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Mike Thissen: I'll 'tell it how it is' on pressing school issues

Mike Thissen

Age: 39

Residence: Woodbury

Family: Married with three sons and one daughter

Occupation: Health inspector

Why he's running: He wants to be more involved with the decisions the school board makes involving his kids.

Mike Thissen is clear on why he believes he would make a good school board member.

"What separates me is that I kind of tell it how it is, I respond to people and I listen to people," said Thissen, a Woodbury resident. "I represent the average family out there looking in."

With three young boys currently in the district, Thissen said he has had his fair share of run-ins with District 833 and the current school board members -- primarily in terms of school boundary adjustments -- which he said have not been the most pleasant experiences.

Thissen said he does not believe the school board made the best decision for the school boundaries, primarily because they didn't address the minority group who felt the boundaries were not correctly defined. "You're always going to have a small percentage that feels left out, so there has to be a proper way to handle those outliers."

Thissen said his greatest frustration during the boundary shift was the district's failure to respond to his questions and concerns, and generally not follow those guiding principles.

Thissen said one of his biggest goals if he is elected would be to open up that communication between families more.

"There's communication lines, it's just a matter of responding to stuff," he said. "That's one of my pet peeves -- I take pride in responding."

Thissen said he would be willing to explore the perception that some parents and community members have of the equity, or inequity, among schools in the district.

"Everything in the schools should be equal," Thissen said.

One of the biggest factors relating to equity in the district is the new East Ridge High School and the shortcomings that many people in the district feel the other schools have.

Even though Thissen acknowledges that East Ridge High School has many amenities and technologies other schools in the district lack, he believes it's difficult to compare schools.

"You have a state-of-the-art school built, so you can't compare that," he said. "You're never going to get apples to apples, but you'll get pretty dang close."

One of the most daunting tasks that the school board must face every year is how to work within the budget they have -- and with the many cuts in state and federal funding that is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Thissen said he would look at the budget carefully and weigh the pros and cons of programs.

"I would look at all of the programs that are being funded, look at personnel and see what we're spending first," he said. "Then I would see if there's any fluffy stuff that can be cut out."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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