A total of 16 candidates are running for the Osseo Area School Board on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Three seats will be filled because members’ terms are expiring.  There are 11 candidates vying for those spots. The candidates up for these open seats are: Melody Brinkley, incumbent incumbent Heather Douglass, Scott Fjellman, Tamara Grady, Lerea Graham, David Hallman, incumbent Jackie Mosqueda-Jones, incumbent Mike Ostaffe, Miamon Queeglay, Joseph Rahaglia, and Anthony Starks.

There are another five candidates on the ballot for the special election due to the resignation of board member Jessica Craig, who stepped down on June 18. The candidate chosen in the special election will take office in November 2020 and serve until January 2023. Those five candidates on the ballot for the special election are: Thomas Brooks, Bridget Erickson, Vicki Richardson, Khai Vang and Kia Xiong.

The candidates were asked to include their thoughts in statements. Each were asked to include a short biography of themselves and their backgrounds as well as their personal and professional experiences. They were also asked to comment on two questions that were asked. (See questions belows in each statement).

The responses received include:

Melody Brinkley

Biographical info:

Address: 5910 Pineview Lane N., Plymouth, MN 55442

Current Occupation: Local retail manager

Education: Masters Degree in Multiple Subject Education

Community involvement: Spent 10 years at private school in both teaching and administrative roles. Volunteered for OMGBA as a youth basketball coach, and mentor young adults at my church in Maple Grove.

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

As we navigate unprecedented times, our budget is being impacted by transitions we had to make in the last and current school years. New systems for interventions and remediations will be necessary, if we have any hope for closing the achievement gap in District 279. Before any budget adjustments can be made, auxiliary programs will have to be reviewed with scrutiny for their return on investment. If elected, I look forward to working with the Board to evaluate current programs with the intention to reform and rebuild sustainable systems and remediations that are conducive to meeting the educational needs of all students in our district. It is my priority to protect resources directly supporting our teachers’ instructional needs, as they are our most valuable asset. Just as educational staff had to pivot, our budget must reflect our new direction.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

As a parent of two students in our district, and as a former educator, the most important thing facing us this school year is compromised educational opportunities, at every level. Our special education programs have suffered terribly, as online learning is not a real option for this student demographic.

Our early education population is struggling to learn foundational math and literacy skills with the technology and attention span hurdles they experience online. Even more, our older students have been cut off from arts and hands-on course options, which are essential in narrowing their search for what comes after high school.

While teachers are doing their very best to navigate this season, we cannot go back in time and reverse the negative effects of a global pandemic on our educational system. However, we can innovate a new way forward. It is imperative that we anticipate interventions at every level of education, and create programs that support this reformation.

Heather Douglass

Biographical info:

Address: Osseo

Community Involvement: Current School Board Member, Serves on Policy Committee, DPAC and Intermediate District 287 Board. Volunteers: local schools at all levels, Feed My Starving Children and Girl Scouts.

Contact information: Voteheatherdouglass.com

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

I support seeing changes in the school board budget that better reflect the strategic priorities of the district, including, but not limited to: curriculum changes, investments, or reallocating funds. We need to take bold action to actively close the achievement gap, while maintaining fiscally responsible budgeting decisions. Using data driven metrics, the board should be choosing to fund initiatives that are working and adjust funding when data necessitates a shift. One-time funding allocations should be used on specific investments to meet strategic goals, in addition to ongoing established funding streams that have proven positive data results.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

Of the many challenges our district faces each year, I am most concerned about the serious impact the pandemic is having on the education and mental health of our students. I am deeply concerned that the achievement gap will widen causing significant challenges for our students in the future. All students deserve an equal opportunity to receive an adequate education. Students should be receiving the same level of rigor, access and support across school sites.

One of my top priorities is to bring attention to and to resolve inconsistencies and disparities between and within sites both in and out of a pandemic setting. It is known that students are more successful in the least restrictive setting available. Students of all levels and abilities should always be in the least restrictive environment available and this year is no exception. Parents have been put into impossible situations due to pandemic guidelines and they need the support of the school board to ensure that their students are receiving the best education and supports available. Parents and caregivers are the most impactful resource our students and it should be the boards priority to support them in the education of their students.

