Q&A with District 834 School Board challenger Sarah Stivland
• Age: 50
• City of residence: Stillwater Township
• Years lived in district: 10
• Education: Bachelor's in secondary social studies from St. Olaf College
• Occupation: Business owner, mom, community volunteer
• Notable community and civic involvement: Served as chairwoman of CONNECT of Washington County, an organization whose purpose is to reduce underage substance abuse; member of YDAP, who brought the Courage Retreat to both junior high schools, United Way of Washington County East Community Investment Group; entertainment co-chairwoman for the all-night grad party at Stillwater Area High School; parent-teacher association; St. Croix Valley chapter of Minnesota Council of Gifted and Talented; SAHS Transition Team member, preparing for the successful transition of 9th grade into the high school.
• Contact: sarahstivland.com, facebook@sarahstivlandforstillwaterschools
Why are you running for the Stillwater Area School Board?
Our school district needs fresh leadership and I am dedicated to making our schools the best they can be! We have tremendous community support for our schools, and we could do so much more to foster strong relationships between families and the schools to develop courage, curiosity, and imagination as well as high achievement in our children's hearts and minds. I am a passionate, curious thinker who is driven to solve problems through comprehensive understanding and dialogue.
I think of myself as an "educator outsider" because I care deeply about getting it right for our kids. There are many aspects of education today that I feel we are not getting right. I'm running because I want to change that. I believe Stillwater schools have the capacity to become a model for a better way to grow learners and game changers in the world.
What are the biggest issues in District 834 for residents living in Woodbury?
The transition from Valley Crossing Community School to Brookview Elementary has not been given the thoughtful planning that it deserves.
Families and community members want to feel like valued partners in the process and this has not happened nearly enough.
With growth in the southern part of our district, we will need to be more careful regarding decisions that will need to be made going forward.
We also are not doing enough to decrease class sizes. We need to assure families that we will adhere to smaller class size targets in all of our elementary schools as we grow. This is a critical component of student success.
How do you plan to address these issues if elected?
If elected, I will reach out and establish a fruitful dialogue with those who wish to participate and work together as we go forward. Transitions such as a new school bring many new challenges and require time and a dedication to creating outstanding learning spaces and experiences. The Building Opportunities to Learn and Discover (BOLD) decision has caused much confusion in our district, and this needs to be resolved. By continuing with BOLD, we risk losing more of our students to other public or charter schools, and with that, we lose more funding from the state. We also leave ourselves at risk of not having enough space for the students who enroll here. We need to find a positive solution that leaves our district on strong financial footing, so we can commit to smaller class sizes and other supports for improving learning.
I am a devoted problem solver and a good listener, and I believe we can work together to make Stillwater schools the best in the state!
What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
I believe that it is time for a transformation in how we deliver education. I know we can do better for all of our kids. When I mean all kids, I mean all. Every child deserves to have the best chance we can give them. This nation is counting on our schools to prepare children for whatever lies ahead, and we know that the world is rapidly changing around us.
There is nothing more important for us to invest our time and resources into than education.
If we do it right for our children, we know our future is bright. But if we keep insisting on doing more of the same, we will continue to fall behind on the world's stage. Our old ways of thinking about learning are outdated, and we need to evolve and follow the latest research in what works for brain development and nourishing the human spirit.