Candidate's View: Vital to enhance connection between Duluth school district, community

As a social worker, my everyday interactions with families and youths have taught me that parents want the best education for their children -- and children want to be part of a school system where the teachers' and administrators' sole purpose i...

As a social worker, my everyday interactions with families and youths have taught me that parents want the best education for their children - and children want to be part of a school system where the teachers’ and administrators’ sole purpose is helping them be the best students they can be. My campaign focuses on enhancing connections between the School Board and community, advocating for curriculum development, bringing about greater equity within the educational system, and maintaining accountability and transparency both in my campaign and on the School Board.
Enhancing the connection between the school district and the community is critical. One of the most significant issues facing the school district remains a lack of confidence and public trust in Duluth public schools. This has created a perceivable tension in the district that either drives students away or keeps them from coming back. The lack of students drives a lack of funding, which exacerbates many of the School Board’s current issues. I believe we can regain trust by realigning the agenda in collaboration with the community, placing a primary focus on meeting community needs. This is the base on which all of my platform stands.
It is our civic and moral responsibility to own up to the problems in Independent School District 709 and invest in equity-driven strategies. It is also very important that we address poverty, social justice and education together. This will mean bringing about greater equity within the educational system by addressing matters related to the achievement gap. A way to accomplish this is by fostering an environment that’s conducive to collaboration and commu­­­­­­­­­nication between our community members, parents, caregivers and policy officials.
Alongside equity for students is the need to place value on accountability and transparency with regard to how the School Board operates and how we (as School Board members) progress toward achieving the goals of the community we represent. In the long term, we should look toward developing business mentorships and collaborations within the curriculum of each school. By encouraging people from various businesses to assist in providing these services and support to students and staff, we could create a symbiotic relationship between ISD 709 and the community at large.
It’s critical that we work to pass our operating levy and put the money into the classrooms by hiring teachers and bringing our class sizes down to recommended levels. The student-to-teacher ratio needs to be reduced, and we need to insist upon curriculum review and improvement to meet changing employment opportunities, which also involves supporting the inclusion of additional elective-course options for our children. I will advocate for Title 1 funds in the 2nd District to go toward engaging, organizing and including parents in the dialogue.
The community’s level of trust in what the board does reflects the effectiveness of actions taken by the board. We need to give the community a reason to regain its trust and confidence in the Duluth School Board. When we win on Nov. 3, I will bring a fresh and fair-minded perspective as well as my ability to listen and seek recommendations from the community.
In the next few months, I am seeking to meet with students, teachers, administrators, parents, 2nd District residents, service officials, community organizers and the community at large. I am seeking to collaborate on ideas and assist in creating action plans I believe will bring about effective progressions and trust in our Duluth public school system. I know the strength of the public educational system is in each active community member as well as the public servants elected to guard those interests. Let’s improve Duluth together.
Don’t forget to vote in the Sept. 15 primary election and then again on Nov. 3.

Charles Obije (, ) is one of three candidates for Duluth School Board in the 2nd District. Incumbent Judy Seliga-Punyko is not seeking re-election. With him on the Sept. 15 primary ballot will be David Kirby and Jane Hammerstrom Hoffman. Two will advance to Election Day Nov. 3. All the candidates were invited to write a commentary for the News Tribune.

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