In what ways have your personal experiences influenced your desire to serve on the School Board? Describe the unique insight, relating to education, that you would bring to the board.

Trevor Houn: I have four daughters currently attending TCU in each education level. I have been attending City Council meetings for the past two year to stay involved in our town. I have also been self-employed for the past 15 year, so I understand how to get things done within a budget. When the opportunity arose, I felt it would be a good way to get involved.

Kevin Huber: Being on the school Board for three terms has been both challenging and rewarding. Keeping an open line of communication with members of the public, listening to all sides of an issue, asking questions before making a decision on how I will vote, has been my practice since day one on the board. As a board member there are times when votes don’t go as you would like, however, it is important to support and respect the decision made by your peers. Being upfront and honest as well as being able to discuss difficult issues in a professional manner is a quality I bring to and would continue to practice on the board.

Christopher Vlasak: Growing up in the community my whole life, I have always had a close tie to our school district and its growth. My background is very non-traditional. The bulk of my professional background has come from on the job training from managing P&L’s to managing people, and making the tough business decisions. This has allowed me to understand and consider not only facts, but feedback from others. Through life experiences in my career, as well as raising a family in the community, I feel that my background can help support the current and future decisions of the school district.

The TCU school district underwent a number of construction projects in 2019 thanks to funding from a $22.1 million voter-approved bond referendum. How do you see these building updates positively impacting the education of students, and how would you like to see these new spaces utilized in the future?

TH: I feel each town gained their own necessities from our bond referendum. The updates in Le Center improved the safety for our kids and upgraded the old facilities. Lonsdale’s expansion is keeping the students there for an extra two years, which is freeing up much needed space in our aging Montgomery Middle school. The high school is not only expanding the physical space but is also expanding our list of class courses with a much needed auditorium.

KH: With the improvements made to the buildings and new classroom arrangements, walls can be opened and the area made larger and safer for students and faculty to meet social distance requirements. This has made it more manageable to comply with state requirements. The improvements to the HVAC system in our buildings also met the requirements of the air circulation and quality standards so minimal changes needed to a few buildings. Keeping in mind, not all students are interested in sports but are just as importantly interested in Band, Choir, Acting, etc. our new PAC will provide these students with a state of the art facility to Grow, Learn, and perform for our public. In the future, I would like to see the new PAC utilized and enjoyed by our Public, as our buildings belong to our taxpayers and should be utilized and enjoyed by them as well.

CV: I was a big supporter of the school referendum when it was proposed. As a graduate of our school, I knew of the many areas of our facilities that needed improvement. These changes allow our students to have the right resources, and the right space to effectively learn and prepare for life after high school. These resources, properly cared for, will ensure our students have the right learning environment for many years to come.

Improving student achievement is a high priority for the TCU school district. What do you consider concrete methods in improving student achievement, and how do you measure that achievement?

TH: The only way to improve our students academically is we have to get them back in school with in- person education. A way of measuring that achievement is by analyzing test results and graduation rate.

KH: As a governing board for our district, It is the board’s responsibility to listen to the recommendations of our superintendent and administration as well as our teachers to do our best to provide the resources needed to help continue to enhance student achievement and close achievement gaps. In my opinion, student achievement is not only measured by grades and test scores, but also more importantly, personal growth, self esteem and the ability to work hard and be proud of your achievements and accomplishments.

CV: Every student learns in a different way. I think measuring student achievement needs to be a subject that is discussed with the school staff and leadership. The feedback of those who interact with the students daily is the most important part of deciding future measurements for TCU student achievement. I will look forward to working with the staff on the best way to address this as a high priority.

COVID-19 influenced a dramatic change in the delivery of education. What strengths and/or weaknesses in traditional school structures did distance learning reveal, and how does that influence your perception of education moving beyond the pandemic?

TH: I strongly believe it has become apparent that students being in school only every other day is causing them to drastically fall behind. We are fortunate to have technology for our students to have access to during the hybrid system.

KH: COVID-19 made a huge impact on all aspects of what was “normal life.” There are a lot of challenges in educating our students in ways that are equitable and meaningful. The staff at TCU have been second to none when it was time to make last minute changes. The Technology Department worked very hard to get the electronic devices ready for every student, as well as providing hot spots to those who did not have internet access. It is my opinion, we all learned what was thought to be impossible, was possible with the hard work and dedication of every staff member. I feel we will all learn from this and possibly change how we do day to day things. By having to go through this process, there were a lot of things learned, some that can continue to be used for future instruction and some not so much.

CV: COVID-19 caused us to pivot, and utilize tools most teachers, students, and parents were not prepared for. The distance learning education our students are receiving today, in my opinion, does not match what a student would receive interacting with teachers one on one. Just like in a business setting, you receive a different connection with your audience in person, than you do via phone or video. Additionally to this, our students need the interaction with their peers. This is a big part of their learning experience, as it relates to conflict resolution, and social settings. There may be some areas of learning students are able to achieve electronically through distance learning, but those are areas that should be discussed with the educators to ensure the proper impact.

TCU serves three separate communities under one umbrella. What do you believe the district does well in its efforts to embrace all three communities, and what are your ideas for making the district more united?

KH: As a district I believe it is important to treat each community in a fair and equitable way, in actuality there are five communities TCU serves; LeCenter, Montgomery, Lonsdale, Kilkenny and Hiedelberg. As a District, it is important to recognize, represent and serve the communities within our boundaries. Becoming more united is one of the most important parts of keeping our district strong and viable, whether it be united with businesses or individuals in our communities, TCU is always exploring new ideas and ways to engage our public to get involved by volunteering, coaching, mentoring and supporting our students.

CV: The effort to embrace all three communities at TCU, has always been something of a touchy subject, even back when it was just Montgomery-Lonsdale. In reality, there are more than just three communities served in the district, as you have townships and smaller towns included as well. Currently, the district seems to do a great job of including all communities in celebration parades, sporting events, and fine arts. As a decision maker on the school board, my job would be to serve as a voice to the community. When it comes to making the district more united, it would be important that I seek the feedback of my neighbors and community members, to bring those ideas to the district.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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