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.
Laurie Johnson, an incumbent from Woodbury, is vying for a two-year term.
Check back on Patch for more candidate profiles.
Patch: Why are you running for school board?
Johnson: I am running for the two-year seat this year to extend some continuity with experienced board members.
I believe the learning curve is a long one, and it would be difficult for someone to pick up what they need to know to be effective in just two years, so I thought it was the perfect match for me. My husband recently retired and would like flexibility to spend more time in warmer climates during the winters—so we compromised on the idea of just a two-year commitment to the board position.
Patch: What qualifications do you have?
Johnson: I have worked with international and multinational companies to manage, expand and upgrade complex software applications within their organizations.
In doing so I have learned a lot about process, strategic planning, continuous improvement, and how data-driven decisions are approached. My professional role has also been to solve problems, and I have been able to do this by using my resources effectively, probing to understand the nature of problems, thinking creatively and outside-the-box, and by understanding how to get people to pull together toward a common goal.
These are some of the qualities that I feel have been most necessary to be an effective board member. There is no benefit to knowing what’s not working without being able to communicate a plan and being able to push for that plan to come together in a positive way.
Patch: How are you voting on the three ballot questions? Why?
Johnson: I support all three questions, and will be voting in favor of them.
Question 1 is simply a renewal of funding we already have been receiving, no increase at all. These funds are keeping our programs, staff and facilities in place, but without Question 2, we will not be able to continue at the level we are at.
We simply have not kept pace with costs over the past 10 years. We have not had any additional requests coming from the board for funding since 2003.
Many of the interim had no funding increases, and those increases we did see were generally very modest. During the same 10 years, we have had to cut our budget by over $8 million just to get by. We have had to borrow from internal funds to cover state funding “shifts” that delayed payment of the funding we were expecting too.
As for Question 3, the schools on the east end of the district are the ones that are already running at capacity.
Meanwhile, both Woodbury and Cottage Grove have plans in place to develop 2,000 acres each—6,000 new homes on the east end of the district are planned for the future!
We will need to address the facilities needs sooner rather than later, and the first step is to find and secure the land needed. This is the time to acquire the land at a good price, before economic recovery begins to force prices up again.
Patch: What is the biggest challenge facing District 833 schools? How would you address it?
Johnson: We are at a point where we, as a district, want to move beyond “teaching to tests,” and move every single one of our students toward more critical thinking skills.
To do this we need to have solid expectations so we know that what we are doing isn’t a quick reaction to a fad, but is a thoughtful plan with data and metrics available so we know what works and what doesn’t at every step of the way, and this is critical—we also need to have ways to include parents into their students’ learning and development.
We believe we need to begin a thoughtful and deliberate introduction of technology into the classrooms.
The board is tremendously supportive of providing meaningful staff development opportunities so that educators can learn how to lead lessons that use technology effectively, and can transform the experiences our students receive into exciting and motivating education that leads to a heightened love of learning for every student.
Patch: Anything else you'd like to add?
Johnson: Funding is a huge challenge, even with the state reformulating our funding. We are a low tax-revenue district without as much commercial tax income as our neighbors or similar demographic districts.
I believe we need to continue to do our very best to provide a solid education system where people will want to be. As we continue on this road, new businesses and services will be attracted to a place where there is a good customer base and where a high quality workforce is available to their businesses.
Please visit my website: www.lauriejohnson833.com
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