RED WING — Eleven candidates are running for four open seats on the Red Wing School Board.

All four seats are at-large, meaning that board members represent all citizens in Independent School District 256. There was no primary election.

When people cast their general election ballot, they may vote for up to four candidates. The four with the most votes will take office in January.

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Three people are leaving the board: Mike Christensen, Janie Farrar and Heidi Jones.

The Republican Eagle asked the 11 candidates five questions. Here are their answers as well as brief biographies. Responses are presented here in alphabetical order by the candidates' last names.

Carmen Bertelsen

Carmen Bertelsen
Carmen Bertelsen

  • Age: 67
  • Address: 2640 Hidden Knoll; Red Wing, MN 55066
  • Education: BS in Nursing from St. Catherine’s University; St. Paul; BA in communications & organizational management from Concordia University; St. Paul; Masters of Science in Public Health; University of Minnesota
  • Family: Married, two grown children and six grandchildren
  • Occupation: Semi-retired registered nurse, currently working as a health insurance examiner.
  • Civic involvement: St. Joseph’s Catholic Church member for 26 years and catechist for three years. Extensive community involvement and experience as a member and board member for nonprofit local organizations. Chaired a variety of committees both locally and regionally. Currently, serves as a national advisor regarding civic activities.

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

The most essential role of a school board member is to work with their community to improve student achievement in their local public schools. I will foster that role and in addition, I will use my experience in healthcare, business and academia to assure the health and welfare of our students, teachers and staff so that they are able to work and learn in an environment that ensures both safety and security.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

The attributes that I will be looking for in other candidates when I cast my vote for the other three candidates will include:

Experience in leadership – does that person have a record of success that they can draw from to help them conduct themselves in a fair, intelligent and responsible manner?

Strong communication skills – are they approachable? Do they listen and respond to people and their concerns? Are they accountable to the community through a system of transparent and honest reporting? Are they comfortable advocating to advance the school districts vision at all levels of government?

Passion – do they truly want to learn and spend the time and energy it takes to be a great school board member?

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

The biggest district strength I see in the Red Wing School District is its teachers. Their dedication to teaching our children is to be supported and nurtured so they can perform at their highest level.

I think discipline and structure needs more attention. Children thrive when they are provided a safe and structured environment and I would support that with clear guidelines on behavior and fair accountability.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

Equity is a basic right of every person in this nation. Every child should be held to the highest standards with fair, equal and respectful guidelines.

A Healthy environment is an essential need for children and staff to navigate through their daily lives. In our current environment with Covid-19; we are all challenged, but by following prudent healthcare practices we can overcome this virus and we will get through it.

In-classroom learning is a critical piece for our children; academically, socially and for their mental health. By supporting our school community as a family, we can provide that positive outcome.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

The care and education of its children is the primary responsibility of every community. This year, we have an added concern and responsibility with the Covid-19 pandemic. As a nurse, mother, and grandmother, I feel my experience in healthcare, in the business world and my achievements in academia will ultimately strengthen our position as good stewards in providing the best possible care of our school community.

I worked as an Infection Control Nurse for Mayo Healthcare systems for eight years. During that time, I co-chaired the safety committee and lead our emergency preparedness program. I was certified in several areas including; Public Health, as a Hazard Investor, an Invasive Specialist, a Critical Care Nurse and in Gerontology.

I have been a Director of Nursing and negotiated three different union contracts with a budget of over a million dollars. I taught nursing at a community and state level. I worked as a State Investigator for the State of Minnesota. I was cited as an International Honor student for my work on Obesity in School-age Children.

My passion to always go above and beyond has been a driving force throughout my career. I plan to use that energy, that drive, to help this community through this difficult time.

