School board candidate focuses on support given and needed for success

Published 8:09 pm Monday, October 22, 2018

A candidate with a history in education is looking to expand her influence to the school board this November.

Kim Nelson

Kim Nelson is running for one of the open Albert Lea Area Schools board positions. She said she sees an opportunity for the school board to work on its dynamic with the community — and, more specifically, with outlying communities. Nelson spent time campaigning in favor of the Hammer Complex updates approved by a special election vote in May.

“One of the glaring outcomes from that election was that our area communities, to include Hayward, Hollandale, Clarks Grove, were not collectively in favor of the referendum,” Nelson said. “I would like to work with those communities to understand the position as an area community that supports our district and give them a voice at the table.”

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Nelson said she would also like to see the board reach out to community agencies to address student and family support — including needs related to finances but also with housing and child care — outside of the school structure.

Furthermore, according to Nelson, the district needs to ask itself whether it is doing everything it can to support students identified with special needs.

Teacher attraction and retention also relies on support, Nelson said: support from the community, the administration and board and economic development that supports the community they live in.

The district is already doing well in actively connecting with business and industry, she said, including career exploration opportunities and youth apprenticeship placements.

However, Nelson considers the district challenged by regulations and the funding formula.

“Districts continue to see regulations being mandated but do not receive additional funding to facilitate those regulations,” Nelson said. “Currently, the funding formula is very complicated and tends to give more resources to the largest school districts.”

She cited regulations in testing as another hit for the district.

“Standardized testing … does not give a clear picture of how we as a district (are) really doing,” she said, specifically citing when students can choose whether to opt out of taking the tests.

With how complex the funding formula is for schools, Nelson said the district does a good job of understanding its streams and opportunities for additional funding through programs and grants.

“We are fiscally responsible, and that helps the taxpayers of our district,” she said.

The board itself is evaluated not just on its decisions, but also on whether it can model appropriate dialogue around potentially controversial issues.

“Bottom line, the board is evaluated not just on the decisions they make, but if they are respectful to those that may disagree with them or have another view,” she said. “When leaving the board room, it is also important that school officials and board members support the work of the board and commitment that board makes to education in our communities.”

Nelson said she will bring experience and passion to the position.

“I am solution driven and (want) to be a positive role model for our future,” she said.

Nelson is director of grants and alumni relations at Riverland Community College in Austin. She also worked for 17 years in early childhood education and served on the school board by appointment in 2011, after a previous board member resigned.

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

Kim Nelson is facing Mark Ciota, Dennis Dieser, Dave Klatt, Brian Anderson, Kalli Rittenhouse 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 Rittenhouse’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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