Half of Dist. 11’s school board seats up for election

Six candidates vie for three Anoka-Hennepin District 11 School Board seats in the election Nov. 5.

The seats are available in District 3, which includes Champlin, portions of Dayton and the northwest portion of Coon Rapids; District 4, which includes portions of Ham Lake, Nowthen and Oak Grove, a large part of Andover and the northeastern section of Ramsey; and District 6, which includes the southern part of Andover and northern part of Coon Rapids.

Currently holding these seats are Bill Harvey, running for re-election; Michael Sullivan, stepping down after 25 years on the board; and Jeff Simon, running unopposed for re-election.

Candidates campaigning for the seats include:

District 3

Grace Baltich, 11711 Douglas Dr. N, Champlin

Bill Harvey, 8108 109th Place N, Champlin

District 4

William Fields, 17178 Argon St. NW, Andover

Janelle Kirkeide, 2152 158th Lane NE, Ham Lake

Paul Meunier, 3020 160th Lane NE, Ham Lake

District 6

Jeff Simon, 12252 Thrush St. NW, Coon Rapids

School board members serve four-year terms.

Anyone living within the districts may vote in the election Nov. 5. To find your polling place, visit the Secretary of State’s website, the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s website or call 651-215-1440.

ABC Newspapers provided three basic questions for the candidates to help readers get to know them. Here are their responses:

District 3

1. Biography

Grace Baltich: Baltich, 36, of Champlin has a bachelor’s degree in social work from the College of St. Benedict and a master’s degree of social work from the University of Minnesota.

Grace Baltich

Grace Baltich

Baltich has more than 14 years of experience working with children and families. Baltich has worked for Wright County Human Services serving children and families.

With a young family, Baltich and her husband Jim, a Marine Gulf War veteran, chose to return to Champlin because they want to ensure that their children have access to the benefits of a quality education.

She and her family attend Champlin United Methodist Church where she is active in the choir, and with the Anoka-Hennepin School District Faith Community Partnership. She also is actively engaged in the work of ISAIAH.

Bill Harvey: I am your current school board member in Anoka-Hennepin District 3, and I am honored to serve you.

Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey

My family has lived in Champlin for 18 years. My wife Vicki and I have three children that are attending or have attended Anoka-Hennepin schools. Our oldest daughter, Erin, graduated from Champlin Park High School last June. Our son, Brennan, is a junior at Champlin Park, and our daughter Kendall is an eighth grader at Jackson Middle School. From the time our oldest child, Erin, was 18 months, Vicki and I have participated and volunteered in the schools. From Early Childhood Family Education to graduation, we have been involved in the process.

2. What qualities will you bring to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board if elected?

Baltich: My training as a licensed social worker and more than 14 years of experience has prepared me to work with the students and families. I understand the social, emotional and educational needs of students. I am a consensus builder. I will bring my trained mediator experience to the board to engage collaboratively and transparently with all stakeholders to work through issues, to reach decisions and to invest in the best possible current and future education for all our children. I pledge to continue networking and communicating with families, students, community organizations and district staff, as I have practiced throughout my professional and community life years of engagement.

Harvey: I couldn’t be more proud of our school district. I am honored to serve you and take very seriously the responsibility it carries.

More than two years ago, I was approached and recommended for the school board. I was asked to submit my name as a potential candidate if the District 3 seat opened up. I was recommended based on my experience as a leader in the community and business, and as a very involved parent who has volunteered, coached and participated in the schools at all levels for more than 13 years.

I am very passionate about our schools and I have been told by many parents, teachers and school staff that I am the most visible and available school board member that they have ever known. I am proud of that. I spend a lot of time in the schools and I have been told by many that I am a compassionate and caring listener. I am very proud of our classroom teachers (from Early Childhood Family Education through K-12 through Community Education). I have known many of them personally, for years. I am very proud of our schools and want to continue doing anything that I can to make them even better.

3. What is the main emphasis of your campaign? 

Baltich: As a mom, a licensed social worker and a trained and experienced mediator, I believe there must be an environment of trusting, inclusive and collaborative relationships between the school board, administration, teachers, parents and community members to ensure we provide the highest quality education for all children. For all our students’ well-being and success, we must ensure that all our students are affirmed and we must provide a safe environment for all. We must ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten, that we continue to close the achievement gap and that we ensure all graduates are college or career ready.

The education of our children should be a non-partisan issue. This board needs to provide quality leadership, which will be key as it enters into a process to hire a new superintendent.

