Even though they are neighbors, the south-metro suburbs of Burnsville and Lakeville have dramatically different demographics. So do their schools.
Lakeville’s shares of students of color and kids receiving free and reduced lunch are in the teens. Burnsville-Eagan-Savage has roughly 50 percent of its students in both categories.
The districts’ recent school board candidate forums were also a study in opposites.
In Burnsville last week, things were fairly casual. There was much discussion about diversity and achievement gaps.
The five candidates spoke conversationally. When incumbent Jim Schmid read a prepared closing statement, fellow board member Dan Luth joked, “Jim, when you write things down, wow, it’s fabulous.”
Candidates fielded questions from high school students and other audience members, who asked about everything from Common Core to partnerships with the business community.
At Lakeville’s event on Tuesday, organized by the Chamber of Commerce, the tone was formal and businesslike.
Questions centered mainly on financial concerns — the role of the board in negotiating teachers’ contracts, comparing teachers’ benefits with other taxpayers, whether a popular school-within-a-school program should expand, given the potential high cost.
A hot-button topic there: Common Core. Several candidates voiced disdain for the initiative, adding that Lakeville should be able to create its own local standards.
Most questions were given out ahead of time and several candidates read prepared responses. There were no audience questions.
Lakeville’s financial focus makes sense, given the $30 million in cuts over the past decade. A $5.6 million referendum last fall passed after voters rejected three previous requests between 2006 and 2010.
The two districts’ candidate pools have this in common: Most candidates were white professionals, though their students are becoming more diverse. Burnsville board member Luth sees this as an issue. “At some point, this board has to better reflect our demographics.”