Seelinger, Gallas bring different backgrounds to Seat 3 school board race
Greg Gallas and Deborah Seelinger, candidates for Rochester School Board seat 3, are both making second attempts to be on the board.
Gallas, 47, cites two primary reasons for running: The importance holding schools accountable and measuring performance against "actionable and measurable" goals, and the need for the district to live within its budget.
An IBM employee, Gallas said some people associate accountability with punishment, but it's not.
"When people say accountability, people say, 'Oh, you just want to get rid of people,'" Gallas said. "We need to identify areas that need work and to help staff across the board achieve the objectives of the district, which is student education."
Convinced to run
Gallas said he became interested in school issues when his daughter was going through school. When she needed extra assistance, it frustrated him that she couldn't get it because she wasn't in a particular socio-economic subgroup. That convinced him that policies should apply to all students, not just one group.
Where to vote
"I want to fight for every single student, every single parent and every single teacher," he said.
The district's budget is also a hot-ticket item for Gallas. The district faces a $10 million budget deficit next year, yet the district doesn't spend its money as efficiently as it could, he argues. The district continues to buy iPads and pays for two reading programs, yet is not preparing for the lean times ahead.
"It's no different than my household," he said. "My paycheck doesn't change from month to month because the economy is slow and many of us aren't receiving additional income on a yearly basis. So we have to learn to live within the means that we have."
Seelinger, 44, says her skills and experiences would make her a good school board member. A community and school volunteer with a self-described passion for education, Seelinger said she brings multiple perspectives to education issues as a mother of a school-age child and someone who has served on district committees.
Seelinger said she is focused on collaborating and energizing the community, businesses and nonprofits in support of improving the district's schools.
Seelinger says her understanding of education and funding issues would be a benefit to the board in working with the public and legislators. She says collective action is needed is in special education. Even though federal government is supposed to fund 40 percent of special education costs, it is below half of that. The rest comes from the district's general education dollars.
"To me, you really have to work as collectively as a board, work with other boards, with MSBA to continue to tell our state officials that this needs to be fixed," she said.
She says Rochester is a quality school system but budget cuts have taken their toll. Class sizes are growing, support staff is shrinking, there are fewer counselors to help high school students make the transition to college.
Seelinger said one of her priorities would be to ensure that legislators return the K-12 funding that was used to balance the state's budget. It used to be that district's received 90 percent of their annual funding the first year and 10 percent the next. But faced with a big deficit, the state opted for a 60-40 split, and schools wonder whether they will get the delayed dollars.
"It concerns me because it's hard for us to budget and pay for programming and pay for our staff and make those decisions when we don't have the money in our pocket," she said.