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Jones looks at big picture

Heidi Jones is the new chair of the Red Wing School Board.

It's been one year since Heidi Jones last led the Red Wing School Board. Now, as she takes the helm for her third time, the board looks a little different.

Longtime board member and most recent board chair Mitch Boldt and board member Dennis Porter didn't run for re-election last November. New board members Janie Farrar and Mark Ryan took over their vacated seats.

"To me, the plus side is the fresh perspective," Jones said.

But she added that it also means getting to know the new members' strengths and weaknesses and figuring out how to make sure everyone is involved. That's important, Jones said, because she wants to make sure the board works as a team.

"I don't come to this role as an individual," she said. "We have to work well as a collective. One responsibility I take seriously is to make sure our new people are being folded into that."

Jones was unanimously elected chair at the board's Jan. 7 meeting. She previously served as chair in 2010 and 2011. Board member Mike Christensen nominated Jones and said she's a good fit for the position.

"She likes to make sure that things are followed through," he said in an interview with the R-E. "She is extremely intelligent and has the kids' best interest foremost in her mind."

Christensen also counted Jones' attention to detail -- especially when reviewing policy -- and her desire to have all the facts among her strengths.

"She just has questions, she goes in and asks them," he said. "She makes sure that they're answered and makes sure that they're not put off."

Looking forward, Jones said she doesn't see any huge issues that need to be addressed in the coming year.

"I think we're pretty solid," she said. "I don't anticipate wholesale changes."

Jones attributed the district's relatively solid footing to voters passing the operating referendum during the November election. If that five-year renewal hadn't passed, she said the district's outlook would be much less positive.

"We'd be in a really sad place," Jones said. "We'd be considering major cuts. We'd be in a very different atmosphere."

Still, Jones stressed that there's still room for improvement. One area where she said she would like to see advancement is the district's communication -- with both parents and the community at large.

Because there are many households in Red Wing that don't have children in school, the district needs to make sure they are reaching all families.

"We aren't going to reach everybody with a piece of paper in a backpack," she said. "We want to be more transparent, responsive .... I just think it needs to be more focused."

Also high on Jones' list is the district's long-term facilities planning.

"That's one of our larger pieces this year," Jones said.

Two facilities bonding questions -- which would have addressed space issues, deferred maintenance and updates to athletic facilities -- failed to pass popular vote during the Nov. 6 election.

Looking forward, Jones said the board and the district need to determine whether to go back to the voters to ask for funding or to find other solutions for their space and building upkeep needs.

Academically, Jones said she's pleased with where the district is and what is being done to make sure students are successful. Still, she said there will always be more work to do.

"It's never static here," she said. "We're always moving toward those goals."

The district is in its third year implementing its strategic plan -- which outlines how the district will improve things like student achievement, teacher effectiveness and behavior and culture.

"As an institute, we're becoming better at not only identifying student achievement goals and improving them, but also adding to skill sets, working together better and planning for the future," Jones said.

"The bottom line always has to be student achievement," she said. "I have no doubts that everyone's on board with that."

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.