Board members should engage in collaborative and inclusive leadership to ensure high levels of success for all students. The central focus of decision making should be how all decisions forward the mission of providing the highest quality education for all children. We must work collaboratively with all stakeholders, including students’ families or guardians, to employ expertise, research and best practices in the field to achieve our mission.

Harvey: Last spring, I was able to attend 10 of our 11 graduation ceremonies and celebrate our greatest goal as a school district, to send our children and youth forward into society, prepared and ready to make a difference in our world. I did not attend these graduations to get votes. I attended them because I was humbled and honored to represent our families as we strive to provide the best education possible to all children.

First and foremost, I am a father with the experience and skill set to lead. For that reason, I humbly request your vote on Nov. 5, so that I can continue to serve your family.

District 4

1. Biography

William Fields: I am a married father of four and an Andover resident. After having served 10 years in the Air Force on active duty, we moved to the Twin Cities to be near family.

William Fields

William Fields

My military service began at the United States Air Force Academy where I earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and held a variety of positions after graduation.

While serving on active duty in the Air Force as a pilot, my positions as instructor and training manager helped me develop an appreciation and interest for the academic environment. I enjoyed finding new and more efficient ways of doing things that would deliver the same impact for both the individual and the organization.

Recently, I have transitioned to the Air National Guard where I serve as a group manager and in my spare time, I enjoy extracurricular activities with my family such as community sports and outdoor events.

Janelle Kirkeide: I am a life-long resident of the Anoka-Hennepin School District. I started kindergarten the very first day that University Avenue Elementary opened its doors. I graduated from Coon Rapids High School in 1974. I am 57 years old. I now live in Ham Lake with my husband of 37 years, Gary. We have two grown children, Max and Amy.

I have a bachelor of arts in elementary education from the College of St. Catherine. I did my student teaching in Anoka-Hennepin schools. I have been an educator for more than 20 years.

Currently, I am a school librarian at Wilshire Park Elementary in the St. Anthony-New Brighton School District. In that capacity, I understand school financing and budgets. I also have a good background in technology in schools.

I attended graduate school at St. Cloud State to earn my library media specialist degree. I also have a master’s degree in teaching and learning from St. Mary’s University.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading, gardening, cooking and sailing on Lake Superior with my husband.

Paul Meunier: My wife Lisa and I have lived in the Anoka-Hennepin School District for nearly 20 years, and our daughter Hannah is a freshman at Blaine High School.

Paul Meunier

Paul Meunier

Because Hannah has health issues, we have been highly involved in her education since kindergarten and school staff have repeatedly shown their commitment to being true partners with us and other parents. We have only good things to say about Hannah’s overall educational experience.

I want my family’s positive experience to be the experience for all families in the district now and in the years to come. Education is the great equalizer. It allows all youth to succeed and offers the best chance for everyone to live the American dream.

I have spent the majority of my adult life in public service to our local community. After earning a master’s degree in psychology, I worked as a therapist in a contracted position with the school district for 14 years and also served as a city council member and then mayor of Ham Lake.

Currently, I am the director of services for Minnesota Youth Intervention Programs Association.

2. What qualities will you bring to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board if elected?

Fields: I think that utilizing my military background will enable me to examine large and complex amounts of information (fiscal and regulatory) through a unique lens of experience in timely decision making.

Having served in a variety of environments has given me the ability to examine all available options and ultimately make a decision for action.

Also, being a parent of four makes me realize the importance of student performance and the potential for success that we can offer to all school-age children.

Kirkeide: If elected to the school board, I would bring my years of experience and inside understanding of public education to the school board.

I believe that we should never lose sight of the fact that our schools must work for the students. Every student deserves an environment that is safe and welcoming, and a curriculum that is rigorous.

My leadership style would be collaborative. I would be supportive of and responsive to the district’s employees, families and students.

I read widely about education, study relevant research and make decisions based on data. I am very familiar with state and federal standards and curriculum.

As an educator, I am constantly participating in staff development on issues relating to education. I recently attended a two-day training on strategies to bridge the achievement gap. If even one student is falling behind, that is one too many.

Meunier: Qualities that define me as a public servant and as an individual are passion, commitment, a tireless work ethic and an unwavering belief that as an elected official I represent all of the community.

A natural part of public policy is conflict. However, I believe there is almost always a “win-win” situation to be found when there is good communication. From training as a therapist and life experiences, I have developed the communication and negotiation skills needed to bring individuals and groups together and find those “win-win” situations.

I have a proven ability to be both a good listener and to work with a wide variety of people. Past experiences as a city council member and mayor of Ham Lake taught me the art of building alliances.

