Why are you running?
Steven Cross: As the father of two sons in the early stages of their education, I want to contribute to their success. I also think it’s important to do a service for the community. I have skillsets that would be beneficial as a school board member such as critical thinking, teamwork, and the ability to focus on the task at hand.
Kelsey Schwartz: After being on the school board for the last 4 years, I feel I still have more to learn and more to contribute. I feel I bring a unique perspective to the board as I am new(5 years new) to Le Sueur, a younger adult with no children and my husband and I own and operate a farm in Le Sueur. I continue to have a strong passion for education and want to continue to support the Le Sueur-Henderson School District
Brian Sorenson: I am running for School Board so that the voice of the residents of Henderson continues to be heard in the coming years.
What do you consider to be the biggest issue facing the school district and how would you address it on the board?
Cross: I think there is a limited amount of programming due to the smaller budget associated with a smaller community. I want to make sure our students are getting the best experience possible. We need to get the best out of the current programs we have. And brainstorm ways to improve the student experience that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money.
Schwartz: With declining enrollment and a declining fund balance, it is imperative that we start making decisions based on our financial wellbeing while also keeping in mind what is most important for our students. We have had strong discussions regarding what is possible within our budget and I truly believe that this next year will be a turning point in regards to what we are able to do if enrollment continues to decline.
Sorenson: The biggest issues are declining enrollment and the need for building improvements. Creative and likely difficult solutions will need to be made to make the district viable for future generations.
The School Board has been pursuing a facilities referendum with possible options ranging from upgrading building utilities or replacing or cutting one or more buildings. Where do you stand on a referendum? What do you see as the best path forward for LS-H facilities?
Cross: Something definitely has to be done to improve the conditions of our school buildings, whether it is replacing equipment at our current buildings or building new ones. The referendum task force has done a great job reviewing possible options. I think it is important to make a decision that will give us the best value for the money spent and gives the best experiences for our children.
Schwartz: As a farmer and business owner, I think it is a great time to take advantage of the Ag to School credit that is allowed to elevate some of the tax burden on farmers who own land within the Le Sueur-Henderson school district. But, I also believe it is important to take the time to gather input from stakeholders, including our farmers and business owners. The future facilities of LS-H is a community decision and we need people’s input on where we go from here. I think the board made the right decision changing the track of where we were going and slowing things down a bit. The facilities aren’t getting better, but we have more pressing issues on our plate, including taking care of teaching our students during a pandemic.
Sorenson: Having been involved in the facilities committee last year, I saw firsthand the need for building improvements and possible replacement. A referendum is the only way to achieve these improvements, but the dollar amount will have to be closely evaluated to make passage likely.
Declining enrollment has limited the district’s budget in recent years? What is your level of concern over this? How could the district promote greater student enrollment?
Cross: I have a high level of concern over declining enrollments. I would recommend keeping communication open with current parents and those who have left the district. Find out what positive and negative experiences parents are having that affect the declining enrollment. Polishing and promoting our district’s brand is critical to our success.
Schwartz: I think I have been vocal over my concern throughout this last year on our budget. We, as a board, have to start making decisions on what we are going to do to maintain an even budget. We can not continue to deficit spend and expect better results. In regards to greater student enrollment, I think this is bigger than our school district. We need to work as a community to make Le Sueur a place that families look at for their home. It appears that new people coming in want affordable and move in ready housing which will be important to provide to families who are considering moving to the district.
Sorenson: Declining enrollment equals decreasing revenue — oftentimes with expenses staying relatively steady. To keep the budget in the black, there will need to be a number of creative solutions to maintain a viable and vibrant district. To stem the declining enrollment, LS-H will need to explore marketing itself to outside residents and current open enrollment students in an attempt to bring more students into the district.
In the wake of rising COVID case numbers, the district has moved to a partial hybrid model for the month of September. Do you agree with this? How should the school approach education as the pandemic continues?
Cross: I agree that at the very least a hybrid model is necessary. The mental health aspect of distance learning needs to be considered along with the physical. Our kids need to see each other and interact in person to facilitate growth and relationships. I would support a full in person model if it could be done safely.
Schwartz: We currently have a COVID command team in place which includes people within a variety of positions throughout the district. This command team keeps in close contact with public health to determine what is safest for our students and staff. I don’t think anyone would disagree that being in person would be the best for students learning. But, due to the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, I believe we have great resources in place to make decisions on what is safest for our students and staff.
Sorenson: Keeping students and safe is the highest priority. I am happy to see district leadership working with county department of health officials to evaluate the best course of action on a regular basis.