Milroy school board candidate: Mary Ellen Busiahn
Why are you running for school board?
I am running for school board to give a voice to those in the community who have effectively been denied the opportunity to have a thorough discussion about the high cost to educate the children of the Milroy School District. I believe we as a community must provide a high quality education to the children of the district but we also must respect those people who are sacrificing their hard earned dollars in property taxes.
From your perspective, what is the role of a school board member?
A school board member should oversee the quality of the education delivered to the children of their school district making sure that the school is a vibrant, positive place for children to learn. A school board member must also be a part of the team that takes responsibility for the management of a large budget, be up to speed on the MN Dept of Education guidelines and be assured that the administration is effectively managing the day to day operations of the school. Finally, a school board member must be open and transparent with community members.
How would you as a school board member balance fiscal responsibility and ensuring students receive the services they need?
This is a great question because this is the essence of the problem that absolutely will not be discussed by the current board. Brian Vandeveire, Angie Orren and I have repeatedly pushed this board to address this issue. With the declining enrollment of this school, at what point do you at the very least look for an opportunity to provide a more affordable path to a quality education? As it is, the only path the current board chair will allow is to increase the taxes on the people of the community. The salaries paid to teachers in Milroy are too low to keep newly hired new graduate teachers from moving on to other districts with more opportunities for their careers. I completely understand why this is happening but this issue will not be a part of this current school board chairwoman’s agenda to address.
What do you think is the Milroy School District’s greatest asset? How would you as a school board member best utilize this asset?
The people of Milroy have a strong sense of community and want to provide the district’s children a great educational experience that compares to the opportunities they had growing up in the Milroy area. There is a fair amount of nostalgia when talking with members of the community so for some there is a fear that if the school board changes how the school is run the town will suffer serious decline. As a board member, I would encourage the community to become actively involved in the discussion of whether or not the school is viable in the present form.
How would you work to collaborate with other units of government at the local, state and federal level?
I intend to have discussions with school board members from other communities to gain new insight into what works in their districts. I will continue dialogue with county departments to determine the current tax levy comparison to other local districts for future decision making. I will develop contacts within the MN Department of Education to be sure the district is taking advantage of all the programs the state has to offer and ensure the district is receiving every penny it is entitled to. I will monitor changes within the US Department of Education for relevant programs for our school.
What do you envision as the future of the Milroy School District?
There are two ways this district can go as I see it. The community can choose to elect Brian Vandeveire, Angie Orren and me for a new approach to how education is delivered in the district. We are committed to exploring whether a new cooperation/consolidation plan is a more affordable alternative. We are willing to ask the tough questions and make the best decision possible after consultations with the community. On the other hand, the voters can elect the current board chair who will continue down the same path leading to higher taxes. It is a very stark difference.
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?
Declining enrollment is a very serious issue for the Milroy School district. I believe the new school board should consider sending a survey to all residents of the district to assess the attitude toward the school. I am interested to see the opinions either positive or negative, whether the resident was or is sending their children to the school, and what in their view should be done to improve the school.
Please provide a brief bio of yourself.
I grew up near Vesta, MN and attended college at SSU in Marshall. I have lived, farmed and paid taxes in the Milroy school district for 39 years. I am the mother of four daughters who are Registered Nurses and grandmother to nine children, soon to be 10. For the past 20 years, I have been a full time Rural Letter Carrier, but I have also successfully farmed, run a small trucking company and a seed dealership with my now deceased husband. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, playing volleyball, home improvement projects, history and politics.