Former Albert Lea School Board member running once again

Published 10:18 am Monday, October 24, 2016

A former Albert Lea School Board member seeking a second tenure on the board wants the district to have a positive culture to support its teachers.

“Our district staff is committed to doing what is best for students, and as our most valuable assets we need to support them,” Ken Petersen said.

Petersen, who served on the board from 1999 to 2008, said district staff continue to demonstrate passion and dedication for educating preparing students for life, “and they need a school district with a positive culture and collaboration.”

Ken Petersen

Ken Petersen

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Petersen said extracurricular activities the district offers meets student interests in arts, academics and athletics.

“Each student has their own gifts and talents, and there is something available for each individual to enhance their school experience,” he said.


Petersen said his first goal, if elected, is to help unify the board.

“We need the board and staff working together and moving forward to do what is best for the students,” he said. “It is imperative that we have continuous improvement in all areas of education.”

Petersen added it is important that the district offers vocational and technical opportunities for jobs that do not a require a four-year degree.

Petersen has served as a board member on the Albert Lea Education Foundation since 2011. The group receives donations to provide student scholarships, student activity grants and teacher grants for classroom projects.

Petersen has recently become chairman for the foundation on the Albert Lea Greater Education Project, which aims to provide job shadowing, mentoring and internships for students. The project is a collaboration between Riverland Community College, the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce and Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.

Reasons for running

Petersen said he decided to run for the board after receiving requests from community members and district staff.

“Our school system is vitally important to the future of the Albert Lea community and means so much to me and my family,” he said. “It is necessary for the school board to be unified to help create the proper, positive culture for staff and students.”

He said his first term on the board included the building of a new high school, developing referendums and working through typical educational challenges.

“During that time, I was elected chairman seven times,” he said. “With mutual respect, the culture of the district was positive and unified, even when there were disagreements.”

Biggest challenge

Petersen said the school board’s immediate challenge is unifying and creating a positive culture so the board and staff can do what is best for students.

“Most importantly, our vision needs to be focused on students,” he said.

Petersen said a unified board that supports staff is essential to create a positive culture.

“To create this atmosphere, open communication and mutual respect is vital between the board, administration and staff,” he said. “Everyone should be heard and their opinions valued. Only then can we come with a decision we can all support. We must keep the focus on our students.”

Board decorum

Petersen said he has listened to community members and staff who have told him the decorum of the school board is having a negative effect on the district and community.

“The board has a duty to set aside their personal differences and focus their energy on the students to foster a positive environment for learning,” he said. “I feel my past experience on the school board can provide some guidance to get the board back to focus on our students.”

Reaching out to constituents

Petersen believes that input from constituents is indispensable for the district’s greater good, and the board’s open forum is important so everyone can be heard on important issues.

“Personal contact with constituents is necessary, and I would welcome one-on-one communication with citizens,” he said. “With so many forms of communication available today, I plan to take advantage of them all to maximize interaction with constituents of our district.”   

Three seats on the board are up for election. Other candidates are Neal Skaar, Aaron Phillips, Angie Hanson, Sonjia Hill, Ellen Kehr, Cynthia Gail, Kendall Langseth, Joseph Ferguson and incumbent Julie Johnson.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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