Name: Mark Ryan
Family: Wife Marilyn, teacher retired from Red Wing schools; two children, Graham and Kim, both of whom graduated from Red Wing schools
Address: 1326 S. Park St., Red Wing
Occupation: Retired teacher, educational consultant
Education: Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, science education and M.Ed. from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; B.S. in forest resources, environmental assessment from University of Washington-Seattle
Prior and current civic involvement: One term on Red Wing City Council, energy conservation consultant/Planning Commission Energy Committee member, Boy Scout leader, Soccer coach and referee for YMCA, football and softball coach for community education youth sports.
What are your positions on the three referendum questions and why?
• Question 1: It is essential that we at least maintain current funding for school operations. Passing this levy would allow the district to regain some of the losses it has experienced over the past years. It is stated that renewing this levy will help reduce class size. Class size in Minnesota schools is close to the highest in the nation so we have to bring that down. As a science teacher, I had to cut most lab activities in my classes because class size to too large for safety and exceeded the equipment levels I had. Smaller classes allow teachers to provide more personal attention to all students but especially to at-risk students.
• Question 2: I have questioned some of the earlier decisions about buildings and capital equipment and feel it is necessary to maintain our instructional facilities at the highest level for safety and to utilize those facilities for as long as possible. Failing to maintain the facilities at the necessary level only leads to early deterioration and increased costs in the long run.
I do question the two-building concept. I will need convincing that this is best for the students, not just a scheme to reduce costs to the detriment of student safety and academic achievement. I also need convincing that the transportation costs associated with shuffling students all over the community serves student interests. I know there is a lot of wasted time for staff as they supervise students waiting for their shift of buses to come around. I’m not convinced that the current geographic distribution makes the community “feel comfortable and connected.”
• Question 3: I oppose adding a new levy to maintain athletic facilities. If there is another $4.5 million worth of school support within the community, there are better places to put it than in the hockey arena and the track.
What is the biggest issue facing the Red Wing School District right now?
Education right now is adrift in a sea of “reform” movements and imagined economic crisis. Teachers are becoming the scapegoats of school systems that are not adjusting to the changing future of many parts of our culture. Public education is being attacked by corporate interests looking to privatize schools and cash in on the money invested in our children. If Red Wing wants to be successful in educating our children, we have to create our plan for the future. If we don’t, someone else will do it for us and they most certainly won’t have the interests of our community foremost in plans. The school board, the teachers’ union, the business community and every citizen in the community have a role to play in creating this plan.
What skills or abilities would you bring to the school Board?
From my work as a planner, I have learned to look at a lot of options before making a decision and that there is seldom one right answer. Virtually every decision will have distracters who don’t agree with the decision, and while you have to listen to everyone’s viewpoint, once the decision is made you usually have to stick with it.
I’ve been highly involved in curriculum and instruction from the classroom to the state department of education. I was a National Board Certified Teacher and was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. I participated in the creation of the initial science standards for the state. I worked on a K-12 curriculum evaluation committee that proposed upgrades to the curriculum, proposals that were dismissed by the school board without any discussion or formal decision. I participated as a member of a regional team that attended training from the National Research Council in Washington, D.C. to create a math science partnership for 10 districts around the community. In short, I have worked from the school to the state on policy issues and educational practices.
If elected, what would you hope to accomplish in the next year?
My 33 years in Red Wing has been marked by a contentious, adversarial relationship between the school board and the teachers union. I won’t promise to reverse that relationship in one year but I will do everything I can to create a new dialogue between the two main elements of education in this community. I think too often we have lost sight of the fact that both have the same objective – educating our children as effectively and efficiently as we can. I would hope to get the union to reassume its role as a teacher’s association concerned with improving the teaching profession through mentoring and professional development rather than just being concerned with wages and salary. I would hope to lead the school board in moving beyond its stance as bookkeepers and reassume its position as leaders and policy makers for education in the community.