Andrea Preppernau, St. Cloud school board candidate, said that building strong relationships is the foundation of all of the good work that happens in schools.
Preppernau, 45, a program coordinator for Princeton public schools, is one of seven candidates – three of them incumbents – competing for four open seats on the school board. She and her husband, Brent, have two children – Madeline, a 2020 graduate of Tech High School; and Benjamin, Tech Class of 2022.
Preppernau has a degree in biology from the University of California (Los Angeles) and a master’s degree in public health from San Diego State University. She moved to Minnesota in 2002 and began work in 2003 as a research assistant for the St. Cloud school district. The following year, she became the grant writer/research manager for the district. During that time, she wrote grants that totaled more than $10 million for the school district. Many of the grants required community partnerships and collaboration among many stakeholders. She began working for the Princeton Public Schools in 2015.
In addition, Preppernau also consults for Partner for Student Success, a community collaboration to improve educational outcomes for students.
“I believe my experience as a public-school employee for the past 17 years provides a good knowledge base for becoming a school-board member,” she said.
How can you help ensure every child has full access to the best education so no child is left behind?
The key, she said, is high-quality relationships. One study she said, shows middle-school students who reported quality relationships with teachers were eight times more likely to stick with challenging tasks, enjoy working hard and realizing it is OK to make mistakes while learning.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is also vital for education, she added. Research shows SEL raises achievement by 11 percentage points and increases pro-social behaviors such as kindness, sharing and empathy. It also reduces stress and depression. The five basic SEL skills are self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
How can you help guarantee a zero-tolerance policy against teasing, taunting and bullying is not only emphasized but consistently enforced?
“Teasing, taunting and bullying happen in every school even though it is sometimes downplayed or denied by some school officials,” Preppernau said.
Strong relationships (teacher-student and student-student) help reduce bullying behaviors, she said, adding there are always ways to improve and do more. Strategies such as a “Buddy Bench” on playgrounds and empowering students as allies for kindness are really important.
“I am also a proponent of schools using restorative practices to build relationships among the school community to prevent bullying, disagreements, conflicts, missteps, mistakes and wrong-doing before harm happens,” she said. “Involving students and asking for their ideas must be part of preventing bullying, as well.”
Some say there is too much emphasis on written tests to measure students’ progress. How do you feel about testing?
Assessment is a vital component of the learning process, Preppernau said, and there are different types of assessments that serve different purposes. As a parent, Preppernau has always carefully reviewed all assessments for her own children: classroom work, unit tests, trimester grades, interim assessments and statewide assessments via the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests. She does not, however, agree with rating, comparing or judging schools based on the results of just one assessment test.
She said she also believes in performance-task assessments with students showing what they’ve learned and their acquired skills through demonstrations, presentations and more with a wider audience. One example is a Science Fair, and many schools, she said, are introducing many other kinds of such hands-on demonstrations, making them integral to school culture.
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: Expanding opportunities for student voices. “We must always ask ourselves in everything we do as a district/school how students have been part of the process since they are the ones experiencing the school system on a daily basis.”
Issue Two: Implementing a system for assessing the effectiveness of district programs and initiatives. “We must always be analyzing what we are doing and asking if what we are doing is the most effective way to be doing it.”
Issue Three: Strategically allocate resources to support the programs and initiatives that meet the needs of District 742 learners. “The most important part of that statement is ‘meet the needs of District 742 learners (i.e. students, not the adults).’”