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Voter's Guide: Brainerd School District

Brainerd School Board Member (Elect 3) Matthew Avery Age: 34. Occupation: Owner of Avery Construction LLC. Public office experience: None. What do you want to accomplish if elected? To ensure students get a diverse education in a safe environment...

Tiffanie Knapp
Tiffanie Knapp

Brainerd School Board Member (Elect 3)

Matthew Avery

Age: 34.

Occupation: Owner of Avery Construction LLC.

Public office experience: None.

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What do you want to accomplish if elected? To ensure students get a diverse education in a safe environment that'll give them more post-secondary options. I want to shift focus away from standardized testing, having multiple means to measure success, and make sure decisions are financially responsible, especially when taxpayers entrusted us with almost $150M in taxpayer dollars.

Specifically, how would you accomplish your goals? I want to hire more teachers and support staff to ensure that class sizes remain low and children are not forgotten. I plan to reinvigorate our technical and trades classes with dedicated career paths. The construction industry will account for a third of all new jobs through the year 2022. Lastly, I want to encourage dialogue with teachers, staff and the community for their input. I will work with other members of the board to ensure that all of our stakeholders are heard and our children and their future are taken care of.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? As a parent of five children that attend school in the district, spanning grades 1-10, I'm uniquely qualified, as I experience all levels of our education system. As a business owner, I have the fiscal responsibility to oversee and understand budgets, understand the need to work with partners to accomplish goals, the importance of long-term visions, and the need for transparency with stakeholders. I will bring fresh perspective to the board. I served our country for 10 years in the U.S. Army and in Afghanistan. Now I want to serve our local community as your newest school board member.

Charles Black Lance

Age: 46.

Occupation: Central Lakes College.

Public office experience: Cass County Economic Development Corp. board of directors, ISD 181 district advisory committee, American Indian Parent Advisory Committee, Community Education advisory council.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? Strengthen the district's ability to meet educational needs, create a safe and effective learning environment, support best teaching practices, recruit and retain exceptional staff, address student emotional and mental health concerns, promote fiscal responsibility, and ensure strong educational value to taxpayers. I'll strengthen the relationship between the district and public.

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Specifically, how would you accomplish your goals? Build a healthy relationship with the superintendent, teachers, staff, administrators and community members based on respect, transparency and a joint commitment to student success. Identify primary issues affecting school success, curriculum, staffing and budgeting. Utilize school-based and student-centered data to inform districtwide decisions, financial planning and good financial decision-making. Promote continuous district improvement, professional development, high expectations for student achievement, quality instruction and define clear strategies to achieve these goals. Strengthen and build the school district's capacity to implement a fiscally responsible approach to providing comprehensive mental health support services and prevention programs.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I have 20 years of professional experience leading academic support programs and managing financial budgets within an educational institution as well as 19 years of experience serving on governing boards for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. I have three children enrolled in the district, ages 11, 9 and 7. I am able to navigate the challenging dynamics found within a large school district and I understand current educational challenges and opportunities that exist within ISD 181. Currently, I serve on the Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center Board of Directors, YMCA Board of Directors and the Initiative Foundation Board of Trustees.

Jeff Czeczok

Age: 55.

Occupation: Disabled American.

Public office experience: Brainerd Transportation Advisory Committee since 1996, currently serve as chairman; airport commission since 2012; Brainerd Charter Commission since 2015, currently serve as chairman; Brainerd's Walkable Bikeable Committee from 2013-16; Brainerd's Facilities Committee since 2016.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? Provide a true education for all students while staying within budgets, recognizing taxpayers pay the bills. Bring thorough transparency to ISD 181. The Open Meeting Law isn't always properly followed, and recently Minnesota Election Laws haven't been followed.

Advocate for providing voters all public documents related to school board business.

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Specifically, how would you accomplish your goals? As a single voice/vote I can only try to respectfully influence other members to use discretion when spending taxpayers' money. I will always ask questions and do additional research beyond the information provided. I will speak out when proper procedures aren't being followed. I will encourage administration, via the school board, to provide all public data for all school board meetings. I will encourage parents and voters to become involved in ISD1 81 business and how their children are being educated within the district. I will respond to all tax-paying parental concerns, even those that disagree with me.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? For over 20 years I have served the public in many capacities as an appointed official. It is essential that local units of government acknowledge the fact that the public deserves to know what their local governments are doing. I am well-versed on the Open Meeting Law and the Minnesota Data Practice Laws. School board members should have the moral courage and fortitude to challenge the district administration when directed to ignore the rules and laws governing them. I hold myself accountable to the public because it is their children and their money at stake, not the district's.

Tom Haglin

Age: Did not respond.

Occupation: Owner of LINDAR Corp., Avantech and Tri-Ven.

