Redwood Area Board of Education candidates: JoDee Altmann
Why are you running for school board?
I have four children attending Redwood Valley who provide me with their opinions and questions about why decisions were made or what was the purpose of a decision. I am a proponent for explaining to people “the why” or reason decisions are made because it helps alleviate fear of the unknown and stop rumors and speculation from spreading, especially with social media. Last March I got involved with the Site Council for Redwood Area Schools. Being involved with the school board allows me the opportunity to be more involved in the actions and decisions that will affect my children and the children of the community. This summer I was asked if I would ever be interested in being on the School Board when there was a short term vacancy to fill. Well... here I am.
From your perspective, what is the role of a school board member?
I realized after my first meeting that my perception of what being a school board member would involve and what it really involves were completely different. I have been part of the School board since July. I now believe that the role involves reviewing information provided to the board by individuals who are more knowledgeable in a variety of areas within the school and groups, be it financial, academic, or recreational. It involves making decisions based on that information and being in the best interest of the students, teachers, parents and school district as a whole. Knowing that the decision may not be the favored decision and that separating emotion from business is a hard thing to do.
How would you as a school board member balance fiscal responsibility and ensuring students receive the services they need?
I am a nurse; math and financials are not my strong point. BUT I will listen, ask questions no matter how silly they may seem and learn about RASD’s financials. I have reviewed the financial statements and have gained new awareness. It has been eye opening and as I referred to earlier an area that being a board member I had not initially expected. In nursing we use Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs as a theory base for care. I believe the same applies for our students at RASD to ensure their success in all areas. We must provide and ensure the physiological needs for our students first – Food, Water, Warmth, followed by the need to feel safe. Once these basics are provided and secured for our students, we can focus on the next three areas: sense of belonging, friends; feelings of accomplishment and finally achievement of one’s full potential, which I believe correlate to academics and extracurriculars.
What do you think is the Redwood Area School District’s greatest asset? How would you as a school board member best utilize that asset?
RASD’s greatest asset is their staff. The term asset is defined as a valuable thing, person or quality. The individuals themselves are invaluable for the services they provide, but the quality of the individuals that provide education and other services to our students is even more invaluable. Those persons who interview and hire staff for RASD have proven their ability and the ability of the tool they use to guide their decision making is successful. I would love to share stories about so many staff that have impacted my own children, and it is not just the teachers, this includes all staff, administrative secretaries, environmental services - aka the janitors, the “lunch ladies”, para staff and coaches. I believe to best utilize this invaluable asset we need to listen and hear what they are telling us. These individuals are the eyes, ears and heart of RASD. They have the inside scoop into the daily lives of our children, the effects our decisions have, they see/hear and identify things we are parents and the community do not.
How would you work to collaborate with other units of government at the local, state and federal level?
This is an area that I don’t have experience in. I have never been openly and actively involved in politics or any political movements. I don’t like drama and as we have seen this year especially drama and politics seem intertwined. That being said I am also not one to sit idly by and stay quiet. I have a voice and will use it for the good. After I have done credible research, listened to the community’s concerns, researched and validated that information I would seek assistance from others on how to proceed contacting local, state and federal persons using the appropriate channels in an effort to collaborate with them on issues of concern.
Do you think the school district’s current strategic plan is taking the district in the right direction?
In reviewing the strategic plan which you can find on the RASD’s Web site, I do think that the plan is taking the district in the right direction. Our new superintendent Becky, has big shoes to fill but I feel she will continue as a great leader for RASD. Rick and the RASD have provided a detailed outline of expectations for the workforce, future expansion, student achievement and support and financial goals. Because of past efforts and strategic planning RASD currently maintains a positive fund balance allowing room for those unexpected expenses such as those we have seen this year with COVID.
Other than the above topics, what do you think is the school district’s most important issue that needs to be addressed. How would you work to resolve it?
I posed this question to my children, here is their perspective, they are the ones attending the schools. 1. Open proximity of the lunch room and the unlocked main entrances to the school. The onsite officer provides a sense of comfort but “anyone can enter the school at anytime and do you really think everyone that comes in is checking in at the district office?”. “Reede Gray is locked all the time, do only the little kids matter?” I realize changing the layout is not feasible due to cost but is revamping of the “bubble” as the kids call it, adding a door monitoring area to open the locked doors while providing those students who leave for lunch key cards to use to go in and out feasible options. 2. “Why do sports get so much more money and other areas get so little? The football team got brand new helmets while other things like the play don’t seem to get any money to help.” Remember this is the perspective of my children as they see it in school. They also guide our decisions. I haven’t looked closely at the financials or the differences between the extracurricular activities yet, I realize sports have increased costs yes but I feel strongly that the fine arts are just as important programs to the students as are the sports programs. Finally – my concern is the need to make sure our educational facilities are able to keep up with modern technology, adapt to changes in student learning and educational teaching methods. We know this is an issue at the elementary school. I would also like to find a way to increase the allowed lunch period for the elementary students. I remember being in that cafeteria during lunch - it exceeds the definition of chaos.
Please provide a brief bio of yourself.
I grew up by Olivia, attended SDSU and received my Bachelors in Nursing. I married a Redwood Falls boy. Mike and I have four children, Ashtyn - 18, Austin - 16, Alexis - 14, and Addysen - 12. We live on his home place south of Redwood and have a “little bit of everything” on our farm. We are actively involved in 4-H as a family. I work as an RN in the Emergency Room and ICU at Carris Health Willmar. Mike works as a surgical tech for Carris Health Redwood Falls. Our children are involved in a variety of sports and activities within the school system. Football, wrestling, basketball, golf, tennis, FFA, speech, Band and Choir, Student Council, National Honor Society, Prom committee, One act play and PSEO to name a few.