RED WING -- Pam Roe hasn't completed her first term on the Red Wing School Board, but she's ready to lead.
During the organizational meeting to launch 2020, board members voted 4-3 to name Roe the chair. She succeeds Arlen Diercks
Roe discussed what she's most looking forward to in 2020, how she doesn't see leadership as a "I'm right, you're wrong" situation, and how she thinks the Red Wing School Board will continue to grow.
The conversation has been edited for space and clarity.
Republican Eagle: You started in 2017 and now you’re up to chair. Was it surprising for you to become chair this year?
Pam Roe: Actually about a year ago, I put my hat in the ring to be chair. The feedback I got was I needed more experience. Then last year I was voted as vice chair, so all last year, the chair and myself met with (Superintendent Karsten Anderson. I was a good support with Arlen, but I was also learning the ropes. And I made it clear this was my aspiration.
I feel like I’ve got some good leadership skills. I’ve worked in schools before. I feel like that combination of my skills and experience would benefit our district.
RE: There were questions right during your start on the board about the culture of the Red Wing School District. In the last year, it seems like that question isn’t asked.
Roe: Part of that is to thank the community for their support in passing the referendum. We’ve been able to put back some things into place that we cut, way before my time on the board, but the biggest thing was curriculum and staff. We’ve had some challenges with behavior -- mental health. That’s not just a Red Wing issue, that’s education across the United States. So because of the passage of the referendum, we’ve been able to hire some key staff people to address those issues so it’s not all falling on the teachers. We’re hiring the teachers to teach. And we want them to do that.
So who else in our district can address the behavioral, emotional, social and mental health needs that our students have? We’ve been able to hire the two PBIS coaches and now we’re evaluating what they’re doing. How has the first semester gone for them? What are we seeing? Where are the trends? And those people can really dig into the data.
RE: One thing about the school board is the amount of discussion you all have. How will you facilitate that discussion as chair?
Roe: Well, I’m a social worker. So I’ve facilitated a lot of groups, I do a lot of public speaking for my current job with the Mayo Clinic Health System as a grief counselor. ...
Some of our meetings have gone over three hours. That's a lengthy meeting when you start so late in the evening. …
We���ve had this discussion within the board and in some special workshops we had last fall, how do we see ourselves moving forward? We want to keep having these discussions. It’s super important that we talk about all important issues, but how do we do that in the most effective way? So we’ve added a workshop. …
So we’re going to evaluate if they’re helpful, and if so, what are the list of topics that we want to talk about and tackle? We have enough stuff to talk about for years, so what are the topics we see as the most valuable.
RE: What about leadership?
Roe: We — we meaning the world — get stuck when there’s two camps: I’m right, you’re wrong. I don’t see the world in that way, right and wrong. I see 9 million shades of gray. I strive to be the person that listens to all perspectives because that’s what a good leader does.
I’m O.K. with disagreeing. What I get really sad about is I’m right and you’re wrong, and not budging. That shuts down conversation. That shuts down dialogue. And we’re seeing that play out in our government.
I’m striving to create a culture within our School Board and district for more healthy dialogue and ways to make Red Wing and our Red Wing Public Schools a better place.
RE: You have kids in the district and you help with the student liaisons to the School Board. Do you talk to your kids about School Board stuff?
Pam Roe: All the time.
RE: What do they think?
Pam Roe: They know mom isn’t home a lot. And that I’m running from meeting to meeting. I try not to bring the politics of the school and School Board into conversations. They do know the work I’m trying to do is making the school district better. …
Next year, all three of my children will be in high school, so the main topic that we’re talking about is the change in schedule. I get a lot of feedback, and pressure, I certainly know how they feel about changes in the schedule. We have some good lively conversations about that.
The coolest thing, through me, they feel heard. And I want to make sure all our students feel heard, which is why the student School Board liaison and having students on the School Board is so vital. I want to make sure students have a voice.
RE: What is a topic that you want to focus on in 2020?
Pam Roe: I would put the assessment data and putting a good plan in place to make sure our kids are meeting the standards is No. 1, for sure. We need to do something about that. One of the other things that I’m excited about, maybe not excited about, key positions retiring. We now have the opportunity to look at all the administrative duties and reshuffle the deck. For our administration and support team, where are we doing well and where can we beef it up?
We know that communication with our community is important, and we’ve gotten way better at that, but can we do better? Absolutely. So we’re working on a communication plan.