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Ryan: Form vision for district's future

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

Mark RyanMark Ryan

Age: 69

Address: 1325 S Park St.

Occupation: Retired middle school science teacher; retired chief petty officer U.S. Navy

Education: BS, forestry sciences, University of Washington; MS education, University of Minnesota; PhD, curriculum and instruction, U of M; certificate in professional development leadership, National Board Certified Teacher 2000-2010

Family: Wife Marilyn, adult children Graham and Kim

Civic involvement: Current member of Red Wing School Board, completing first term. Representing board on Mayor’s Taskforce on Sidewalks, Safe Routes to Schools and the Hunger Free Kids Network and Equity committees under Every Hand Joined. Prior member of Red Wing City Council, member of Energy subcommittee to Planning Commission, Boy Scout leader in several capacities, youth softball and football coach, soccer referee and coach in YMCA’s inaugural soccer program.

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

This is not your grandparent’s Red Wing, and it is certainly not your grandchildren’s Red Wing. We are part of the evolving culture of the United States. Demographics are changing; we are getting older and more diverse.

Our schools, like nowhere else, reflect those changes. The racial diversity within our schools is approaching 20 percent. Our free and reduced meals enrollment is over 40 percent. Reduced enrollment cuts the funding needed to operate the schools.

The district needs to thoroughly examine its operations and form a vision of what we want this school district to look like in 25 years and beyond.

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

Superintendent Anderson has nurtured an atmosphere of transparency that is becoming the district’s real strength.

The facilities referendum is an excellent example of this open planning environment.

Months of evaluation by community members and staff of the district’s infrastructure were followed by weeks of open meetings by the board prioritizing those needs before presenting the referendum to the community.

This dynamic of transparency and involvement is what the district needs to address the future vision of the district discussed above. When the community understands what and why we are trying to do, they are more willing to support the initiatives.

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

I first ran for school board because I thought my educational background would be an important contribution to the board’s make-up. While that has been true, I now think my strengths lies in combining that educational background with the experience of serving on the board and becoming engaged in many other civic activities as a board representative. Luckily, as a retiree, I can participate in such activities during the working day that many other board members have not been able to attend. My undergraduate education as a planner, along with my natural inclinations, give me a broad, inclusive worldview that I believe serves the board well. My educational background and doctoral research provide me a knowledge base to address many of the issues that are confronting this school district. This combination of a broad perspective and a strong educational knowledge allows me to deliberate school operations within a wide context.

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

Firstly, do not become engaged in an argument over an issue. It is absolutely necessary that as board members we get to know each other and each other’s viewpoints. We share differences in viewpoints openly but respectfully. That is part of the function of the committee structure — to allow members to discuss issues in more depth and then bring a consensus understanding to present to the board. If necessary, we must respectfully agree to disagree.

What should the district do with the vacant Jefferson School?

Jefferson’s status and future are central to the discussion of the district’s future. It is a beautiful old building but it no longer suits modern education practices. It would be very expensive to remodel the building and bring it up to current building and safety codes and educational needs. We have other older schools that are also unsuited to current standards but the staff struggles to make them work. But are we willing to settle for struggling schools or do we want educational facilities that provide supportive learning environments? Jefferson’s status is a complex matter with no easy answer.