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Direction of board, block scheduling among big issues

By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

Lynn Keeler, a candidate with experience in human resources, says she would like to see the district adopt a semi-block schedule to lengthen class times and provide more time for science courses. She says the time spent by students on lab work is far too short to make for effective learning.

Keeler said she would also like to see changes in the district's zero tolerance policy, which tends to treat dissimilar violations with equal severity. She said a policy that leads to an expulsion of a student for bringing a pocket knife to school is too harsh.

"There need to be consequences, but I'm not comfortable with expelling students" for such violations. She said such a blemish can make it more difficult for a student to get into college and harder to get financial aid.

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Kim Norton, the only elected incumbent among the nine primary candidates, says her passion for education is why she's running for a second term.

She said she's also running to provide some continuity and consistency to the board. Because two veteran board members will be leaving and another seat remains unfilled, this fall's election guarantees that at least three of the five positions will be filled by newcomers. The two seats not up for election are filled by members who have not completed a first term.

The need to provide some continuity, coupled with her passion for education, spurred her decision to run for re-election, she said.

Norton said she also wants to see the district's parent involvement policy deepened throughout the district. In particular, Norton said she would like to see individual schools incorporate such an emphasis in their site-improvement plans.

Norton said with the district setting its sights on closing the majority-minority achievement gap, parental involvement will be integral for such a goal to be reached.

Don Williams, a psychologist with Mayo Clinic, said the biggest issue for him is the "direction of the board."

"It needs to be returned to its defined role as a governing structure. From that, all other issues flow, including setting appropriate policies and making data-based decisions," William said.

Williams said he also believes he has something to offer the board with his background in psychology and business and his understanding of systems and how to change them.

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"The district has committed to continuous improvement," Williams said. "If applied appropriately, it is a very powerful and effective philosophy and methodology. If applied appropriately, it can bring about tremendous organizational change."

Williams has also called for Jerry Williams, who is currently serving as interim superintendent, to be made the permanent leader. He said Williams' tenure has shown him to be a capable and competent leader.

BOX; Kim Norton

Age: 44

Address: 539 Lowly Court N.W., Rochester

Family: Husband, Steven; children, Chris, 20, Cody, 17, Katie, 15, and Kelsey, 12

Work and education: Clerk at Walden Books; bachelor of science in special education and human development at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and graduate courses in education.

Community and volunteer activities: Many local citizen and school district committees; committees for Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning; national level for PTA; state PTSA past president

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Previous government experience: One-term incumbent on Rochester School Board

Top three issues: Being fiscally accountable; improving communication and community and parent involvement; now that guidelines have been established for continuous improvement, following through and implementing continuous improvement to raise student achievement

BOX; Lynn Keeler

Age: 48

Family: Children, Jeremiah Zblewski, 23, Peter Zblewski, 18

Work and education: Graduate of Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in human services at Grand View College, and attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul

Community and volunteer activities: Sexual assault counselor and homicide counselor in Des Moines, Dorothy Day House, East Side Pioneers Neighborhood Association vice president

Previous government experience: None.

Top three issues: I'd like to see the semi-block schedule brought back, to provide more time for science students; I am also opposed to the policy of zero tolerance; communication needs to be improved

BOX; Don Williams

Age: 44

Address: 180 Lachenview Lane N.W., Rochester

Family: Wife, Annette; children, D'Angello, 9, Brooklyn, 7, August, 5, and Patrek, 3

Work and education: Psychologist at Mayo Clinic; bachelor's degree in biology and psychology at Hope College in Holland, Mich., doctorate in medical psychology from University of Alabama at Birmingham and also master's degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management

Community and volunteer activities: United Church of Christ

Previous government experience: None.

Top three issues: The board needs to be returned to its defined role as a governing structure, from that all other issues flow; setting up appropriate policies and making data-based decisions; letting the superintendent and advisory support staff do their job while the board provides accountability and oversight

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