Farmington School Board: Newcomers seek board seats
Anthony Hilden, 42, of Lakeville, contemplated running for school board back in 2016, but he felt it was not the right time. After discussing the run with his wife and family, Hilden decided 2018 is the right time to put his hat in the ring.
"I want to be involved with my kids' education and I just want to be plugged in and involved and I am passionate about education as well," he said.
Hilden is now working toward earning his master's degree at Metropolitan State University and works professionally for a travel agency in Burnsville. Hilden is active in both Farmington travel and in-house basketball and baseball coaching with his two children.
Three platform issues Hilden is running to speak about include making improvements in the areas of greater transparency between the school district and community, fiscal responsibility and safety for all students.
"I think the school district could be more transparent and open with the community," he said. "I don't think they are hiding anything but I think there are ways to seek better communication."
In terms of fiscal responsibility, Hilden said, "As taxpayers, we need to be responsible for tax dollars and we need to be responsible in keeping our good teachers and good staff."
As far as improving safety in the schools, Hilden said he wants to make sure all students feel safe in and out of school whether that is at a school football game or extra-curricular activity and that they are free to be who they are."
Besides transparency and fiscal responsibility, Hilden said he would like to continue to improve the relationship with the city of Farmington.
"I think I am person who is open and who loves to look at both sides of things," Hilden said. "I am very open-minded and I think I could be a person who offers encouragement for everyone at the table ... let's try to find a win-win for everyone."
As a Korean-American, Hilden said he is passionate about how diverse Farmington is and wants that diversity to be reflected in all areas with students and administration.
"I think our faculty and staff should reflect that as well and it is not small-town Farmington anymore, but we are a large community and we need to recognize that and we need to have diversity with staff, faculty and administration," Hilden said.
Serving on the recent new school district boundaries committee, Hilden said that was a good place to get his feet wet and gain experience into how the school district operates.
Hilden would like to see further exploration of solar energy to save the district money and educate the students about alternative forms of energy.
Alfred Williams, 58, of Farmington, has lived in the community since 2007. He contemplated running for a seat on the school board years ago, but he decided to wait until his son was a student in the public school system.
Working professionally in the mortgage loan industry, Williams has a background in law working as a paralegal.
Williams has watched many school board meetings on TV and has personally visited a school board meeting and work session.
Talking about ways to combat and prevent bullying on social media, Williams said he is part of a group called "Anti-Bullying and It Takes a Village to Raise a Child." This group shares positive ways to handle bullying and he was received positive feedback.
"The biggest thing I have heard is that people do not hear back after the first initial contact with the school because it takes forever for someone to get back with them," Williams said. "I want to keep that conversation going long enough that we can get something done and I want to own it for anyone that has issues."
Williams said another platform issue will be to work to improve school safety.
"I want to make sure we are at place where we don't have gun issues that have been plaguing our nation, and I think the biggest thing with the high school is I think, personally, a lot more could be done even if we have to put in metal detectors," Williams said. "But we don't want guns in the schools, period."
Besides meeting people and shaking hands, Williams is reaching out to constituents on social media and business cards in lieu of campaign yard signs.
"I want to be a voice for anyone who has an issue," he said. "I want to get more parents involved in the schools and come to these meetings and see what is going on."
When asked what ideas he would bring to the board Williams said he would like to institute a Friendship Committee for new students so Farmington schools can be more proactive to welcome new families and students.
Farmington resident Rebecca Kaletta has announced her intentions to run for school board.
"I wanted to run last election, unfortunately the timing was bad and I couldn't run in 2016. This year I am ready to give the School Board and the community 100 percent.”
Running for School Board is the next logical step for Kaletta, who would like to be part of the school district’s future because it was one of the reasons her family relocated to Farmington. "We moved into Farmington when my son was 7 months old,” Kaletta said. “The reason we chose Farmington was because of the innovative practices already in place by the school district.”
Kaletta's son currently attends Gateway Academy and enjoys the school’s personal project program and she would like to see this program offered to more students across the district.
"I do know that not all families have had the same experience. My goal is to get back to the basics, by listening to the students, teachers and parents. Reviewing, really evaluating our students' test scores, find where we can improve and help our student where needed,” she said. “Too many students have left the district to seek their education elsewhere at the high school level."
To help these families who have moved their children elsewhere, Kaletta has proposed being more attentive to families needs. In addition to listening to district families, Kaletta understands that there is a need to be responsible with the taxpayer's dollars.
"We need to strike a balance between providing what our students need and being responsible stewards of the tax dollars," she said. "We need to be able to do as best we can with what we have, Farmington has demonstrated an ability to do great things with, quite frankly, a limited budget and we need to continue that work."
Another issue Kaletta would like to address is working with the city to continue to build a business community to help lower the tax burden on residents.
"If we were able to attract more industrial businesses and warehousing and other large businesses, this will lower the property taxes that our residents are paying."
Kaletta, her husband Keith, and son Nathan have lived in Farmington for 12 years. During this time she was a small-business owner who operated a home day care for 10 years, volunteered with the Parent Teacher Partnership at Akin Road Elementary School, participated in multiple fundraisers for Akin Road Elementary School and Gateway Academy, and currently volunteers at Gateway Academy. Kaletta currently works at Thomson Reuters in Eagan as a publishing coordinator.