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Viewpoint: A new year for the District 834 board

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The new year is upon us, which means for most of us new calendars have been posted on the walls and well-intentioned resolutions have been made.

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For students and staff of the Stillwater Area Public Schools the new year marks the beginning of the second half of what is stacking up to be another successful school year.

The year 2009 brings about a fresh start for the Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education as well. Two new board members were welcomed to the table during the board's organizational meeting on Jan. 8, and the board also selected its leadership for the coming year.

George Dierberger and Mike Ptacek were sworn into office, as was incumbent Kathy Buchholz.

The board also elected new officers for 2009: Chairperson - George Hoeppner; vice-chairperson - Natasha Fleischman; clerk - Natalie Fedie; and Treasurer - George Dierberger.

This school year the board has also established some resolutions - or goals - for itself and the entire district.

As part of the strategic plan, the board is working to enhance communication with residents of the district by serving as school liaisons and hosting listening sessions.

Listening sessions will be held beginning later this month. This is a time for anyone with an interest in our schools to come ask questions, share ideas, or just get to know district leaders in an informal setting. More information is available at www.stillwater.k12.mn.us.

Our school board members are elected by you, and represent your interests. You are invited, and encouraged, to become involved and play an active role in your schools.

As the new school board begins work, it seems an appropriate time to talk about the board's role in our district. The board is responsible for developing policies and setting the direction required for high quality education in our district.

The Board of Education can establish, alter or eliminate policy, but they are not responsible for the day-to-day operation of the schools. Board members delegate to staff the responsibility to lead, manage, and assess the programs and processes of our district.

Throughout the year, the topics of discussion at the board table may change from budget to insurance or assessment to graduation.

While the agenda for a school board meeting may include a variety of topics, the work of the Board of Education falls under four major functions.

• Planning and policy making

• Legal requirements

• Appraisal of the health of the district

• Hiring and evaluation of the superintendent

You can learn even more about our school board members, and the role of the school board online, www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/School_Board.html

This is an exciting time in the Stillwater Area Public Schools. I encourage you to take the opportunity to engage your school board members in conversation, understand their roles, and learn about the planning and work that is ongoing in our school district.

You have placed a great deal of responsibility in the hands of the elected board members, and I encourage you to ask questions and make suggestions.

Please continue to provide them with valuable feedback so that all of the students and residents in our school district will benefit for years to come.

Ryskoski is School District 834 superintendent and can be reached at ryskoskik@stillwater.k12.mn.us.

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