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A LOOK AT THE ISSUES

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My goal in wanting to serve my community as a school board member is simple: I care strongly about maintaining the Wayzata School District as an excellent place to live and send kids to school. I believe in the promise and accountability of public schools for preparing all children to thrive in a 21st century career and workplace. With forward-looking, evidence-based education that honors diverse perspectives, we can foster an inclusive community of successful and prepared students.

We are fortunate to live in a school district with so much to offer. Of course, even the best districts have room for improvement, and Wayzata is no different. We have work to do in closing our opportunity and achievement gaps, bringing all students up to the high standards we have come to expect in the Wayzata School District. Other areas for improvement include extending elementary school lunchtimes, improving school lunch nutrition, and fostering more environmental sustainability within the district. As we begin to move past the struggles caused by COVID, I will focus on tackling these issues and more.

Overview

Preparing Students for a 21st Century Career and Workplace

 
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Our most important job is preparing our students for life after graduation, including promoting physical and mental health. We should instill the expectation in all students that they will be attending college or trade school after graduation, but recognize that college immediately after graduation is not for everyone. We need to identify and value the talents of all students, including those abilities that fall outside traditional analytical and test-taking talents. The district has a great program called Compass, which engages high school students with local working professionals. We need to continue embracing this type of collaboration with business leaders to make sure our curriculum keeps pace with the changing work landscape for both college- and non-college-bound students. Above all, we should teach students how to be involved citizens, able to work well together in a future full of challenges.

 

School Lunch Program

I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer lunch server at Central Middle School and Wayzata High School during times of short staffing due to the pandemic. I was able to see first-hand the hard work, efficiency, and planning that goes into providing nutritious meals for our students. As we move past the struggles of the pandemic and supply chain issues, I would like to make healthy school meals a priority again. Wayzata Cafés, the district's food service department, made notable strides toward healthier food offerings pre-pandemic. Many parents in the district would like to continue the process of substituting healthier ingredients and á-la-carte options for the foods that have concerning ingredients and too many empty calories. In addition, parents have been asking that their elementary students be given more time to finish their food, a change that will increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and decrease food waste. I support their efforts. We can significantly improve nutrition and the lunch experience without over-burdening culinary staff or raising prices. Adding just five minutes to the lunch period would make a huge difference. The district should also revive the District Wellness Committee, as it was a great source of ideas for incorporating healthy food and habits into our childrens’ school experience.

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Equity

Equity has been a topic of much discussion in our district, with some parents questioning the Wayzata School District’s equity commitment. How we understand equity affects our perception of whether it is good or bad. To me, equity means helping all students achieve their full potential without lowering standards. It also means including diverse perspectives in the classroom to create a sense of belonging for everyone. In essence, equity is for all students. This is the definition the school board had in mind when it created the Wayzata School District’s equity commitment, and I wholeheartedly support that commitment. 

 

What does equity look like in practice? When it comes to education, one size does not fit all. Different students have different educational needs. Equity means providing specialized instruction to students when they need it, whether they have a learning disability, are struggling in a subject, or they need to be kept engaged with extra academic challenges. The Wayzata School District should ensure that gifted and intervention resources are available and consistent across all schools in the district.

 

Equity also means recognizing that different students have different access to opportunities or tutoring outside of school. We should make summer enrichment and gifted opportunities more affordable and available to students based on a demonstrated passion for a subject rather than test scores. One very popular and effective practice that came out of the district’s

push for equitable education is the dedicated homework/teacher-help time allotted during each school day for all 6-12th graders. This practice ensures all students can get help with their homework. With common-sense solutions like this, we can make our schools places where it’s not necessary for parents to seek tutoring outside of school.

When it comes to curricula and books, I value the input of all community members. I want to foster a district that recognizes diverse perspectives and instills a sense of pride in our country and our achievements. Wayzata School District is home to families with countless different experiences and backgrounds; all their stories are America’s stories. The district should provide opportunities for all students to see themselves in their education, through inclusive course material and thoughtful hiring practices.  It should also give teachers the latitude they need to discuss difficult topics in age-appropriate ways. I will be a champion for inclusive and honest education that deepens our understanding of each other, and will prepare our students to succeed in a global society with compassion and dignity. 

 
 

COVID-19 Safety

As we learn more about what Covid means for us now and in the future, we must continually balance the costs and benefits of mitigation strategies against the risks COVID poses to our students, teachers, and community. Over the past two years, distance learning, masks, and vaccinations have been instrumental in slowing the spread of COVID, reducing serious illness for kids and staff, and keeping our hospitals from overflowing. Of course, in-person learning is extremely important and should be weighed heavily when making any decisions. It is important to adapt with the changing pandemic landscape, and make decisions based on our continually improving scientific understanding and cost-benefit analyses.

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District Growth

As our district experiences population growth, we must focus on keeping class sizes small and within the district class size guidelines. A 2019 report from consultant Hazel Reinhardt predicted growth of approximately 2,000 students over 5 years, with the biggest impact at the middle school level. With the recently proposed developments of the Hollydale and Dundee sites, the growth will be even greater than predicted in 2019. While COVID may have changed the original timeline for growth, the district will soon need to decide whether to expand Central Middle School or to build a new middle school on land the district owns in the northwest of the district. I favor building a new school because Central Middle School is already the largest middle school in the district; expanding it would increase crowding in the cafeteria and would lead to traffic congestion around the school. Additionally, the northwest corner of the district is closer to where the population growth is happening. Finally, the district needs to explore the possibilities of  building another new elementary school and expanding the high school.

 

Sheila Prior FOR
WAYZATA SCHOOL BOARD

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