Candidates stress importance of communication on school board
A candidate who touts her background in finance faces another who touts her experiences volunteering on Rochester school district committees in the race for the Rochester School Board's seat 6.
Anne Becker, who has a degree in finance and worked for four years in the accounting department at Ready Mix in Rochester, said she has skills that will help the district during budgetary challenges.
"I do think of myself as more of a numbers person," she said.
Deborah Seelinger, who has served on the Rochester School District Foundation and on district boundary adjustment and budget-reduction committees, said those experiences have taught her much about how the district operates.
"I believe that having those experiences gives me a really broad base looking at the district from a board chair," she said.
The candidates have opposing views on the November operating levy referendum. Seelinger supports it, and Becker opposes it.
Becker and Seelinger are running for the seat being vacated by Sandra Soltis, who did not seek a second term. In the primary they topped board member Fred Daly, who decided to run for Soltis's seat in the election to join a less-crowded field.
It's important for the school board that's seated in January to get started on the right foot, Seelinger said.
"Communication is big things and little things," she said. "I think that the school board really has an opportunity to set the tone."
Becker said the relationship between the superintendent and board needs to be strengthened and repaired. She said the board needs to work with other districts to lobby for changes in federal and state mandates and that the district needs to "look at reality" when it enters contract negotiations over items she says are costly, such as severance pay.
The 2007 hiring of Superintendent Romain Dallemand, as well as his three-year contract extension last year, opened divisions in the board. Dallemand's contract will expire while either Seelinger or Becker is serving on the board.
Seelinger said she can't say how she would vote on another extension but thinks the board needs to be very clear about what is in his contract, if Dallemand is meeting goals, and the evaluation tools available.
Becker said she's trying very hard to not have preconceived notions about Dallemand despite hearing widely ranging opinions about him in the community.
"I don't see why if it's best for the district that he wouldn't be hired again," she said. It may be better for the district to look for someone else, however, if "things are continuing how they are and the new board and Dr. Dallemand still don't seem to gel very well together," she said.
Seelinger said it's important to have a plan but questions some of the district's five-year plan initiatives and wonders if the measures are cost-effective.
Becker said the implementation of the plan is "lacking." A plan is just a starting point, she said, because once students get up to proficiency, they still need to catch up with students around the world.
Family:Husband, and three children in the Rochester school district: Freshman at Century High School, seventh-grader at Kellogg Middle School, and a third-grader at Gage Elementary.
Occupation:Mother and homemaker.
Education:B.B.A. finance, University of Iowa; B.S. computer information systems, Winona State University.
Community involvement:School volunteer, Sunday school teacher, United Methodist Women,
executive board member.
Experience in government:None.
Website: http://annebecker4schoolboard.com .
Do you support the November operating referendum?At this time I am not in support of the referendum. We need to live within our means. I believe if we are creative and focus on our K-12 students we can find ways to offer an excellent education to our students for a reasonable cost to the taxpayer.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?I bring accounting experience, common sense, a solid moral compass and the ability to listen to all information presented before making up my mind. Life experiences have taught me how to make hard decisions and facilitate required changes. I will make decisions in the best interest of the students.
What do you want to change about how the school district operates?Repair and strengthen the relationship between the community, school board and the superintendent. The Rochester school district must become more flexible to be able to react quickly and efficiently to changing circumstances. Federal and state governments must reduce mandates and trust local school boards to run local school districts.
Family:Married, two sons.
Occupation:Parent and community volunteer.
Education:U of Minnesota, Twin Cities, B.A. in English/creative writing; U of Minnesota, Rochester, M.Ed, adult education
Community involvement:Elementary and middle school PTA executive committees, Area Council PTA, PAIIR Advisory Board, GATEway Board, Rochester Public School Foundation executive board, History Center of Olmsted County, Kid's Clubs at Hoover facilitator, school district committees.
Experience in government:None.
Website: www.deborahseelinger.com .
Do you support the November operating referendum?We need the referendum to maintain current levels of academic programming and co-curricular activities, but we must do more than raise revenue. We should implement the non-classroom budget cuts and also focus on an evaluation of expenditures to spend the referendum revenue efficiently and effectively.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?I have prepared for this position by attending board meetings and studying board and district materials for several years. I have gained skills through time spent as a volunteer leader and community advocate on district committees. I know where to get information and how to work well with others.
What do you want to change about how the school district operates?District communication must be two-way, timely and fact-based. The board must lead by example: soliciting community feedback; asking questions of and demanding answers from district administration and staff; and making information easily available to community. Responses to criticism must focus on the opportunity to research and implement improvements.