Election 2008 discussion: Northfield School Board – candidates and issues


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m told that other school board candidates will soon have sites/blogs up. If you’re a candidate or a supporter, let us know with a comment here.

    September 14, 2008
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Rob Hardy has a blog post that includes his thinking on WYTIWYG (what you test is what you get.)

    I can understand why Obama emphasized the economic utility of education in a speech delivered in struggling Dayton. We need useful skills in order to feed our families. But we also need the “useless” arts in order to feed our souls. And to keep ourselves from becoming slaves and robots.

    FYI, Rob’s the only active blogger candidate thus far.

    September 14, 2008
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Kevin Budig has emailed me about his school board campaign blog:

    I’ve updated the link in the blog post, including a different photo.

    September 18, 2008
  4. Rob Hardy said:

    One of the issues that concerns me is the apparent need for more classroom space at the elementary school level. There was a story about this issue in the Northfield News back in late June. The story mentions that the school board was interested in exploring four options: “refitting the middle school to house the fifth grade, leasing space in existing community buildings for school programs, building a large addition to Sibley Elementary, [or] constructing a new elementary school.” The cost range: $135,000 a year for portable classroom space to $11.7 million for a new elementary building. A significant expense in any case. I’d be interested in what people have to say about this issue. Can any current board members weigh in on where things stand? I, personally, am interested in the option of reusing Longfellow School, a building that already contains classroom space and has already undergone renovations.

    September 18, 2008
  5. Curt Benson said:

    I attended the “follow your kid’s schedule around and meet the teachers” event at the High School event on Monday.

    My child’s math teacher raised an issue. She said that the state’s new graduation standards for math require that all students test out at a higher level than before. The new standards include math up to the trig level, IIRC.

    The consequences locally would be that more lower level math classes would have to be added, since all students would need to take more math classes. There would be no choice but to eliminate the higher level math electives. The school would not have the resources to provide those classes.

    It was my impression that this math teacher (and she said everyone in the department was in agreement) believes this is the wrong way to go. Not every student needs math to the trig level, or has the aptitude to succeed at that level. And that it is wrong to eliminate the higher level math electives. (I hope I am communicating this correctly.)

    In any case, this seems like an issue that school board candidates should address. Also, a story or two by a local Rep J or NFN reporter would be appreciated to clarify this.

    September 18, 2008
  6. Rob Hardy said:

    Curt: As I understand it (see the information on math standards available here at the state Department of Education website), all students must have an Algebra I credit by the end of eighth grade, and Algebra II to graduate from high school. The avowed intent of moving the Algebra I requirement to 8th grade (according to the FAQs posted on the DoE website) is to allow students more time in high school to complete Algebra II, and to give them the opportunity “to study more advanced mathematical topics in 12th grade.” I would be interested how the middle school and high school would allocate math courses under this new standard. It seems, on the face of it, that more resources would be needed at the middle school level to get all students through Algebra I by the end of 8th grade. Would there then be the resources left over for those more advanced courses in 12th grade?

    Personally, I don’t see the point of forcing Algebra I on all 8th graders. It seems arbitrary and inflexible and impatient, and insensitive to the different paces at which different students learn. I worry about rushing students, and putting too much pressure on them to meet unrealistically high expectations. Education is not a race.

    I raced through math in high school out of a sense of obligation; I struggled, but I always managed to pull off good grades until I suffered a spectacular collapse in calculus. I’ve forgotten most of the advanced math I ever learned. I would have benefited from more flexibility, more remediation, more emphasis on developing my interest and less pressure to develop skills that were still beyond my grasp.

    September 18, 2008
  7. Jane Moline said:

    Good thoughts, Rob.

    September 18, 2008
  8. Learning math isn’t all about learning math. It it is a tool to show the mind how to organize and move from step to logical step in the problem solving mode. It is what we do best as humans, solve problems.

    This is only true when we do not run after money and power and others to solve our problems for us. It is only true when we realize necessity is the mother of invention, not money, not politicians. If we continue to throw blame around and then money after blame, we will still have kids who haven’t learned much beyond how to take dollar bills and coins from McDonald’s cash drawers according to the numbers at the top of the register.

    I taught school and I know that it doesn’t take a lot of money to teach kids. It takes a lot of money to pay people more money. The real issue is not education, but how much money educators think they need.

    Our forefathers and mothers taught kids in one room buildings with little else than a few books and a burning wood stove. Look around at these beautiful schools most kids now attend. And for some reason, learning cannot go on here, to where kids can come out reading at a grammar school level and do a few simple math problems of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Come on. Send your kids over to me and by the end of the year, I’ll have them balancing your check book and reading over mortgage contracts accurately. My fee, priceless.

    My vote, Peter Millin, it should be Peter, one in a Million!

    September 18, 2008
  9. Peter Millin said:

    My children s schedule is pretty full already, trying to add more to it doesn’t make any sense. Higher math should be reserved for higher education tailored to the specific field of study.

    We should support those who want to go to college, but we also need to include those who don’t necessarily end up in college.

    Maybe it’s the German in me that doesn’t believe all students have to go to college, but I think there is good futures in a trade as well.

    In Canada for example you have the choice as a student to either get an “Academic” high school diploma, which is geared towards those that want to pursue college. Or you can chose the “regular” degree that is geared towards those who have plans to go in to a trade.

    On needing more class rooms. It’s very simple, we do what we can afford with the money that we have.

    September 18, 2008
  10. Holly Cairns said:

    Curt said

    It was my impression that this math teacher (and she said everyone in the department was in agreement) believes this is the wrong way to go. Not every student needs math to the trig level, or has the aptitude to succeed at that level. And that it is wrong to eliminate the higher level math electives. (I hope I am communicating this correctly.)

    Interesting. I like the tougher standards, and I wish we went back to using the colleges more… at least we didn’t seem to have as many AP classes in town when I went to NHS. Why not use the colleges? I know teachers advocated for more choice at NHS, even offering to hold AP classes before school started (this was in the ’80’s) but… if we’re down financially, why not use the colleges? If transportation is an issue, I wonder how much that would cost to fix.

    What is more expensive, AP classes, or classes at Olaf and Carleton…

    September 18, 2008
  11. Patrick Enders said:

    What has been the history of interaction between the school district and the colleges?

    The best thing that ever happened to me in my primary education was that I took an accelerated math course on Saturday mornings run by two motivated/dedicated university professors. We covered all four years of high school math in two years. But it was a course specifically for junior high/high school students, not a true college course.

    The thing is, that math program was something that families had to pay for out of pocket, and the high school’s attitude towards it was an at-times hostile one.

    September 18, 2008
  12. Curt Benson said:

    Rod, thanks for providing the appropriate information above.

    The teacher who pointed out this issue did not suggest a remedy, But since it is a state mandate, it makes sense to talk to Dahle and Bly about this. I sent them emails asking them to chime in here.

    September 18, 2008
  13. Curt Benson said:

    Sorry Rob, I know it’s Rob, not Rod. (I blame my inadequate public school education, heh.)

    September 18, 2008
  14. Rob Hardy said:

    Holly and Patrick: Northfield High School students can enroll in college courses through a program known as the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO). I believe that, at St. Olaf and Carleton, this option is limited to high school seniors. There’s more information at the high school guidance office webpage on College Credit Opportunities. My experience with PSEO has been limited to my work as a tutor for homeschoolers in the Twin Cities, who often take PSEO classes at the U of M.

    I think that Carleton, at any rate, may become more active in offering opportunities for local high school students as it develops its Academic Civic Engagement program. Yes, the resources are there, and should be explored.

    Rob Hardy for School Board

    September 18, 2008
  15. Peter Millin said:

    Bright wrote:

    My vote, Peter Millin, it should be Peter, one in a Million!

    Thanks for the endorsement, but my chances to get on the school board is like ” a snowball in hell”.

    It does however is a great learning experience and I will use for the next time around.

    Thanks again.

    September 18, 2008
  16. Holly Cairns said:

    Rob, my Hannah didn’t make it into the college class she asked for (and then didn’t think to ask for another). She’s been successful at taking the AP exam and earning college credit for classes like AP Stats, though.

    I used the PSEO option in the ’80’s, but now I don’t think it is as easy, nor can you take a lot of classes.


    September 18, 2008
  17. David Bly said:

    (Please excuse my long post.) I find the web conversation on math standards interesting. I have been hearing about these standards from math teachers, in my House District. Many of their comments are echo these excerpts from the Statement of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics regarding Minnesota Mathematics Academic Standards

    “We respect the hard work contributed by the members of the Academic Standards Committee. Nevertheless, we have serious concerns with the standards proposed by the committee. These concerns include:

    “· Many of the skills identified in the standards, particularly in grades K-8, are placed at a grade level where it is unrealistic to expect mastery by the vast majority of students. This is extremely important as the new standards will define the assessments used to meet the testing requirements of “No Child Left Behind”.

    “· The proposed standards do not reflect best practices found in the current research on students’ learning of mathematics.

    “· The basic skills defined in these documents are necessary but not sufficient for today’s needs.
    “· The proposed standards are uneven and lack integration and coordination within and across grade levels.
    “· The proposed standards return us to a superficial learning of mathematics characterized by Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) as an approach to mathematics that is a “mile-wide and an inch deep”.

