Meet the Hastings School Board candidates

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Kim Christensen

Age: 48

City: Hastings

Occupation: Current employee of Hastings School District as a Special Education PSA and Community Education Early Childhood Assistant (Currently at Sub status).

Family: Husband is Brian Christensen, who is an Environmental Laboratory Analyst for Flint Hills Resources. He has been employed with them for over 25 years. We have twin boys who are 19 years old. They are attending the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. My husband and I are now empty nesters!

Incumbent or challenger: Challenger

 

What experiences or qualifications make you a good candidate for school board?

* I have been a Special Education PSA for the Hastings School District for 12 years, with an additional 3 years in the Farmington Public Schools as a Title One Assistant and Teacher Assistant. I have worked with children in the mainstream classroom setting and Special Education setting. Over the years I have worked with children with EBD (Emotional Behavior Disorder), children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), and other learning disabilities. I also received my short-term teacher substitute license that I utilized for 4 years. This allowed me to be a teacher substitute in Special Ed settings and in mainstream classroom settings. I have a Bachelors Degree from the College of St. Catherine's in Speech Communications. * I was a stay-at-home mom for 7 years in-between school districts ! ! * My children attended Hastings Public Schools from Kindergarten through graduation. ! ! *I have been a Hastings community member since 1996.

 

What are your priorities for the district in this upcoming year?

There would be a lot to learn in the first few months of office. One of my priorities would be visiting all of the schools in the district and having conversations with teaching and support staff on what they feel is working and what is not working. I also plan on being very accessible to community members and parents. I want them to feel comfortable asking me questions and voicing their concerns. I would like to be able to offer learning seminars, for any staff or parents interested, to increase the level of success for our children. We need to prepare our youth for the future and the real world.

 

Do you support the District 200 referendum and why?

Yes, I do support the referendum. As in a home, there are always going to be ongoing, and sometimes unforeseen, maintenance items. If not taken care of, these maintenance needs can lead to even costlier replacements/maintenance. The boiler system at the middle school is a good example. The system is 50 years old and in desperate need of replacement. It is now a very real challenge to even find parts for it anymore. As a community, it is our prerogative to maintain our investment in our existing facilities, to ensure the longevity of these facilities for our future students. Strong schools=strong community.

 

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing District 200?

We have many issues facing our Public Schools today. The biggest issue facing our district, I believe, is declining enrollment. Another issue, not just facing Hastings Schools but all schools, is the lack of respect for authority with some students, and lack of respect for one another. We need to teach kids the meaning of "No", that losing can be a valuable learning experience, how to deal with adversity, and what it means to be a responsible and contributing member of our society. Social Media has become a real issue for schools. Some teachers are currently integrating these issues into their lessons. In teaching children how to be responsible when it comes to the internet, we as parents, need to come together and guide our children by leading by example. We need to be positive role models in this ever changing world of ours.

 

Kelsey Waits

Age: 31

City: Hastings

Occupation: Mom (former Statistical Consultant)

Family: Chris Waits (33) Abby Waits (7) Kit Waits (4)

Incumbent or Challenger: Challenger

 

What experiences or qualifications make you a good candidate for school board?

As a mother of two young children, each with their own special needs, I am a strong voice for children's rights. I believe that each and every child deserves access to the educational services that they need, whether that is through special education or gifted programs. I have a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Statistics. I have worked extensively in applied research, including four years of consulting on career development research at the University of Connecticut. I understand the importance of numbers, but also the importance of a personal interaction to make sense of those numbers. Through my husband's military service, I have been able to gain experience from a wide-range of communities and I would look forward to bringing that experience here. I currently serve on the Friends of the Library and the Dakota County Extension Committee.

 

What are your priorities for the district in the coming year?

As mental health problems in children continue to rise, this is something that we will continuously be working on. Since teachers and other staff are frequently seen as a support by at-risk students, I would like to work to make sure our staff is prepared to handle difficult situations and are trained to recognize warning signs that students may present. This next year, I also want to start building a stronger relationship between school board and city council. I believe that as a community, we need to be working together more than we are, especially on our low-enrollment issues.

 

Do you support the District 200 referendum and why?

Yes, I am supporting both the levy and the bond. To me, there is no question. Without the proper facilities, it's difficult to expect students to have a positive learning experience. I also believe that the levy is necessary as we continue to struggle with low enrollment and budget cuts. By passing the levy, we can avoid having to make deeper reductions in staff. I do not believe that lessening our teaching staff is in the long-term best interest of the district.

 

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing District 200?

As a society, we are facing an increase in youth mental health disorders, both in number and severity. Hastings is not immune to this issue. As we see these numbers continue to rise, making sure that our staff is prepared to handle difficult situations and trained to recognize warning signs is important. Working to maintain a safe and supportive school atmosphere should be a priority. I also believe that our decreasing enrollment is a large problem that we need to look more closely at. Our decreasing numbers cause budget cuts, which in turn can lead to staffing cuts, program cuts, etc. All of these will have an effect on our students. Enrollment numbers have been decreasing for over a decade. This is not a new problem and I think that bringing a fresh perspective to the issue would be beneficial. Obviously school board cannot wave a wand and magically fix our low enrollment issues. This is a community-wide problem and as such we should be working with other parts of our local government on a community-wide solution.

