To give everyone the greatest opportunity to understand where I stand on the issues, here are links to my responses in forums and to a questionnaire from Education Minnesota.

Following two letters to the editor attacking me in the Lakes Area Review on 2018-Oct-20, I posted this response.

Following a reprisal of those attack in letters to the editor in the 2018-Oct-27 issue of the Lakes Area Review, I posted this response.

Other position statements are below:

Preparing for the future

Our school has been ably led for many years by our current administration; however, we are likely facing changes in the coming years. I want to make sure that NL-S Schools are guided carefully through these changes with an eye toward the decades ahead. I have two children just starting in the school system now, so I have a vested interest in the long-term health of our school system.

Preparing every student to be their best

I was an active participant in developing the new strategic plan for our school district last spring. I strongly support the community-based approach taken to developing this document and am enthusiastically behind the specific statements that emerged. In particular, I believe that our school does (and should continue to do) everything to make sure that we “Educate and enrich all students to achieve their full potential and succeed in a changing world.” A part of this means preparing students for the paths they want to take after high school. For some, that will be college, and we should ensure they have the strong base they need to succeed there. Other students may elect to pursue a trade instead, and our school system should be just as focused on ensuring that they will succeed. All of our students, no matter their paths in life, should leave NL-S with the skills and knowledge they need to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

Active learning

As a college professor, I witnessed a rapid shift in the approach to instruction at the university level. I went through college largely listening to the “Sage on the Stage” style lecture; sitting back and passively taking in whatever the professor at the front of the room was saying. By the time I became a professor, the benefits of active learning had become clear. Students learn better when fully engaged with material and when they have the ability to uncover concepts directly. NL-S schools have already done a lot to facilitate the use of these active learning methods, and I want to ensure that we facilitate the continued implementation. I continue to be involved in pedagogy research, and I hope to bring that expertise to guide our district in determining which trends are worth implementing and which are merely passing fads.

Support our teachers and staff and recruit the best

A school system is only as good as its people. That may sound like a simple platitude, but it leads us to important actions if we take it seriously. If we want the best for our students, we need to give the best to our teachers and staff. Teachers should know that they are supported by the administration and the school board as they work to teach our students. That includes providing them with the material support (equipment, supplies, etc.) they need to be effective and the administrative support (in support in discussion with parents, access to continuing education, and pay) that demonstrates that they are valued.

Support for public education

I am a strong believer in public education. I think that public schools build communities and serve society in important ways that we should value. We need to make sure that the community is involved in the school and understands the value that educating our students provides to them as a whole. When levies are necessary, we have a great case to make in showing the value the school creates in the community – we should be making that case every day.

Sustainability

A school is an important foundation of a community, and it has a responsibility to act with care within that community. This includes careful stewardship of the resources of the community, including both the funds the school is entrusted with and the natural resources that it utilizes. Schools have an opportunity to be leaders in long-term sustainability, though I recognize the caution that must be taken to use funds wisely. The students of today will be living in this world for a long time; we should work with them to leave that world in the best shape we can.

Early Childhood Education

Preschool programs are incredibly powerful tools in preparing children for school and improving learning outcomes. The evidence is clear (e.g., Phillips, et al. 2017 “The current state of scientific knowledge on pre-kindergarten effects.”), and there is really only one good argument against expanding public pre-k options: cost. NL-S has a fantastic pre-k program, but both Cub Kids and ECFE frequently fill, leaving a waiting list of kids locked out of the programs. The costs can also be high enough to deter many of the would-be students who would benefit the most from these programs. Much of the solution to this issue will need to come from the state level (e.g., funding for universal pre-k), but NL-S can play a leading role in this expansion. We can, as a school, be outspoken advocates for our youngest students. We can also work within the funding we have available locally to expand our offerings as much as we can. My children have been able to participate in these programs, and I want to make sure that all of the children in the area are able to gain the same advantages my children have had.

Working with area businesses

While I believe that the school district forms a core component for the community, it must function in coordination with local businesses. This is critical to ensure that we are preparing students with the skills they need to compete in the local economy and to build opportunities to draw our alumni back to the area after college. A large portion of our student body will remain in the area or nearby following graduation. We have a responsibility to these students to ensure that they are prepared with the skills they need to secure the jobs they desire and succeed in them. One step in this process is coordinating with local businesses to understand the skills they are seeking in applicants and the traits they see in their best employees. In addition, we should be working with local businesses to connect with the students who do leave the area. I was lucky in finding a local connection with a job that suited my skillset, and several of my classmates could find similarly strong fits but are unaware of the opportunities. I would like to develop collaborations between local businesses and the school to build the connections we need to bring alumni back to the area. This could involve developing intern and job shadow opportunities for students to explore career options, build connections for later employment, and help our local businesses understand what the graduates who move away are capable of. Together, we can build the strong community relationships that we all want to see.

Childcare

The NL-S area, like many other areas, is experiencing a shortage of childcare opportunities. This may not be the school districts responsibility, but it is going to affect the school district by making it hard to recruit and retain young teachers, discouraging families to move to the district, and by limiting opportunities for graduates to remain (or return) when they establish families.

A teacher with children too young to enroll in the school system (e.g., 3 and younger, before Cub Kids), may find it difficult to find reliable options for their children. Even as their children age, a lack of after-school options may limit the ability of teachers to continue their work beyond the school day.

If we can identify and implement solutions, the effects may draw more families into our district (including both students and teachers) and encourage graduates to return to the district if they leave to pursue education or job opportunities.




This website is prepared and paid for by Mark Peterson; PO Box 91, New London, MN 56273