Nicole ‘Nicky’ Buck

  • Age: 40
  • Address: 450 W. Seventh St.
  • Website: buckcampbellforschoolboard.com
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/nmbcvcschool
  • Education: Red Wing High School 1998, Esthetician, Aromatherapy
  • Family: three children. Nacomi, 13; Neenah, 12; Edison, 9
  • Occupation: I tend to and harvest traditional medicines and work in food sovereignty in the Land and Environment Department on Prairie Island.
  • Civic involvement: Advocating for HeMniCan’s right to exist respectfully. Red Wing Human Rights Commission since January 2019, Friends of the Bluff, Wicozani Waste Committee (Good Health Committee on PIIC).

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

To listen, generate ideas, speak in the face of adversity even if it’s uncomfortable.

We know we can do better. We need to listen to those who came before us and take the valuable lessons and add a new way of looking at the problems our students and staff face and new creative and different solutions.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

A will to fight and a different way of thinking about critical decisions.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

I’m not really sure there is one; I hope to get on the inside and discover that. I’ll run decisions, issues and topics through the four-directions approach and if it doesn’t serve everyone we will redesign something that does.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

Two very important things I fight for for ALL living things. We have a system that is designed for only 30% to succeed beyond high school. I will approach school decisions from a Dakota lens to bring that percentage up to 100%.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board?

I want to be the voice for my fellow ADHD and special needs students. I want to be a part of something that creates a world where EVERYONE thrives.

I was diagnosed with ADHD at 5 years old and medicated by 7 with Ritalin, like many of my relatives on Prairie Island who have struggled in a system not designed for them.

I had a different opportunity because my mother and I fought for it. I graduated with my class doing half-days all through high school because people distracted me and I work better self-guided with someone available in case I have questions.

The difference between now and then is no one talked about these struggles and alternative solutions.

I bring a passion, heart and ability to create change to accommodate diversity, I can see the struggles and division in our community and we need healers, listeners and problem-solvers.

Constance ‘Tori’ Campbell

Tori Campbell
Tori Campbell

  • Age: 33
  • Address: 15895 Dakota Circle, Welch
  • Website: buckcampbellforschoolboard.com
  • Facebook: facebook.com/nmbcvcschool
  • Education: Red Wing High School alumni, Associates in Culinary, Bachelor’s in Business Management
  • Family: Three children ages 14, 10, and 8
  • Occupation: Stay-at-home mom and part-time substitute assistant at Red Cottage and also I travel and do Indian Education presentations around the state
  • Civic involvement: Red Cottage Montessori Board of Directors, Red Wing Royal Ambassador Committee, I have helped with Dakota translations for the upcoming He Mni Can (Barn’s Bluff) project, multiple committees for Prairie Island Indian Community in the past, Minnesota Indian Education Association Secretary

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

A school board member’s role is to make sure everyone is heard and thought about in making any changes. From the number one, our students and teachers, and other staff that are in our buildings daily. By being more involved and active within the schools and listening to the students, I can find out what they are lacking and the areas that they see change is needed.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

When voting for other candidates, I want to see open-mindedness and willingness to fight for our students.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

A strength in our district is our teachers. With the state of the world right now, they are a saving light in the lives of parents. I applaud every single teacher that is working even more now than before because they love what they do and we should value that more.

An area that needs attention in the district is communication. I know that these are trying times, but we need to be better about being transparent to our families in a timely manner.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

My vision for Red Wing schools is 100% equity and equality, especially when health is involved. All of our students deserve the exact same access education and health safety that each of their peers is receiving no matter the color of their skin, spiritual beliefs, income status, or disability.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

I have volunteered many hours in the buildings, worked inside of the high school through my tribe, and worked for the school district itself. I had been approached a few times about running for school board from multiple people within the Red Wing community and this year was the right time.

I stand with our community’s growing younger population and want inclusion for everyone in the district. I see things in multiple lenses and like to see positive changes happening. The world is changing rapidly and we need to be able to not only keep up ourselves, but teach our students how to as well. That is why I would love the support and votes for Constance “Tori” Campbell.

