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Paynesville Press - Oct. 27, 2010

Paynesville School Board
Terry Johnson

Terry Johnson, 45, has lived in Paynesville since 1993 and has been a pharmacist for 22 years. After attending Battle Lake High School, he earned a bachelor of science in pharmacy at North Dakota State University. He currently works at Paynesville Corner Drug. He and his wife Kim have two children: Jonah, a ninth grader, and Halle, a seventh grader. He is running as a write-in candidate.

Why are you running for school board? I desire the chance to contribute to the community. A chance to work with the people that are and will be our community.

Describe your experiences with kids and explain how these will help you make decisions on the board? The experiences that I use the most are based on years I spent as a kid. As I have grown older, I recall the challenges to "fit in," the internal stress to figure out who I am, and the all around encouragement of my parents, teachers, and friends. Furthermore, while volunteering for softball or just being a parent, I realize that today's kids have many times the challenges I had to face. I need to walk in their shoes when making school board decisions.

What new ideas do you think you can bring to the school board? My new idea is surprisingly not a new idea at all. It is more of a discovery of an idea: an idea of responsibility. Not only does the school board have responsibility for what has and what will be decided, so does everyone in this community. We all must take responsibility for the success or failure of our school.

The district has not made Adequate Yearly Progress in three years (and in four of the past seven years) How should the district improve its curriculum and test scores? Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) can be a complicated concept to understand. Not making AYP does not mean that the Paynesville Area School District in whole has failed. The state of Minnesota breaks down AYP into categories of participation, proficiency, attendance, and graduation. Paricipation and proficiency is then divided into different subgroups. From my understanding, not making AYP in any subgroup in any school in the district will cause the district not to meet AYP. Therefore, because of the broad nature of AYP, curriculum changes will always be needed to adjust to the chaning student body. But more importantly, student dedication to learn and parent involvement will allow their district to make AYP.

What measures should the board take to deal with declining enrollment? Based on statistics from the Minnesota Department of Education, from the school years 2002-03 to 2009-10, the Paynesville School District has lost an average of between 11 to 12 students yearly. However, before deciding what measures are to be taken, the district must determine the cause of declining enrollment. Many district and community factors contribute to student enrollment. For example, attracting and retaining students are district issues. Moreover, smaller family sizes and employment opportunities are community issues. The board must work in cooperation with community leaders to increase the quality of district community.

How important are strong extracurricular programs to our school district? What should the board be doing to encourage and enhance these programs? A school district is given the responsibility to teach our youth. Both didactic and extracurricular programs are very important. Band, choir, drama, and athletics instill the values of confidence, sportsmanship, teamwork, and increased self-esteem. A school board should pursue any avenue that would allow every student the chance to participate in and experience the value of an extracurricular program.

For the past four years, the district has exceeded its goal for a general fund balance (more than $1 million). What should the district maintain as a healthy fund balance? A healthy general fund balance is a fund balance that ends in the black. Typically, a balance will rotate between abundance and loss. I would anticipate the current fund balance to adjust downward over time.

As district funds allow, where do you see funding needs in the school district? When funds are available, the school must identify needs. To be successful, the district must be equally sensitive toward providing safe functional facilities, dedicated competent staff, and an adequate supply of teaching materials. If district funds would allow, I see a need to improve materials such as scientific equipment, text books, and classroom computers.

The school board approved a $16.5-million renovation and repair project in August that includes a $14 million tax increase Why did you vote for this project and tax increase? As a parent, I support any project that will protect the health and increase the safety of our children. However, as a taxpayer, I am not thrilled with the price tag. Unfortunately, today's costs are measured in millions, not in thousands as in past years. Furthermore, if we postpone renovations and repairs, at what point in time and at what cost will the state begin to mandate the updating of our district facilities?

A proposal to raise the district's operating levy was rejected by voters in November 2009. Do you support asking voters to increase this tax in November 2011? Why or why not? I support asking the voters to exercise their right to decide whether to support, or reject, an increase in the district's operating levy. When it comes down to it, the district and the children belong to the voters. What is the proper role of of the school board in making personnel decisions? The school board should have both an indirect and direct role in personnel decisions. For example, the development and implementation of criteria needed for personnel changes would be an indirect board role. On the other hand, when direct-reporting personnel change, a direct board role is needed. Superintendent, principal, athletic director, or Community Education director are examples of direct-reporting personnel.

How much weight should board members give committee recommendations? I believe committees serve a very important organizational role. School boards have become saturated with an increasing number of complicated issues. Committees allow a school board to devote investigational time and energy toward each of these issues. However, I believe a committee should function only to further dissect issues, offer possible solutions, and pose possible outcomes. In this way when the committee reports back to the full board, each board member would be able to ask educated questions and make enlightened decisions.

Should school board meetings be televised on the local Channel 8? Why not? Paynesville Area School District is a public district. The public should have every chance to become involved with their school.

How should the school board - and the school district - encourage and maintain community support for the Paynesville Area Public Schools? The Paynesville area community needs to witness the fact that the school board and district has only the utmost concern for our students. The community should be actively and profusely encouraged to participate in board and district activities. Extensive efforts through television, website, newspaper, and flyers could be used to increase the community's awareness of upcoming events. Only with deliberate transparency can community support be maintained.

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