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School board: Melissa Sauser

Why are you most qualified person for this position?

I am passionate about the future of education in Farmington for my family and the community. My educational background is an asset in communicating with the teachers and understanding the needs of the district. As a parent and community member, I have been involved with district committees and developed a relationship with district staff. These relationships are a powerful positive influence in making future decisions for the entire school district.

If you could address just one issue, what would it be and how would you address it?

The district needs improved communication, transparency and community involvement. It is the school district's responsibility to communicate the current issues and allow the public proper time to voice their concerns. This could be accomplished by utilizing technology to create an electronic forum where school board matters are posted. This would allow the public to be aware of the decision making process and the ability to voice their concerns. This could be especially crucial in regard to the difficult budgetary decisions that in the future will need to be made. Envision a school board presence at the school open houses and events, Parent Teacher Partnership meetings and community functions. Face to face contact with parents and the community is important to access where they stand on current issues and be able to better understand their specific needs.

What criteria would you use to determine whether the district is succeeding?

Our district mission statement states the goal is to develop citizens of integrity whose passion for continuous learning ensures they excel in a global society. In order to accomplish this mission we need to provide academic programs to facilitate this success. The most useful assessments are those that track the same students throughout the year, like the Northwest Evaluation Association tests. We should also take into consideration feedback from teachers, parents, the community and education partnerships with other districts and universities to help determine the success of our district.

As the district attempts to balance quality education and low taxes, what are your priorities?

First we need to focus on the need of making sure every graduate is able to be a productive, successful citizen in society. We need to make sure we are funding the classrooms and teachers first. Next, we need to make sure that funds are going to academic programs that are proven to be successful to contribute to our goal.

In my opinion a levy should always go to the voters. I would never vote yes to any levy that would allow the school board to unilaterally avoid the public's vote. We are part of a public school district and the public ultimately has a say as to where their tax dollars are spent. I do not want to add to the tax burden of an economy and community that are already struggling to make ends meet.

What does the district do well? Where can it improve?

There are many successful programs in our district. One example is the Response to Intervention program that has been started this year at the high school level to help those struggling with reading, in coordination with Matt Burns at the University of Minnesota. This program has also been used for the past three years at Akin Road Elementary and is also being incorporated at the elementary schools. This is a very good example of ensuring all learners have needed literacy skills to excel both in and outside of the classroom.

Another example is the active Parent Teacher Partnerships, at all schools. I've been able to visit many of the PTP meetings and it's great to see so many parents and volunteers involved to help contribute to the educational success of all learners. I believe that as children witness parent/community volunteer role models, they learn that the entire community cares about their future and they have a support system to help ensure their success. This is especially important for students who come from difficult home environments who are struggling both in school and at home. These volunteers are crucial for the achievement of all students.

However, hundreds of students living in our district have chosen to attend school elsewhere either to be challenged more or to have more individualized attention. I would like to see the district collaborate more with successful school districts and model what is working for them. If we have programs that are working well, students and staff will want to remain here in Farmington.