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Letters to the editor: Support for 833 School Board candidates; Safety issues observed

Vote Hoffman and Pyrz for District 833 School Board

On Nov. 7, voters will have an opportunity to make an important financial commitment to local schools, and also to elect five members to the South Washington County School Board. This election is an opportunity to choose representatives who will preserve and advance quality education.

The past two years have exposed systemic problems in our district that have caused even loyal advocates of public schools to question faith in the school board and superintendent. Recent examples include two data breaches affecting our teachers and more than 18,000 students, and adoption of a middle school boundary plan that does not come close to making efficient use of resources. Too often it feels as though public cries for accountability, fairness and common sense fall upon deaf ears. We must ensure that our schools have the resources they need to operate (we cannot turn our backs on teachers who already stretch thin resources, and routinely spend their own money on classroom supplies), but we must also elect leaders whom we can trust to make responsible decisions.

Our district needs school board members who understand that democracy depends on transparency, accountability and meaningful public dialogue. We need representatives who will question, debate and weigh options during public meetings.

We need representatives who will demand actionable improvement in the area of student safety, and who will not accept excuses that misplace blame for a gaping lack of official protocol and leadership. We need representatives who believe that every kid deserves an equal chance at a quality education, and that political favoritism and irresponsible spending have no place in public schools.

Douglas Hoffman and David Pyrz are two candidates who meet these criteria. Hoffman and Pyrz will bring a new level of energy and optimism to the school board, along with a fresh perspective and a positive voice for change. Both have made personal sacrifices for democracy, and have demonstrated courage to speak up on behalf of students, teachers and the people they represent. Vote yes to invest in our schools, and choose representatives whom we can trust to ensure smart, responsible and fair leadership.

Robin Hennessy

Woodbury

Thurmes would represent us well

We are writing this letter in support of Bill (William) Thurmes for a four-year seat on the South Washington County School Board. As the parent of two sons who attended District 833 schools from kindergarten through 12th grade and as the husband of an educator in the system, we know Bill will be an advocate for the kids in our district as well as support the teachers who work closely with these children on a daily basis. In fact, the United Teachers of South Washington County has endorsed Bill as a candidate. We have known Bill for 14 years and recognize him as a leader. Committed, organized, hardworking and fair are the words that best describe him. Bill has had a variety of experiences that will serve him well if he is elected to the board. Within the district, he has volunteered as the PTA treasurer at Crestview Elementary School, served as a member of the middle school boundary committee, and spent countless hours working as a member of the Park Wrestling Booster Club Board. Outside of the district, he is on the Greater St. Paul Building Owners and Managers Board, having served as the chair for two years. Additionally, he was a board member for CGAA baseball. Bill has worked in the commercial and residential real estate industry for the past 11 years which has given him the skill set needed to be a productive member of the school board. We can't think of anyone better than Bill Thurmes to represent us as a member of the South Washington County School Board.

Meg Christianson, Kindergarten teacher

Karyn Jeseritz, Kindergarten teacher

Brenda Theurer, Kindergarten teacher

Mary Virgin, Third-grade/Reading Recovery teacher

Karen Wenner, Third-grade teacher

Lagoon: Choice clear in District 833 race

The choice for voters in the South Washington County School Board race is very clear. If you want your property taxes to go up, vote for the other candidates. They have all pledged their support for raising your property taxes at the League of Women Voters' candidate forum. I was the only candidate out of the 15 running who opposed raising your property taxes. I am convinced the district has enough and should focus on managing well what it already has.

If you are not concerned about the growing epidemic of out-of-control behavior in our classrooms, vote for the other candidates. But if you think with me that the pendulum has swung too far in the permissive direction, and that we need to enforce greater discipline in the classroom, then I welcome your support.

I want there to be greater consequences for students with chronically disruptive and disrespectful behavior so that our classrooms can be safe and productive for our teachers and students.

I am disappointed by the district's public presentation of the three questions that are up for a vote. First, because the district has only presented the tax impact if question one passes, but does not present the sizable tax savings our residents would receive if it failed. Further, the district has cherry-picked data about the state's portion of the school budget to make it appear that the state's support has been declining. The reality is that the state's contribution over the last generation has increased significantly.

Misleading as well is the district's claim that renters would not be impacted by the passage of the three questions since they don't pay property taxes. The reality is that property taxes are reflected in the rent amount renters pay.

Our voters deserve leadership that does not distort facts in order to achieve its agenda.

I believe my experience as a resident and teacher in our district will be a valuable asset on our School Board. I ask for your vote on Nov. 7. Visit my campaign website at: sslagoon.wixsite.com/school.

Steve Lagoon

Cottage Grove

Driscoll is running in a special election for a two-year seat on the District 833 School Board.

Driscoll: Knowledge, skills would be asset

I'm running for South Washington County School Board because I want to give back to my community. I have 20 years experience as a special education teacher and 19 years as an elementary principal. Education is what I do best. My knowledge and skills will be an asset to the board.

I live between two elementary schools. One has the second-highest MCA reading scores in the district. The other has the lowest reading scores in District 833. Race or economic status are not excuses for low achievement. Students who cannot read by fourth grade are at a significantly higher risk of dropping out of school.

Schools need to be safe, respectful and inclusive environments so that students can learn. Nobody should get hurt physically or emotionally. Students need to be taught social skills so they learn to value on another's differences and work together.

The single most important element in the classroom is an effective teacher. Relevant staff development is necessary to help teachers reach their individual goals and continuously improve instruction and learning for all students. Comparable salaries are necessary to attract, hire, and retain the best teachers.

The board is responsible for writing policies and holding the administration accountable for implementing them. I'll support policies that enable continuous improvement of teaching and learning. I'll also hold the administration accountable for these policies.

Using property taxes to fund education isn't fair to people on limited incomes or to districts that do not have high value businesses and properties. The result is unequal educational opportunities from district to district. I'll collaborate with community members to lobby the Legislature to change this.

I would appreciate your vote. Please visit my website at patdriscoll.net.

Patricia Driscoll

Cottage Grove

Driscoll is running for a four-year seat on the District 833 School Board.

Safety issues observed

We are visiting our daughter and grandson who live in Woodbury and have observed several safety issues you may not be aware of. Sometimes an outsider can see problems that people living here can't see because they are too close.

We were driving our grandson to Lake Middle School the other morning and came to an unmarked intersection. Luckily we slowed down because a car zoomed by past us no doubt well above the speed limit. I realize there are laws for unmarked intersections but that does not help if the drivers do not obey the traffic laws. At least one of the streets should have yield or stop signs.

When we got to the school to drop off our grandson I saw a kid run into the school wearing only shorts and a T-shirt. We had ice on the windshield so we know it was cold outside. Why does the school allow such slovenly dress? It is bad for the health of the child and the children around him. If the school is kept so warm the kids can wear shorts and a T-shirt it is also a big waste of energy.

We have noticed a big problem of speeding all over Minnesota but we don't have time for that now. We love Woodbury and only want our grandson and daughter to be safe. The city and school should think about their policies and procedures.

Marion Hansen

Woodbury

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