David Roberts is the newest St. Francis School Board member.
The Oak Grove man was selected from seven candidates at a special board meeting Feb. 20, then was sworn in that night to fill the vacancy left by the ouster of Matt Rustad for plagiarism.
It was a very hard decision to make, said School Board Chairperson Amy Kelly after the secret ballot was counted.
Kelly hopes all the applicants put their names on the ballot for the November school board elections because they were all really good candidates, she said.
Roberts said he was motivated to apply for the school board opening by his three young children, who are and will be students in the district, Roberts said.
When he moved to the district in 2010, a lot of people tried to deter him from enrolling his oldest child, who is a student at Cedar Creek Community School (CCCS), in the school district, he said.
“I wanted to know why,” Roberts said.
To find out more about the district and the schools, Roberts volunteered with the Lifelong Learning Center (LLC) advisory council and the several of the school’s events.
“I have become very interested in taking part in building our community and schools to further enhance the enrichment of the youth in our community as well as support the staff and their needs,” Roberts said in his application.
“I am proud of the district and what it has accomplished. It is pretty amazing what we can do together.”
One the biggest challenges the school board faces is public perception, according to Roberts.
“I feel the board has gotten a bad rap,” he said.
While there are a lot of great things going on in the district, he also hears a lot of negative things, Roberts said.
If the community feels there is a reason not to trust the school district, it will question things when it comes time to pass a referendum, he said.
If the community does not trust the school board, it will not pass a referendum, according to Roberts.
That negative public image also has an impact on enrollment, he said.
With open enrollment, the school district will lose students if there is a negative public perception, Roberts said.
The school board can curb that by presenting a united front and working together, he said.
Being available to people and getting to know the community members helps foster trust and being available to people to hear them also builds trust, Roberts said.
The district could strengthen its community relations by using the media, the district website, Facebook and Twitter, he said.
If the community has the information on the school board ideas, “it will embolden them to support our ideas,” Roberts said.
“A main priority of mine has been to support the local businesses and keep our economy growing,” said Roberts, who owns Dave’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Columbia Heights.
As as business owner, “I am well versed in customer service, as it is my primary role in business. I am also used to interacting with various different personality types and I am an excellent problem solver,” he said in his application.
“Creative thinking and compromise are two things that have been ingrained in me since I joined the workforce at the age of 12. I also understand accounting and business management. I know the importance of a budget and how to maintain that.”
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]