Dave Pemble

Age: 66

City: Hastings

Occupation: Retired after 37 Years with Xcel Energy, Prairie Island Nuclear Plant

Family: Married to Dolores (Brown) owner of The Spool House for 37 years. 4 HHS graduates daughters, Dawn, 3rd grade teacher at Pine Hill Elementary, Cottage Grove; Dena (Aaren) Mathison, Math teacher for Rushford-Peterson School District; Darcy, management at Blue Cross Blue Shield; Dara, auditor for MN Dept. of Revenue and two adorable grandsons, Porter and Maverick Mathison.

Incumbent or challenger: Challenger

 

What experiences or qualifications make you a good candidate for school board?

After serving on the Citizen's Facility Commission this past spring, I saw the need to become involved on the District 200 School Board. I have a great deal of civic pride and decades of involvement in the school district as well as the city. As I am recently retired, I feel I now have the time and dedication to serve the residents of District200 as a member of the school board.

 

What are your priorities for the district in the coming year?

We need to keep our students needs in the forefront both academically and physically. Academically, we need to continue to provide fair class sizes, concentrate on the core classes but still foster the whole student by including art, physical education and music etc. Physically, we need to be concerned about the physical and emotional health of our students. I am concerned about the level of obesity, suicides and mental health issues which are on the rise throughout our society. There needs to be counselors available at all levels of our school system as there is evidence of this in the middle school level and even younger. If these issues were identified earlier, our students would be better learners and have a more successful public education experience.

 

Do you support the District 200 referendum and why?

Absolutely! As a member of the Citizens Facilities Committee, I saw firsthand the maintenance issues that need to be addressed with the proposed bond. The operating levy will be needed to continue the learning level we provide to educate our students.

 

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing District 200?

Finances are always a concern regarding public education. It is becoming more and more difficult to provide a complete education with the funding that is available. As far as School District 200, we are in a trend of declining enrollment. It will be a challenge for our School Board to encourage new residents to move into the district as well as maintain the students currently residing here.

Scott Gergen

Age: 49

City: Hastings

Occupation: Information Technology Manager

Family: Wife — Ann, 3 sons (Cal - 19, Jackson - 17, Oliver - 10)

Incumbent or challenger: Incumbent

 

What experiences or qualifications make you a good candidate for school board?

First and foremost, I'm completing my fourth year on the Hastings school board. During that time I've learned a great deal about the intricacies of school budgets, operations, and planning. I've been a very active participant holding the positions of Treasurer and most recently Vice-Chairperson. Additionally I'm on multiple committees including negotiations, self-funded healthcare, technology, and special education. My wife and I are longtime residents of Hastings and graduated from Hastings High School. I am a reasonable, logical, well-spoken person with a penchant for problem solving. My technology career has included many opportunities for creativity, leadership, goal-setting and fiscal management. I'm very comfortable evaluating options, building consensus, and making difficult decisions. My career has been one with global partnerships and resourcing; this has allowed me learn more about other cultures and be sensitive to their needs. I've been very involved volunteering for school-wide events and in the classroom, as well as an active participant in community sports groups. I'm enthusiastic and bring a positive spirit to the activities in which I'm involved. I'm approachable and I like to listen and fully understand issues and concerns that are presented to me. I approach issues with an open mind, ask thoughtful questions, and look for options for resolution with our students' well being at the forefront.

 

What are your priorities for the district in the coming year?

School operations require thoughtful balance of competing priorities and limited resources amid declining enrollment and budget challenges. I want District 200 to look at options for the next 3-5 years to ensure that we have appropriately planned for these trends while still maintaining appropriate stewardship of tax dollars.

 

Do you support the District 200 referendum and why?

I am in full support of the proposed bond and levy. The proposed bond addresses critical maintenance items throughout the district while keeping the net tax impact to $0. Bottom line is that we need to reinvest in our existing infrastructure just as a homeowner would reinvest and maintain their property. The proposed levy increases our budget by $300 per pupil and will be critical as we continue to experience declining enrollment. This additional revenue will allow us to continue to offer excellent programming K-12 while keeping our class sizes low.

 

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing District 200?

The biggest issue we have is our declining enrollment which has led to budget challenges within the district. Our current kindergarten class is approximately 280 students district wide compared with recent graduating classes of 350+. This is not an issue that can be resolved in the short-term; we need to partner with the city of Hastings to ensure that our school district is doing all we can to offer excellent curriculum, extra-curricular activities, and facilities to help retain and attract families. We also need to continue to offer the best education possible to our current students so that Hastings is a real consideration as they start their own families in the future.