The South Washington County School Board has five seats up for election in 2013.
Four members will be elected to four-year terms; one will be elected to fill the vacancy of the two-year term expiring Jan. 4, 2016.
There are 14 people vying for the four-year terms and three candidates for the two-year term. The election is Nov. 5.
Katy McElwee-Stevens, an incumbent from Newport, is vying for a four-year term.
Check back on Patch for more candidate profiles.
Patch: Why are you running for school board?
McElwee-Stevens: Education and children are my top priorities and my passion.
Patch: What qualifications do you have?
McElwee-Stevens: My qualifications include effective policy construction as a Board member on the South Washington County School Board, financial and managerial experience as an accountant at the U of MN, 7 years on the City of Newport Planning Commission, 11 years as a paraprofessional in District 833, and 15 years of service as a volunteer in the South Washington County Schools.
Patch: How are you voting on the three ballot questions? Why?
McElwee-Stevens: I will be supporting all three questions on the ballot on Nov. 5.
Question 1 is renewing funds the voters believe in and have already approved. I voted for these questions in past elections and I will vote for them again.
Question 2 is a four-part question…
1 - Technology infrastructure upgrades which I support.
As colleges and careers demand students and employees to be well versed in the digital world, we as an educational institution need to be able to prepare students for these challenges. Our students need to be able to use all kinds of devices and right now systems are inadequate and slow.
2 - Security upgrades which I support.
Changing the locks on our classroom doors so they will lock from the inside cuts down the risk of intrusion for our students and staff. As a staff member I have experienced having to open the door, go out in the hall and lock our classroom door. This procedure puts everyone at risk. Hardening the glass in and near classroom doors will better guard our students and staff from would be intruders. Tightening up the elementary schools that currently have a wide open entrance, while I wish we didn’t have to, is important so we can monitor who comes in and out of our buildings.
3 – Discretionary licensed staff which I support
Lowering our teacher/student ratio is always an ideal situation. By allowing each site to decide how to best use this staff position allows the students at each site to experience a better overall education.
4 – Funding the District deficit which I support.
Our District, as all residents know, needs to be watchful during prosperous economic times and restrict spending in difficult economic times. We do that at District 833. The proof includes:
- Awards from the MN Department of Education and the Association of School Business Officials the District has received for appropriate and accurate accounting processes;
- Regarding administrative expenses we rank 46th out the 48 metro districts. That means we are one of the districts spending the least amount on administrative staff and more in the classroom;
- Concerning the amount of money received through voter approved operating levies our district is ranked 30th out of the 48 metro school districts. When the legislators eliminated the general education property tax our district was challenged to keep expenses low for our residents while maintaining an excellence in education. Our ranking demonstrates that effort.
- Approximately 80 percent of district revenue is spent in the classroom.
- The Board has a policy to keep our fund balance between 5-9 percent of the district’s general unrestricted operating expenditure budget. Because of this policy we did not have to take out loans to pay our bills when the legislature shifted school funds to balance the state budget.
Question 3 is requesting finances to secure land for upcoming building(s) projects. I support this effort to be thinking ahead to the future. With the estimated growth of Cottage Grove and Woodbury we will need to add schools to support the growth. Our district works with each of the cities as they plan their developments. 833 would like to be proactive regarding expansion and not reactive.
Patch: What is the biggest challenge facing District 833 schools? How would you address it?
McElwee-Stevens: Finances would probably be the first issue candidates refer to but I think the challenge is gaining more public trust and participation. I believe if we can overcome those two concerns the finances will follow and community members would be in the schools seeing firsthand what their dollars are buying… our future.
Donating money is just one way to participate. We need people to read with our students, help out in the classroom, and work out math problems. There is a need for set construction, be in the audience at athletic events, choir and band concerts, and theater productions. We need parents/guardians to attend conferences, PTO/A meetings and chaperone field trips. Sometimes we need a person to just take home construction paper and cut out 40 birthday crowns. These are just a few examples. I would concentrate on coordinating volunteer opportunities; work on making the community aware of those opportunities and most importantly making sure there is someone responding to all offers of assistance.
Additionally I am currently working on and will continue to work on transportation walking distances and keeping community schools in the community.
I have been and will continue to be a liaison between the families of South Washington County and our school district.
Patch: Anything else you'd like to add?
McElwee-Stevens: As an 833 Board member, employee, volunteer, parent and resident I have the unique opportunity to experience the district from all perspectives. I’m in daily contact with teachers, parents, students, principals, support staff and administration. When making decisions I consider all sides of the issue and viewpoints I hear. Ultimately my decision must answer the critical question…..Is this what’s best for kids?
• • • •