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Election '09: Meet your at-large school board candidates

Maureen Booth

First, can you please tell us about your educational background, work experience and any other experience relevant to serving on the Duluth School Board?

I am a retired teacher and, as a person of color, I have taught students of different racial ethnicities and economic backgrounds. I worked on the community planning process with former superintendent Julio Almanza. We had a three-day conference with 500 participants from all over the city. I presented the final power point presentation and recommendations to the School Board.

Recently, I worked with community members and presented to the School Board and officials strategies for improving school achievements for low-income students and students of color.

What are your intentions regarding the school district's long range facilities plan?

I reject out of hand the plan to close all schools in the Central Hillside. We have three schools that are failing; students and parents will have to ride on buses for over an hour a day to attend school and PTA meetings as well as school conferences. If elected, I will work to keep Nettleton and Central High School open.

Some have said that good educational practices -- not new or like-new buildings -- create good students. What would you change about the way students are educated in Duluth?

Put money back into staff development. Teachers need more resources put into new learning methodologies and new techniques for modern learning. More time is needed for one-on-one contact with teachers and students. Parent who put their trust in the teachers would have more confidence if the teachers have gained new practices for teaching children who do not conform to cultural norms in education practices.

Why should someone vote for you?

For 23 years, I have worked as a volunteer in the Duluth's schools and the community. I am presently on the HRA board: As a commissioner, I read budgets carefully and also solve labor disputes. As a member of CJM Memorial Board, we established a scholarship program for graduating seniors. I have proven leadership skills and abilities in many aspects of community life in Duluth.

Mary Cameron

First, can you please tell us about your educational background, work experience and any other experience relevant to serving on the Duluth School Board?

I am a Duluth Central graduate and consider myself a life-long learner. I have a BA, a MSW, and a MAPA (Master of Arts in Public Administration) and am currently working on my dissertation for a Doctorate in Education and Leadership.

I am employed as the Associate Director of Human Resources/Director of Student Employment and Coordinator of Equity Education Services at UMD.

I am currently serving in my third term as an elected at-large Duluth School Board member and have served as Chair,Co-Chair, Clerk , Chair of the Education Committee and currently serving as Chair of the Human Resources Committee.

What are your intentions regarding the school district's long range facilities plan?

I support the continuation of the long-range facility plan. This plan will provide our students with updated/new buildings that will allow for state-of-the-art technology so that they can compete globally. The plan will also allow for equity: Every child -- regardless of where they live -- will be able to receive a quality education. If elected, I would like to concentrate on closing the academic achievement gap that exists.

Some have said that good educational practices -- not new or like-new buildings -- create good students. What would you change about the way students are educated in Duluth?

As previously stated, some of our buildings were in really bad shape. It is difficult for learning to take place when a classroom is cold or too hot, or smells bad. The learning environment is crucial. The long-range facility plan is about providing our students with safe, energy-efficient and state of the art classrooms. Good educational practices within ISD 709 are on-going.

Why should someone vote for you?

I have dedicated a large part of my life to serving the Duluth children, parents and others. I believe education is important, that we are doing a good job but can do better. I believe every child deserves an equitable and quality education and I would like to continue to serve to assure that that happens and that we eliminate the achievement gap.

Tom Kasper

First, can you please tell us about your educational background, work experience and any other experience relevant to serving on the Duluth School Board?

I am a 1979 graduate of Bismarck High School in Bismarck North Dakota. I Graduated from North Dakota State University in Fargo North Dakota with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture. For the past fifteen years I have worked for the City of Duluth in Park Maintenance. During my fifteen years I have worked on numerous projects throughout our community that have helped make Duluth a great place to live and work. I have served on numerous Community-minded organizations including The Duluth Garden Flower Society, Helping Hands of Youth, Bentleyville, Eastern Little League, Congdon Park Cub Scouts, and the Congdon Park School Foundation.

What are your intentions regarding the school district's long range facilities plan?

A total of $296,000,000 in bonds has been sold, and I am told the money is in the bank. Millions of dollars in contracts have been awarded and to back out of them may be costly. So, significant altering of the plan may be difficult except for where projects have not yet been started. However, if elected, I will work very hard to insure that nothing like this ever happens again.

The voters should have been asked through a referendum if they support a project of this size. And if they didn't, the District should have developed a plan they would support.

Some have said that good educational practices -- not new or like-new buildings -- create good students. What would you change about the way students are educated in Duluth?

Well-supported teachers educate students, not buildings. I believe by reducing class sizes and providing teachers with the instruction and support they deserve, we will see kids of all walks of life excel. As long as our buildings are safe, healthy, welcoming and technologically up to date we will see successful students. I would work to reduce class sizes and provide teachers with the support they deserve.

Why should someone vote for you?

I have a proven record of working with diverse groups of people to attain a goal. I am a person who listens and would work very hard to represent students, parents, staff, and voters of ISD 709 equally. I will not put the needs of a few over the needs of many.

Nancy Nilsen

First, can you please tell us about your educational background, work experience and any other experience relevant to serving on the Duluth School Board?

Bachelors of Business Administration with Minors in Mathematics and Economics, Masters of Business Administration. I have 28 years of business experience with which to draw upon when dealing with the financial matters. I was the Chair of the School Board, Chair of the Education Committee, and Clerk of the Board.

What are your intentions regarding the school district's long range facilities plan?

I support the Long Range Facilities Plan. Consolidation of facilities is necessary for better programming opportunities. The LRFP provides equity across our city, upgrades dilapidated buildings, provides better security, cleaner air, and upgraded technology. All of this will help children learn better and our city prosper.

Some have said that good educational practices -- not new or like-new buildings -- create good students. What would you change about the way students are educated in Duluth?

I would work to provide more continuity of programs between elementary, middle and high school. Other priorities: Provide more educational opportunities to the teachers to keep their skills current on the available technology with which information can be disseminated. Continue the modifications to the math program that have been started. Start a review of the sciences.

Why should someone vote for you?

People should vote for me because of my desire and commitment to provide our youth with the best educational opportunities available at an affordable price for our community members. I have proven my commitment by chairing a Referendum Committee and serving on the school board for the past four years.

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