    “· The proposed standards are lists of disconnected and isolated skills that leave students unprepared for further education and eventual workplace uses of mathematics.

    “Minnesota citizens have already invested 175 million dollars in the development of its current standards (Star Tribune, March 16, 2003). Local school districts have invested additional millions in the implementation of these standards. Since this document will provide direction for all Minnesota students for years to come, it is important that the product continue the good work already occurring in Minnesota classrooms. It must also provide a scaffold for mathematics learning that will be broadly supported by all stakeholders.

    “Having invested a significant amount of time and money in the creation of the existing Frameworks standards and corresponding Mathematics Benchmarks, the state of Minnesota would be demonstrating fiscal responsibility by utilizing those resources. In addition, Minnesota students are doing well in mathematics. It seems inadvisable to start over.”

    I have had several conversations with Rep. Carlos Mariani, Chair of the House Education Committee about the Math standards and how we ought to proceed. He is a good listener and has shown an interest in discussing how to shape the standards in the best interests of students.

    There is bi-partisan support for looking carefully at the adverse effects of the No Child Left Behind Act and how it has shaped public education in Minnesota. We have learned that there is not agreement on what is best for students even among researchers and specialists.

    The conversation seems to echo what I have seen as the long standing debate between Progressive Educators (like John Dewey, Herb Kohl, John Holt, Alfie Kohn, Jonathan Kozol and Deborah Meier) and what might be called more classical educators (like Diane Ravitch, Edward L. Thorndike, E.D. Hirsch and others). Much of the debate focuses on developing systems that allow and support students to discover their strengths and interests as opposed to systems that shape students learning toward desired results. It is also influenced by basic beliefs about intelligence and theories about learning, equality and fairness as well as, weighing the needs of society against the needs of individuals.

    I will identify myself as a progressive educator and would say that most of our systems do not reflect my core beliefs but the majority of policy makers do not share my perspective. That doesn’t stop me from participating in the conversation and trying to create some balance.

    However, the legislature as a body does not allow much opportunity for such lofty debates and for the most part we debate policies that come before us without examining deeply the source or the implications of the theories behind them.

    The public wants accountability both in what their tax dollars are spent on and what their children learn. I believe all legislators want students to be challenged and to develop to the best of their abilities. I think they also see the value in an educated workforce and want the system to run as efficiently as it can. We are not united in our beliefs about public vs private systems but share a commitment that at least our constitution tells us we must provide education to our young people.

    I think what ever accountability system we develop it should aim at continuous improvement of the system to assure high quality but should not standardize the system so that it can’t respond to individual needs and desires. The current system I believe fails miserably at this. It is a laudable goal to assure all students succeed in school but I believe a system that encouraged administrators and educators to gain the skills of continuous improvement would go much further toward making this happen.

    Finally, I would add that as a nation, we would have more wisely spent the many dollars we have spent on “No Child Left Behind” so far by investing in comprehensive early childhood programs aimed at those families that struggle the most to succeed in our society.

    September 18, 2008
  18. David Bly said:


    A slight correction on PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Options) a program started during the Perpich administration. This program allows students to enroll in classes at public post secondary institutions. Carleton and St. Olaf have allowed Northfield High School students who show they have the ability to attend classes. I do not know the details of the arrangements they make with students but they are not reimbursed by the state the way public institutions are.

    September 18, 2008
  19. Patrick Enders said:

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts and insights!

    September 18, 2008
  20. Rob Hardy said:

    Thanks, David.

    September 18, 2008
  21. Holly Cairns said:

    oh, thanks David

    September 18, 2008
  22. Peter Millin said:

    Thank you David for your insight, much appreciated.

    What is your position of providing an alternate academic route for students that don’t necessarily want to go to college and rather learn a trade?

    I know that Minnesota is providing apprenticeship style opportunities in certain trades. Which is a good step because we need more good trades people.
    It fills a need and doesn’t burden people with huge college loans. Let’s face it college is not for everybody.

    September 18, 2008
  23. David Bly said:

    Peter –
    Sorry it has taken me awhile to get back to you on this my campaign keeps me from spending much time online.

    Last year I started working on a bill that would try to address this in a more comprehensive way. Because, I believe this issue is bigger than might first appear. I am concerned about the direction the standardization of our education system is taking us because I think it encourages one path – making the assumption that all benefit from the college prep track and I don’t think that is necessarily true.

    I value my liberal arts education and think the liberal arts are important but that type of education is not for everyone. I think an error of the past is that assumptions have been made that promoted racism and support class distinctions and put one type of education above another and I do not want to encourage that. But in my teaching and learning I have learned that regardless of class and race students have different interests and tendencies. We sell them short when we either track them based on what we think is best or if we exclude one type of learning because it is deemed less important than another.

    I believe that the industrial arts are as critical to our society as the creative arts and the art of science and the pursuit of basic knowledge is as critical as abstract knowledge but not for every individual. I think there is a reason that our species produces young people with different skills and propensities and when we school it out of them in pursuit of valuing one type of standardized learning over others we are in error.

    That is not to say there should not be effort to provide a basic education or set of skills. But to establish beyond that – a set of knowledge that all must learn and then forget once they are out of school seems absurd. To say nothing of the shaming and ridicule that is attached to those who just don’t find the full curriculum interesting or relevant. We do not have to train everyone to be a chemical engineer.

    So my recommendation is really to learn to teach the brain, offer multiple experiences intellectual and motor not looking for proficiency as much as interest. Offer time in classes as early as makes sense in skill development in a variety of areas and make connections to work and career as positive and fulfilling not one choice being lesser than another. Such as Malcolm X reported experiencing when he said he wanted to be a lawyer and his teacher told him ‘the best a colored person should strive for is to be a carpenter’ thus devaluing a black person and a skilled trade in the same breath. Now I don’t think things as blatant as this necessarily happen today but they happen in subtle ways. Educators should be careful not to promote these kinds of prejudiced messages and be trained to recognize and encourage a wide variety of skills beyond the basic skills of reading, speaking, writing and math.

    The original idea behind the PSEO legislation that has been mentioned in this track served to interest college bound students in higher education and to get started but also to keep kids in school as opposed to dropping out due to lack of interest. This is why Alternative schools, established as part of the High School Graduation Incentives Programs, utilized PSEO to encourage students to attend trade and vocational schools while in High School they would stay enrolled and get their High School diplomas.

    I think students who are ready to move on to other kinds of learning should have the opportunity to do so by 10th grade. We should make sure we have programs for them and also have programs for those students who are not ready and need high school for the time it takes them to figure that out. School should offer them not only information and skills for work but the experience of self discovery they need to answer the questions that help prepare them for adult life and participation in our democracy. That is not to say there are not students who will need what current high schools offer to get ready for a rigorous college experience as well but not all students need or want that.

    Many schools say it is their aim to prepare students for life and good citizenship but the regime of tests and the high attention to information and certain kinds of knowledge distracts them from attending to these goals.

    A number of years ago I had a conversation with Don Glines, a futurist educator who started his own public school (The Wilson School in Mankato) in the ‘60s based on the idea of letting students choose what they wanted to study. He offered serious research that showed that this type of school produced the best results. He believed that the best thing that could happen to American education is that the walls of the schools would fall away and as soon as they were ready students would be encouraged to learn in communities and the world to do the work that needs to be done. Students would find challenges that suited them and get busy meeting those challenges and contributing to society.

    I can’t say that he’s right but there is something about his idea that seems very attractive, as I talk to students who seem turned off by school and get very engaged in life once they have a job that means something to them.

    But Peter and others – I would be very interested to hear what your ideas are on this subject. I am sure it is something we will be talking about in the legislature for years to come and hearing your thoughts and experiences would be most enlightening.

    September 21, 2008
  24. Peter Millin said:


    Thank you for your response. It is good to see that some consideration is given to this issue.

    Referring back to my own education in Germany I think that a change to the concept might be too radical for the USA.
    In Germany the minimum school requirement is 9 years, after which you have the choice to continue to high school up to the 12th grade.
    If Academia is not your desire you can chose at that point to learn a trade. The apprenticeship takes three years. During that time you are required to go to a vocational type school, either once a week or in a 9 week block.
    The rest of the time you spend working at your chosen trade. Their are some regulation in place for the employer that define your hours of work, wages and areas of knowledge you need to require.
    This might be to radical of a change for us, but maybe we could adept some of it to fit our needs.

    If we stay within the current high school format, we have to make sure to establish a minimum requirement. This would give those , that don’t want to go the academic route, a chance to go to college later if they change their mind.
    Canada unfortunately has decided to keep those two very separated. Which means that those who have chosen the “industrial path” are now forced to go back to high school if they want to go to college.

    September 22, 2008
  25. Griff Wigley said:

    Ellen Iverson emailed about her new website. I’ve added her photo and link to the blog post.

    September 23, 2008
  26. Patrick Enders said:

    I have a basic question:
    What is the structure of the school board election? I can’t seem to find an answer on any of the appropriate web sites.

    October 5, 2008
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    Good question, Patrick. It would seem that both the School District and the LWV web sites would have this info but I can’t find it either.