Jodi Lewis

  • Age: 57
  • Address: 1922 Burton St.
  • Facebook: Jodi Jackish Lewis for Red Wing School Board
  • Education: BS in Echocardiography from University of Minnesota - Rochester
  • Family: parents, George and Jean Jackish; children Sam and Sydney Lewis
  • Occupation: Cardiac sonographer
  • Civic involvement: Past adult volunteer and board member for Boy Scout Troop 32. Founder and adult leader for Boy Scouts Venturing Crew 32. Past member Colvill Family Center PAC. past parent volunteer Junior Great Books instructor Red Wing Public Schools.

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

School board members work as a team to create the best possible learning opportunities and environment for all students within the parameters of financial and physical resources. My goal is to find ways to finance those opportunities with as little impact to student-facing positions as possible. I believe that our current model continues to dip from the same financial well. Educational Assistants, who are almost all in direct student-facing roles, seem to be impacted at a higher rate than other district positions. These constant reductions affect not only the classroom teachers’ ability to be as productive

as possible, but actually deprive students in need of extra help. This year we are being financially stretched in new ways and I fear further reductions to the educational assistant ranks as a means to counter this new strain. I would like to find another way.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

I will seek out candidates who understand the need to balance equitable educational opportunities for all students with a fiscally sound budget plan. Candidates who know which items the school board should decide and which things they should not consider as part of their role. I will look for candidates who will consider special needs students and teachers, and Towerview Alternative high school students and teachers when making decisions.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

The district recognizes that not every student can thrive in a traditional setting and supports Towerview Alternative High School for those kids. One-sixth of our graduates attend Towerview. They catch students who would otherwise fail or drop out. Towerview is a tremendous success story and I would like to make sure they are part of the conversation when we are making decisions and asking what they need to help students succeed.

I see room for improvement in addressing our finances. We need to widen our view when looking for cost savings. I’d like to find new revenue streams and new ways to reduce expenses without returning to the same areas whenever we need to make cuts. We need to shift away from reducing positions that directly impact students as much as possible. Teaching students is increasingly difficult and the more people working with children, the better their prospects will be.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

The key to health in this CoVid era is vigilance. We need to constantly re-assess how things are going in each of the buildings and the community. We need to be agile, flexible and ready to change direction on a moment’s notice to ensure the health of our students, our staff and their families. We all want our kids in school. We need to make sure everyone is safe, as well.

With regard to equity, I would love to see outreach into communities of color and the underprivileged. I’d like for us to determine specific needs within each community and find ways to meet those needs. We have a window right now where dialog is open with communities of color and it is my fervent hope that we can take advantage of this opportunity, bring in partners such as Every Hand Joined and RW Youth Outreach, and meet those needs.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

I am compelled to run because I want to help prevent School Board over-reach and I feel I can make a contribution to an equitable, safe education for all students. I worked in this district for several years with special education students and I saw how hard the staff works to help all students succeed. I have children at both Red Wing High School and at Towerview Alternative High School. I know that a traditional experience doesn’t work for every student. As a Red Wing native I’ve seen how our community has changed and we need our schools to adapt to those changes. Student behavior and parent involvement continue to challenge and change. Kids still fall through the cracks. I know it is not for lack of desire, everyone wants students to succeed, so we need to figure out how to catch these kids. I’d like to help with that.

Samantha Malcom

Samantha Malcom
Samantha Malcom

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

Board members are to work together to set and review policies as needed in order to help ensure a healthy and kind environment for every student to receive an education. If elected, I will do everything I can with commitment and dedication to help our youth succeed with ease.

I also acknowledge that not all students learn the same way, or at the same pace. With that being said, I will also stay committed to encouraging creativity and embracing differences!

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

I would make sure that the candidates values and visions align with my own as a parent. I would evaluate and confirm they are running for the common good of all students and not trying to achieve a personal agenda or goal. A candidate’s intentions should be genuine.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

One thing I believe that needs attention in our schools is communication with our students and parents and keeping people informed in all aspects of the district. But I also believe that there is always room for improvement in every area.

