Name: Mike Christensen
Family: Wife Kay; sons Max and Alex
Address: 29883 Lakeview Ave., Red Wing
Occupation: Full-time parent and volunteer
Education: B.A. economics
Prior and current civic involvement: Current School Board member, Kiwanis, Red Wing Public Schools Foundation
What are your positions on the three referendum questions and why?
• Question 1: Without these funds, overwhelmingly supported by our community four years ago, the district’s ability to effectively educate our students would be severely compromised. Renewing the operating referendum allows us to keep class sizes manageable while engaged in our strategic plan: continually evaluating how well we do our job. From the instructional materials, to the people teaching in the classroom, to those managing and maintaining the schools, we need to look critically at what we do, while simultaneously questioning if there's a more effective way to do it.
• Question 2: The retiring of recent bond obligations gives us a unique opportunity to deal with a recent increase in student population and remedy years of deferred maintenance bringing our facilities up to date without increasing the current tax burden on our community.
• Question 3: There is a community-unifying aspect to school sports that makes it worth keeping facilities in good working order.
What is the biggest issue facing the Red Wing School District right now?
The biggest challenge facing any organization dependent on tax revenue these days is managing allocated funds in a very tight fiscal environment. Our strategic plan was initiated to make the most of every tax dollar. This gives us a detailed target upon which to focus our resources, giving our students the best education we can afford.
Essentially the plan states: We will make sure that our staff and administrators are fully engaged in the education of our students, giving them the support that they need and the training to help them do the best job possible.
Our classroom materials along with our staff will work to make sure that all our students are learning every day; students who need more intellectual challenges as well as those who require additional encouragement. In this way, we’ll develop a school culture of mutual respect among administration, teachers, support staff, students and the community.
What skills or abilities would you bring to the school Board?
My contribution to the School Board is that I am willing to question conventional attitudes and approaches in a way that stimulates conversation. I want to find the best way to work inside an environment of constantly changing, and sometimes politically motivated, mandates and help to separate the wheat from the chaff. Many mandates that are good at the core can contain compliance language that may override any benefits.
We need to comply with whatever laws are passed by the Legislature while keeping in touch with our representatives and expressing our concerns over the unintended, and frequently burdensome, consequences that can pop up. We also need to simplify the language that is contained in the educational universe so that people outside our schools understand what we mean when we say things like “professional learning community,” “positive behavior support intervention plan” and “implement a consistent, systematic, ongoing professional growth protocol.”
If elected, what would you hope to accomplish in the next year?
In the coming years, I will work to keep the district moving forward on the strategic plan, evaluating our progress and making corrections where necessary. We are a small enough district that we all, from students to staff to the everyday people who live in our district, have the ability to make a significant difference in the character of our schools and our community. We need to harness that potential, focusing on the things that can make a difference, and set it to work. Education is the single most important investment we can make in our lifetime.
As a community, we have the ability to dictate how we will be remembered. Our predecessors in Red Wing set a high bar for civic participation and achievement. I want to get everybody involved with the promise of possibility that public education represents, working to secure the greatest conceivable future for Red Wing.