    Vote for one? Vote for four? Beats me!

    October 6, 2008
  28. Rob Hardy said:

    I’ve looked for this information online, too. I called Donita Delzer at the school district office, and she said that the ballot will allow you to vote for four candidates.

    October 6, 2008
  29. Patrick Enders said:


    October 6, 2008
  30. katy hargis said:

    Griff, I don’t have a website, but folks can leave a message on my email with questions or comments.

    October 13, 2008
  31. Griff Wigley said:

    Hi Katy, welcome aboard.

    Actually we’re not going to ask people to email you questions. The discussion is going to happen right here in this thread. Watch for questions from me, Ross and Tracy first.

    October 14, 2008
  32. Griff Wigley said:

    School board candidates, I’d like to have you give us some of your thinking about charter schools.  

    The Northfield School District currently is the sponsor for two charter schools, Prairie Creek and ARTech.   It axed its sponsorship of the Village School a couple years ago.  The Cannon River STEM School (CRSS) was recently approved for a charter but the Northfield School District is NOT the sponsor.

    • Would you have preferred to have been the sponsor for STEM?
    • Do you support the District’s decision to not renew sponsorship of the Village School?
    • How do charter schools fit with your overall philosophy of public education?
    • Do you have concerns about the impact of local charter schools on the District’s finances since the PPA follows the student?

    No need to answer any or all of these questions. Chime in as you see fit. See the Guidelines for more or contact me if you have questions.

    October 14, 2008
  33. Rob Hardy said:

    First of all, Griff and Tracy and Ross, thanks for setting up this discussion forum.

    In general, I am a firm supporter of charter schools, and I think Northfield has two excellent examples. Prairie Creek has a long tradition of excellence, and after five years in existence ARTech continues to build on a solid foundation and fill an important role in the community. Not all students are alike, and not all thrive in the more traditional learning environment of the public schools. ARTech’s project-based learning approach is well-suited to the educational needs of certain students.

    October 14, 2008
  34. katy hargis said:

    As folks might or might not know, I am a very strong believer in charter schools in general and their ability to respond to students needs more quickly than the public schools. However, I believe that we have a responsibility to the district as well and most importantly to the children to see that the schools are fiscally fit, safe and are educating our children. School districts can and should not be afraid to learn from our charter schools and vice a versa. In terms of the Village School, I feel we as a board made the right decision and I have no regrets about terminating our sponsorship with them. Just because it is a charter school-it is also not carte blanche sponsorship-it comes with responsibilities.

    I should say that my youngest children go to Prairie Creek and we love it. My boys went to Greenvale and my daughter went to St. Dominics. They al have flaws and they all are great schools–we have a great opportunity in Northfield to have choice.

    October 14, 2008
  35. Peter Millin said:

    The deciding factor on charter schools should be their ability in producing results.A clear cut measurement of this depends on which publications you read.

    Opinions and results vary widely on their ability to provide better or equal results when compared to public schools. I think a lot depends of it depends more on the individual teacher then necessarily on the type of school.

    I also believe that not every child learns the same way and not every child will do well in a strict academic setting.
    We should acknowledge this and provide alternatives to those students and maybe charter schools could fill that role.

    In short I will support all options that further our cause of providing a good education and make us more competitive in a global market.

    October 14, 2008
  36. Tracy Davis said:

    Thanks, everyone, for participating. I’ll follow up Griff’s question with an additional inquiry about educational alternatives.

    1. How do you think the school district is doing in its relationship with students and families who homeschool?

    2. How easy or difficult is it for homeschooling families to access district programs?

    3. Do you identify any weaknesses or problem areas that should be addressed in the district’s approach to homeschooling?

    Thank you!

    October 15, 2008
  37. Rob Hardy said:

    Hi, Tracy! I’m quite interested in homeschooling. My own children are not homeschooled, but I’ve worked as a tutor for homeschoolers, and have come away from the experience very supportive of homeschooling as an option for some highly-motivated and self-directed students and their families. My favorite homeschooler, who is like a daughter to me, is now a National Merit Scholar at Macalester.

    The district website has homeschooling information available here. Families are able, for example, to borrow textbooks for use in homeschooling. But I know that one of the difficulties that some homeschoolers have faced is access to proper lab equipment and space for sciences like biology and chemistry.

    In the Twin Cities, I worked with a homeschooling cooperative that pooled resources to hire teachers in subjects like chemistry (I taught writing and ancient history for the cooperative), and perhaps in Northfield there are resources available through the colleges. In the Cities, homeschoolers have also formed homeschool theater companies, and have sent large groups each summer to NBTSC (Not Back to School Camp), an end-of-summer camp for “unschoolers.” There seems to be a thriving culture of homeschooling in Minnesota. There is also a state-wide organization, the Minnesota Homeschoolers’ Alliance to support homeschoolers.

    I would, of course, love to hear from Northfielders involved in homeschooling to learn what concerns they have, and what support they feel they need. And I’m still available if anyone wants to learn Latin!

    October 15, 2008
  38. Peter Millin said:

    Can’t say that I know much about home schooling. If it produces competitive students that can function well in society I am all for it.

    October 15, 2008
  39. Kevin Budig said:

    I have mixed feelings about Charter Schools. In some instances I feel they are beneficial to students whom may struggle in a “traditional” setting. But I also feel there needs to be measurable results and accountability from Charter Schools particularly when sponsored by the public school system.

    I support the decision to “not” sponsor the Village School.
    The Prairie Creek School seems to function well and friends whom had children there have good things to day about it.
    I see ARTech as a school that is pretty narrow in it’s focus. That maybe the wrong viewpoint but from discussions with parents and students whom attend that is the impression I get. Is that a good thing? Does it provide a comprehensive education? It maybe the place for some kids as I believe we often try to fit the “round” peg in the “square” hole in Public Education. Kids learn differently, some need alternative methods and we need to make sure these methods are available.

    As for Homeschooling, I will state that I often wish we had done that or should I say, had the ability to do so with our children. I know a number of families that home school their kids and for the most part they are well educated and well rounded. The opportunities are available for these students to be involved and participate in Public School activities as they should be able to as they pay taxes also.

    October 15, 2008
  40. I think one of the real strengths of Northfield are the many options for educational settings for our children. I believe the district’s relationship with both Prairie Creek and Artech have been positive. Autonomy is one of the opportunities and challenges of charter schools. I think Diane Cirksena’s comments on Northfield.org about the role of the school board in being vigilant to see that the mission of the charter is being implemented is well put. Minnesota’s history of charter schools supports these conclusions.

    I think home schooling is another option that Northfield supports. I firmly believe that all parents home school…for my kids it starts at 3pm. I have several close friends in Northfield that have chosen at different points in the children’s education to home school all day and found the community supportive and the experience rewarding. It is my understanding from talking with current board members that the district has allowed home schooled students to participate as partial days in the schools for classes such as lab science and the music program. However, I am not sure how many students have had this arrangement. The local community also provides great opportunities for students through organizations such as the Northfield Arts Guild.

    October 15, 2008
  41. Ross Currier said:

    The tone of Griff’s messages prodding us to ask questions of the School Board candidates has gotten increasingly harsh.

    Well okeh then, here is my (rather predictable) question:

    Will you do the arithmetic on the impact of a referendum not only on a per $100,000 value of a residential property calculation but also on the per $100,000 value of a commercial property calculation before making your decision to initiate a referendum and then acknowledge, through your public statement, that impact?

    October 16, 2008
  42. Rob Hardy said:

    Ross: I would, of course, want to be absolutely clear and up front about the tax impact of a referendum on all classes of taxpayer. My understanding is that a school operating levy referendum is calculated on “referendum market value” (RMV), which doesn’t distinguish between residential and commercial properties. But, yes, it should be absolutely clear to both business owners and homeowners what the total tax implications of a levy referendum will be. If I’m elected, this is something I will study very carefully, so that in the event of a referendum I will be able to explain it fully and clearly to all interested parties.

    October 16, 2008
  43. Felicity Enders said:

    Peter #38 – I’m not clear on your position regarding charter schools. Can you clarify? Thanks.

    October 16, 2008
  44. Peter Millin said:


    Sorry for the confusion.

    If charter schools further the cause of moving our children to a better education I am all for them.

    From what I read their was a few studies done to determine if there is a difference between charter and public schools. The results of those studies are mixed.

    In my opinion there is not much of a case for them or against them.
    From a purely result oriented point of view I don’t see much of a value in them. However I do believe that not all children learn the same.
    My youngest son is a perfect example. He can’t do much with theoretical concepts, but if he can put his hands on something he understands much quicker.

    So I was contemplating if charter schools might be a better choice for him and others like him.

    Did I clear up my position?
    If not, please feel free to ask further questions.

    October 16, 2008
  45. Griff Wigley said:

    This discussion is now open for any citizens to direct questions to any/all of the School Board candidates. (Yes, I know Felicity jumped the gun. She will be punished severely.)

    And candidates, please feel free to interact with other candidates.

    October 17, 2008
  46. Curt Benson said:

    Candidates, what is the role of the school system regarding alcohol and drug abuse education/prevention?

    What do you think of our district’s current efforts in this area?

