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District 833 School Board candidate: Tracy Brunnette

Name: Tracy Brunnette

Age: 53

City: Cottage Grove

Occupation: State analyst

Family: Two sons who graduated from Park High School

Incumbent or challenger: Incumbent

How do your skills or experience set you apart as a candidate?

My experience with the district as a parent, a volunteer, an employee and, now, as a school board member gives me a breadth of knowledge about the district and education that others do not have. I have an accounting background and I have a strong understanding of school finances. I have lobbied the legislature and have advocated for public education since 1986. I strongly believe public education is the best investment we make. I'm proud of the progress we have made and the successes we have seen and would be proud to continue to advocate for District 833, its communities and its students.

What do you believe the school board can do to narrow academic achievement gaps?

The board should fully advocate for and set a budget to support our strategic plan to improve the culture and climate for all students and staff and to focus on personalized learning so we can adapt to each student's learning style allowing every student to be successful. Employing cultural liaisons and actively recruiting teachers and staff to reflect the diversity of the district. Provide diverse educational opportunities, additional support when needed, safe and welcoming learning environments and set the same high expectations for all students.

Is the budget and school funding the biggest challenge facing the district?

I do think adequate, sustainable funding is our biggest challenge. We rely on the Legislature to fund the district adequately to, at a minimum, keep up with inflation. The special education cross subsidy is approximately $18 million which takes money away from our general education classrooms. Special education is extremely important but the state and the federal government need to step up and fund special education services at a higher rate. As a result, the district has to rely on passing referenda to continue to provide the excellent educational programs we offer to our students in addition to being able to offer fair wages to our employees. To support programs, the district has made the decision to spend down the fund balance but that is not an option anymore. The budget needs to be adjusted so the fund balance can get back within the board policy of 5 to 9 percent. We also need to pass all three referendum questions this fall.