Up until this moment, I have remained relatively quiet regarding the proposal from District 834 administration to close three elementary schools.
I have been asking questions, responding to emails, meeting with community members, parents, staff and administration, losing sleep, sacrificing family time, and thinking about it constantly. I will continue to do all of these things until my vote is cast on February 11. I signed up for this. You voted me in (I am blaming you a little). I will do my very best to make the right decision for our kids.
During difficult moments of decision when the waters are muddy, I often head back to the website I used during my campaign (www.shelleypearson.net) to remind myself of what my values are. My deeply held beliefs have not changed. Taken from my website:
My Beliefs about Education
For the Kids
- Every child should have the opportunity to reach his/her own potential.
- Every child should be taught the way he/she learns, not the easiest way to manage.
- Every child should be encouraged to explore his/her true passions.
- Children thrive in a place where social, emotional, academic, and physical needs are met.
- Children grow when they take responsibility and are encouraged to lead.
For the Staff and Parents
- Staff members should be encouraged to take ownership of their schools and their work.
- Staff members are most effective when they are empowered, valued, and respected.
- Parents are great advocates for their children.
- Parents respect teachers and desire to support them in their work.
- When staff and parents work together, the benefit to the child is greater than when either party operates alone.
For the School and District
- Each school can and should maintain its own identity while being part of a greater whole.
- We must forge our own path rather than following what everyone else is doing.
- We must take calculated risks in order to provide the best possible education for our children.
- We need to get beyond standardized testing in order to truly meet the needs of our students.
For the Community
- It is important for our taxpayers, community members, parents, and educators to believe in our schools.
- We need the community to play an integral role in the education of our students.
- The more people we can get working together for the good of our kids, the better our schools will become.
- The better our schools become, the better our children, our community and our world will be.
As a parent, I value choice. Why? Because as much as many of you cherish a small traditional school, I cherished a wide open school where students learned at their own paces and took responsibility for their own learning. I loved my kids’ school because it was the best for them. I loved that our district had other options as well and believed that if a program did not work for one child, he/she could find a better fit at another school in our district instead of leaving our district altogether. Is that the best way? I don’t know. It’s a way that seems to work.
As a community member, I love the St. Croix Valley. I love Stillwater where I live, but I also love that you get to love your community, whether it is Marine or Afton, Lake Elmo or Withrow, Woodbury or Lily Lake (or any of the others). I love my community because it is the best for our family. You get to love your community because it is best for yours. That is what makes this such a great place. No community is better than the other, but each has a distinct personality (as is also true of our schools). We can all love where we are while we make up an even greater whole.
As a board member, I believe that it is the individual communities that make us what we are as a district. I believe that the school district is not a private entity but an intricate part of the larger community and vice versa. I also believe we need to find our way to financial health so that we can offer the education our students deserve. Finally, I believe that all seven board members should be able to share their thoughts and opinions with those who voted us into office, whether we are for, against, or somewhere in the middle.
As a person, I am upset by what has surfaced on both “sides” of this issue. I appreciate the respect given by many. At the same time, it makes me physically ill to read the slander of the superintendent and her team, all of whom are people doing what they believe is best. I wish everyone recognized that the emotions are real and should not be discounted but also that no one has evil intent by either bringing forward this proposal or opposing it.
When you stand up for what you believe in, it is a part of a healthy process that will make us the absolute best district we can be, where we have asked every possible question to ensure we are making the very best decisions for the present and future students in a school district that is like no other. Keep working toward a positive solution.
Note: Shelley Pearson is a member of the district 834 school board. Her comments are her own, and she is not speaking for the other six board members.