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Farmington School Board: Two incumbents hope to keep seats on board

Steve Corraro and Melissa Sauser

Two incumbents now serving on the Farmington School Board have filed to serve another four-year term.

Farmington School Board Chair Melissa Sauser and vice chair Steve Corraro are running for re-election Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Melissa Sauser

Melissa Sauser, 38, is finishing her eighth year on the Farmington School Board and is eager to serve a third term. She works part-time at a martial arts school and is proud to say her children and family are all black belts.

She is serving her first term as the school board chair and has led efforts to restructure district committees including the executive, public engagement and legislative policy, long-range planning and finance and policy subcommittees.

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After completing her second term, she was appointed to Minnesota School Board Association Board and today she serves on that executive committee. She also serves on Intermediate 917 District's board.

In February, Sauser traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Minnesota congressmen and senators about causes important to students in Farmington and students across the state.

One cause she advocated for was increasing the federal subsidy for special education. The extra funds Farmington School District uses to support special education could fund 60 more teachers in the district for any school or need.

Customizing education for each student is vital to helping all students excel beyond high school, Sauser said.

"We need to find the right fit for every kiddo in our district and there are so many options, but for me it boils down to communication and transparency because every issue boils back to that," Sauser said.

One thing Sauser is proud of is the release of board agendas online before the bi-monthly business meeting or work session.

"If everyone is prepared and aware of what is going on and the community is aware, then we can do what is best for the kids," Sauser said.

One goal Sauser would like to see happen is how students have the option of opting out of taking some of the standardized tests. She said it's difficult to compare the school district's scores to neighboring districts because the only other schools that have that many students opt out within the state are St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"The board needs to be able to communicate how our students are performing," Sauser said. "If you decide to move into the community, you do not know the story and the realtor might bring up test scores and it does not look that great."

Existing district scorecards reflect different metrics that are important but Sauser argues the district needs to find a better way to communicate to attract new residents and businesses to Farmington.

"What we need to do is bring in our realtors and our business community and our parents and seniors to see what we are doing," Sauser said.

Steve Corraro

Steve Corraro, 50, said he is ready to serve another term and feels that he is prepared because of all the experience he has gathered in his first term.

"It takes a good two years to get your feet wet because there is so much to learn and when you first get elected you are so gung ho and then you have to understand what is going on now and get educated on those topics," he said.

When asked what he is most proud of, Corraro said, "People need to understand that it is a group that makes a decision and not an individual. I am just one vote, but I would say my greatest accomplishment has been on the board with the class sizes and teachers' contract."

Corraro works within a management group in technology for Thomson Reuters.

"Whatever we do impacts the community and when you look at education, you are looking at reduction in finances and it is about headcount, unfortunately," Corraro said. "I think we have done a great job with mending the relationship with the city and that has been a huge win since I have been on the board."

What will he bring to the next term on the school board? Corraro said the biggest part is to be financially responsible.

Four platform issues Corraro stresses are open transparency and communication, accountability, keeping the district financially responsible, and maintaining school facilities.

"We are holding the district responsible and they are holding us responsible," he said. "One of the toughest parts of being a school board member is that you need thick skin because when people come to you, they only know half of the story and sometimes we cannot explain everything that are contractual issues."