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District 833 School Board candidate: Katy McElwee-Stevens

Name: Katy McElwee-Stevens

Age: 55

City: Newport

Occupation: Agent Assistant

Family: Rick, husband of 34 years; son Connor, 23, 2012 graduate of East Ridge High School; daughter Callie, 19, 2016 graduate of East Ridge High School

Incumbent or challenger: Incumbent

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

What sets me apart are my experiences in District 833 as a parent, resident, volunteer, but more significantly, the combination of being a former employee of 10 years and a School Board member in my seventh year. I understand both sides of the board's decisions. My employee experience directs the questions I ask and the perspective I have as a board member.

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

The School Board sets policy to direct the district. As a board, we contribute to closing the achievement gap by making sure our policies are inclusive, complete, and compliant. Additionally, we hold the district accountable. We ask the difficult questions about equality and opportunity. We require administration to report the strategies 833 is utilizing to the board, we require follow up assessments of those strategies, and we require solutions to the areas in need. We bring together all departments and all offices to work on this issue. We are making progress on our gaps but it is clear we have more work to do as evidenced in our current achievement gap data.

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

I see finances as a "co-top" challenge along with hiring and retaining a highly qualified staff. I will address the finances here.

• Continue assessing our programs, staffing ratios, delivery models, and facilities looking for inefficiencies and savings. We should always be evaluating and asking questions about the programs we offer, our student/staff ratios, and how we educate students.

• The Board needs to make sure our district is well represented at the state legislature, and when possible, through the Minnesota School Board Association, at the federal level. Every year we create and share our District legislative platform with our state legislators.

• Due to Minnesota's funding model, our communities have a part in the overall financial health of the district as well. As a result, the district has a responsibility to educate our residents about 833, our financial condition, our successes, our growth, and the areas where we have more work to do. By helping residents understand the thriving district they live in, we're optimistic they will want to support and be a part of it.