    October 17, 2008
  47. Anne Maple said:

    I can help you a bit with your concern about property owners being able to calculate the impact of a levy referendum. When the Northfield School District went to the voters in 2006, there was a worksheet on the district website to help property owners figure out their individual tax rate for the levies. That page is no longer on the website; however this year the Osseo School District is running a two-question campaign that is very similar to the 2006 campaign in Northfield. Here is the link for that service.


    Tom Stringer, Business Director of Northfield Schools provided me with this link. I am sure Northfield would provide this tool in the event of any future levy campaign.

    October 17, 2008
  48. Bright Spencer said:

    Forgive me if this question is out of bounds, but I don’t know what the School Board covers in totality; what would you propose to do about a highly ineffective teacher?

    October 17, 2008
  49. Rob Hardy said:

    Bright: The school board has policies and procedures for regular performance reviews of both non-tenured and tenured teachers. Teachers also participate in regular professional development. These things, I think, are best handled by professional staff who have the expertise to intervene in positive and constructive ways to help teachers improve. For probationary teachers, recommendations about tenure, based upon thorough review, are passed along to the school board for approval. I don’t think the school board has the professional expertise to intervene directly, but I think it can certainly express its concern to the proper professional staff.

    There are many reasons a teacher may be ineffective. I know that I am more effective as a teacher in a Carleton classroom with eight highly motivated students than I was in a classroom of 40 students in Minneapolis, where I had to come in before dawn to xerox pages from the textbook (because there weren’t enough to go around) and where some of the students sat on boxes in the back of the classroom (because there weren’t enough desks). I was a more effective teacher as a substitute in Northfield, where I felt like other teachers were looking out for me and helping me along, than I was in other places where I was dropped into a classroom with no support from anyone. Teachers must have the resources and the support they need to be effective, and must feel they belong to a supportive professional community.

    October 17, 2008
  50. Kevin Budig said:

    Response to #51
    “2. It is the schools job to educate, not police students. It is pretty well known we have a problem with drugs in Northfield and Rice County. I believe it is the schools job to educate students on the risks and hazards of drug abuse. But it is the parents who must be involved in their children’s lives and activities. It is not the schools job to raise children, but to teach children. It is the parent’s job to equip their children with the tools and knowledge needed to make the right decisions. As the father of two teen age boys I realize the enormity of this task. But any failure on my part in teaching my children right from wrong and explaining the consequences that leads to failure or the wrong decisions on their part, is my responsibility. The school district needs to have a zero tolerance and allow law enforcement to do their jobs in policing the schools if and when needed. “

    October 17, 2008
  51. Peter Millin said:

    The school already does a good job in educating children on drugs. All of my three children are very much aware of the dangers on drug and alcohol use.
    At home I try to reinforce what the school is teaching.
    None of this is a guarantee that my children will never do drugs or alcohol. We all do the best we can.

    Aside from an open discussion and education on drugs the school has the responsibility to support law enforcement in their efforts.

    A zero tolerance law should be the basis of all actions.
    We have to be tough,vigilant but show support when needed.
    If we really have evidence of wide spread usage I would go as far as supporting occasional random bag and locker checks. Drug sniffing dogs could really have a great impact.
    This might sound radical, but I think Drugs and alcohol are to much of a threat to all children.

    October 17, 2008
  52. Jane McWilliams said:


    Most of the candidate pages also contain answers to questions posed by citizens in addition to their personal statements and links to their websites.

    October 17, 2008
  53. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Jane!  Looks like all School Board candidates but Jeff and Katy have answered these 5 questions on their pages, linked from the bottom of the Northfield.org Elections page:

    •  How would you address the concerns of schools not making “Adequate Yearly Progress” as identified by the No Child Left Behind Act?
    • Although significant budget cuts have been made in the recent past, further cost cuts or additional income might be necessary. How would you approach such a situation?
    • What do you see as particular points of pride in the Northfield Schools?
    • What relationship would you like to see between the district and the two charter schools it sponsors?
    • Both colleges in town have made news as leaders in bringing better –and more locally grown — food to the students’ tables. Do you feel that Northfield’s public schools are doing a good job of providing our children with healthy and smart food choices?

    October 18, 2008
  54. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News has a profile of Anne Maplewho plans to join us here soon!

    My bad. Anne has already commented here. (Someone get me more coffee, puhlease!)

    October 18, 2008
  55. Griff Wigley said:

    Katy, the Nfld News feature on you includes this intro:

    A devil’s advocate and community watchdog. That’s how incumbent school board candidate Katy Hargis describes her role on the Northfield School Board over the last four years. “I don’t want to be a rubber stamp school board member,” Hargis said. “I was elected by the community to help formulate policy and I owe it to the community to ask questions that might not be asked by the administration.”

    But the piece doesn’t include any examples of what you did as a “devil’s advocate” to challenge other school board members and the administration?

    Can you give us some?

    October 18, 2008
  56. Griff Wigley said:

    In Aug of 2007, Supt. Richardson and High School principal Leer said they weren’t planning on using drug-sniffing dogs at the high school. (Nfld News article here.)

    In Oct. of 2007, they did. (Nfld News article here.)

    Katy and Diane, as the incumbents, can you comment on this and your involvement/thinking/position about it, before and after?

    Peter and Kevin, thanks for responding to Curt’s question.

    Other candidates, feel free to chime in with your thoughts about the use of drug-sniffing dogs on school property.

    October 18, 2008
  57. kiffi summa said:

    Griff, I’m glad you asked the question about the use of drug dogs in the high school; that was what I wanted to ask. I was surprised that Mr. Millin did not know that had occurred already. It was a source of a lot of controversy.
    So, how about it candidates?

    October 18, 2008
  58. Rob Hardy said:

    Okay, I’ll jump in to break Griff’s consecutive comment streak. One drug-sniffing dogs: I would be inclined to oppose their use in the schools, primarily on Fourth Amendment grounds. Elsewhere, the ALCU has become involved in cases where drug-sniffing dogs have been used in schools. If there is probable cause to suspect a particular student, a warrant should be obtained to search that student’s locker. There are all manner of threats in our society, including illegal drug use. That’s no reason to undermine civil liberties, or to resort to drastic measures that erode community trust and (if used too often or too heavy-handedly) may desensitize youth to the actual severity of the problem.

    October 18, 2008
  59. Rob Hardy said:

    Here is an interesting digest of information on School Safety and the Legal Rights of Students. The article concludes that “the current direction of Fourth Amendment law reflects society’s fears of and disrespect for children and the paucity of alternatives to police-type enforcement measures that are both in use and under consideration in the schools. It also indicates that school authorities no longer have to grant students the civil rights considered inalienable by the rest of the nation’s citizens.” The article suggests alternatives to these “draconian” measures that would help foster an atmosphere of trust and respect rather than of suspicion and fear.

    October 18, 2008
  60. Felicity Enders said:

    Peter, thanks for getting back to me.

    For all candidates, I’d like to know your feelings about the effect of charter schools on the regular school system (if any). We are not in a position to send all kids to charter schools – what is the effect of removing those kids and the associated funding from the regular public school system?

    I’m not saying we should get rid of the charter schools we have, but I’m very interested in the opinions of those who would (I presume) have a vote in any new charter schools.

    October 18, 2008
  61. Felicity Enders said:

    Another question: Many of you talked about your careers, which are certainly relevant to service on the school board. Can you also describe the different schools you attended and degrees obtained? I see this as one way to document a commitment to education in your own life; if you have other ways to document such a personal commitment, please describe those as well (ie your kids’ education, etc). Some of you have hit on aspects of these, but it hasn’t been uniform.


    October 18, 2008
  62. Felicity Enders said:

    One final set of questions, and I’ll move on with my day!

    Do you believe in evolution? Should it be taught as part of the science curriculum?

    Do you believe in intelligent design/creationism? Should it be taught as part of the science curriculum?

    October 18, 2008
  63. kiffi summa said:

    to Felicity, a Digression: The above, # 69, is why Felicity IS felicitous…
    Definition of felicitous: “having a special ability for suitable expression”.
    … always fair in how she poses the question.

    October 18, 2008
  64. Rob Hardy said:

    (#66) Charter schools are often centers of innovation in education, and can explore educational options (such as project-based learning at ARTech) which can’t always be fully implemented in traditional public schools. Charters also often serve a different population than the traditional schools—students with different learning styles and needs, for example. Traditional schools and charters, being part of the same public school system, also share some resources (such as band programs). The high school drama program, for example, has certainly benefited from the talents of ARTech’s arts coordinator, Bob Gregory-Bjorklund. Finally, from a purely practical standpoint, charters take some of the demographic pressure off of the traditional schools. Traditional schools and charters can and should learn from each other, and support each other, and should both be held equally accountable for results.

    (#67) I graduated from a small rural public school in upstate New York, received a B.A. from Oberlin College (with a double major in Latin and history) and a Ph.D. (in classics) from Brown University. I’ve also taken one education (teacher-training) course at St. Kate’s. I did my first teaching as an undergraduate at Oberlin (teaching intensive Latin over the January term), and have since taught at Brown, Gustavus Adolphus, University of St. Thomas, and Carleton and as a substitute teacher (K-12) in Northfield, Minneapolis, and Edina. I’ve also tutored homeschoolers in Latin, writing, and history. Finally, I’ve published a few essays on education, and contributed a couple of entries to the SAGE Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education. I’m happy to talk more about these experiences!