What I see as a strength in the Red Wing School district is maintaining school spirit/Winger Pride.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

I envision a stress-free and healthy environment and expect the district to make changes accordingly in order to accommodate and maintain a safe place for our students to learn and succeed in our schools.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

I have always had a desire to make positive change in the world. There is no better place to start than with our children. After all, they are the future!

Anna Ostendorf

  • Age: 39
  • Address: 714 Freeman Ave.
  • Website: ostendorf4schoolboard.weebly.com/
  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/AnnaOstendorfRWSchoolBoard
  • Education: BA from University of Minnesota
  • Family: Married to Jake Ostendorf with two teenage daughters, Cecelia and Vivian
  • Occupation: Executive Director of ArtReach
  • Civic involvement: Current Member of Live Healthy Red Wing, Artistic Response Team of Red Wing, Community Education Advisory Board. Past volunteer & board member of the Friends of the Sheldon, and of the River Bluff Humane Society.

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

The school board's role is to develop appropriate budgets and effective policies to guide the operations of the district. I will prioritize the best interests of students paying close attention to the needs of those who have been traditionally underserved. It's important for board members to be aware of what is and is not working in the schools. I have classroom experience that I think will be helpful.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

I will be voting for people with experience in the school system and with a history of advocating for people of color and those who have been traditionally underserved.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

I believe our greatest strength is our group of compassionate and dedicated teachers. We can contribute to their growth by providing meaningful professional development opportunities. One area that needs attention is communication both within the district and out. As we saw in August both teachers and parents need to have more access to information from the district.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

Schools must be a place where kids of all abilities and backgrounds feel safe and supported and I believe that ties in to both equity and mental health. We need to have enough qualified mental health professionals in the schools to support staff and students. We also need to make sure that our staff has professional development in both these areas so they can effectively examine their own work and make improvements.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

I believe that a high quality education is a cornerstone for a healthy, functional society. I am passionate about education, the arts, and equity and I decided to get involved to put my energy towards making improvements in those areas.

Elisabeth Peterson

Elisabeth Peterson
Elisabeth Peterson

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

A school board member is to act as a liaison between the district and the community. When the two, district and community, are working together to their full potential, the students, staff, teachers and administration, as well as the community members all benefit in full measure.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

I will be seeking candidates who are not a one issue candidate, and who have the interest of not only the students, but also the staff and community in mind. While a school board governs the schools and issues regarding the district, they are funded by tax paying citizens, and those citizens have a voice, too.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

One of our greatest strengths in our district is our teachers and staff. They are phenomenal people, who love what they do and want the best for their students.

One area that needs attention is the needs of these same teachers. I plan to hear the needs of the teachers and staff, and find solutions to help them achieve their best possible outcomes.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

My vision for Red Wing Public Schools is that all students and staff alike would feel welcomed, accepted and safe. The voices of parents and staff are of utmost importance in these issues, and those voices need to be heard.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

Red Wing needs reform within our district. For too many years, issues have been skirted and it's time to stop talking about change, actually start making changes. The students in our district deserve the best education we can offer, and the citizens deserve representation to ensure their tax dollars are not being spent frivolously, but actually perpetuating a better education for the students of Red Wing. This will in turn, create more responsible, well balanced citizens who will continue to help Red Wing prosper in the future.

Rebecca L. Peterson

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

It is our job to give our kids the best possible education with the resources we have to work with. We need to provide kids a physically and emotionally safe environment to learn in, and do whatever is in our power to help them reach their full potential. We are also obliged to use the resources available wisely. I hope to review performance, policies and spending to make sure Red Wing is fulfilling these duties.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

I will look for a candidate whose sole purpose in running is to make sure our kids are well educated, and has an earnest concern about them. Education is not a political issue … it is a human issue. I'd like someone who is attainable and responsive to the concerns of parents, and also understands financial responsibility. I'll vote for someone who has an abundance of common sense, who is responsive to the current educational difficulties, but also able to think long-term.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

