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School Board Candidate Profiles

The following article appeared in the Oct. 8 issue of the Hermantown Star

There are five people running for three seats on the Hermantown School Board in next month’s election. The Hermantown Star asked the candidates to return a questionaire by email answering the following questions: 1. Personal/professional background; 2. Why you’d like to run for the board; 3. Top challenges for the district; 4. Goals you’d like to accomplish on the board; 5. Any other information you’d like to share.

The candidates are presented in alphabetical order. 

 

LINDSAY CLAUSON
1. My name is Lindsay Clauson and I currently reside in Hermantown, Minnesota with my husband Jon and our three children Jace, Brynn and Brittta. I am originally from Fairmont, a small community in southern Minnesota. I graduated from Fairmont High School in 1999 and went on to attend the University of St. Thomas earning an undergraduate degree in Health Promotion. In 2009 I moved to the Northland. While living and working in Superior, I went back to school to get my Graduate Teaching Licensure from the College of Saint Scholastica. Graduating in 2013, I then began my career as a teacher at North Star Academy and worked there as a kindergarten and first grade teacher for 5 years. In 2014, my family and I moved to Hermantown, where my husband is originally from. The last few years I have spent my time working as a kindergarten teacher and more currently a first grade teacher within Proctor Public schools.  I love spending time with family and friends, being outdoors, and traveling to different places. I look forward to the opportunity in helping make Hermantown a great place to live and learn.

 

2. One of the main reasons I am running for a position on the school board is to support my three elementary aged children along with all children within the Hermantown Schools. I feel that Hermantown is a great community and that Hermantown Community Schools provides a quality education.  I am also running because as a parent and an educator, I feel that I fully understand what it takes to build a great public educational system - or at least the myriad of challenges that communities and schools face in meeting the needs of all of our children. I have a unique perspective having worked in various school settings and raising my own children and feel that these experiences will be an asset to the Hermantown School Board.

 

3. One of the top challenges the district faces right now is the current Covid-19 pandemic. This has had such a huge impact on our district, our community, and the education system as a whole. How we move through this challenge will be critical to our childrens’ success as well as to the longevity and mental health of our educational professionals. One other challenge I feel the district is facing is the increase in enrollment. Some questions I ask relating to this issue include: How can we continue to support each student as we continue to expand in size? How does this increase in enrollment impact those community members that do not have children in our district?  It has been and will continue to be a balance of the needs of our students and the ability of the community and taxpayers to support those needs. Presently, the elementary school consists of six sections per grade level. One challenge will be as the enrollment numbers continue to climb, how do we fit that many students into our relatively new buildings?

 

4. As a board member, my principal goal is to ensure that our district provides exceptional education to all Hermantown students.  Furthermore, my goals as a school board member would be to help support the staff and students within the schools, recognizing their unique challenges and needs and balance those within our district’s budget and abilities.

 

5. Again, I want to reiterate the unique perspective that I will bring to the board as a parent of elementary students and as an educator myself. I pay taxes for our school district, I send my children to our schools, and I know the passion that educators have for their roles in our students’ lives. I assure Hermantown citizens that these lenses will guide my decisions, as well as hearing from constituents and ensuring that we are keeping the best interest of our students in mind, while using a realistic and balanced approach to what our district can do and what our taxes can support.

DANIEL ELNES
1. Personal: I am a Husband and Father of three children all of whom will soon be in Hermantown schools. I am an active member of the community, volunteering at church, coaching soccer, PTA, etc...  
Professional: I am a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones since 2012. I am a Major in the Army Reserve and joined in 2001. I commanded the Army reserve unit on Park Point from 2009-2011. I earned my BA from UMD in 2008 and my MS from UoP in 2011.  

 

2. I am running for a spot on the board because someone close to the family we trust brought to our attention there was a need.  My wife and I reflected and decided that if not us, then who? We have a passion for Hermantown and children are the future.

 

3. I believe there will be many challenges over the next 4 years, some seen and some unseen. The biggest three that I can see right now are:

  1. Maneuvering during this pandemic
  2. Problem solving issues with a growing student population (classroom space, financing, etc...)
  3. Financial stewardship with needs vs means   

4. I understand I have a LOT to learn.  I look forward to the challenge of finding how I best fit to champion the interests of ALL children in our community; including, but not only, my own.

 

5. I am thankful for the support I have received running for The School Board. I love the Hermantown community and I know its future excellence depends on the next generation.  

HEATHER HOLST
1. I was raised in Duluth and after living away for 17 years, returned to the area 7 years ago. My husband, John, and I along with our twin daughters, relocated to Hermantown in 2015. One of the deciding factors in moving to Hermantown was the school system: class sizes, good teacher reputations, a school board that has the interests of the students at heart, and a community that values education.


