Rochester School Board Seat 4

When our editorial board asked Susan Nee if she supported the school district's levy override referendum, she took a deep breath, then said, "I have to support it. It may cost me the election, but there's simply not enough left to cut without getting rid of really big things. You could get rid of everyone in the Edison Building, and it still wouldn't be enough."

As it turns out, this opinion shouldn't be a game-changer: Julie Workman, Nee's opponent in the race for Rochester School Board Seat 4, shares the same view. "I know what $5 million in cuts would look like," Workman told us. "This referendum is about protecting what we have, not adding programs."

Another litmus test that some voters almost certainly will apply is candidates' views of Superintendent Romain Dallemand. But again, their opinions have much in common.

Nee said Dallemand needed to show better leadership in preparing the district for the referendum, and that he should have begun laying the groundwork two years ago. "The fundamental work wasn't done, however — and now the superintendent says the public needs to make a sacrifice? That's not how you sell anything."

Workman says Dallemand got off on the wrong foot immediately upon his arrival, and the district is paying a steep price. "When Dr. Dallemand came to our community, he made some assumptions that weren't quite accurate," she said. "He needed to find out what was really happening in our district first, rather than coming in and saying 'Here's the problem, and here's where we're going to be in five years."


Neither woman is a fan of efficacy training or the five-year plan. Workman says she has yet to see any data indicating that efficacy training is producing any tangible results. Nee said much the same thing, and even questioned the overall paradigm, suggesting that when your boss sets a goal for you or your company and says "This is where we need to go," then you lay out a plan that shows him how you'll get there. "But having a plan doesn't mean much if the goal is unattainable or unrealistic," Nee said.

On issue after issue, these candidates are nearly in lockstep. So how do they differ?

Their background, for starters. Workman taught in the Rochester public schools for 36 years, so she has extensive knowledge of school operations and the teachers union. But she's no apologist for the district — she was herself a victim of staffing reductions — and she says there clearly are too many people working in the Edison Building.   

Nee, on the other hand, spent 25 years at IBM and called herself a high-level "trouble-shooter" who loved to be in the hot seat on a daily basis. She, too, eventually was downsized. As a stay-at-home mom with two kids in elementary school, she has found time to familiarize herself with the district's strengths and weaknesses.

This decision boils down to one question: Which candidate would be the best fit on a school board that will grapple with serious financial distress, complicated contract negotiations and an uphill battle to regain the public's confidence?

We believe that candidate is Susan Nee, and we endorse her for Seat 4 on the Rochester School Board.

Nee would bring a much-needed jolt of energy and positivity to the school board. She's analytical, and we think she's a realist about the referendum and what will happen in the months ahead. But   she'll also be passionate about doing what's needed to help children reach their fullest potential.

For example, she admits that there probably is no way to avoid increasing fees for extra-curricular activities. "It's fair to ask parents to pay more," she said. "But does it really burn me that we have to? Yeah!"


She looks at numbers, and she won't be afraid to object when they don't add up. And ultimately, she knows that Rochester's public schools are at a critical point. "Right now, to outsiders, our school district still has a really good reputation, because the problems we have internally haven't gotten out," she said. "But we absolutely must find a way to give students what they need and what their families are asking for. Otherwise, they're going to go to other school districts or private schools."

That's not just a possibility — it's already happening. Last year, 1,350 students open-enrolled away from Rochester. 

We believe Susan Nee can help our school district get back to where it fully deserves the sterling reputation it has enjoyed for years.

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