Red Wing has some great resources: some very nice facilities and really amazing teachers and staff, some of whom have actually moved me to tears. It is heartwarming when you realize that the people educating your kids truly care about them. I think clear communication has been an ongoing challenge for Red Wing, internally and externally. I’d like to establish a standard for communication, so everyone at the school is on the same page, and families are both informed and clearly heard.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

Every child has invaluable worth and potential, and it is extremely important that everyone that child encounters in the educational setting recognizes and acknowledges that potential. All kids need to know that they matter. Kids and families also need clear cut ways to express concerns they are having, and confidence that they are heard. The school needs to be willing to hear and act when there are concerns.

The governor has very clear guidelines as to how schools can operate in the pandemic, and we need to take every precaution we can to keep kids and their families physically safe and healthy. But there is an emotional and educational price to pay when school is not in-person, I witnessed it in my home. The challenge will continue to be finding the balance.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

I am running for School Board because I care about kids. I care about education. And (let's be honest), I care about MY kids' education. Most of us don't have the luxury of choosing our district or school. But that doesn't mean we have to accept everything as it is. I tell my kids to be part of the solution, so I am here to try to be part of the solution. I am just a mom, I have no experience in education systems, but I think it is vital that the school board has the clear and present voice of “just” a parent. I hope to be that voice.

Shelley Pohlman

Shelley Pohlman
Shelley Pohlman

  • Age: private, I am older than 18
  • Address: private, Red Wing
  • Website: www.pohlmanschoolboard.org
  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shelleypohlmanschoolboard
  • Education: I am a graduate of Aaker's Business College.
  • Family: I have been married for 37 years to my high school sweetheart. My husband and I have two accomplished children who are alums of the University of North Dakota.
  • Occupation: I am an independent contractor offering a variety of technical and clerical services to businesses from my home remotely.
  • Civic involvement: Giving back to our community is very important to me. So I'm proud to serve on the Red Wing Charter Commission. Coming from a military family, I actively volunteer for several veterans organizations, capturing our heroes' years of service through writing projects. I also volunteer to help preserve the American story through education and historic preservation. And in the world of contemporary politics, I volunteer with Goodhue County Republicans.

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students' benefit.

The role of a school board member is to represent and advocate for the needs of the students, teachers, parents, administration, and taxpayers. I will help establish effective policies to help students accomplish their educational and vocational goals. In every action and decision I make, I will put students, our country's most valuable resource first.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

I will vote for the candidate who demonstrates the following traits: Vision -- the ability to see the big picture, and the courage to set the course of action. Discretion — maintains the confidentiality of all discussions and speaks with one voice when representing the district. Supervisory — the integrity to serve the interests and seek the goals of the district, as well as the interests of the public.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

The buildings and grounds department does an excellent job of maintaining all of the district's learning environments. With COVID-19, our custodial staff are essential frontline workers, and without their additional sanitation duties, the school would not be able to remain open.

An area that needs attention is communicating effectively and in a timely fashion. Due to COVID-19, evolving changes affecting students, parents, and teachers present significant challenges. Families have shared with me their frustrations regarding the lack of timely information from the district. A few simple changes could go a long way to turn this around. For example, Channel 22 could be used in a significant way instead of displaying a static picture. In other words, let's be more creative with the many resources we have!

Two significant things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

With respect to COVID-19, the district should follow the CDC's recommendations to the letter in order to keep our schools open. In-person learning offers an equal playing field (social development, supplies, nutrition, equipment, programs, etc.) to all.

We know quality education improves health outcomes short and long term. Knowledge leads to better life choices (food, exercise, drug usage, etc.), enhancing equity through social and employment opportunities. The district can and should partner with other stakeholders within the community to assess and meet student health needs.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board, and why should people support you?

I am passionate about excellence in education because a great education empowers and improves the quality of life. All our students deserve excellence, regardless of where they live, how much money their parents have, or their gender, race, creed, ability, or disability. If the voters give me the honor of serving on the Red Wing School Board, I will seek their wise counsel and carefully and respectfully listen to all viewpoints. I will always put children first. And I will serve as an open channel of communication between the school district and the Red Wing community.

