Albert Lea High School grad campaigning for school board

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Albert Lea High School graduate hopes to be elected to the school board so she can give back to the community.

Angie Hanson, 38, of 2325 Larson Ave. said she wants to ensure students receive an education that lives up to the district’s mission.

Angie Hanson

Angie Hanson

“I am passionate about education, and believe the ideas and perspectives of everyone should be valued,” she said.

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Hanson believes she can make a positive change in the district.

“I understand firsthand how district decisions impact students and families, because I have a child in the district,” she said. “My role as a special education teacher and leader in the Southland School District and Southeast Minnesota Education Consortium has helped me become a strong and effective leader and given me a good understanding of the needs of students.”

Hanson described herself as a problem solver and a good listener, and said she cares about students.

“I want to use my skills, knowledge and experience to effectively represent the constituents of District 241,” she said.

Best things in the district

Hanson said the district has effective teachers who care about students.

“I had great teachers when I was in school, and all of my son’s teachers have been excellent,” she said. “The district has terrific intervention programs that offer extra help and differentiate instruction to students who are struggling.”

She said the district has many activities and sports for students to participate in.

Attracting and retaining teachers

Hanson said the district needs to value teacher input, support teachers and give new teachers a better sense of job security.

“Research from the Learning Policy Institute suggests a correlation between teachers leaving districts when there is a lack of support from administration and lack of teacher input in decision making,” she said, adding that retaining and attracting teachers, teacher and administrator relationships and staff input were rated in the top five concerns on Thoughtexchange, a community survey.

“Teachers are professionals who work with students every day,” Hanson said. “Listening to and valuing teacher input will ensure that the district is making the best decisions for students, while building relationships between teachers and administrators.”

Hanson said the district has a reputation for not renewing the contracts of non-tenured teachers in the spring, then hiring a portion of them back for the following school year.

“This practice happens year after year, resulting in uncertainty about job security,” she said. “Not only do we lose quality teachers, but this uncertainty can impact recruitment, as well. Better planning for the next school year will resolve this problem.”

Reaching out to constituents

Hanson promised to work hard to represent her constituents.

“Constituents should have a voice in our school district,” she said. “No matter how intelligent and experienced they are, six members on a board will never have all of the answers.”

Hanson thinks the district is stronger and makes better decisions when there is good dialogue about the issues.

“I will actively seek the ideas and perspectives of everyone,” she said. “I will ask questions of community members, parents and staff to get their perspective on issues.”

She encouraged constituents to call, email or message her, and she promised to do her best to answer questions and address concerns.

“I will encourage the community to speak during the open forum, and do what I can to ensure that the community can speak about any topics related to the district during that time,” she said.

Biggest challenge

Hanson said the biggest challenge facing the board is utilizing information and ideas from the community, parents and teachers to make effective decisions.

“I have heard from teachers and staff in the district who are not comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns when they differ from the ideas and proposals of upper administration,” she said. “We need to change the norms of the board and district so that we can regain trust, and everyone feels encouraged to share their input and ideas.”

Hanson said she has not seen any proposal from the board to address concerns identified in Thoughtexchange, such as class sizes, curriculum, retaining and attracting teachers, teacher and administrative relationships, and teacher input.

“The board needs to use this information and other input to make effective decisions that benefit students,” she said.

Board decorum

Hanson believes the board needs to present itself in a respectfully and professionally.

“Board members focusing on their personal issues with one another detracts from their ability to focus on the district and needs of the students,” she said. “The disrespect shown at the meetings is not a good example for students.”

Teamwork and respectful discussions with those you disagree with are life skills the board should model for students, Hanson said.

“The school board can become united by forgiving the past, ensuring that board members are treated equally and interacting in a respectful, professional manner,” she said. 


Hanson said she wants to be a representative of the community.

“I will work hard to ensure that the board is listening to and considering the ideas and perspectives of everyone when making big decisions and changes,” she said. “I believe the board makes the most informed and effective decisions when everyone’s perspectives are valued.”

Hanson said she will work with other board members and administration to improve the climate in the district and the relationship between the district and the community.

“I believe this starts with building trust and showing respect,” she said. “I will bring the focus back to the students, and work to ensure that the board is making decisions that benefit students. If I don’t see the benefit to students, I will vote no.”

Other issues

Hanson said Superintendent Mike Funk’s statement that the district’s early start provides opportunities for students to receive more days of instruction prior to MCA exams and Advanced Placement was not proof that students would learn more from the early start. 

“When students receive more days of instruction prior to the tests, their test scores may increase,” she said. “However, at the end of the school year the students will not have any more knowledge or skills than if they had started after Labor Day.”

Hanson said the district should look at methods to boost student achievement and provide training to teachers on those methods.

“This will actually benefit students by better preparing them for the next grade level, and give them the skills they need in life.”

Improving student achievement is still the most effective way to boost test scores, Hanson said.

Three seats are up for election on the board. Neal Skaar, Ken Petersen, Kendall Langseth, Joseph Ferguson, Sonjia Hill, Aaron Phillips, Ellen Kehr, Cynthia Gail and incumbent Julie Johnson have also filed for election to the board.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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