Scott Fjellman

Biographical info:

Address: 7461 Merrimac Lane N., Maple Grove

Education: BS, Accounting, Business Administration

Occupation: Accountant, Finance Executive

Community involvement: Volunteer, youth baseball and football coach, board member

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

I have lived in the district for nearly 20 years, married for 27 years and have two kids who have graduated through the district. In any budget, especially with service businesses, look first to the largest spending area, which is salaries and benefits. I would focus on the additional administrative staff in the district. We have the same number of students in ISD 279 that we did ten years ago, but we have a lot more staff.  I would research that area of expense first. Next, I would look into our technology spending. Smart spending in this area now will mean less spending in this area later.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this year?

Our response to the covid virus. Our plan to start later, go with distance learning and hybrid, while following MN Department of Health guidance sounds logical, but not having the students in class could be worse long-term, especially if the MDH statistics don’t improve. The ripple effects across families, students and teachers will likely be worse for everybody, and the uncertainty adds to everyone’s angst. We need to get our kids back in the classroom.

Tamara Grady

Biographical info:

Address: 13570 Grove Drive, Box 283, Maple Grove

Education: Candidate for Master’s of Advocacy and Political Leadership 2021, Master of Arts ​​ Anthropology 1998

Occupation: Student

Community Involvement: Parents and Community Together MGMS Chair, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, District Planning Advisory Council Maple Grove Middle School Representative, Chicago Gifted Community Center President

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

Our public education has been defunded for over the last 30 years. In addition, schools are in the position of having to meet the needs that come with children who are food and housing insecure.  Furthermore, many students are experiencing mental health issues.  

Osseo School District is in a more fortunate financial position than many districts. My strategy is to fight for fully funding our schools at the state legislative level. In addition to more general funds, I will fight for the special education cross-subsidy program needs to be fully supported by the federal and state government. Other sources of funding should be tapped into as the pandemic continues, such as the $10 million the district is receiving through the Cares Act.  Finally,​ this is an emergency, and therefore the emergency funds should be available for urgent needs.  

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this year?

Every student deserves a safe, equitable and quality education. While we know most kids learn better in person, we must face the reality of life during a global pandemic. Families need to feel that no matter the schooling model the district is in, that their children will be safe from exposure to the virus.  

While we move through different educational models, parents need a communication strategy that is concise, inclusive, and multilingual. Now more than ever parents need to feel welcome in partnering with schools to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs that are unique to each child.  

All students deserve to learn in a safe and supportive environment. I will address bullying and support a culturally responsive curriculum. I support wrap-around support services as provided by the community schools model. In addition, schools need to address social and emotional concerns with a greater mental health infrastructure. Our schools need more guidance counselors, more social workers, and more therapists.  

Lerea Graham

Biographical info:

Address: Maple Grove

Family: Married with three students in district

Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Minnesota

Employment: Corporate training and development

Community service: School volunteer, corporate training and development

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

The current budget with its many facets has many areas of opportunity that exist. Because of the pandemic and other 2020 events the distribution of funds this year will need to have a meticulous and unified roll out method as we are living during these fluid times.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

The areas of concern that I see to be the most pressing is health and safety for all of our schools and families as well as mitigating any widening of the student academic achievement gap. The latter will take focus,flexibility, fluidity and transparency from all members of the school board to guarantee a successful school year for all of us.

David Hallman

Biographical info:

Address: 14040 96th Ave N, Maple Grove, MN 55369

Education: Master’s Degree, Materials Science and Engineering, U of M

Occupation: Consulting Forensic Engineer, Hallman Engineering LLC

Community involvement: Watch Dogs, Top Dog, Osseo Middle School, 5 years; Mock-interview volunteer, Maple Grove Senior; and Volunteer with teen youth, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

Due to the statewide shutdown which occurred starting in March 2020, the state is currently running a large deficit. It is very likely that this will affect funding for the District in the very near future. Due to that fact, once the updated financial numbers are available, the budget for the District will have to be adapted to available funds. The nature of those adjustments will not be known until the availability of state funds can be determined. I would be against any changes that would reduce numbers of teachers.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

