Parents have a right and an obligation to be involved with the decisions that affect their children's education and the school board will make better informed decisions with increased parental involvement. That is why I absolutely believe we should break down barriers that inhibit parental participation.
How do we do that? By answering every phone call and email received from teachers, parents, and community members. By holding listening sessions along the year on different topics so that we ensure the myriad interested groups have a voice into policy discussions, visioning, and decisions before they are enacted.
Education is an investment in the future by the entirety of the community. Whether you have children who have already passed through the system, who are actively in the system, will be in the system or do not have children in the district, every voice deserves an opportunity to be heard. The school board needs to hear from you, to understand each perspective, and address any concerns raised. I firmly believe this is a basic tenet of public service.
Minnesota has a well-documented achievement gap. Minnesota schools face a shortage of social workers, school counselors, specialty teachers, and other support professionals. At the same time, we are seeing children affected by an opioid epidemic, homelessness, and other societal crises coming to school and experiencing profound barriers to learning and participating in classrooms in meaningful ways. The types of problems these children face are systemic and require people across a spectrum of organizations working together to develop meaningful solutions.
First, we need to advocate for more funding from state and local sources, and use that funding to hire more staff so we have an appropriate ratio of professionals to students supported. The problems our students are facing are bigger than any school district can be expected to manage on their own. These are societal problems, and as such they will need a broad coalition of support to help solve them. We need to build partnerships with the City of Prior Lake, City of Savage, and Scott County to get to the root of these problems. Yes, we need more counselors, more social workers, and more support staff. We also need more affordable housing, increased access to addiction services, increased food stability so students have enough nutrition to support proper learning, and to make efficient use of resources that exist today such as the Scott County Mobile Crisis Unit.
Children do not learn in a vacuum. They are parts of families, who are parts of communities. The issues facing our school systems are the result of issues facing our communities statewide. We need innovative ideas and new coalitions dedicated to improving the lives of our kids and their families, in order to improve our schools.
Are you with me neighbors?