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Jones: Address financial demands

  • Editor's note: This interview is part of a series of School Board candidate Q&As. Find the other candidates here.

Heidi JonesHeidi Jones

Age: 54

Address: 3375 Wallace Lane

Occupation: Community volunteer

Education: B.A. government; online computer courses

Family: Husband Steve and three sons

Civic involvement: Minnesota School Boards Association Board of Directors; pro-school referendum committees, 2016 & 2008; city of Red Wing Advisory Planning Commission, Charter Commission (past chair), Red Wing Public Library Board (past chair); League of Women Voters Red Wing (past chair); Red Wing Diversity Festival; lector and eucharist minister at Church of St. Joseph; Women’s Network’s Red Wing Women’s Hall of Fame 2016 and American Association of University Women Citizen of the Year 2016.

What is the biggest issue facing Red Wing Public Schools right now? How should the district address it?

The biggest issue is educational and financial planning for the future of our community’s children.

We’re already discussing financial drivers in potential funding scenarios in preparation for an operating referendum in 2017.

With the loss of 200 students over the past five years, state revenue is down significantly, but we still want to maintain quality programming for students across all levels.

The district conducted a stakeholder exercise for determining community priorities for education. Survey results will be factored into programming decisions.

Our professional educational staff are discussing curriculum review and staying on top of quality teaching and learning.

What are the strengths of the school district? How can we build upon it?

Red Wing Public Schools excel due to our staff, leadership team and community support.

Our entire staff is caring, smart, hard-working, and professional. We receive compliments on our buildings.

Our aides are compassionate.

Our teachers strive to meet a variety of student needs.

Our leadership team of directors and principals, led by Supt. Karsten Anderson, are willing to innovate, as demonstrated by recent solar garden agreements, upgrades to technology and the move to a new student management system. They are unafraid to meet new challenges. Thanks to the community for supporting the facility referendum, the Booster Club’s PURPLE campaign and task force volunteers.

What skills or abilities would you bring to the board? How have you prepared yourself to understand school operations and budgeting?

I’m a lifelong learner. I like breaking down ideas to examine how they’re going to work and who will be responsible for carrying out tasks. I see the big picture but I also pay attention to details. I analyze how we make decisions. For instance, while chairperson, I reorganized board committees from one super-committee of only three board members into five fully functional committees with 13 seats for board members with the help of our current superintendent. I installed the superintendent evaluation process in consultation with professionals. I researched and rebuilt the Student School Board Member Program with the assistance of the high school principal. I have consistently attended trainings through Minnesota School Boards Association. We now have a board culture where this activity is expected. I have helped shape MSBA’s legislative platform for the past seven years. I now serve southeastern Minnesota as an MSBA Director.

Describe your approach to resolving a disagreement with another board member over an item on the agenda.

You try always to focus on the discussion item, not the person. Communication should be open, honest, and allow for respectful differences of opinion. The board should make data-driven decisions as we expect our professional staff to do. There can be great diversity in backgrounds and leadership experience. Board members should agree to common expectations of behavior. There is also a workshop on board relations offered by MSBA.

What should the district do with the vacant Jefferson School?

My hope is that redevelopment of Jefferson School will be possible for either housing and/or commercial purposes. The cost of upgrades to the building was prohibitively expensive for the district. My understanding is that we can only keep the building in its current mothballed state for another two years or so before it seriously deteriorates. The district does not have the roughly $900,000 it would take to demolish it.