I have personal opinions that will always play a role in my decision making process, but ultimately I know I have been elected to serve the community and not to pursue personal interests. I may not always agree with an individual and I am not afraid to speak my mind, but I have demonstrated the ability to do so in a way that is not demeaning or personally attacking anyone.

3. What is the main emphasis of your campaign? 

Fields: My main focus and area of interest for our district will be to ensure that taxpayer dollars are protected while continuing to build on the innovative programs that we have here in Anoka-Hennepin.

Programs such as STEP and other concentrated learning areas that we have at various high schools (STEM at Blaine and Biotech in Coon Rapids) benefit our students. These innovations have saved thousands of dollars for our local families. I think that offering additional certifications (Six Sigma, etc.) could be another step that we take to foster even greater development in our students.

Furthermore, it is important to ensure that we have a competitive education system. This will enable our students to be successful in the global market, and in turn, develop quality community leaders and businessmen and women in the future.

Kirkeide: I am passionate about the importance of a great education for each and every student.

Meunier: District 4 has enjoyed a very good school board member for 25 years with our tax dollars being well spent, and overall the district’s student test scores are good.

Our biggest challenge is Anoka County having the lowest per capita income in the metro area and a rapidly increasing rate of poverty as evidenced by the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program doubling since 2003. To keep up with inflation and maintain the current level of services, the district needs an additional $12 million annually.

A major emphasis of my work as a board member will be to ensure that the district gets the same compensatory revenue as other large districts. I would continue the board’s practice of investing more than 70 percent of the general fund dollars into the classroom and keeping administrative costs below 3 percent. I favor the district having a self-regulating continuous improvement plan and the pay-for–performance Q-comp plan for teachers producing excellent outcomes.

I also support students being able to earn post-secondary credits in high school. It saves families money.

Additionally, with our superintendent retiring in 2014, the board must find a new leader capable of providing above-average education at below-average costs.

District 6 

1. Biography

Jeff Simon: I am honored to be your current Coon Rapids (District 6) School Board representative, after having been appointed in July 2012.

Jeff Simon

Jeff Simon

I believe strongly that our school district continues to move in a positive direction with many great results of which to be proud.

I have been a Coon Rapids resident since 2000 and have volunteered at Hoover Elementary PTO, as Coon Rapids T-Ball assistant coach, on the Anoka-Hennepin School District Future Focus Task Force and on the Coon Creek Watershed District Citizen Advisory Committee.

I’ve been married for 14 years to Simone, a Coon Rapids Middle School teacher, and we have two sons who currently attend school in our district.

My background includes working as a counselor in K-12 schools while completing a master’s degree in education-counseling in 2000 and more than 21 years private sector business experience, currently working as vice president of sales for a U.S. manufacturing company. Your voice and feedback are important to me and our district. I look forward to meeting you at our schools or in the community to learn your thoughts about our schools.

2. What qualities will you bring to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board if elected?

Simon: My guiding principles for service on the Anoka-Hennepin School Board are transparency, accountability and community outreach. I actively seek feedback from our community, students/families, administration, staff and teachers in order to truly consider all stakeholders in decisions that affect our district. Ensuring that we are investing in data-driven, research-based best practices and that we are focused on a continuous improvement model is a philosophy that I will further in our district.

I have been serving on the school board for one-and-a-half years, and that experience, including serving on the Superintendent Search Committee and the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Committee, provides a solid foundation for future service.

I believe strongly that our community can be very proud of the results that our school district has experienced and the positive direction in which our district continues to move. Some examples include improved state test scores – high school math up 12.7 percent; recognition for one of the lowest achievement gaps in the state; 80 percent of our eligible elementary schools, 11 total schools, received the highest or second highest rating in State Multiple Measure Rating; and saving our 2013 high school graduates and families more than $13 million in college tuition.

3. What is the main emphasis of your campaign? 

Simon: As I am the only registered candidate, I am using this campaign as an opportunity to actively seek community feedback. I believe that our school district is stronger when all are able to provide their thoughts, ideas and feedback. I will be visible in our community and at our schools to hear from you and you can also visit JeffSimon.org to provide your feedback.

Also, I want to communicate the great results that our district has experienced and its positive trajectory, like the examples mentioned above and being independently recognized for one of the lowest achievement gaps in the state. The district is continuing this positive trend with programs implemented for this school year and next, including strategic investment in math and an enhanced student support model.

Beyond asking for your vote, I ask for your thoughts and feedback.

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