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Roe: Address declining enrollment in schools

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

Pam RoePam Roe

Age: 46

Address: 4794 Mount Hood Lane

Occupation: Social Worker/bereavement And Volunteer Coordinator, Mayo Clinic Health System-Red Wing Hospice and past school social worker in Robbinsdale, Rochester and Goodhue County Education District

Education: Master’s degree in social work, University of St. Thomas; bachelor’s from Luther College

Family: Husband Greg and three children: Emma, eighth-grader at Red Wing High School; Allison, sixth-grader at Twin Bluff Middle School; Adam, fourth-grader at Burnside Elementary School

Civic Involvement: Red Wing Amateur Hockey Association board member; Girls on the Run board member; Stephen leader/minister at United Lutheran Church, past congregational president and member of pastoral call committee, worship and praise band member, member of finance committee for new building project; “Women Build” Habitat for Humanity team member; volunteer for Red Wing Public Schools and past member of the Parent Advisory Council Executive Board.

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

I see declining enrollment and changing demographics of our Red Wing community to be one of the biggest issues we face. Everything is driven off of that enrollment number (budgets, programming, class sizes, teachers hired, etc). As our numbers change, as our community changes, so must our school district. We must continually reinvent who we are based on the kids we are serving.

In 2000, we had 3310 students enrolled in Red Wing Public Schools. That number has decreased to 2696 in 2015. That is nearly a 20 percent decline in 15 years. With this decrease, available dollars decrease, and we have seen enough budget cuts.

As a community, I believe it is essential to strategically address our population issue and figure out a steady direction in which to head. Addressing declining enrollment is a big issue that will take a very large, collective effort from all stakeholders.

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

Having worked in many schools throughout Minnesota, I can tell you that Red Wing has one of the most exceptional teaching groups I have come across. They are a fantastic group of leaders, educators and champions for our children. And they are led by some truly amazing administrators. This is by far our greatest strength. When it comes to standardized testing, it is this dedicated team that works extremely hard to produce results that are meeting, or exceeding, expectations. Our district is great at supporting and equipping educators to do what they do best: giving our kids a top-notch, well-rounded educational experience.

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

I am a social worker. I have spent the majority of my professional career working in three different school districts. As a school social worker, I have been a part of many different teams of dedicated educators. I have personally been through many budget cuts. I have listened as teachers shared their frustrations in trying to meet the diverse needs of kids from large class sizes. I have advocated with countless parents who wanted the best education for their kids. I understand the challenges of moving through the bureaucracy of special education. And I have been a part of celebrations and joys in reaching educational success. I am also a parent. With three kids in three different schools, my husband and I have been fully engaged in their educational journey. I am a volunteer, with extensive experience and leadership roles on many different boards and committees. I am diligent. In preparation for this campaign, I have been meeting individually with many educators, administrators, and building staff in our district to better understand current needs and concerns. I have been attending school board meetings, and I have been listening to parents as they share their thoughts on what would make Red Wing schools better.

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

I really see disagreements as a healthy part of any board or organization. We are all different and come from diverse experiences and backgrounds. When a disagreement surfaces, I see it as an opportunity for more dialog, more discussion and healthy debate. If done in a respectful, timely manner, nothing but growth can surface. As a school board member, I fully expect the board to have some disagreements, but I would look for ways in which I can learn from the discussion, find common ground and work diligently to resolve conflict.

What should the district do with the vacant Jefferson School?

Jefferson is a beautiful building in a remarkable, historically rich part of Red Wing. I have asked several Jefferson neighbors what they would like to see happen there. No one I spoke with was in favor of its demolition. The resounding sentiment was to find a way to repurpose the building. I agree. In discussion with the City of Red Wing and other key groups, I would look at what needs our community has and see if this building could meet them. Affordable housing? Office space? Community programming or education? I would like to see the integrity of that building preserved, while adding value to the neighborhood and community.