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Katy McElwee-Stevens

Katy McElwee-Stevens: Kids should graduate prepared for everyday life

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Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

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Katy McElwee-Stevens

Age: 47

Residence: Newport

Family: Married with two children

Occupation: Stay-at-home-mom and part-time District 833 paraprofessional in the elementary emotional behavior disorder program.

Why she's running: To ensure that the district's graduates are well-rounded and prepared to take on adult responsibilities after graduating high school.

Whether a student plans to immediately start working, enter the military or go on to college, Katy McElwee-Stevens said she wants to be sure if they graduate from School District 833, they're prepared.

"College professors have said that students entering college as freshmen aren't prepared," she said. "I think we have people who go into the work world right out of high school and I'm not clear that they're prepared to be able to do some of the day-to-day-things."

Among the day-to-day things McElwee-Stevens wants to see students graduate knowing how to do: balance a checkbook and use credit responsibly.

"I want to make sure we're actually preparing kids for everyday life," she said.

McElwee-Stevens isn't a fan of socially promoting students, because it creates future problems, she said.

She's very interested in making sure schools "meet kids where they are" she said, starting from that point and bringing them to where they need to be. That's of greater concern to her than making sure that the schools are socio-economically balanced, she said.

"If there're kids at Park that are having trouble, then wherever those kids ended up in a building, we still need to meet them where they are," she said. "If it was flipped and there were many more free and reduced (lunch qualifying students) over at East Ridge ... I would absolutely expect that the district would meet those students where they are."

On testing in the schools, McElwee-Stevens said she wishes the teachers wouldn't have to jump around in the curriculum to prepare for the tests. Rather, she'd like to see all the state tests taken at the end of the school year. When students take tests a month before school is out, some of them check out for the rest of the year, she said.

"It would be great to see one test given closer to the end of the year," she said. "Then we'd be testing them on things that we would expect them to know by the end of May that year."

A-stay-at-home mom when her kids were young, McElwee-Stevens was not always a proponent of all-day kindergarten. That's changed, though, as she now thinks all-day kindergarten better prepares students for first grade.

"I don't look at it as daycare," she said. "They are always engaging the kids."

As for the excess money left over from the 2006 construction referendum, McElwee-Stevens said that money should go toward repair and maintenance of existing buildings.

At the end of the day, involvement from the students' families might be more critical than the efforts of the school board and district employees.

"If the family doesn't make education a priority, then everything we do in the six hours that we have the kids, it may just sort of fall to the wayside," she said. "You know the families and the district really have to be working together."

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