Q&A with District 834 School Board challenger Robert Craggs
• Age: 55
• City of residence: Lakeland
• Years lived in district: 20
• Education: Bachelor's, political science and public administration; master's, urban and regional planning, environmental policy emphasis; J.D. of Law
• Occupation: Consultant, Burns & McDonnell Inc., department manager, environmental global practice; University of Iowa and Cardinal Stritch University, past adjunct instructor/guest lecturer
• Notable community and civic involvement: City of Lakeland mayor, City Council, and Planning Commission, 1996-2010; Lower St. Croix Valley Community Foundation, board member and chairman, 2011 to present
• Contact: Craggsfor834board.com; Bob@Craggsfor834board.com
Why are you running for the Stillwater Area School Board?
The district is at a crossroads. To remain one of the top-rated public school districts in the state of Minnesota, the district must effectively plan for the future.
I will bring my experience and leadership skills to work with the other board members and district staff to effectively address the following critical issues: invest in teaching and learning to prepare students for the careers of tomorrow; plan for demographic changes in the district; stabilize the financial condition of the district; and enhance safety and security of students and staff.
What are the biggest issues in District 834 for residents living in Woodbury?
The biggest issues facing Woodbury families include the following: 1) the changing demographics in this geographic segment of the district, for example, population growth and socio-economic backgrounds; 2) the district's sale of Valley Crossing Community School and opening of the Brookview Elementary; 3) changing of school boundaries.
How do you plan to address these issues if elected?
The above three issues of demographic, school, and boundary changes are very interrelated.
The continued population growth in the southwest portion of the district requires realignment of the district schools to address these changes. The sale of the Valley Crossing has been planned for several years. With the sale of the district's share of Valley Crossing combined with the growth in the number of families in this portion of the district, additional capacity was needed to accommodate the students. Opening of the Brookview Elementary in 2017 will begin to address this need.
If elected, I will work closely with district staff to provide for a smooth transition through periodic updates — for example, on the website and at public meetings — to affected families, create opportunities for teacher interaction with incoming students prior to the start of the school year in fall 2017, and monitor enrollment trends in this portion of the district.
Proposed district boundary changes taking effect in 2017-18 will result in District 834 no longer enrolling students in Valley Crossing Elementary, unless they open enroll. The students residing in the current Valley Crossing attendance area will be redistributed to other schools, including Afton-Lakeland Elementary, Brookview (new school) and Lake Elmo Elementary. As highlighted above, this change also requires efforts to provide for a smooth transition for families.
If elected, I will work closely with district staff to provide for a smooth transition through timely, consistent communication to affected families throughout the 2016-17 school year. Moreover, I would work with staff to create opportunities for teacher interaction with incoming students prior to the start of school year in the fall of 2017.
Lastly, the socio-economic mix of students in this geographic segment of the district is changing. The district has programs in place that address challenges associated with this change. For example, the district offers an English language service that includes language acquisition and cultural adjustment. In addition, the district is implementing its Achievement and Integration Plan to reduce academic disparities in achievement across students of all racial and economic backgrounds.
If elected, I would work closely with staff to increase the resources associated with implementation of this plan and its associated programs.
What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
I am 20-year resident of the district. My wife, Anita, is an educator and former parent-teacher association (PTA) chairwoman for Afton-Lakeland Elementary and Oak-Land Junior High. My daughter, Anna, attended Afton-Lakeland, Oak-Land and Stillwater Area High School.
I have more than 14 years of local governmental governing experience as the Mayor of Lakeland, City Council, and Planning Commission. I have a strong commitment to improve the vitality of our communities as the current chairman of the Lower St. Croix Valley Community Foundation. I have a J.D. of Law and have been an adjunct instructor at the University of Iowa and Cardinal Stritch University.
As a result, I am very familiar with the district and its programs; committed to public service; have extensive board governing experience; understand public finance and program funding issues; have the ability to review and understand complex legislation affecting public education; and offer an informed perspective with experience as an educator.