As I run for re-election to the Duluth school Board, the two questions I am asked most consistently are: Why are you running again? And, What do you consider the most important issues facing the district?
I am running for another term because I want to continue my active involvement in Duluth public schools. I have two children now in high school, and I have been involved in their schools since they were in kindergarten. Many people throughout the community have encouraged me to run, and I have received endorsements from labor, AFSCME, the Duluth Federation of Teachers, OutFront MN, and the DFL. I also have an academic interest in education, having received a Ph.D. in the field, and I taught at the university level.
I want to see Duluth prosper and see opportunities for everyone in our community improve. For this to happen, there has to be a strong public-school system. Public schools are as much a part of the basic infrastructure of a community as good roads and effective police and fire departments. People and businesses are more likely to come to our city and remain here if these are present.
Furthermore, it is increasingly apparent that factors such as homelessness, poverty, broken families, and hunger have a major impact on success in school. These are factors schools can try to compensate for, but ultimate progress and solutions require the assistance and cooperation of other governmental agencies and the community at large. Schools alone cannot alleviate achievement and opportunity gaps.
This means the school board has to work with other leaders in the community: municipal, county, and state officials; local nonprofit and community groups; business owners; and others. I have developed many relationships in these areas over the past four years, and they are very important as we move forward to organize solutions and programs.
We have many things to be proud of in ISD 709: excellent teachers and staff, our career and technical program, outstanding facilities, a community-school program that is a model for the state, an online education program that is growing, and a program to “grow our own” teachers, to name but a few.
We also have challenges and opportunities for improvement that should not be minimized. Equitable opportunity for all students throughout the district needs to be a constant focus. The district needs to give teachers and students appropriate class sizes and ensure equitable access to courses and opportunities in our secondary schools.
We are in the process of conducting an attendance boundary study. We’ve started a search for a new superintendent. And we face increasing technology needs, as do many districts in the state. The dispositions of Historic Old Central High School and the “new” Central High School property are important not only to the school district but to the city as a whole. Consequently, collaboration and the active involvement of other governmental and community stakeholders will yield the most optimal outcome for everyone.
I am well aware of the limited influence an individual board member has. Goals and desired outcomes can only be reached when a majority agrees. A board that works as a cohesive group and keeps its focus on improving success and opportunities for students and staff is most effective.
David Kirby represents District 2 on the Duluth School Board. The seat is up for election on Nov. 5. He wrote this at the request of the News Tribune Opinion page.