by Dennis Dalman
Shannon Haws of St. Cloud, a candidate for the St. Cloud school board, strongly believes with a strong beginning and lots of support, every child can achieve educational excellence regardless of socio-economic-demographic backgrounds.
An incumbent board member, Haws, 55, is one of seven candidates vying for four seats on the school board in the Nov. 3 general election. Those seats are now occupied by Haws, Al Dahlgren, Jeff Pollreis and Monica Segura-Schwartz. Pollreis did not file for re-election.
Haws is general manager of Comfort Keepers Home Health Care. She and her husband, Tim, have four children: Haiden, Zander, Olivia and CrystalAnne.
Haws earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and human resources from St. Cloud State University. A former Head Start teacher and swim coach, she is the current vice chair of the school board and served on many committees: board development, policy and governance; legislative, achievement, integration and equity; community linkages; and student-activity advisory.
Haws gave her responses to the following questions for the Newsleader:
How can you help ensure every child has full access to the best education so no child is left behind?
“We need to provide pathways to success for each of our students regardless of socio-demographics,” she said. “That starts with strong pre-K support and community-education support for parents. Socio-demographics should not be an indictor or deterrent of student success.”
The district, she said, must meet each student at his/her incoming levels and then believe in their potential – supporting and challenging them to excellence.
How can you help guarantee that a zero-tolerance policy against teasing, taunting and bullying is not only emphasized but consistently enforced?
“As a mother of four children, I know firsthand why bullying must be a zero-tolerance policy,” Haws said. “Each and every one of our students needs to feel safe and valued. This is an absolute must at all level and all times whether it is in the classroom, hallways, playground, bus or even at home with social media.”
Staff, students and families must learn how to monitor, prevent and respond to bullying, she said. And the district must adhere to a zero-tolerance policy while educating students in ways to be good citizens, students and friends. Haws said her role as a parent gave her unique perspective and insights for her work on the board. Her work on many board committees all involved in one way or another responsibilities to seek and monitor school-bullying prevention programs and reporting.
Some say there is too much emphasis on written tests to measure students’ progress. How do you feel about testing?
Haws said schools should focus on “Star Testing” rather than the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) tests. Star Testing assessments reveal reading and math levels of each student; scores are then used to set goals and track growth throughout the year. Reading and math are critical for success, she said, but they do not necessarily measure the success trajectory of graduates.
“Test scores do not reflect work ethic, mental health, problem-solving, critical thinking, making good choices, morals, creativity, communication skills or team work.”
Please address two or three school issues you care most about and what you would like to do to make changes (if any) regarding those issues?
Issue One: Unfunded mandates cause a budget deficit to the district of about $11 million annually. That big pinch affects all aspects of operations and so board members must have an understanding of it and how to be good stewards of the district’s money, including making wise decisions on how they spend tax dollars, Haws said.
Issue Two: Families enrolling outside the district can affect the district’s reputation, Haws noted.
“I believe and support school choice,” she said. “However, there is a significant number of students enrolling out of District 742 and into the Sauk Rapids-Rice school district. I want to better understand why families are choosing that option and ask, ‘What would it take to bring you back to 742?’ ”
The St. Cloud district, Haws said, has a strong educational and extra-curricular path for all students.
“If you disaggregate District 742 MCA scores, we outperform Sauk Rapids in all levels. I think the district needs to continue to highlight its successes and identify opportunities for improvement.”
The new Tech High School is “a beautiful facility offering 21st century learning to half of the district’s high-school students,” she said.
“This election year is not a good time to be planning, assessing and designing an Apollo (school) referendum plan; however, we will need to address that issue in the near future.”
“I was born and raised in St. Cloud,” Haws said. “I believe central Minnesota is a wonderful place to live. I am running for re-election because I believe I am a good choice to build, support and guide our district’s mission. I believe it’s important to have a strong public-education system because it builds a strong community.”