In 2013 and 2018, the Duluth community came together to pass increases to local school-operating levies, and I was proud to chair the Duluth for Education Committee that campaigned for them. My work advocating for schools taught me that, as a community, Duluth supports public education and is eager to invest in improving opportunities for students throughout the district.

As I campaigned for those referendums, community members spoke about the many unique opportunities ISD 709 provides to our students, opportunities such as excellent music programs (including band, orchestra, and choir); expanded access to classes through online offerings; specialists in art, music, and physical education in all of our elementary schools; Ojibwe- and Spanish-immersion classes; and an array of innovative extracurricular programs.

I heard about our district’s commitment to academic excellence through the work of its dedicated teachers and paraprofessionals. They devote themselves each day to a curriculum that addresses the needs of an incredibly diverse community of students across our district.

In other words, I encountered vast reserves of support for Duluth’s public schools, and my interest in strengthening that support motivated me to run for a seat on the Duluth School Board this fall.

I moved to Duluth 20 years ago to teach English at the University of Minnesota Duluth. My children, Ike and Josiah, grew and thrived in Duluth’s public schools thanks to their experiences in the excellent Early Childhood Family Education program and at Congdon Park Elementary, Ordean East Middle School, and Duluth East High School.

I look forward to contributing to the Duluth School Board’s governing role within the district with the spirit of cooperation and productive debate that guided my service on the Duluth Civil Service Board and on committees at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The School Board you elect in November will undertake the hiring of a new superintendent, re-examine school boundaries, and discuss the equitable distribution of resources. In addressing these challenges, I will continue to stress the importance of communicating with people who work in the district and the communities that it serves.

Our district’s unions are excellent partners in advocating for our schools, and I have appreciated my many conversations with members of the Duluth Federation of Teachers and AFSCME during this campaign. Healthy lines of communication with district employees and district administration will help me work through areas of disagreement, as we strive to ensure that our classrooms are welcoming spaces for learning.

I also will commit to supporting programs such as full-service community schools that have made important efforts to serve the community through various programs in and out of school, addressing achievement levels.

Above all, I am running for Duluth School Board because of my conviction that our public schools offer the best possible, most equitable education possible for our children. I hope you will support me in my efforts to maintain and expand our vibrant public schools.

John Schwetman is a candidate to serve as an At Large member of 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.