Candidate aims to create more open dialogue between the community and school district

Published 6:59 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A school board candidate is looking to improve relationships between the community and the school board with help from the ballot box in November.

Kalli Rittenhouse

Kalli Rittenhouse is one of seven candidates for the Albert Lea Area Schools school board.

“I believe that the relationship between the school board and the community has been strained in recent years,” Rittenhouse said. “I feel that community engagement has been somewhat stifled.”

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Rittenhouse said she felt the Thoughtexchange process kept the community “at arm’s length” and allows the administration — rather than the community – to drive the discussion. She said she also believes the board could be more open to responding to feedback from the public, and would work for open dialogue to increase between the board and the community.

However, the biggest challenge Rittenhouse sees for the board is to ensure there are programs in place for all students to be successful, both before and after graduation. She also cited rapid technology changes and workforce skills as challenges to educators.

Retaining educators comes down to paying them well, appreciating them, listening to them, involving them in decisions, mentoring them and challenging them, she said.

“I believe that energy spent to achieve those things will pay off in both attracting good things and retaining them,” Rittenhouse said.

Student success also involves several factors in addition to assessment results, she said.

“Test performance is only one measure of student success, although I believe it is important to work to improve the test performance of all students as well as reduce the performance gap for minority students,” she said. “That is quite a challenge.”

The school board’s role in that is not in prescribing solutions, but in listening to the concerns of district employees and working with administration to determine the best way to support teachers and students in their learning goals.

Rittenhouse is an engineer at Sputtering Components in Owatonna. She said her engineering background has prepared her well to analyze problems and come to creative solutions.

“I have many years of experience working with cross-functional teams to solve complex issues,” she said. “I value diverse opinions and enjoy working toward compromises that may not completely solve a problem, but get closer to a solution. The priority I would place is to listen to all sides to be able to find common ground.”

However, she acknowledged there are many things she would have to learn if elected to the board.

Rittenhouse is not aware of all the programs in place to support students and families living near the poverty line, nor familiar enough with the facilities to speak specifically to their use or care, she said.

“I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t have the answers, but I will work diligently to educate myself on the issues and work with people to build consensus,” Rittenhouse said.

School board members will be elected Nov. 6. There are four seats to fill.


Kalli Rittenhouse is facing Mark Ciota, Dennis Dieser, Dave Klatt, Brian Anderson, Kim Nelson and Jill Marin for the school board. See Ciota’s Tribune election profile here. See Klatt’s Tribune election profile here. See Anderson’s Tribune election profile here. See Marin’s Tribune election profile here. See Nelson’s Tribune election profile here. See Dieser’s Tribune election profile here.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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