Pete Kelzenberg

1. Why are you running for the school board? In your opinion, what is the most important role of a board member?

The most important role of the school board is governance and oversight. I am running for school board to support what is already great about our district and to plan for continued improvement. I believe we are on the right path for correcting destructive intentions of recent boards and I want to keep this positive momentum going.  It is important that we work with our entire school community, including administration, teachers, staff, parents & students, to better student achievement and the quality of everything we do. 

2. Why are you seeking our endorsement? What does the endorsement of our unions mean to you personally?

The collective wisdom of our district staff is reflected in the unions and the standards they set. I trust these standards and support these shared visions. I believe that supporting teachers will improve the educational experience for all students.

3. How has your racial identity shaped and informed your world view? How are you actively working to expand your own racial and cultural lens?

My racial identity has not held me back personally and I understand many cannot say the same.  

I seek opportunities to make connections with those outside my own cultural experiences.  I am a question asker, especially when I sense someone’s willingness to share their experiences and backgrounds. 

I recently attended the Stillwater City Council meeting where the Student Leadership Council of Stillwater Area High School received the 2022 Stillwater Human Rights Award. I believe we should work with our student leadership and together address issues of Racial Justice and Educational Equity.

4. As described by the Minnesota School Boards Association, what does governance mean to you in terms of board work and the role of the school board members?

I believe good Governance creates a visionary and financial framework for the decisions of the district. I understand that Governance is not managing day-to-day decisions of the district. Governance is advocacy, operational guidance and ensuring financial accountability.

5. What has been your personal involvement or knowledge regarding unions and collective bargaining? How would you, as a school board member, interact with union leadership?

I have had my first opportunity to engage in collective bargaining this year. Collective bargaining is a means to achieve agreement rather than impose directives. The board and the union need to identify common goals which benefit both members and the community in which they serve.

6. Share examples of systemic and institutional racism that you have experienced or observed in Stillwater public schools. How will you work toward dismantling those barriers?

The percentage of faculty of color is out of balance with the percentage of students of color they serve. We must find ways to encourage applicants of color.  Once hired, we need to welcome and support them to be successful.  This should also extend to supporting young people of color who want to enter the profession. 

Any act of racism & bullying needs to be considered a serious event and given all due attention in educating the perpetrator and supporting the victim.  Students of color need to have access to administration and authority to quickly and effectively address any incidents.

7. How do you think decisions should be made that impact curriculum, assessment, staffing, and school management? What are the roles of teachers, paraprofessionals, and administration in these decisions? What is the role of the school board in these decisions?

School board members are not necessarily experts in these areas.  We need to respect the expertise and professionalism of our staff.  When issues of curriculum rise to a board level decision, we need to allow input from a variety of positions and give appropriate consideration to recommendations from leadership, as they represent voices we may not hear from regularly in our governance role. 

8. How do you define collaboration? What would collaboration among your fellow board members look like to you?

As a board member, I am one of seven people making collective decisions.   It is incumbent on me to make my viewpoints and reasoning known to my fellow board members and constituents. I must then vote with my conscience, considering the true desires of the community I represent. Once a collective decision has been made, it is important to respect and support the decision and the process that got us there.

9. What steps would you take to actively work on trust-building with each of these groups? a) District administration; b) District staff including paraprofessionals, custodians, food service workers, counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, secretaries, school bus drivers, early childhood educational assistants, community education staff, technology support staff, nurses, and teachers; c) District students and families, including racially, culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse students and families; d) Fellow board members; e) Our community at large.

A. District administration

I will speak respectfully of administration.  I will acknowledge that I do not have the same expertise they have.  I will ask appropriate questions and endeavor to work towards solutions with them.

B. District staff including paraprofessionals, custodians, food service workers, counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, secretaries, school bus drivers, early childhood educational assistants, community education staff, technology support staff, nurses and teachers.

I will express appreciation for the caring work they give to our students and community.  I will ask for their input when it is applicable. 

C. District students and families, including racially culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse students and families

I will recognize and create opportunities to connect and interact.  I am good at asking respectful questions that I hope allows others to express themselves while I learn something as well.

D. Fellow board members

I acknowledge that I am one of the seven.  I will contribute my opinions and allow others to do the same. When a decision is made, I will honor the group decision and process.

E. Our community at large. 

Listen.  Listen.  Listen.   At the same time I will make it clear that I alone cannot solve their issue, but I will bring consideration of their input to the table.  I will make myself available whenever possible to connect with the community in public and at school events.   I will push for tolerance and respect to those who are trying their best to do their best. 

10. Describe current and future initiatives that you feel are priorities for our district.

We need to look ahead at our growth and prepare accordingly rather than being forced to react.  We may need to add or replace buildings; this is an exciting proposition and I look forward to a thoughtful process including input from many.

We need to maintain our high quality programs and activities and put more effort into highlighting them to the wider community.  We want students to stay in our district because it is the best option available.

We need to specifically focus on supporting students & teachers as they work through the setbacks caused by the pandemic. We need to both stabilize and move forward academically, socially and emotionally.

11. Thinking about the next five years, there are bound to be economic challenges facing public education in Minnesota and in our district. How do you propose to address these economic challenges?

We want to stay ahead of the challenges that come our way. We’ve had excellent budgetary guidance from our finance directors in the past and we hope this continues.

We also need to cooperate with other districts in communicating and convincing legislators of the importance of adequate funding to provide the best services to our young people as we prepare them to become proud citizens and good contributors to our community.

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