I graduated in 2000 with a B.S. from Winona State University in Social Science-History for Secondary Education and went on to earn my M.A. in Geography and Environmental Planning in 2012 from Towson University in Maryland. This year marks my 20th year as a classroom teacher, my 8th at Marshall School. On top of that I am a real estate agent, foster parent, former blogger, and former family readiness (civilian) officer with the Marine Corps.

 

2. I'm running for a position on the Board because education is my passion. I have a wide range of experiences as I have taught in 7 different states and for the Department of Defense Schools in Okinawa Japan; schools ranging from urban to rural, public to private, large to small. I have working knowledge of educational practices and have seen numerous methods of implementation. As a real estate salesperson I also understand the impact of the housing market on property taxes and levies that directly impact the district budget. Above all else, I am dedicated to keeping the well being of students my top priority and will strive to uphold the reputation of Hermantown Schools. As a member of the community, with children enrolled in 2nd grade, I have a vested interest in our schools.

 

3. The challenges currently facing our district include COVID-19’s impact on face to face, hybrid, and distance learning as well as expanding and maintaining a robust arts, music, elective, and CTE curriculum. My experience as a teacher living and breathing the numerous changes to policy and implementation during the pandemic will be of value as the Board continues to make decisions regarding classes throughout the next year. In my current and previous position I have served as curriculum writer and understand the benefit to having diverse academic and extracurricular programming. A well rounded, engaging curriculum at all levels produces more competent graduates, many of which will transition into our community workforce, area national guard, or continue their studies at local colleges. If we invest in them during their PreK-12 education, the greater community will reap the reward.

 

Another challenge facing our district, and all districts really, is equity and inclusion. We need to ensure that all students, regardless of ability and background, are on equitable footing when they enter the doors of our schools. We do this by providing students with accommodation plans such as IEPs and 504s to ensure they receive aids or assistance needed to be successful in a classroom or online setting. It is also accomplished through differentiating instruction. We need to meet the students where they are at and provide them with the resources to advance. It is making sure every student feels comfortable and safe in our hallways to be their true authentic self. It is an area where Hermantown Schools can continue to grow and I want to ensure we do.

 

4. One of my goals as a Board Member will be to increase communication from the Board to the Hermantown community. I would like to create a “news in a minute” type email blast that updates community members on the ideas, events, policies, and activities of the Board. Right now the schools, superintendent, and community education do a good job of communicating to their email subscribers and I think this is an area where the Board needs to take advantage. The meetings and minutes are posted online via the District page but in order to know what is going on, one must be self driven to look up the information. I’d like to make it easier for the entire Hermantown community to find out what’s going on at the Board level and within our schools. I foresee a newsletter style email going out to email subscribers after meetings detailing key points as well as highlighting events in our PreK-12 and Community Education Programming. As a former blogger for Duluth Mom, creating this newsletter will be an easy transition for me. And I think this is extra important as we navigate COVID-19 and its impact on our schools.
Along with better communication hopefully comes more participation from community members. I attended the public meeting for the district’s 5 year strategic plan and was disappointed with the low attendance. There were only a handful of people in the auditorium and a good chunk of them were fellow educators. As educators, we know that a 5 year strategic plan is inherently important to a district and the community. This is what will shape the future of the district and this is the time for the community to have a say in all aspects of education whether it’s academic rigor, scope and sequencing, increasing the arts, CITS or CTE opportunities, technology, extracurriculars, sports, or the elementary pick up line. It’s a shame that only 20-30 voices were heard in a community of almost 10,000. I will work to better inform the public of these types of opportunities and the significance they hold for our schools and greater community.

 

5. I believe the Hermantown community will find that I am open, honest, and approachable. If elected to the Board this November I will do my best to serve the needs of our students, staff, faculty, administration, coaches, and greater community. Go Hawks!

ASHLEY McFARLAND
1. I’m a native Iowan but a rather winding road brought me to Hermantown. Upon graduation (B.A. Environmental Studies and Political Science and M.S. Environmental Science, Water Resources), I married my husband James who was already working for the U.S. Forest Service in northern Idaho. Upon relocation, I began working for the University of Idaho’s Cooperative Extension Program, eventually serving as the north Idaho Water Quality educator. In that role, I conducted research and delivered educational programs to landowners and managers on conservation efforts.

 

Shortly after having our daughter Leah, who is now a 3rd grader at Hermantown Elementary, James’ job took us to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I began working as the director of a research farm for Michigan State University. Although I continued to conduct research and deliver outreach programs, I also gained invaluable budget management and strategic planning experience at varying scales. Our son Tyler was born in Michigan and is now in Kindergarten.