    (#68) For me, evolution is not a matter of belief, it is a matter of demonstrable scientific fact. It is the foundation of modern biological sciences, and should be taught as such. Creationism and intelligent design should not be part of the science curriculum. Having said that, we do need to be able to have an informed and respectful dialogue about faith, ethics, and science. I encourage people interested in this topic, especially people of faith, to read the work of Kenneth Miller, a Brown University biologist and devout Catholic, who beautifully defends evolution and refutes intelligent design, while being highly sympathetic toward the role of faith in human lives. The books are Finding Darwin’s God and Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. Highly recommended.

    October 18, 2008
  65. Felicity Enders said:

    Rob, thanks very much for your detailed and thoughtful answers.

    October 18, 2008
  66. Rob Hardy said:

    Note: Now Kiffi has gone and messed up the numbering of Felicity’s questions, as reflected in my comment (currently #71)! So, as of now, change those numbers to #67, #68, #69. How does it happen that Kiffi’s comments come in out of order? Do her comments go into a special holding cell before they’re actually posted?

    October 18, 2008
  67. Griff Wigley said:

    Yes, Rob, we keep Kiffi in a special Guantanamo-type holding cell and let her out occasionally. 😉

    October 19, 2008
  68. Griff Wigley said:

    Felicity’s question about public charter schools, “what is the effect of removing those kids and the associated funding from the regular public school system?” is a good one… and I’d like to expand on it with my particular bias.

    Candidates, do you see the role of a school board member to primarily be a:

    A) steward of the District-owned schools, programs, infrastructure, and the staff employed?

    B) steward of all public education delivered in the District 659 territory?

    My contention is that you should be the latter…. but that it’s hard to operate with this larger mind-set once you’re on the school board. And charter schools tend to expose one’s bias.

    Once you’re a board member, it’s easy to frame public charter school attendance in terms of the District “losing students and dollars” rather than just another way that you, as a school board member, are seeing to it that public education services are delivered to local families.

    Once you’re a board member, it probably would never occur to you to think, “Gee, how can we get more innovation happening with XYZ? I wonder if there’s a way I could help some of our existing staff to start a public charter school that might better serve the students in the area?” And if you did do something to launch even a discussion of this, you’d likely have Supt. Richardson and the teacher’s union on your case, because they’re naturally oriented to protecting what they see as ‘their’ budget/jobs.

    See the problem?

    October 19, 2008
  69. Rob Hardy said:

    Griff: I always try to think in terms of cooperation rather than competition. The traditional schools and charters shouldn’t see themselves as competing for students and funding, but as cooperating to create a complete and well-rounded educational community that serves all students in the district.

    For example, my younger son’s beloved sixth grade teacher had a child at Prairie Creek, and there were many Prairie Creek graduates in her class. My son, in a traditional public school classroom, benefited greatly from a teacher whose educational philosophy was informed by her exposure to a charter school, and from fellow students who came out of a charter school environment.

    Yes, funding is a crucial issue, but we can’t let the dollar block the view of the student. I believe all students are served by a diverse and innovative educational community that includes a mix of traditional and charter schools.

    October 19, 2008
  70. Holly Cairns said:

    Question: Kevin Budig, did you describe yourself on Technorati as:

    “A 50 something Angry White Male Paramedic who is tired of working his butt off saving people and watching his tax dollars get wasted by elected officials whom have no business spending money!”

    and, do you run a blog about stopping David Bly and Kevin Dahle http://stopblyanddahle.blogspot.com/

    If so, how do you plan to be non-partisan as a board member? You seem pretty angry.

    October 19, 2008
  71. Peter Millin said:

    There should be a distinct line between government and religion and since creationism is mostly a biblical concept it has no place in a public institution.

    Most of my schooling was done in Germany. I went to school for nine years and then had a three year apprenticeship.
    Once I came to the USA I took my GED and took some college courses.

    My biggest motivation for wanting to run for the school board is the concern of a quality education for my three children.
    Based on my personal experience I have noticed that US schools at the K-12 level are not nearly as challenging then schools in Europe.

    To be honest I don’t know what the reason is. I don’t think it is a lack of money or goodwill, so what are the issues?

    Part of my responsibility, to those that elected me, is to bring those issues to the forefront.
    We need to keep pace with the rest of the world and my hope is that my background and travels can help to contribute to reach this goal.

    Other then being a concerned parent and a hard working individual, with a lot of common sense, there is not much more I can offer in regards of being qualified.
    I can promise those who will vote for me, that I will never forget that I am a public servant and here to serve.

    October 19, 2008
  72. Kevin Budig said:

    Ms. Cairns,
    Yes, yes and yes I will be non partisan because my goal is for the best education possible for our children.
    All children from those that excel to those that struggle. That is what it is all about. Our children, our hope, our future.

    Angry? Maybe that was the wrong term to use, but I used it and I stand on my words, frustrated would have been better.

    As for the website? yes I run it and will continue to do so. I do not agree with Mr Bly or Mr Dahle, Mr Bly and I have had a few “discussions” through email, rather acrimonious ones. But he came to my door recently and we shook hands, chatted a bit and wished each other well in both our campaigns.

    Although I am running for a “non-partisan” position I have a right to express my opinion, beliefs, views, as much you do on your blog, which I see has a different view then mine.

    October 21, 2008
  73. Holly Cairns said:

    Kevin Budig says:

    All children from those that excel to those that struggle. That is what it is all about. Our children, our hope, our future.

    I agree. And I agree you should be able to express your opinion. I’m just trying to see if you’re a good fit for the Northfield School board. I’ll be voting in November.

    From your blog, you seem to be for home schooling
    or private school
    if there is a teaching of responsible family life and sexuality.

    Teaching responsible family life and sexuality in the Schools?? No way!! Cripes more reasons to home school!! Or find a private school!!

    1. Can you explain how you’d like sex ed to be taught? And what are the other reasons you might favor home schooling or private school?

    Your blog says:

    I am the angry white man.
    Why? Because I am tired of all the pandering to special interests and the “all must be equal” crowd. Fine if you work hard, pay your dues and your fair share of the tax burden I will consider you an equal. If you do not work hard, do not pay taxes, if you expect to be handed whatever you want on a platter, if you cannot speak English and are making no effort to learn, if you are in this country illegally, go away. Don’t talk, just walk, fast, faster! I have no time for you and I’ll be damned if I will listen to whatever you have to say…

    I want the schools to teach, not preach, not indoctrinate, teach. I am tired of teachers and professors trying to push their views on our children, let our kids make up their own minds. I also want teachers held accountable for what they are doing!! I have to be, most employees do and since you work for me, as I pay your wages I should have the right to expect results!…

    What do I want? I want fairness! I want less, more efficient government that stays out of my life! I want accountability and responsibility, amongst individuals and the government… Maybe the Angry White Man should get out and protest!! But we’re to busy working and paying taxes. We also have a sense of responsibility and pride in the Greatest Nation on the earth! The United States of America!! We want our country back!!

    2. It sounds like you want more teacher acountability, which would mean more “government control” and more laws. Are you for more government involvment (statutes, laws, oversight, etc) or for less?

    3. Based on the above, and if you were elected, how will you deal with immigrants who have children in need of schooling? They may speak Spanish, for example.

    4. If our taxes never go up, and school expenses do, what is your plan to provide quality education? Further, I notice most of the State’s budget is used for educating our children. Maybe you want to give some of that money back to the State so it can be used elsewhere, like to reduce property taxes?

    5. Lastly, Northfield’s school district seems to always be struggling to make ends meet. If you had to make cuts, where would you make them?

    October 21, 2008
  74. Holly Cairns said:


    Hi Kevin,

    I am truly interested in your answers and discuss my postings on LoGroNo with no one besides (occasionally, for spelling ideas) my immediate family before I post them. Our kids are in school together, so you might know that I would be interested in what school board members have to say since I have school-aged kids.

    It might be your chance to clear things up, or make it clearer to me. You have already publically said all the quotes I brought forward.

    I hope you continue to communicate with me.


    October 21, 2008
  75. Holly Cairns said:

    Darn it, if this site had spell check I’d dancing in the streets. Sorry for the new word in my last post. Publicly.

    October 21, 2008
  76. Felicity Enders said:

    Kevin, I’m very interested in your responses to Holly’s comments as well. Also, please see comments 67-69 for additional questions from me.

    October 21, 2008
  77. […] II for graduation from high school.  My remarks about this issue, on LocallyGrown, can be found here.  State Representative David Bly comments here. Posted by rbhardy3rd Filed in […]

    October 22, 2008
  78. Kathie Galotti said:

    I want to go back to the issue of ineffective teachers. In principle, I would agree with Rob Hardy’s position that the school board shouldn’t directly intervene, and should leave it to the “professionals” to solve the problem in constructive and private ways.