The most important challenge this year for students and parents is the change to hybrid/distance learning. This is a challenge for the students as they must adapt to a new way of learning and must also be much more self-motivated to keep up with their workload. This is a challenge for the parents as they must not only be responsible for daytime childcare, they must also act as teachers and resources for their children as they learn new skills. This will be particularly difficult for families with multiple grade level children or children with special needs. As a district, we need to figure out how to support all of these families throughout the school year and provide them with the tools and resources they need to be successful. This will be difficult for all involved in this moving forward.   

Jackie Mosqueda-Jones

Biographical info:

Address: 7341 Berkshire Way N, Maple Grove, MN 55311

Education: MA in Family Education, ABD Human Services

Occupation: Licensed Educator

Community involvement: Taught in Osseo 12 years. Volunteer for African Career and Resource Center, education work force with Coalition for Asian American Leaders. Reading for school events.

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

Adjustments to the budget should be made based on input from the community on priorities. The budget should reflect the values of the school district community including equity and evidence based practices.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

The biggest concerns I have been hearing from students and families are teaching and learning during covid19; and racism.

Mike Ostaffe

Biographical info:

Address: Maple Grove

Education: BS Electrical Engineering and MBA in Finance, Strategy, Marketing

Occupation: Product Management

Community involvement: Please highlight relevant involvement.

District 279 Osseo Area School Board Chair, Member of FISCAL Committee, Elementary Math Tutor, Youth Sports Coach

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

Our district’s budget is based on the choices we make in how we are going to educate and serve our students and residents.

The largest budget is approximately $260M of our $350M overall budget and covers the general education and transportation of our students. Approximately 85% of this fund is spent on salaries and benefits. An important change that we need to bring on the revenue side is to have the state and federal governments reimburse us for the $20M in special education expenditures. These costs are currently paid for out of the general fund.

We desperately need to expand our Technical/Trades programs by hiring additional instructors and building and equipping new classrooms.

The budget for the current school year was approved in June and will be monitored closely as there will be additional expenses due to toggling between our three different learning models as well as running the full-year Distance Learning Academy. The knowledge to understand the budget and the willingness to make critical decisions are key requirements of being an effective school board member. I study all aspects of our operating budget and am committed to fiscal responsibility.

2.  What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

Our students and parents are facing the unprecedented challenge of coming back to school in the distance and hybrid learning models, which come with a lack of social and emotional support that direct contact with friends and teachers provides. Parents must be advocates for their children’s education, and many are being torn between helping multiple children throughout the day with schoolwork while holding onto their job. Students are also facing a world in which politics has reached a new level of negativity. Online bullying is increasing, and our schools need to be cognizant of the issue and work with parents and students to mitigate the risks.

Miamon Queeglay

Biographical info:

Address: 9763 102nd Ave N Maple Grove, MN 55369

Education: B.S. in Public Health- St Catherine University

Occupation: Community Schools Manager ISD # 286

Community involvement: Parent of 3 students, Co-Chair of the North West Hennepin Family Service Collaborative

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

I have to highlight and celebrate our fiscal strength. Our district has a solid financial management and fiscal responsibility. I will continue to fulfill our current fiscal strength with trust and responsibility. My experience with leveraging community business partnerships to fulfill our goals and serve our students will enhance our already strong fiscal model. I believe that if the district stays in the hybrid model, our teachers need to be compensated for doing double the work and/or the district needs to hire additional staff to support planning and instruction.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

I believe the community’s overall well being is the most important issue our district is facing. We need to ensure students and parents’ are mentally, socially, and emotionally healthy as we navigate school year 2020-21. I am passionate about ensuring that every student is provided with a healthy learning environment and positive identity development. I want to work alongside educators, families and community partners to help remove barriers and provide resources and wrap around services to ensure students are fulfilling their educational potential. I believe that each student can achieve great things and it is our moral obligation to create environments that make this possible. Keeping up with families around connectivity (internet and devices) is important for access to mental health, curriculum and instruction, and teleservices. Providing ongoing professional development for staff  that is culturally responsive is also important during this time to ensure the opportunity gap does not widen.

