The Hopkins School Board hosted a candidate information session after the June 15 workshop meeting. The intention of the session was to offer information and answer questions for community members who are interested in running for the School Board in the upcoming Nov. 2 election.
The School Board is responsible for providing guidance and holding the district accountable, setting budget targets and expectations, setting district property taxes and approving and reviewing leadership and strategic goals of the superintendent.
According to Boardmember Katie Pederson, there are two types of time commitments for members: what they are present for physically, such as the monthly board meetings, workshops and community events, and the time they need to put in for work on their own.
There are a lot of fun aspects such as graduation and retirement ceremonies and community engagement sessions, Pederson said. There are also committee meetings. Each board member is on two to five committees, she said.
“It’s busy but it’s not ... back-breaking work,” Pederson said.
Boardmember Steve Adams said it is the job of the board members to be visible in the community, whether it’s on their job description or not. Adams noted that he had just been in North Mankato watching the girls’ softball team in the state tournament.
“People are gonna elect you and they want to see you in the community,” Adams said.
Pederson discussed what work is expected in board member’s own time. She put in time when she was first elected to understand the board process and school funding streams. The board packets are dense but reading through them is important, she said. The packets usually run 100-300 pages, Adams noted.
“The learning curve is steep,” Pederson said. “There’s a lot of learning and self-teaching.”
Boardmember Shannon Andreson said she was very intimidated by the board packets, but that they are not as intimidating as she thought.
“Don’t let that stop you from moving forward,” Andreson said.
An important duty of the board is to set policy and hold the district accountable. The board recently adopted a policy for gender inclusion, which is around supporting trans and non-binary students, Pederson said.
At this point, it’s up to Superintendent Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed and her cabinet to take it and build out training and operating procedures to support the policy.
“We will continue to follow that and see those things as they roll out,” Pederson said. “We need to hold the district accountable for ensuring those policies are implemented moving forward.”
There is a policy on school board code of ethics and operating principles that board members must follow. Board members must attend board meetings, come prepared, listen respectfully to the opinions and views of others, vote their conscience after an informed discussion, unless they have to abstain because of a conflict of interest, Adams said.
Board members get to engage with members of the community, lead transformational change, witness learning taking place throughout the district, celebrate students and staff achievement and many more things.
The board reports to the community, Pederson said. When board members ask questions it’s not just about them, it’s about the personal interests of the community members who have come to them. It’s their job as board members to direct members of the community and give them tools to solve their individual problems, she said.
“It’s understanding how to help and find those voices and find those right tools to fix the problems,” Pederson said.
This year, there are three open seats on the board. Incumbent Jen Bouchard has announced that she is running for another term. The term is four years and board members earn a stipend of around $5,000 a year.
Those interested in running for the board must be a resident of the district. Filing takes place Tuesday, July 27, to Tuesday, Aug. 10. Candidates have until Aug. 12 to withdraw.
Absentee voting for the general election starts Friday, Sept. 17. The League of Women Voters Candidate Forum will be Tuesday, Sept. 20. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 2, and board members will take office on Jan. 4.
The district has a policy around being a board member and being employed by the district, Andreson said, adding you can only earn $8,000 as an employee.
Board members took questions from those attending the meeting and watching remotely. Questions ranged from campaigning advice to what a day in the life of a board member looks like.
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