Pam Roe

Pam Roe
Pam Roe

  • Age: 50
  • Address: 4794 Mount Hood Lane
  • Twitter: @PamRoe2
  • Facebook: Pam Roe (Pam Pogrant Roe)
  • Education: Bachelor of Arts, Luther College; Master’s of Social Work from the University of St. Thomas; licensed independent social worker, state of Minnesota
  • Family: Married to husband Greg; three children: Emma, 12th grade, Allison, 10th grade, Adam, eighth grade.
  • Occupation: Bereavement and volunteer coordinator, Mayo Clinic Health System-Red Wing Hospice
  • Civic involvement: United Lutheran Church -- Praise and Worship band, Stephen Minister and Leader, past congregational president, Bible school teacher, various other volunteer roles; Youth Outreach board member; pet therapy volunteer MCHS-RW Hospice. Current School Board chair, past vice chair, past chair of Operations Committee and member of Community Education and Recreation Advisory Council, member of the board negotiations team, personnel committee, Minnesota State High School League liaison, and student school board liaison.

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

I really see the primary role of a board member as being a strong advocate for students. The board needs to make sure that policies and procedures are in place to optimize all students’ educational experiences.

Board members also represent community members from which they serve. Being open and available to bring their voice to the table is key.

I have worked closely with student school board members over the past few years and look forward to working more with them this school year. Their voice, opinions and values have informed our board greatly. My continued advocacy work, partnership with community members, and relationships with district students would remain my primary objectives as a board member.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

Great attributes of a board member include being open and willing to work as a team. Disagreements are a part of any group process, but at the end of the day, the board needs to speak as one voice and support one another. Attributes of professionalism, respect, and integrity are also important to me. I’m casting my vote for people who are great leaders, team players, and are filled with a passion for student advocacy.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

Our district has amazing, dedicated educators, staff and administrators. They have done remarkable work, especially through this pandemic, to meet the needs of students in a trying time. I’m proud of what has been accomplished to prepare for this very different school year.

It has always been a priority of mine to make RWPS an enjoyable place to work for everyone. I want to continue efforts for adding more staff development, providing updated resources and curriculum, and making sure we have opportunities for staff advancement and growth.

We must also continue our focus on academic accomplishments and closing the achievement gap. The district has put together an educational framework that addresses this issue, and significant changes to curriculum have been made. It’s a start, but we have a ways to go. Our board is committed to educational equity, and I’m excited about the conversations and movement happening in this area.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

Equity needs to be at the center of the conversation. But before we can begin a discussion about equity, and how to make effective change, we have to learn about -- and understand -- the issues around inequality. Our district has made headway into providing great trainings to staff.

Our board is digging in as well. We added monthly workshops: September’s topic is equity. We absolutely need to provide an equitable opportunity for every student. It is my top priority to keep this word, equity, at the forefront of every discussion and decision.

As for health, keeping kids, teachers and staff healthy, making sure we are following CDC guidelines, and keeping buildings clean is a constant priority. We want kids back in school. We long for “normal.” And we want our community to remain strong and healthy. By following and enforcing guidelines, the schools have a key role in making this happen.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

I am currently a board member. I originally ran, four years ago, because I believed that the board was the perfect place where my time, talents, professional and volunteer experience, passion, strong advocacy, leadership skills, and interest could all intersect. That has proven to be very true. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in this role, and I know that there is a lot more work to be done. The experience I have gained over the last four years, and can offer the board moving forward, is why I seek re-election now. I also believe, in a school year filled with change and uncertainty during a pandemic, it’s important to have a bit of consistency. I can offer that.

