Herald Journal - Voters' Guide '08

Four candidates file for four seats on Delano School Board

Four people have filed for the four open seats on the Delano School Board. All seats are four-year terms.

Both incumbents, Peter Brasket and Sarah Gallagher, have re-filed, as have Amy Johnson and Sam Nelson. Kevin Max and Lorrie Mulholland did not refile.

Candidates were mailed a political questionnaire with the following three questions:

  • Why are you running for office?
  • What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?
  • Why should you be elected?

The following is their responses, found in alphabetical order.

Peter Brasket

Why are you running for office?

I am running for the Delano School Board because I enjoy serving our kids, parents, staff, and district residents.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

A key ongoing issue we’ll continue to address the next four years is how to maintain and improve our high levels of academic excellence against the backdrop of declining state aid, increasing healthcare costs, a difficult economy, and the myriad of Federal and State mandates.

We tackle this issue proactively and on many levels, for example:

• We hire great staff – prospective teachers are observed leading a class lesson with Delano students before selection; administration hires are vetted and selected after involvement from a variety of stakeholders. Delano paras, teachers, custodians, administrative staff, nurses, kitchen staff, and our administrators are excellent, and contribute materially to our academic success.

• We invest in the professional development of our staff – Delano is one of only 39 school districts statewide that has opted into Q-Comp, a program that permits our educators the resources and time to observe and adopt teaching best practices, mentor peers, and be mentored. The result is the opportunity for higher academic achievement, and ever increasing effectiveness within our teaching ranks.

• We budget conservatively – in my five years on the board we’ve steadily improved our fund balance while spending responsibly.

We debate program and staff additions, and frankly decide to forgo many potentially worthy initiatives. This stewardship by the board and our school administration has permitted us to remain a school district of terrific academic results despite ever uncertain state and local funding.

• We are engaged with our staff and teachers union to pursue affordable health care options.

Our district has historically done an excellent job managing our wellness, resulting in relatively low premium increases.

But recent years of double-digit increases have spurred us to adopt a VEBA option (similar to a HSA plan) this year, and to consider alternatives to existing plans.

I am sure this will be an area of greater concern and collaboration in the coming years.

A situational issue we currently face is over-crowding in our schools. Since I joined the school board we’ve added well over 300 students in our district – that’s roughly half a school building.

We haven’t added half-a-school, so all those kids are crammed into our existing infrastructure.

Here’s how we’re addressing that issue:

• First – our principals have been working with (Superintendent) Dr. Sweet, our educators, kitchen staff, and others to maintain our educational and extra-curricular programming in crowded situations.

We’ve had to re-purpose rooms, get very creative on schedules, ultra-streamline our meal delivery, etc. These actions will obviously continue, and we’ll ask for continued updates at every board meeting.

• Secondly – we’ve twice brought building and land referendums to our district voters for help with the overcrowding.

We’ve received community support to acquire land for a new school, and we’ve earned your permission to operationally fund that school when built.

Our residents have approved these two initiatives against the most uncertain economic and financial times in a generation, and for that I sincerely appreciate your support. As eager as we are to ask again for your approval to address our growing enrollment, I personally will not support another referendum initiative for the new school until economic circumstances improve, or until our tactical efforts to address overcrowding become ineffective and threaten our foremost goal of academic excellence.

Why should you be elected?

I think my past performance on the board, dedication to the responsibilities of this elected position, and leadership experience in our district qualify me well for a second elected term.

Having served on the school board for five years – and with the video-recording of school board meetings commencing in 2007 – I hope local residents in the many communities we serve have had an opportunity to observe my board contributions and voting record.

I am accessible to parents, taxpayers, and district employees, and if re-elected will continue to consider all constituents while extending the legacy of academic excellence within the Delano-area public schools system.

Sarah Gallagher

My name is Sarah Gallagher. I am married and have 3 children. We have lived in the Delano school district for 12 years.

My husband and I are both dentists and have a dental practice in Eden Prairie. I have been on the Delano School Board for 4 years.

My focus on the board has always been ‘What is best for the kids.’

I am running for a second term to continue pursuing what is best for the awesome kids and staff in Delano Schools. By working with the board, staff, and community, I will strive to solve the issues of our district.

One priority currently facing Delano schools is overcrowding. Working with the community, it is my hope we will build a 4-6 grade elementary building that will alleviate the crowding the kids and staff experience daily.

World language is another area I would like to continue to see expanded. We are very fortunate to have a Chinese, German and Spanish program in our schools.

Allowing children to have a strong grasp of a world language prior to high school is definitely beneficial to our kids. It will only enhance our strong curriculum.

Community support and involvement is key for either of these initiatives to become a reality. Communication with our community is essential for our strong tradition of excellence to continue.

I am proud to be a member of the Delano school board.

I will continue to be dedicated to the children of District 879 for they deserve the strong public education Delano provides.

Amy Johnson

Why are you running for office?

My husband Gino and I chose to move to Delano because of the excellent reputation of the school district.

While my son Dylan was attending the elementary school, I had the opportunity to volunteer in his classrooms and witness first hand the learning environment and amazing dedication of the teachers and staff.

I decided to run for school board after being involved in the Facility Advisory Committee and the vote yes committee efforts to help pass the school referendums. I wanted to find a way to get involved that would ensure the children of this community continued to receive the same level of academic excellence past generations have received.

In light of our current economic situation, I believe that delivering that promise will become increasingly challenging over the next few years.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

I believe the two top issues facing our school district center around State funding and the current over crowding in our schools.

In regards to state funding, we need to continue to have a voice and partner with organizations such as Schools for Equity in Education (SEE) to raise our concerns and educate our community members about how our schools are funded.

Without changes to the state funding budget, we face the risk of being burdened with additional taxes in order to maintain educational excellence. I want our taxpayers to understand this risk.

The other issue I highlighted is the current over-crowding in our schools. As the community has grown we have seen an increase in the number of students in all our schools.

This year the growth leveled off, as predicted, due to the Highway 12 and other neighboring construction projects. Unfortunately, the previous years of growth left us over-capacity and out of space.

As a school district, we need to continue to work with the administration of all three schools to find creative ways to deliver academic excellence under the current facility challenges until the time is right to move forward with construction of the additional school building that will help to alleviate the space concerns.

Why should you be elected?

I have a passion for education and want to be a part of delivering academic excellence to the students of this community.

I have worked for Best Buy Corporation over the past 10 years in various Supply Chain, Operations and Buying positions.

During this time, I had direct P&L management responsibility for categories representing over $1.4 billion in annualized revenue. This has given me the experience needed to deliver results that are fiscally responsible and are in the best interest of the school district.

Sam Nelson

Why are you running for office?

I want to repay in some small manner some of those who served when I was being educated.

As for the local school district I feel not enough Delano residents are represented on the school board.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

Two issues that I feel merit special attention are the full schools and the failures of bond issues necessary to build a new grade 4 - 6 school building which would relieve overcrowding in the high school and allow for new science class rooms and labs to be built.

A partial fix for the overcrowding would be to move administrative offices off-site and devote all space to students and staff.

The two newly purchased properties just west of Tiger Drive could become offices, as could space in the current Community Ed building.

I do not know when would be a good time to try to get a bond proposal approved – but it needs to get done if we are to get the new school.

Why should you be elected?

We have a great school system here in Delano with a great complement of teachers and staff.

I would like to contribute to the success of this great school. I ask for your vote on November 4.