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Questions put to Z-M candidates

Zumbrota-Mazeppa School Board candidates took questions and gave responses to a wide array of topics as part of a forum on Oct. 24 at the Z-M Middle/High School. Pictured here (from left to right) is Stephanie Miller, incumbent Jean Roth, Amanda Peters, incumbent James Wendt, and Cindy Bauer who was sitting in for her husband Shannon Bauer who was unable to attend. There are three school board spots open. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
James Wendt2 / 4
Amanda Peters3 / 4
Stephanie Miller4 / 4

With the Nov. 6 election just around the corner, the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Middle/High School held a forum giving candidates a chance to introduce themselves to the voting public.

The forum was held on Oct. 24 in the auditorium, with all candidates, except for Shannon Bauer, in attendance. However, Bauer's wife, Cindy Bauer, read his responses to questions.

There are five candidates vying for three seat. Chair Rebecca Hinchley did not seek re-election, but Vice-chair Jean Roth and Director James Wendt are seeking re-election.

Roth is a former speech and language pathologist who has had three children graduate from the district and has two grandchildren in the district now. Wendt has lived in the area all of his life, with his two sons graduating from the district and a grandson in the district now.

Bauer, Stephanie Miller and Amanda Peters are the other candidates.

Bauer holds a master's degree in systemic family therapy and has also been a family minister with three children in the district.

Miller is a nurse who has lived in the district for nine years. Miller's two children attend district schools.

Peters is an educator and has held multiple roles during her time. Peters has three children in the district.

Candidates were given five questions in preparation of the event, with two questions coming from the audience at the end.

Q: How do you perceive the role of school board members?

Jean Roth: As a board, so much of what we do is governing, if you will, by state law. It's our responsibility to respect those laws. Carry them through to the best of our abilities. Be very mindful of those laws ... school boards advocate at the local, state and national levels of public education. We need to focus on what's best for our students right here at Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

Amanda Peters: I see the role of school board members as a team that works together to lay a solid foundation that we can build students education on. We build that foundation with the end goal in mind at all times of students reaching their full potential in safe and challenging environment.

James Wendt: The most important job is to hire good employees. It is not our job to micromanage the school. It's not our job to approve the curriculum. It's not our job to say what's going to be for lunch. That's what our employees do ... we have a very tenured staff. And that's good. They've been here a long time. We've just got excellent staff. Excellent administration. And that's basically our job.

Cindy Bauer: School board members are community members who believe in the value of good education, the maturing growth of its children. School board members recognize the importance of preparing our youth for life and a world beyond high school. And school board members recognize the primary role of parents and parental figures in knowing the educational and maturity growth needs of the individual students.

Stephanie Miller: I believe that school board members help guide the school administration in decision making and help to ensure that they uphold the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities that they serve.

Q: Zumbrota-Mazeppa is looking to pass a bond referendum. How do you see your role in this as a board member?

Peters: Once the school board has a solid handle on the needs and the priorities, then the board can put together a fiscally sound plan for the referendum. And then the next phase is to educate the community about the needs that the referendum will fill. And those educational sessions we need to hold often and information given through different methods. Online, in person, in print so that all community members have a chance to hear about the needs the referendum is going to fill.

Wendt: We're taking the input from the public, the teachers, the administration. Put it all together. We need to put the numbers with it and then when you see the numbers with it, you know, it'd be nice to have the Taj Mahal, but maybe we don't want to pay for the Taj Mahal. You have to pair that down and come up with a fiscally responsible plan that the committees can kind of agree on, present it and provide a lot of education to the public and go from there.

Bauer: It's important to know and understand the breadth and scope of the referendum. To recognize how the referendum would support the foundational principles of the ZM school system. And to hold those responsible for handling it accountable to its purpose if it's passed.

Miller: I believe my role in the referendum is to educate myself on school funding and to take time to learn all possible options, while keeping in consideration the students, staff and taxpayers.

Roth: My role right now is to listen to what the rest of the people on that task force are talking about. It's been surprising. It's been very interesting. My role is to be aware of the research that has been done and that continues to be done. To listen to our patrons, our staff, Superintendent Harvey and the company Nexus we are working with in this journey. Going forward as a board member, I see my role in passing a bond referendum, as not only educating myself, and that has been a big part of this. But also helping patrons understand what they may be voting for.

Q: With one or two meetings a month, all school boards are limited in what they can do. How does or should the board decide what's most important?

Wendt: The administration kind of basically puts that together ... the agenda items are just issues that come up. I don't know that the board actually, we don't actually pull them up. If there is an issue that we have an interest in, we'll get it on a future agenda item.

Bauer: School board members can seek out ways of being an active part of school life. There are multiple ways to be an active presence ... the most important thing is to find meaningful ways to let the students know that you care about them.

Miller: We just need to prioritize the needs of the students and that we should focus on their education.

Roth: When I was preparing for tonight, I certainly gave this question a lot of thought. I turned it inside out and sideways and maybe over thought it ... what I came up with is that everything is important, because everything is connected, intertwined within this district.

Peters: It's important to prioritize the issues facing the district based on the level of impact on student safety and achievement. One thing that I know to be true is that happy and appreciated teachers equal happy and excelling students.

Q: Please share your position on the use of W.I.LD. days at Zumbrota-Mazeppa schools?

Miller: I'm glad that they have W.I.L.D. days for the safety of the children to stay at home if the roads aren't safe or the weather is too cold. As a mom, I'd rather have my kids home and safe. I'm glad that they can learn at home as well.

Roth: It certainly serves a purpose to our kids. I don't like extending the school year or having to go through the hassle of how are we going to extend the school year.

Peters: I think W.I.L.D. days to provide an opportunity to work on some skills of working from home. We have lots of jobs these days where people get to work remotely. And so we start to build a little bit of discipline in our kids.

Wendt: W.I.L.D. days have been good for the district. I do know that they are an inconvenience for some people ... there's good and bad with all of it. The nice part of it is, we don't have to worry about extending our school year. We keep kids safe.

Bauer: (speaking for herself) As a parent, I think the WILD days have been absolutely fabulous. The assignments have been appropriate and, in some cases, really fun for them to do.

Q: Please give an example of a success that you've had on the board and initiative that was not successful.

Roth: For a while, we had a fair amount of turnover in administration. That was a challenge and I think, since I've been on the board, we've done well. We've done very well. And again, I go back to the importance of hiring good administration ... An initiative that we have not been successful with? I'm sure there is something and I am totally drawing a blank. As I leave the building, it will come with me. Feel free to give me a call if you want to revisit this at some point.

Wendt: One that isn't successful, this evening, I think we've had a referendum that didn't pass. That'd be about it. But everything we seem to work through. Most of our initiatives, they just come around. We've had a lot of good referendums. We've had a lot of good building projects. We've got technology now at just about one-on-one with everybody. I know we're real close. Good or bad, I don't know, but that seems to be the way education is going so here we are.

Q: What is one goal or initiate if you are elected to the board. (Cindy Bauer declined to respond because she wasn't sure of Shannon Bauer's answer).

Peters: I'm not coming in with a set agenda. But I want to see the rigor at Z-M continue. That we continue to offer lots of choices to all of our students.

Miller: I do know that the building or facilities is kind of on the forefront and I'm excited to be on the forefront of that decision making.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

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