    The problem is, in my experience at both the middle and high schools, the problems don’t get solved by the professionals. (The situation has been different, in my experience, at the elementary level, at least at Bridgewater, which is the only place of which I have direct experience). Professional learning communities sound great, and I’ll even bet they work great for the majority of teachers who are dedicated and focussed on teaching–but they don’t address those who aren’t. And those few do affect a large number of kids every year.

    The middle school has the most glaring examples but the high school isn’t exempt. I’m not talking about teachers who use this or that book or grade this or that way….I’m talking about the teacher at the middle school that 67 parents in one year called up to request their child not have. I’m talking about the teacher that only gives out homework assignments and worksheets, five days a week, every week of the year. I’m talking about teachers (plural) who won’t make time to meet with struggling students to give them feedback….and/or who repeatedly refuse to return parent phone calls or emails…in other words, teachers who, repeatedly and consistently display blatant lack of professionalism.

    It isn’t one person or two. And talking to building principals either results in no visible action OR possibly, a specific change made for an individual student–but leaves in place individuals who shouldn’t be there. (Kids with unassertive parents shouldn’t be punished by being assigned to these teachers).

    It’s a problem that many parents in town know about, but nothing gets done. Maybe it’s Minnesota nice, maybe it’s because everyone wants to strike a positive tone and not jeopardize future fund levy votes. Maybe it’s because some parents fear retaliation by teachers toward their kids if they speak up. Speaking personally, I am frustrated and fed up by my experiences at both buildings over the past five years (especially when I contrast those experiences with my ones at Bridgewater, where I’ve yet to encounter a single example of a nonprofessional teacher). Not that all teachers at the middle or high school are problematic, not even that MOST teachers are problematic, (in fact, many have been excellent, committed, fabulous, terrific). But the problem cases have a disproportionate, negative, and long-lasting effect on kids’ education.

    I’m frustrated that the examples of nonprofessionalism are so blatant and so tolerated even when they are expressly brought to the attention of the professionals.

    It’s led to more than a few of my friends making the decision to pull their (bright and motivated) kids out of Northfield public schools to go elsewhere (taking the tax dollars allocated per pupil with them).

    I don’t think the answer is to have individual school board members intervene–but I think something has to be done. And maybe school board members could instigate some change some how?

    But the norms are for the school board to stay far far away from such issues. So my question for candidates–what can be done by school board members? What would you, if elected, be willing to do?

    October 22, 2008
  79. Griff Wigley said:

    Teachers wary of new state math standards is the headline on the front page of today’s Nfld News.

    I’m interested in hearing to what extent Board candidates support the new state standards and whether they have similar reservations expressed by the teachers in the article.

    Rob Hardy posted his view in comment #9 above in response to Curt Benson’s question in comment #8. Representative David Bly chimed in as well in Comment #21.

    I’d like to hear from the other candidates, too.

    October 22, 2008
  80. Jeff Gunn said:

    I’m concerned that our education system is not teaching children to be logical, rational and inquisitive thinkers. Science education in the United States has been trailing most other technilogical(post-industrial) nations for at least a decade.
    My question for you is “will you support science education as determined by the scientific community, or will you allow faith-based initiatives into the science classroom?”

    October 22, 2008
  81. Rob Hardy said:

    Kathie: As you know, of course, teachers undergo a probationary period of three years, after which (based upon the results of a thorough review) they may be granted tenure. I believe tenure is an important protection and benefit for good teachers, but it shouldn’t provide complete immunity for bad teachers. In the Minnesota Teacher Tenure Act, there does seem to be provision for dismissal of teachers after the granting of tenure. The statute says (122A.14, subdivision 4a):

    the completion of such probationary period, without discharge, such teachers as are thereupon
    reemployed shall continue in service and hold their respective position during good behavior and
    efficient and competent service and must not be discharged or demoted except for cause after a

    The statute goes on to list “inefficiency in teaching” as a grounds for dismissal after the probationary period (subdivision 6b3). Subdivision 7 of the statute then describes the process the school board must follow to serve the teacher with notice of the charges and to provide the teacher with a fair hearing, either in front of the school board or an arbitrator.

    I believe these proceedings are rare, and undoubtedly expensive for the district. I would not initiate any such action as a school board member, but were such an action initiated by another party, I would of course fulfill my duties, fairly and impartially, as laid out in the statute.

    In general, as I stated earlier, I believe intervention through the professional community is the first, best, and most appropriate action. But I do understand your frustration, Kathie, and the schools should take very seriously—and take serious action to address—repeated and substantive complaints from parents about the quality of teaching.

    My perspective is, of course, primarily as a parent, but having been briefly thrown to the lions as a middle school Latin teacher in E***a, I know how many factors contribute to the quality of teaching, or lack thereof. One of the things I lacked was positive support from most parents. I do believe in the importance of maintaining a positive tone as much as possible, understanding that education is a collaborative effort and teachers need the support of parents to do their job well. But, yes, in some cases a positive attitude simply isn’t enough.

    Note: I am not a lawyer or legal expert, so if I have misread any of the statutory language, I hope someone will please step in to correct me.

    October 23, 2008
  82. Rob Hardy said:

    Jeff: I’ve addressed the issue of teaching evolution in the last section of my comment #71. The Northfield schools have strong programs in math and science, including AP courses in the high school. I would take s strong stand against diluting those strong programs with “faith-based initiatives.” I do, however, believe that ethics (not faith) is an important part of science education, since there are serious ethical issues (quite apart from religious issues) involved in areas like cloning or experimentation on human subjects. Scientists do need to be aware of the ethical issues involved in scientific research.

    October 23, 2008
  83. Peter Millin said:

    The employer of teachers is responsible and accountable for their performance, just like I am responsible for those that work me.
    We should not interfere with this direct relationship, but could provide consent and advice.

    Raising the math standards on paper will accomplish very little and doesn’t address the core of the problem.
    I believe and i am speaking as a father here, that our curriculum is too full already. An increase in quantity of learning doesn’t necessarily produce a better quality.
    Many children already struggle with the very basics of math due to lack of time spent on them. This get’s progressively worse as children move on to higher grades. If you can’t recite time tables in your sleep how can you move on to algebra?

    The comparison to the rest of the world when it comes to school performance is somewhat skewed. Germany for example provides more then one path in school to be successful.
    Those who are not academically inclined have vocational options not available here. Children with learning disabilities are not measured against the same academic standard as regular students.

    We tend to “push” all children through the same system and spend vast amounts of resources trying to bring everybody to the same level.
    Not does this only skew our academic performance numbers, but in a way hold higher achievers.

    I believe we need to get away from the “one size fits all” approach. Every child has different needs, skills or ambitions.

    I think that our constitution is very clear on separation of church and state. “Faith based” issues make for a spirited discussion within certain contexts, and we should certainly encourage those discussions, but in the end we need to teach facts.

    October 23, 2008
  84. Bright Spencer said:

    On multiple intelligences re: Peter’s comment on vocational school focus along with college bound prep ed…


    October 25, 2008
  85. Holly Cairns said:

    Kevin Budig’s blog says

    I am the angry white man.
    Why? Because I am tired of all the pandering to special interests and the “all must be equal” crowd. Fine if you work hard, pay your dues and your fair share of the tax burden I will consider you an equal.

    Read my post above #80 for more of what Kevin Budig’s blog says…

    I asked: what are the other reasons you might favor home schooling or private school; how will you deal with immigrants who have children in need of schooling; if our taxes never go up, and school expenses do, what is your plan to provide quality education; and where would you make cuts, if any needed to be made?

    I see Kevin is not going to answer my questions, Felicity.

    BTW, did the News print Kevin’s profile re: school board candidate, yet? Was it demonstrative of his anger?

    October 28, 2008
  86. Holly Cairns said:

    Kevin Budig, besides describing yourself as the angry white man, is your gravatar of a machine gun, etc. and hand guns….?

    Now I’m scared. Please God, don’t let us need a paramedic around here. ACK!

    October 28, 2008
  87. Rob Hardy said:

    Holly: All of the candidate profiles are up on the Northfield News site, and there are candidate statements, and answers to questions submitted by citizens, on the Northfield.org Election Page. I also encourage you, and other LocallyGrown readers, to come to tonight’s school board candidate forum at 6:45 p.m. at Bridgewater Elementary School. Unfortunately, I think Mr. Budig is unable to attend tonight’s forum.

    October 28, 2008
  88. Holly Cairns said:

    Thanks Rob. Good luck in this election, I like what you say and do.

    I went to the NNews and after looking around, I found the candidate information. It’s under News > Elections ’08 > various articles.

    BTW, it seems Mr. Budig isn’t a paramedic around here.

    October 28, 2008
  89. Peter Millin said:

    Had the pleasure to meet Rob Hardy ( and others) at the Bridgewater Elementary school.
    Rob has a good grasp on the issues and is an overall nice guy.

    October 29, 2008
  90. Griff Wigley said:

    Only five days left till the election.

    Citizens, feel free to keep asking questions of the school board candidates and/or discussing the candidates and issues among yourselves.