Joe Rabaglia

Biographical info:

Address: 9144 Juneau Lane N., Maple Grove MN 55369

Education: Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania

Community involvement:4 children attended schools in ISD 279, 4 grandchildren attending schools in ISD 279 and the St. Michael school districts. Coached high school basketball for over 30 years at Osseo, Centennial and Coon Rapids. Mentored student athletes in developing an educational plan for their high school studies and assisting with life after graduation

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

I would suggest taking a fine toothcomb to each line item in the budget. This will require some difficult and painful decisions but these decisions need to be driven by understanding and prioritizing which line item has the most significant positive impact on delivering the needs of the students, facility, parents and administration.

My budgetary decisions will be informed by data, facts and truth. I would push for developing quantifiable metrics in the school boards budgetary jurisdiction because you can’t manage what you can’t measure. I would work to ensure that the teachers and support professionals will be provided with the necessary resources required to develop and maintain an environment that is conducive to learning and provides each student with the opportunity to meet their academic, vocational and social potential.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

The most immediate issue and question facing students and parents, this is school year, is how can ISD 279 guarantee that all students will have access to a quality education during the pandemic? I strongly believe virtual learning does not serve the needs of the students of ISD 279 well Early childhood is a critical time for development and learning. Hopefully the pandemic is a short issue.

However the major issue facing ISD 279 is the district’s below state wide performance on proficiency test scores in math, science and reading for all grades. Most glaring and troubling is the significant gap, on these scores, when you compare Park Center and Maple Grove High Schools.  I strongly believe that my educational, business, work ethic and life experiences will guide me in dealing with a wide range of difficult issues facing the district including but not limited to academic, fiscal, personnel and social issues.

Anthony Starks

Biographical info:

Address: 6441 102nd Avenue N., Brooklyn Park, MN 55445

Education: 1 year of college and Master Barber License

Occupation: Master Barber

Community involvement: Osseo Maple Grove Basketball Association Coach, Brooklyn Park Athletic Association Coach (soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, and football). Endurance Church volunteer sports clinic for Tater Daze. Brooklyn Middle School parent volunteer.

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

After review of the FY2021 budget I don’t see any adjustments needed. It appears that an adjustment was made and approved on Feb. 18, 2020. Since that time, I would have questions regarding the changed needs to the district with the shut down of school and move to distance learning. Since a large portion of the budget is for transportation was there a cost savings when the students were not attending school in person? Could that portion of the budget be spent on the additional technology required for on-line learning?

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

This school year the most important thing parents and students have faced is the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused financial hardships, loss of relatives and loved ones, lack of childcare and tough decisions around education. This year our students have had to face many changes in education and activities along with isolation and challenges of on-line learning.

SPECIAL ELECTION

Thomas Brooks

Biographical info:

Address: Brooklyn Park, MN

Education: M.S. in Psychology, Industrial and Organizational

Occupation: Global Project Manager

Community Involvement: Brooklyn Park Human Rights Commission, Minnesota Board of Social Work, Association of Social Work Boards, Board, Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Board, Minneapolis and ISD 279 District Planning Advisory Council

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

When determining any adjustments that should be made, it is important to have a discussion and unify around both short and long-term priorities for the district. Particularly with the pandemic, and any imminent budget cuts, the board and administration should look ahead to forecast potential changes. The budget should always accurately reflect the needs of all schools, including those that may need more resources than others to address these disparities.

Human capital remains one of the most significant buckets of any organization’s budget and is often one of the first to be cut. Our priority as a district should always be kids first. This means, in any budget adjustments, the immediate structure, environment, and resources for our scholars should not be negatively impacted. Those directly tasked with ensuring our children reach the high expectations for achievement we have for all of them, must remain in place.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

The most important thing students and parents are facing this school year is uncertainty. I know this first hand as a parent of two children enrolled in the district. One of the best assets we can offer children is structure and consistency. This has become difficult to navigate with the uncertainty of the pandemic regarding in school vs distance and any potential challenges to the district’s budget.   