 

Finally, we made our last move in 2018, which brought us to this wonderful community! Although our family is just starting our third year in Hermantown, our move to this community was a thoughtful one, and upon learning we would be relocating to the Twin Ports for my husband’s work, Hermantown immediately appealed to us primarily because of the outstanding school district. I currently serve as the executive director of a nonprofit, Dovetail Partners. Our family loves to travel and you’ll often find us on the water or in the woods.  

 

2. Our family has moved quite extensively over the past dozen years and when we landed in Hermantown, we knew this is where we wanted to spend the rest of our years raising our children. Throughout my career, I have always been very focused on addressing needs within the communities we lived in through my work with University Extension - whether it be through developing youth development programs, conducting research for farmers, or educating landowners on how to protect the water in their lakes. I want to continue my service in Hermantown bringing the experiences I've gained in other areas to build upon the reputation our District has developed. My roles in leadership, administration, and strategic communication have prepared me for a role on your school board.

 

3. Determining how this district will grow in response to community needs will undoubtedly be a significant challenge in the years ahead. It is critically important for us to be mindful of class sizes while balancing the burden that additional infrastructure will bring to our community. Furthermore, as our community grows and evolves, it will be very important to provide opportunities and support to meet the needs of those new to the community. Finally, as we grow, communicating effectively among the board, administration, staff, and community will become increasingly challenging, and I want Hermantown to be known for transparency and inclusiveness, especially in times when hard decisions have to be made.

 

4. I want to bring my passion for education and community to the Hermantown School Board. Shaped by conversations I’ve had within our community; I have the following priorities in my sight.

  • Strategic growth to maintain Hermantown’s community culture
  • Hyper-focus on ensuring students are reading at grade level
  • Expand opportunities for students in career technical education (CTE) pathways
  • Maintain access to and transparency with the Board.

5. I would encourage you to learn more about me and my positions on issues by visiting my campaign page on Facebook, just search for 'Ashley McFarland for Hermantown School Board.' There I expand on many of the items discussed above, and you can also reach out to me if you have any questions. Hermantown, I am asking for your vote, and greatly appreciate your support!

GERALD WALLACE
1. I'm a Duluth raised, parent of two boys. My wife, myself, and our two sons moved to Hermantown over two years ago. My sons are in 6th grade and Kindergarten. I'm a graduate of Hamline University, 2008, and University of Dayton (OH), School of Law (2014). I'm an attorney, and I focus my practice in the areas of Criminal Defense, Family, and Probate Law. I've been in practice for 6 years. I have owned my firm, Wallace Law Firm, PLLC, for 6 years, in the Alworth Building in downtown Duluth. I'm the outgoing president of the local bar association and serve on the Board of Temple Israel. The skills I bring as a lawyer, critical thinking skills will help us meet the challenges of our current environment and the future. 


2. I want to be around people who can think. I believe that, besides love, there is no more important gift a parent can give a child than an education that prepares them to meet the world. I want to be a part of bringing that education to our children. As much as is possible, I want to make sure our children receive the education that will best support them to be prepared adults. This means to me, not just facts, but also the skills necessary to be independent, successful people ready to achieve their goals. Skills like critical thinking, just as much as the ability to take a test, will be necessary for our children to be capable of achieving their life's next step. Our children need educational options that ready them for entry into trades, a 4 year education, or some other field that may come along. I believe offering an education that teaches critical analysis just as much as it meets the ends to do well on a test is the best offering we can give to our students. 

 

3. Obviously, continuing to develop our Covid-19 response to give our children the best education possible is the most pressing, current challenge. This includes asking more of our teachers and developing a consistent curriculum for our hybrid and distance learning models. Whenever and however possible, the district needs to collaborate with our parents to hear from them about what works and what doesn't work. This is an immediate challenge brought on by the moment. 

 

Long term, I think our community's ability to continue to deliver a high quality education, while maintaining an affordable living environment will be an onoing endeavor. Education as we've developed it here in the United States is a local community effort. We have to consider, especially in this environment, our financial needs versus our wants and plan accordingly. As our student body grows in numbers, our facilities will be stretched further. We need to look at ways to maximize our space and meet our students needs while ensuring that we continue to maintain our financial means. This means working with our teachers (by far our strongest asset), ensuring we continue to hire quality educators, and maintaining the labor peace we have enjoyed for so long. We will also need to sustain strong relationships with our local businesses, unions, and elected officials to ensure we have access to opportunities for our children and our staff. 

 

4. I would like to be able to transition our children back into the school full time in a safe manner as soon as possible. This decision is mostly out of our hands with the ongoing pandemic event, but we should be developing that plan as soon as we can to be prepared to bring our students back. With that said, I think looking for opportunities in our curriculum to ensure our children are getting the space and practice to think critically and embrace their future choices is a priority. More than anything we can do with our physical spaces, these opportunities will help our children the most.

 

5. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my vision for our children's education. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me on Facebook or by email at: Wallaceforhsbmn700@gmail.com.