Public office experience: Nine years on the Brainerd School Board.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? Continue to oversee completion of our four-year long-range facility building projects. Continue to work for greater education outcomes for our students by enhanced staff development and methods. Strengthen our financial performance and budget by student growth through positive outcomes, and elimination and reduction of cost through continuous improvement opportunities.

Specifically, how would you accomplish your goals? As a member of the oversight committee, I'm familiar with the buildings' progress and can help maintain our timelines and budget to honor what our community has allowed. We're fortunate with such a dedicated, experienced staff that give so much for our students. I will make sure we provide them the tools and resources the best we can so our students have the greatest opportunity to succeed. Financial planning both short and long term must be adhered to and well thought out. With the financial resources we have, we must be good stewards with our tax dollars and work hard to improve our systems.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition. Why are you the best candidate for the job? As a successful business owner, our success has been centered around strategic planning with focus on accomplishing goals. These same methods are useful in carrying out the success of our school district so we can collectively achieve our desired goals for our students, staff and community. My understanding of finances, leadership and management and systems approach will allow for continued success with the district.

Tiffanie Knapp

Age: 42.

Occupation: Homemaker, substitute teacher, middle school Nordic ski assistant coach.

Public office experience: None.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? I love growth. Care in my garden when plants are small yields greater harvest. Similarly, I want to provide the best education for each student. Feeding innate giftings and passions, providing safe, loving learning environments and helping students become their individual best will reap a harvest in our community's future.

Specifically, how would you accomplish your goals? I believe the key to maximizing our resources within the school district is to listen to stakeholders such as parents, teachers, community members and our children. Using that feedback and testing data we should increase our investment in thriving areas while truthfully and humbly seeking new ways to improve areas that could be working better. My experience is that the best student growth comes through relationships built with passionate teachers. I have met many within our district, and I believe they hold the keys to increased student success and excellence. I am committed to listening, learning and our students.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I am passionate about kids. I am truthful and I listen, humbly admitting my mistakes or when I need to learn more. I have children in three schools in the district, volunteer in classrooms, serve on PTAs and the District Advisory Committee. I am analytical and think outside the box. When a solution seems unreachable I often have ideas that move conversations forward. I take seriously the incredible charge to make the best use of taxpayer money entrusted to the district. Logic and common sense should govern decisions. I care deeply about the future of our children and our community.

Ruth Nelson

Age: 60.

Occupation: Lindner Media Productions.

Public office experience: Brainerd School Board member for 12 years, current board chair.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? The board just completed creating three goals for our superintendent/district to focus on. I want to support these goals: continuing to improve educational outcomes for our students; overseeing the construction process to assure timely completion and minimal impact for our students; and creating a sustainable and balanced budget.

Specifically, how would you accomplish your goals? The above goals work together to create a district that supports our students and provides the best educational outcomes possible.The board works as a team to support/approve best practice instructional models. We need to continue to move to 1-to-1 technology to enhance personalized learning providing each student what they need to become a successful adult. We need to inform the public that Brainerd Public Schools offers a great and comprehensive education for their children. I'm also on the project oversight committee for the building project where I provide input and keep the board abreast of decisions being made.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? My 12 years of experience on the board is very important right now because we have a fairly new administrative staff. I have a degree from the University of Minnesota in business and work experience that provides me with strong financial background to make budgetary decisions. Most essentially, I'm passionate about quality education and will support decisions that improve the outcomes for all our students. Also, I have two children that graduated from the district and have been involved in various capacities from PTA president to currently being board chair, reflecting my commitment to Brainerd Public Schools and our community.

Sarah Speer

Age: 43.

Occupation: Marketing and public relations manager at Sourcewell.

Public office experience: No formal elected offices, but honored to serve the community through various boards and committees such as the Crow Wing Energized Community Leadership Team, Brainerd Business Council and other community groups.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? Brainerd is known for exceptional public education. The district worked to gather staff, community and professional input and expertise to shape a comprehensive vision for the future. I want to continue to help communicate the vision and be a representative, sensible voice for the community as expectations evolve.

Specifically, how would you accomplish your goals? School board members are called to help create, support, communicate and be held accountable to a vision. I welcome the challenge and commend the current team for painting a clear picture of our district's future. I am invested in public education, trusted and able to make difficult decisions, and conscientious about fiscal responsibility. As a board member I would take personally that we are the district's direct connection to the community, we are respectful of what taxpayers can afford, and we are trusted to research and be informed about issues, decisions and impacts on students and learning.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition. Why are you the best candidate for the job? More than 20 years professional experience in media, education and marketing results in exceptional planning, communication and collaboration skills. As a leader, I manage staff, budgets and outcomes-understanding the important balancing act to keep those components working as a connected system for organizational success. I am passionate about our community and supporting the work of many to make Brainerd a great place to raise a family through volunteering on boards, committees and at events. With two children in the district, I see the direct impacts of leadership decisions and committed staff and teachers to make this district extraordinary.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2018
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