Milroy school board candidate: Ashley Batten

Staff Writer
Redwood Falls Gazette
Redwood Falls Gazette

Why are you running for school board?

It is important to me that all the children in our community have access to a high-quality education that is tailored to their individual strengths with teachers and staff who genuinely care about them. Their future career opportunities should not be limited by the fact that they are growing up in a small town in a rural area. I am running because I do not want our school to close. I think that it is a benefit to not only the children but the community as a whole and I look forward to my son attending Milroy School soon.

From your perspective, what is the role of a school board member?

I think that a school board member needs to advocate for the needs of the district’s students while also understanding the community’s perspective and priorities and taking those into account as well. I know that transparency about the school’s funding is very important to the community. Communication with parents and community members is vital. I want everyone to feel like they are on the same team working toward a common goal.

How would you as a school board member balance fiscal responsibility and ensuring students receive the services they need?

Milroy School uses the SW/WC (Southwest West Central Service Cooperative) for several administrative services like payroll and IT as well as some student services like speech therapy. I think that outside providers such as this are a cost-effective way to provide high quality specialized services to a small school. The teachers can concentrate on instruction and it ensures that the students have access to the same kind of technology and specialists that bigger districts have.

What do you think is the Milroy School District’s greatest asset? How would you as a school board member best utilize that asset?

People are definitely Milroy School’s greatest asset. The faculty, staff and administrators work tirelessly for the students and really care about them on an individual level. As a board member I would work to ensure that the faculty and staff have everything they need to provide the children with a high-quality education and feel supported in their work.

How would you work to collaborate with other units of government at the local, state and federal level?

Many people don’t know this, but roughly 70 percent of the money in Milroy School’s annual budget comes from state and federal sources, not local property taxes. I would work to ensure that the school takes advantage of special programs and other opportunities available at the state level, to ensure that our state funding is maximized and we aren’t leaving any money on the table that could be used to benefit our students.

What do you envision as the future of the Milroy School District?

I hope that our school remains a positive force in our community that provides a quality education to our children. I would hope that community members can come together to support the school and understand that our children’s educational opportunities impact all of us. I want our children to grow up to be community leaders and know that they were provided with an educational foundation that allows them to pursue their dreams. I think that there are plenty of children in the Milroy district to support a thriving school if families would give it a chance. In terms of enrollment, I think it is key is to emphasize the advantages of our small school and how bigger is not always better. 

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 think it is really important that the Milroy community understands how the Milroy School funding works and where the money in the budget comes from. Public school funding is complicated and there has been some information circulating that isn’t telling the whole story. This year COVID-19 has made communication more difficult, since so many in-person events were canceled. I would strive to communicate openly to explain the financial situation. I would also encourage everyone to attend the annual Truth in Taxation meeting that normally occurs in late November/early December to learn more details on how local property tax is structured and how it affects school funding.

Please provide a brief bio of yourself.

I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and then attended the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill where I received a Bachelor of Arts with Highest Honors in Economics and Slavic Linguistics. I moved abroad for 10 years and worked in market research. Five years ago I moved back to Omaha and met my husband. I moved to Milroy in early 2019 and work as a Commercial Underwriter at North Star Mutual in Cottonwood. My husband, John “JC”, attended Milroy schools and is a fifth-generation farmer in rural Milroy. We now have a nine month old son, Anton.