    October 30, 2008
  91. Griff Wigley said:

    The NEA (Northfield Education Assoc) has issued its school board candidate endorsements. Ray Coudret sent me a Word doc that I converted to a PDF:

    After reviewing the candidates responses to our NEA questionnaire, reading their profiles in the Northfield News and online at locallygrownnorthfield.org, and visiting with each of the candidates at the open forums, the endorsement committee has recommended that we endorse the following candidates for School Board:

    Anne Maple
    Rob Hardy
    Diane Cirksena
    Ellen Iverson

    October 30, 2008
  92. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve been alerted to this July post on the Rice County Republicans blog:

    In this election year, we’ll have many choices of Republican candidates in the various races.  In our own Rice-Scott County BPOU, we have several members running for office. The Northfield School Board election will have Kevin Budig and Jeff Quinnell looking to win a spot on the Board.  We know both of these men to be fine, upstanding individuals, both with a keen interest in seeing accountability to the students and taxpayers.

    I thought this was a little odd in that school board elections are non-partisan.

    October 30, 2008
  93. Peter Millin said:

    Griff said:

    I thought this was a little odd in that school board elections are non-partisan.

    You are kidding, right?

    October 31, 2008
  94. Peter Millin said:

    The “education lobby” has spent nearly $40 million dollars in campaign donations. 70% of those are going to Democrats.


    The NEA has donated $ 1.5 millions to political campaigns 80% of it when to Democrats.


    Non Partisan?
    Even locally the NEA is very obvious in their choices……no I am not mad about the fact they din’t endorse, because I never expected it anyway.

    October 31, 2008
  95. Guy Lawrence said:

    It’s a good day for solidifying School Board votes.

    Griff: Thanks for the info on Posts 102&3, clears up a few things. I may have to rethink my plan to vote for Ellen, she has many good idea, but the NEA endorsement sits badly with me.

    November 2, 2008
  96. Guy Lawrence said:

    Time for a couple of last minute questions. Candidates Budig, Hardy, Iverson, Maple, Quinnell & Millin; please, answer me these questions 3:

    Over the past few years we have had a couple of boondoggles regarding the school district. The first being the Middle School. The taxpayers of Northfield were straddled with a $42 million levy, while I don’t doubt a Middle School was needed, Shakopee, in the same election, was able to pass a $25 million levy to build a comparable sized High School (and they had to buy land). What are your plans for making sure this type of wasteful spending does not continue?

    The second that I am concerned with, is the signing of a teachers contract guaranteeing a 7% pay raise over 2 years. The problem I am specifically concerned with, was that this was committed to without underpinning the budget (similar to the recent hiring of ESL teachers – where it was reported in the NN that “we had to hire them, but we’re not sure how we’re going to pay for them”). Then when the state funding was not there, the school district was left short. What are your plans for ensuring that this type of fiscal irresponsibility does not continue (as it has until this past year)?

    Given the current economic climate, many companies are freezing or even reducing salaries. With regards to Northfield, a vast majority of the school’s income comes from a taxes. With housing values down, and the local real estate market with it; what is your position likely to be when the teachers contract comes up for renewal, specifically regarding salary increases?

    November 2, 2008
  97. Griff Wigley said:

    Peter, no, I wasn’t kidding. I think there’s a real advantage to having members of our school board, city council, and county board NOT be partisan/affiliated with a political party.

    November 3, 2008
  98. Rob Hardy said:

    Guy: I think all of us would agree on the need for fiscal responsibility, and I believe that, whatever the composition of the new school board, it will exercise careful stewardship of the district’s resources. I certainly don’t see any major building projects being undertaken in the current climate.

    I wasn’t involved in framing the levy for the new middle school, so I don’t have all of the information to explain the difference between Shakopee’s levy and Northfield’s. It’s often difficult to compare the financial situation of different school districts because of the disparity in the amount of state funding they receive. For example, Shakopee receives $1.8 million in annual compensatory revenue from the state; neighboring Prior Lake-Savage receives $270,000 a year. This has to do with levels of poverty in the district (numbers of students who receive free and reduced priced lunches). I suspect that each district looks at its own circumstances and tries to decide what it can afford. In the current economic climate, I’m sure that Northfield can afford less, and will have to make decisions based on that reality.

    A 7% raise over two years translates to 3.5% a year. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average budgeted raise for all workers in 2008 is 3.8% and will be 3.7% for 2009. In September (the last month for which data is currently available), inflation was at about 4.9%. So, an annual raise of 3.5% doesn’t keep pace with inflation. If inflation remains this high, it would seem that, in effect, the contract guarantees a pay cut.

    In general, though, I think it’s commonsense not to demand or to guarantee something it’s impossible to pay—or impossible to pay without significant cuts (including, in some cases, staffing cuts). I would hope that all parties would enter negotiations with common sense and with an appreciation of the economic realities.

    At the same time, Northfield wants to attract the best teachers, and so has to offer competitive pay. We know that math and science education are crucial for America’s economic security, but there is a shortage of math and science teachers across the country. There needs to be an incentive for talented scientists and mathematicians to become teachers.

    Clearly, some systemic changes need to made as well: for example, in the way in which the state funds education, and in a healthcare system that drives up the cost of benefit packages at an unsustainable rate.

    We’re all in this current economic mess together, teachers and taxpayers, school board members and union negotiators. I don’t think any of the parties are well served by taking an adversarial position. We need to work hard to understand each other and to get through this together.

    November 3, 2008
  99. Peter Millin said:

    I respectfully disagree. School board elections are far from being non partisan. It is no secret that the left has heavily influenced our school system.
    Just look at our district David Bly and Kevin Dahle are all part of the school system and get the majority of their votes from the respective colleges.

    Those endorsed by the NEA are clearly left leaning and as I have proven to you the NEA heavily favors the Democrats. It’s a fact.

    I don’t believe that 3.5 % of salary increase is necessarily excessive. The only part that bothers me that it is automatic. Most people have go through a yearly review and get increases paid on their performance, this shouldn’t be any different for teachers.

    We need to look at school financing in a bigger picture. It is impossible for a small community like ours to rely on funding for schools through property taxes alone.
    While I am in general for smaller government and less involved government, when it comes to education I tend to be a bit more social liberal.

    A well educated country is more competitive in a global market. One way to keep more jobs in this country is by using innovation. Innovation creates jobs.
    Almost every country in the world has a national approach to education. As a result they are catching up with us and in some cases are moving ahead of us.

    For example, we bring in people from India to do our computer programming, shouldn’t those jobs be done by Americans?

    We need a statewide, maybe even national, approach to school funding. This will go a long way in making us more competitive and protect jobs.

    November 3, 2008
  100. Guy Lawrence said:

    Thank you Rob & Peter.

    One further question if you please (for all candidates):

    What is your opinion on year around school?

    November 3, 2008
  101. Peter Millin said:


    I will look at any option and suggestion that delivers MEASURABLE results. The keyword is measurable.

    Having said that I don’t believe that year round schools alone will necessarily improve performance. Other factors like smaller class rooms, better teachers and accountability for results, both for students and teachers, are needed.

    As with any radical change we should study the benefits thoroughly before we implement it.If students, teachers, and parents do not support the year round schedule, it is bound to fail.

    If schools choose to implement year round schools they need to look at their motivations. If they are making their decisions based solely on money they are quite possibly setting the system up for failure.

    November 3, 2008
  102. Patrick Enders said:

    I’d appreciate clarification of what you’re saying here. What exactly do you consider non-partisan to mean? Is it enough if the parties don’t endorse or work for a candidate?

    Or are you suggesting that people who have political beliefs that are generally compatible with either the DFL or IR should be considered less fit to serve on the School Board than those who don’t?

    For example, I have called myself a Democrat since 2001. (I did so because I am generally left-of-center in my thinking, and because there is a strength in numbers that was required to defeat the [once?] highly organized and powerful Republican machine.) However, I have never attended a Democratic party meeting, paid any dues, or participated in any party activity beyond last spring’s caucus. About the extent of my affiliation with the party has been my self-description, and my gift of money to particular Democratic candidates. I’ve never cast a straight party ticket, and I’ll happily vote for a non-Democrat given the right candidate – especially in local politics.

    Does my general philosophical affinity for the Democrats over the Republicans really make me less qualified to serve in local office? Should Ray Cox be looked at askance if he decided to run for a local office?

    If so, then I’d just like to declare: I am no longer a Democrat.

    That was easy.

    November 3, 2008
  103. ray coudret said:

    I would have posted this last night but I needed to leave it overnight to make sure that my thoughts are clearly stated.

    I can’t help but to bristle at the characterization of our Northfield Education Association members as political caricatures whose opinion can be discounted simply because many of my colleagues vote a certain way in state and national contests. Claiming that our recommendations were made with partisan pretense simply because our Association leans to the democratic side in state and national politics is far too simplistic for such a complex topic. Our kids go to our schools. The members of the Northfield Education Assocation are a part of this community. Whether we have Republicans or Democrats on the board isn’t important.

    As an example, one of the best school board members we have had in my time here was Republican Ray Cox. He is a Northfield native as well as someone who is active in the community. Ray took the time to become informed about the issues and cares about the big picture. On the other hand, although he was an extremely good Superintendent, the most difficult negotiations we have had since I came in 1994 were with staunch DFL’er Charlie Kite.

