New members of two school boards focus on fiscal matters

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2012 - 8:36 PM

Forest Lake, South Washington board members lay out their goals for their new terms.

Thanks to community-wide support for a district levy renewal in the November election, Forest Lake Area Schools were spared having to make severe budget cuts this year.

But the four board members starting new terms this month agree that fiscal management will still be high on their list of priorities in the coming years.

Here's a look at the new board members' goals for the next four years:

Dan Kieger, 53, wants the district to be more fiscally responsible while still providing quality programs for its students. "My priority is our students and to offer them the best education possible in a safe and challenging environment and to do it as a responsible ... steward of our district's budget."

Julie Corcoran, 49, said she wants to improve communication and urge the state to provide Forest Lake Area Schools with more adequate funding. "We need to look for innovative ways to reduce expenditures, increase revenues and strive for change within the Legislature," she said. "As a new board member, it would be crucial to be involved in more community events to try to increase the communication within all areas of the district."

Rob Rapheal, 48, wants to improve the district's academic programs. "My priority is that kids are learning at their top potential and have a wide range of options in safe schools."

Gail Theisen, 53, said the district will have to look toward updating several of its aging facilities in the next few years. "I think on the horizon will be trying to build consensus with the community to see what we can do to chip away at updating our buildings."

South Washington County

This year's South Washington County school board will be tasked with choosing a new superintendent. The board voted 5-2 last month to give notice to Mark Porter, who worked in the district for 30 years before being hired as superintendent in 2009, that his tenure would end on June 30.

Board members raised several concerns during Porter's annual job review that they said were private personnel issues.

Here's a look at the three board members who recently began new terms and their individual goals in office, along with their goals for the next superintendent:

Ron Kath, 50, said he wants to maintain the district's strong financial position. "I will support programs that improve student achievement," he said. "Our tough economic times will require strong leadership and experience."

Jim Gelbmann, 53, said this will be his last term on the board. He wants to use his connections to help the district redesign Minnesota's "arcane system for funding education," he said. "A system that allows schools in the west metro area suburbs to raise and spend $1,500 more per student than we spend in the east metro is not producing the adequate and equitable education that is guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution."

Leslee Boyd, 47, said she wants to help the district meet its educational needs with less money. "I will work with others to create a budget process that includes ample opportunity for staff and community input and incorporates a cost-benefit model so decisions can be based on data and not just on past practice or emotional appeals."

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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