Jennifer Tift

Jennifer Tift
Jennifer Tift

  • Age: 45
  • Address: 32661 Grosse Point Road
  • Facebook: @jennifertiftschoolboard
  • Education: 1993 Red Wing Central High School graduate, Bachelor of Science from Drake University, Master of Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota
  • Family: My husband, Sam, is also a 1993 graduate of Red Wing Central High School and is currently a pilot for Delta Airlines. We have two daughters, Ellen in 9th grade and Nora in 8th grade, both at RWHS. We also have two silly, loveable black labs.
  • Occupation: I am the community distance education assistance program and mentoring program coordinator through Red Wing Youth Outreach. Through this program, we are providing a safe space with caring adults for students to go on their distance learning days. I will also always consider myself a teacher.
  • Civic involvement: I have been a coach, board member and Red Wing cohort leader for Girls on the Run Bluff Country for several years. I am an active board member for the Red Wing Booster Club and the Red Wing Public Schools Foundation. In 2018, I was an organizing member of the Vote Yes Yes referendum committee. This fall, I volunteered to help organize a community-built program in support of students and families on distance learning days.

Define the role of the school board member and how you will maximize it for students’ benefit.

The role of a school board member is to advocate for students, families, and the community, establish a vision for the future of the district, set a budget for making that vision a reality, and work collaboratively to reach those goals. My goals for the school district include the following:

keeping our students and staff safe during the pandemic while still providing an equitable education for all students; finding solutions for the systemic problems leading to the opportunity gap between students of color and their white peers; progressing with our focus on STEAM, Winger Pathways, and mental health needs as laid out in the education plan the public voted to fund through the 2018 referendum; and creating a partnership with community organizations to meet the needs of all Red Wing students in a fiscally and socially responsible manner. I have the experience, dedication, and accountability to make that happen.

People may vote for up to four of the 11 candidates. What attributes will you seek when casting your ballot for three other candidates?

When considering my choice for school board, I am looking for candidates that are dedicated to improving the education RWPS provides for all students. They should have a passion for helping kids, empathy for the needs of all RW families, ability to communicate openly within the community, and experience working in and/or knowledge of our education system. I would like to see new school board members who are willing to work together as a group to make decisions that positively impact all students.

Identify a district strength and an area that needs attention. How will you address those?

The district has done amazing work preparing for the 2020 school year in the midst of this pandemic. All involved have come together to create a hybrid program that is providing meaningful learning to students every day. This is not an easy job, and certainly is not happening everywhere. My concern is that the school board and administrators continue to check in, not only with Red Wing families, but with our teachers, on a regular basis. We must continue to develop our programming based on what teachers see is working best for their students and families.

One area that needs attention in our district is communication. It is crucial that the school board truly listens to the concerns brought forward by Red Wing families and school staff and takes the time to respond with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to find answers and do better.

Two major things are affecting public schools right now: equity and health. What are your visions for these?

The education we provide for RW students must reflect the fact that black lives matter, indigenous lives matter, and LGBTQ lives matter. I would like to see us examine our social studies curriculum to be sure it is an accurate representation of events and includes courses that are meaningful and relevant to all. We should expand our hiring process to seek out teachers and administrators of color. We also must partner with community organizations such as Hispanic Outreach, Prairie Island Indian Community, Human Rights Commission, and Youth Outreach to meet the needs of our diverse population.

I think it is imperative that the district continues to listen to the science behind COVID-19 and follows the advice of experts. We must be sure that our in-class education is safe for our teachers and students and that the distance education is equitable for all students through equal access to support, resources, and materials.

What compelled you to run for Red Wing School Board and why should people support you?

I am running for school board because I have a passion for helping kids and the skills and experience necessary to make positive changes for Red Wing students. I feel I can help our district in closing the opportunity gap between our students of color and their white peers. We must find a way to provide an education that is equitable for ALL. I am also running because I want to have a leadership role in the implementation of the education plan laid out in 2018. We must make progress with STEAM programming, Winger Flight Pathways, and increased mental health resources while being fiscally responsible with the funds provided to the district through the referendum. I have the communication skills, dedication, thoughtfulness, and accountability necessary for this important job.