I am honored to receive the support of so many in our district, including Education Minnesota-Osseo. It is critical that I hear from all stakeholders – educators, support professionals, parents, students, and community leaders on all sides, as we continue to navigate constant change this school year and make some difficult decisions. Our district’s diversity is our greatest asset. By working together and engaging all stakeholders, we can work through these challenges and ensure our kids receive the high quality education they all deserve.

Bridget Erickson

Biographical info:

Address: 18570 86th Place N Maple Grove, MN 55311

Education: Master’s, English as a Second Language - MAESL

Occupation: Educator

Community involvement:  Just for Kids Foundation, Osseo-Maple Grove Hockey Association, Girl Scouts, Connecting through Kindness Program, Elementary Faith Formation teacher at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, Cobblepaloosa Autumn Get Together, Rush Creek Elementary PTO/Osseo Area Schools, Osseo Maple Grove Hockey Association

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

In studying our district’s 2021 fiscal year budget, my primary concern is the economic condition and outlook of the district. First, as the district notes, 279 is dependent on the state of Minnesota for its revenue authority and state aid, and it notes concern regarding the anticipated state deficit in the next biennium. However, our district’s 2021 budget reflects a general education aid increase. Secondly, the district notes that student enrollment is a major component of the funding formula used by the state, but it does not include data indicating if the district projects or has had an overall decline in enrollment in the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19. My guiding questions as a board member would be to determine how the state’s projected deficit and the possible student enrollment changes will affect the 2021 budget and to work with stakeholders to determine if budget reductions are needed and if so, where these reductions will occur.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

This school year is unlike any other. We are facing unprecedented times as we learn how to deliver rigorous instruction safely and equitably during the COVID-19 pandemic. With over 21,000 students, we have varying needs. As we make instructional decisions, we need to ensure we have systemic plans that address these social, academic, and health needs. To do this, we must systemically and consistently listen to and respond to families and plan instruction that is culturally responsive to the wide variety of student instructional needs and family perspectives. As a community, I feel it is important to ask guiding and critical questions, and I also believe we need to uplift and support our district administration, staff, and teachers as they make the difficult instructional decisions for over 21,000 students.  

Vicki Richardson

Biographical info:

Address: 5584 Brookdale Drive, Brooklyn Park

Education: Master’s degree, Interreligious Champlaincy, United Theological Seminary, St. Paul.  

Employment: I am an Anoka County Sheriff and Police chaplain, who when paged, travels to the site where I am needed to bring consolation and information and a listening ear to those who are in need.

Community Service: I have been a resident of Brooklyn Park for the past 27 years. Raised my biological children and my foster children. I serve as a board member for my townhome association in Brooklyn Park where I am often a voice for cultural awareness which is vital for understanding and resolution; and is of great importance to me. I have served on the district 279 planning committee in the past, where I helped write, as a team member, curriculum for North Star.

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

I think the school board should make changes or allowances for the high-bred and online courses. Cutting edge ideas will have to become a reality for our students to adjust to high-tech learning. This will be possible by paying teachers to spend more creative time for their prep and by allowing them to communicate with other sources to support them.

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

There is a possibility that students and parents could feed detached from the (body) schools that they normally attend. We must be aggressive in the care and support of students and families during these trying times. Using our technology as keenly as possible to permeate how important their lives are to us, as well as their education. How we care now will be what is remembered when we go back to some normalcy however that is even going to look.

Kia Xiong

Biographical info:

Education: A Bachelor and a Master in Business Administration

Occupation: State Program Admin Dir (Acquisitions Supervisor)

Community involvement: None

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

Establish a Return-on-Investment (ROI) that weave into the day-to-day fabric of how each program operates.  This includes revising financial reporting and budgeting to capture program costs, tracking student attendance by program and strategy, and designing program evaluation into all new efforts.

2. What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

The most important thing I feel students and parents face this school year is the Distance Learning program. Students that does not have a good support system are likely to fall behind academically and would be more negatively impacted socially. Kindergartens are so heavily dependent on their parents to log onto the program, be able to do the assignments, and send correspondence to teachers.

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