The Lakeville Area School District will have a special election Tuesday, Nov. 2, to fill a School Board vacancy created after Zach Duckworth was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2020.
The candidates for the open seat are Carly Anderson, Cinta Schmitz and Edward Reuben Spinner.
Diane Wolden, whose name will appear on the ballot, told the newspaper last week that she is dropping out of the race in order to focus on campaigning for a seat in 2022.
District 194 is also posing a ballot question to voters to ask for authorization to increase School Board membership from six to seven.
Following are the responses from candidate Cinta Schmitz.
Family: Married to Mark Schmitz, mother of four children; Curtis, Kayla, Ciara and Mack
Occupation: Full-time mother, wife
Education: B.S. management from East Carolina University, Burnsville High School
Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: Women’s Prison Ministry, Shakopee Women’s Prison; volleyball coach - Lakeville South, Lakeville South Juniors; women’s slow-pitch softball team captain/coach; Special Olympics volunteer coach; Bethel’s Rock Nursery; women’s Bible study leader, Friday Morning Moms group leader/coordinator
1) Why are you running for School Board? What strengths would you bring to the School Board?
I am running to be a voice for Lakeville parents who feel they are not being heard, including diverse and underrepresented families. Diversity is my strength: I am half-Filipino, mother to an adopted multi-racial daughter with special needs, I wear hearing aids and have managed a disability my entire life. I uniquely understand what inclusion means for diverse and disabled families and I want to support Lakeville families by creating a school environment where every student thrives. We can accomplish this by better listening to parents and uniting our community around our kids. We are stronger together.
2) What are the major issues facing the district? How should the district address them?
We live in unprecedented times with a level of uncertainty most have never experienced. As we formulate our plans for the future, we must be certain to implement policies that build us up, not tear us apart. We need to ensure we are addressing the right underlying issues affecting our schools. For the past year, COVID-19 and equity have monopolized the board’s agenda while test scores have plummeted, and our children could not recognize their classmates without a mask on. I fear that focusing on those issues will cause more harm than good to our kids. I believe the School Board needs to be transparent and that members clearly state their guiding principles regarding evaluation of district policy. The district should engage in thoughtful dialogue with parents and educators, focusing on actual data and looking for common ground where we can bring people together to benefit our kids.
3) What program or curriculum changes would you support? Why? If you are satisfied with the district’s program and curriculum offerings, explain what programs or curriculum components you feel are the most important to be supported or expanded and why?
Preparing our students for life after school should be the primary goal of the district’s curriculum. Regardless of their decision to attend college or move directly into the workforce, our students need to be proficient in core subjects and have life skills such as project management, problem solving and teamwork. Student proficiency rates in some core subjects are concerning and I believe an increased focus on the basics would be beneficial. Further, I believe promoting project-based learning throughout the school day would promote interdisciplinary problem-solving skills and teach kids how to work as a team.
4) In the past year, District 194 has received much public comment that has been polarized on several issues. How would you address the polarization in the community to move the district forward?
Lakeville students are the true winners when our community works together. I’m saddened by the polarization I’ve witnessed at our recent School Board meetings. Communication and a return to civil discourse are essential if we are going to unite our community. I believe modifying our current system to allow for a productive dialogue between parents and the School Board would go a long way to attain that goal. Rather than having parents simply talk at the School Board, parents should have an opportunity to engage in thoughtful dialogue with the School Board in order to find common ground.
5) Assess the school district’s efforts to address student achievement after instances of distance learning and other disruptions since March 2020? What should be the district’s priorities to boost student achievement?
Last year was difficult for students, parents, and educators. Unfortunately, we know many students fell behind and studies show that many of those students likely come from disadvantaged backgrounds. If gaps in learning are not identified and addressed quickly, students are at risk of falling further behind. The first step in addressing student learning loss is to complete a thorough assessment of all students to identify those not performing at grade level or students with test scores indicating a drop in academic performance. Once the assessment is complete, we need to creatively employ our resources to address the unique needs of the student. That might require after-school learning programs, in-school study sessions and redirecting staff assignments. We also need to meet the emotional needs of kids who might feel less connected to their school communities by working to strengthen relationships in the classroom and the entire school community.