Hermantown Community Schools board member Ashley McFarland on her tenure with the school district and the city overall:
“I started on the board about two years ago, putting me halfway through my first term. I’ve learned a lot about school governance and the role of the school board. The perspective I bring to the board is as a parent of Hermantown students, and as someone who is very supportive of public schools. I want to ensure that we have high-quality schools for the students in our community to attend.
“The first year of my tenure was consumed by COVID. There obviously were differing views on how best to get our kids back in the classroom, while mitigating the risks as much as possible. I was experiencing remote learning first hand attempting to work full-time from home, while helping our children work on their classwork. Candidly, nothing was working well - parents and educators were just spread too thin. Our educators tried to provide the most robust experience possible, but you can never replace the classroom experience. It was good to eventually get our students and teachers back in the classroom full time. The latest test scores show that the additional investment we have made in our kids post-pandemic are paying off.
We must also focus on our educators and address their needs after what has been a very trying few years. We have a strong history of teachers who want to be in and stay in our District, and we have to continue to create a culture that supports that legacy.
“One of the most important things we can do is provide a welcoming and nurturing system for our staff. Buildings really don’t matter much if we don’t have teachers who want to show up to them. Year after year, our children have always had excellent classroom experiences, which tells me that we have something special in the Hermantown District.
“Our move to Hermantown was a very deliberate decision. My husband works for the U.S. Forest Service, and when we found out we would be moving to the Duluth area, we immediately began researching schools. On our house hunting trip we drove to all of the elementary campuses from Esko to Lester. When we got to the Hermantown campus, something just felt right. We had heard so many good things about the Hermantown community and schools and appreciate the ability to spread out here a bit more than other parts of Duluth, despite still being close to everything. We’ve moved from Iowa to Idaho to Michigan and now Minnesota, and knew this would likely be our last move until our children graduated high school, making it a 15 year plan, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. We landed in an excellent neighborhood with great friends and being on the school board has really connected me to the community.
“Hermantown is an interesting community, lacking a more traditional downtown, so the school campus is really the heartbeat of the community. When you think about Hermantown, you think about the school. And what’s going on at the school is a good barometer of the community, making it ever-more important on how we set the tone and culture at the District. The focus in the Hermantown Community really is about our students. Back when we were bringing our students back into our classroom, I was so impressed how our counseling staff were very thoughtful about reminding them how to be good humans. I have to believe in a time when we all needed it, that work had a positive trickle down effect back into our homes.”