    Dr. Kite was all about the bottom line and took pride in being able to step on a nickel and tell you if it was heads or tails. Dr. Kite, along with a board that included Noel Stratmoen and Ray Cox, lead our District through tough economic times and helped to build a system with programming options that rival any in the state at fraction of the cost, building a budget surplus along the way. I use these two as prime examples where an R or D next to your name doesn’t make you more or less qualified to be on a school board, to lead schools, or to understand the value of fiscal responsibility. What IS important is that the people who sit on the board are prepared, are informed about the opportunities and challenges in schools, and demonstrate a willingness and ability to engage with the community (including but not limited to the teachers) to make our schools work better for every student.

    The endorsements by the Northfield Education Association were made to reflect the strengths and diversity of the four candidates that were endorsed. When it came time to hear from each at the candidates forums, the four that we did endorse were the most prepared and most well spoken; They also offered clearer answers for every question. If you look back at the forum on this website and then at the Northfield News articles, you will see the strengths of communication and knowledge of school policy for Diane Cirksena, Rob Hardy, Anne Maple, and Ellen Iverson reinforced over and over. That is why we chose them.

    Partisanship had no place in this process.

    November 3, 2008
  104. Ray Coudret said:

    In reference to comment # 107 regarding teacher negotiations.

    (Again, I would have posted last night but I needed to check for clarity)

    Salary and the salary schedule for teachers are topics that are woefully misunderstood. Who has the
    advantage in a system with steps and lanes starting at a low salary with no increases after seventeen years into a 40 year career? Why are steps and lanes part of the system?

    This system was put into place to ensure predictability in school budgets. Under the system of steps and lanes, Teacher’s trade a low starting salary for modest continual growth throughout ONLY the first half of their career. The “up side” is that a teacher knows they are going to receive an increase for their first 17 years. The “down side” is that you start at a low salary and end at a level that is low compared to our peers with similar education.

    More specifically I have taught for 18 years, starting at $21,000 for my first year in 1990. Last year I received my last increase. I will retire at age 60+ at my current salary, with the exception of negotiated improvements to the schedule which have averaged about 2.5% over the last 18 years.

    Guy also goes on to imply that teacher’s salaries should be frozen (comment #107). I would be all for that IF throughout the 90’s when everyone else was receiving up to double digit salary increases, my colleagues and I had received similar increases. Instead, during the greatest economic boom in U.S. history those of us who were teachers were getting 3% – 5% increases INCLUDING benefits. I didn’t hear anybody advocating for larger increases for education and educators then. If someone would sign a pledge to fund the school formula at the cost of living during our next economic crunch, I would trade that kind of stability for a few years of salary freeze in a heartbeat.

    As far as negotiated improvements in the salary schedule that were mentioned (comment # 107), a few years ago the Northfield Education Association negotiated for a 1% salary increase. In the ten years that I have been involved with negotiations, the improvements on the salary schedule have been 1%-3%. Regardless of what you make in the middle of your career, the underlying fact is that the cost for a beginning teacher and the cost for every teacher in the second half of his or her career has gone up between one and three percent every year. Show me one other industry where the top and bottom salary have had that small of an increase since 1998? Show me another industry where a forty-three year old with eighteen years of experience is locked into 0%-3% increase for the next twenty years. So, yes we did negotiate for increases of salary AND BENEFITS at 3.5% for 2007-2008 and 3.5% for 2008-2009. NOTE: THIS WAS FOR SALARY AND BENEFITS!

    However, our settlement was reached after the state had set funding for the biennium which means that the budget was in place and had been projected for the term of the contract and this settlement came after a 1% increase.

    In short, the members of the Northfield Education Association are not the enemy. Although I appreciate the debate, it is difficult sometimes to hear community members characterize my colleagues and myself as part of the problem. The world is much more dynamic than these arguments would suggest and education is too important to our common existence to fall into simplistic arguments for complex subjects.

    November 3, 2008
  105. Peter Millin said:

    The fact remains that the “education lobby” choses to donate between 70 and 80% of their money to Democrats. This is an indisputable fact. Numbers don’t lie.
    Those are not individual contributions either those are institutional contributions.

    I don’t judge people by their intentions I judge them by their results.

    November 3, 2008
  106. Ray Coudret said:

    Those are great stats but I don’t see how that is relevant to the Northfield School Board election.

    November 3, 2008
  107. Peter Millin said:

    The site clearly states the bias of the NEA towards Democrats.
    Plus their site is a carbon copy of Obama’s campaign platform.


    The NEA has NEVER endorsed a conservative, it’s just not in their blood. They are a union after all.

    November 3, 2008
  108. Griff Wigley said:

    Patrick, by non-partisan, I just meant that I think it’s best for political parties to avoid endorsing candidates or for candidates to avoid associating their candidacy with a party’s platform — again, only for school board, city council, county board races.

    I’m 100% fine with card-carrying Democrats or Republicans running for these non-partisan offices. For example, I tried to get Ray Cox to run for City Council after he lost to Kevin Dahle. But no, he wouldn’t listen to me. 😉

    November 3, 2008
  109. Guy Lawrence said:

    Ray C: I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear. My point was that to outsiders, whose primary source of information is the Northfield News, the school board & superintendent were being fiscally irresponsible, and I wanted to know their opinion.

    I apologize if you felt I was attacking the teachers, the teachers are the foot soldiers in this battle and deserve our support in doing their jobs.

    My father always said that every job had it’s perks, and I find that more true today than ever before. I work for a ‘pay for performance’ company. I do not enjoy any great amount of job security, but I do enjoy a high op tempo (something I personally enjoy), and a high salary. The biggest perk a civil servant has is job security. In general when folks enter civil service it’s for some altruistic personal belief, or maybe it’s just the security blanket – but my point is you traded your rights to a high salary when you did so of your owe free will. So I don’t have much sympathy, sorry.

    In every job there are high performers and low performers. The root of most evil are the unions (NEA, UAW, PSEA, PBA, etc) – the concept is sound, the implementation is poor. The members of the unions are only at fault that they do not hold their union representatives accountable for their actions. Unions protect the low performing employees (in this case through tenure) and as such, bring down the whole. As was mentioned before – no one should be guaranteed a raise of COLA allotment. All increases should be based upon merit and tangible results.

    There I go again, trying to boil the ocean. Good night folks, and to the candidates, good luck tomorrow.

    November 3, 2008
  110. Ray Coudret said:

    Just to be clear. I wasn’t complaining or asking for sympathy, I was making the exact point that you stated … there are trade offs.

    As for your comments on unions, I will have to leave that for another day.

    The five day work week, equal pay for women, health care, livable wages, the end of child labor in America, workplace safety standards, sick leave, paid vacations…these didn’t appear out of the goodness of Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan.

    November 3, 2008
  111. Peter Millin said:

    Unions are necessary and have their rightful place, and yes a lot of perks we have today we wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for unions.

    However it seems to me that in the past the unions are more concerned protecting the non performers and playing politics then fight for better working conditions.
    Some time ago I lived in Pittsburgh which is a heavy union town. Some of the rules put in place by them where absurd an unproductive.
    I got time slipped once for carrying a container from one place to another. I was told that this was ” the runners job” HUH?
    These and other rules like it are what makes union lose their cloud.

    November 4, 2008
  112. Rob Hardy said:

    On the one hand, I am disappointed, and can only believe that I would have done much better in this election if Phil Busse hadn’t stolen all of my lawn signs. On the other hand, I am looking forward to spending many hours on LocallyGrown complaining about the horrible job the school board is doing. Congratulations to Diane and Ellen and Anne and that other guy the teachers’ union didn’t endorse. (Damn unions.) Northfield is fortunate to be able to field such an extraordinary slate of candidates, and it’s been a pleasure to be publicly humiliated by the four of you. Especially you, Ellen. I’m never speaking to you again. Seriously, I’m honored by the support I’ve received from Griff and the evil teachers’ union and the roughly 3,000 people who accidentally voted for me.

    November 5, 2008
  113. Rob Hardy said:

    P.S. to comment #124: That’s what an attempt at humor sounds like at 1:00 in the morning after too many beers at Griff’s party.

    Sincere congratulations to Jeff, Diane, Ellen and Anne!

    November 5, 2008
  114. Tracy Davis said:

    I’ll second that, Rob, and thank you for running an excellent campaign. I hope you do it again in the not-too-distant future.

    November 5, 2008
  115. Felicity Enders said:

    Hear, hear! Rob, I really hope you’ll try again next time.

    November 5, 2008
  116. Ray Coudret said:

    Congrats to all four that were elected and thanks to those that put themselves out there to run. At the beginning of this, there was a question of whether there would even be four candidates to fill the four positions.

    I really did like Rob’s thoughtfulness so I hope you stay involved as you have been in the past.

    The four who were elected look like a good mix. Jeff’s background as a product of Northfield School’s will be a bonus, Diane brings perspective from a state policy standpoint and an ability to get things done, Anne has shown she knows how to organize and has extensive experience in every aspect of education and Ellen brings passion for and knowledge of the variety of elementary program offerings. All in all a nice mix of experience and fresh perspective.

    Most importantly, Ellen Iverson can remove the restraining order for Rob Hardy now that he has pledged to never speak to her again 😉

    November 5, 2008

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