communications with the community.
Jones added that she would like to hold events where community members could discuss with school officials certain topics and issues the district is facing.
“I’d love to be able to have those types of conversations,” she said.
Both also agreed that treating all students as individuals — including personalizing each student’s education plans — would help improve the achievement gap between white students and minority students.
“What we need to do is show respect to the students for their individual capabilities,” Christensen said.
Jones and Christensen also agreed that state and federal standards aren’t necessarily limiting to school districts, and that can help districts make sure students are learning.
“It’s good so that we have consistent outcomes for our students,” Jones said.
“I think too many people feel standards are the be all, end all,” Christensen added. “And they’re really just a guidepost you want to hit as you go beyond.”
The pair also answered questions about race relations in the district (a non-issue for kids today, Christensen said, because students today are “pretty far beyond that”) and the future of the teachers union in Red Wing.
The entire forum can be viewed on Channel 6 or at redwing-mn.pegcentral.com/index.php.