Hermantown Community Schools board chair Heather Holst on her views of the district and The City of Quality Living overall:
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about stepping into Dianne’s (Matthews, former board chair) shoes. She had a lot of experience, setting the bar high for the position. I was fortunate to serve as clerk for my first two years on the board, which has helped to prepare me to step up to chair. I’m very passionate about education – I also teach at Marshall School – and I want to do right by the district. When contested issues come before the board, as they sometimes do, I feel like I can keep a reasonable head about myself and not lose sight of our district’s end goals. As board members we’re definitely a sounding board for the community, and we do handle a lot of emails and phone calls about issues of importance to the people in our community. Everyone has their passions and priorities. At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for our students. Personally, I always try to get back to everybody who contacts me. I want people to be heard and know that their concerns are being addressed.
“I think we’ve done a very good job at the board level with planning and balancing our budget, while not micro-managing our administrators, teachers, staff, and the various programs. We’re also very thoughtful about how we spend our taxpayers’ money, even as we’ve added several positions recently to help to meet current and future post-Covid learning and mental health needs.
“We have a good mix of skill sets on the board, including our most experienced member, Tim who has strong financial experience, Matt has a strong background in technology, David in engineering, Ashley who has served as a lobbyist within her profession, and Lindsay and I as educators.
“Our extracurriculars and athletics are exemplary and vitally important to our community. You attend any Hawks sporting event, concert, or play and the seats are typically filled. Parents and grandparents are there supporting their children and grandchildren. Unquestionably, the school is the heart of our community.
“The school district has been very lucky with less teacher turnover post-pandemic than neighboring areas. Our newest hires are excellent and seem very happy to be in Hermantown. I think our pay scale and benefits are competitive. Our administrators do a good job of leading the schools and they have the trust of their faculty and staff. Wayne (Whitwam, superintendent) has a lot of foresight and a strong skill set to take the data of what’s happening in our schools and develop a plan for continued progress.
“We chose to live in the Hermantown school district 8 years go. I like the smaller size, with one school for every level. We found a neighborhood where there’s a lot of kids, in Sterling Ponds, where our now fourth grade twin girls are growing up. I especially like the proximity to shopping, to be at Sam’s Club and Target in three minutes. There’s the rural feel, yet with easy access to our beautiful hiking trails and lakes, to Downtown Duluth, and a quick jump on 1-35.
“The city continues to grow, bringing in more businesses around the Sam’s Club district. The future improvements at Fichtner Field, the expansion of the trail system, and the new sheet of ice, all thanks to the recently-passed community referendum, will greatly connect more pockets in the community.
“We’re hard-working people who value our families, the education our children and grandchildren receive, and we take care of our neighborhoods. We also care about one another, as we recently witnessed when neighbors helped neighbors clear snow after the recent blizzard.”