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2018 Stillwater School Board – Donald Hovland

2018 Stillwater School Board – Donald Hovland

The St. Croix Valley Gifted family-friendly candidate event is Sunday, 9/30 at Teddy Bear Park. Please check the event page for scheduling info, plus links to other candidates’ responses and voter registration support.

  • Please reach Donald Hovland using the contact information on his Affidavit of Candidacy
  • Read below for St. Croix Valley Gifted Q&A

1) School Board goals adopted 8 Feb 2018 begin with these statements:

The Stillwater Area Public Schools’ Board of Education ensures outstanding learning opportunities for the social, emotional and academic growth of every student in our school district through authentic partnerships and meaningful communication with our community, parents and students. Every decision is made with a commitment to equity for all students and for future generations impacted by our actions.

What do these statements mean to you as a candidate for school board? What do these statements look like when board members put them into action?

DH: Our schools need to provide opportunities FOR ALL STUDENTS. We need to make sure every grade level in elementary, middle school and high school has staff members who have the expertise to modify their subjects so all students can experience success in their areas. At the secondary and middle level each grade level should have at least one staff member who can help other staff members to modify the curriculum so that the gifted students can experience challenges that go beyond the regular subject. For example, in history classes, the gifted learner would be challenged if “cause and effect” they would change from cause and effect to effect and cause. If you are dealing with the rise of Nazi Germany, start with what happened and trace the events that caused the events.


2) Community-building and outreach to the communities this school district serves are an ongoing priority among local voters. In the recent two years since the last board election cycle, Stillwater Area Public Schools leadership has undertaken several initiatives (focus groups, advisory teams, communication efforts, new events, etc.) aimed at community engagement, matters of transparency, student mental health supports, understanding community priorities, developing partnerships with area business leaders, etc. In what ways do you believe these efforts have been effective? In what respects does the school district have room to grow and/or adjust course?

DH: Our school community determines what type of schools we expect.  The school administration and school board needs to create a model that listens to the parents and students they serve.  I would schedule a minimum four meetings and year to gather parent ideas and  at the secondary level include students, especially student leaders ideas and suggestions on how we can serve.  The school administration and board needs to develop original and innovative ideas to  improve our schools.


3) Since 2013 (Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.11), school districts must develop a World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) Plan and Annual Report for each school year. For Minnesota to remain competitive, we must have students who are college and career ready, and who are poised to lead the state’s workforce. Per MDE, Minnesota’s overall population is aging and seventy percent (70%) of jobs will require more than a high school diploma by 2018. School boards have responsibility to establish the advisory committee of community members that develops their district’s WBWF plan and related goals.

In your opinion, what skills are important for students to build across their K-12 education as preparation for the 21st Century society and workplace?

DH:  Our schools need to build a foundation the will prepare our students not only for college and professional careers, but also prepare students who will not be college bound. We need to make sure our non college bound students are provided with a school curriculum that will prepare them for the skills they will need to have a meaning full career. I would like to see our secondary schools provide work experiences that they will need to meet their future needs. Some intern exper/ien//ce could be*built into the curriculum for*/ these students. We should create a follow survey to get student input in how we are doing.


4) Conversations about equity and K-12 education are happening across the country. Minnesota’s federally approved ESSA Plan includes a list of 10 Equity Commitments. Access to services (counseling, student advocates, ELL and GT services, reading and math supports, etc.) and classroom supports receive attention through an equity lens. St. Croix Valley communities and district schools are seeing rapid growth in cultural, socio-economic and linguistic diversity.

What importance does equity have in the day-to-day classroom experiences of educators and students across the Stillwater school district (primary and secondary)? What should voting residents of this school district understand about the role equity plays in the well-being of our communities and in helping students develop the skills you identified in question three?

DH: Our student population is becoming more diverse.  We need to make sure that we make ourselves available to hear their concerns and their recommendations on how we can improve to meet their needs.  We need to schedule meetings with our parents to find out what their experiences are, not only academic, but interactions with others.  If schools have parent advisories, they need to make sure that all are represented.


5) Advocacy on behalf of Stillwater School District is among school board duties. Board members are charged with using ongoing, two-way communications to build trust and support among community, board, superintendent, staff, and students. They also are responsible for addressing issues that affect education on local, state, and national levels. The district’s 2018 Legislative Platform includes two named advocacy priorities concerning boosts in State funding toward the special education cross-subsidy and pensions that impact the General Fund. How have past experiences prepared you to fulfill these assorted advocacy duties as a school board member?

DH: During my career, I was on the board of directors of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. I was the state coordinator of MASSP for nine years and was a legislative contact on behalf of education issues dealing with the whole spectrum of issues. I was also on the National Board of Directors of the National Association of School Administrators for four years representing the States of MN, WI, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wyoming.


6) During the 2017-2018 academic year, this MCGT chapter conducted a Community Feedback Initiative to gather local input about access and availability of GT supports at St. Croix Valley area schools. Local sentiment can be summarized in this statement from page one of the resulting report:

Broadly speaking, local access to GT services in K-12 is unpredictable and inconsistent; identification offers no promise of supports, services, or programs.

The feedback we collected shows agreement around core concerns: student access to and continuity of GT services and supports (academic and socio-emotional learning) across K-12; whether promises about the type(s) of GT services to be delivered are kept or broken; and whether instruction strategies and decisions (procedures, personalized learning, acceleration, etc.) utilize evidence-based practices and reflect deep understanding of common GT attributes vs. being rooted in stereotype.

Where do GT learners fit within district priorities and accountability (under Minnesota’s ESSA plan) to demonstrate year-to-year growth and to provide personalized learning for all students in elementary and secondary classrooms?

DH: The fine arts and athletics are strong areas for our schools. We need more attention and provide more services for GT. We need to look at how our social science classes at the secondary level are handled for GT students. For example, if we are teaching about the holocaust we usually teach about the effect of these events. Gifted students should not deal with cause and effect, but effect and cause. We should think about adding Asian languages to our curriculum. We need to improve our curriculum for students who are not college bound. We should consider developing student internships with businesses who are looking for people to fill positions that do not require college degrees.

All stakeholders should visit other schools that have quality gifted programs in place, learn what they are doing to improve programs for the gifted and talented, and get feedback and share information gained from each school. Since many gifted students subject themselves to a lot of stress and, sometimes hazing from other students, every building should have a staff member (probably a counselor) who can help relieve those issues, provide some time for these students to react, and help students who do not have these gifts to assure them that they matter too. Many gifted and talented students can find some time to be mentors to those less gifted. School libraries should have materials that are challenging to these students. We need to make certain that their obsession with technology does not become a weakness, rather than a strength; for example, don’t be so consumed with iPhones that they don’t stop talking to others.


7) School Board Members must balance the work of being both listener and ambassador. What would you tell prospective families and/or voting community members who don’t have students currently enrolled about Stillwater Area Public Schools?

DH: We prepare an information folder about our student SUCCESSES. For example:

  1. Chief of Staff to President Obama.
  2. A gold medal winner in the Olympics.
  3. Several National Blue Ribbon Schools Of Excellence – Stillwater Junior High School one of only eleven to win this honor two times, the awards were presented by President Clinton and President Reagan.
  4. Many of our teaching staff were honored at the State level.
  5. One of our students composed a symphony and solos with several world symphony orchestras.


8) Why should voters consider you in particular as they choose among candidates for Stillwater Area Public Schools’ open board seats?

 DH: I was Minnesota’s First Principal of The Year. I was the Coordinator for nine years for the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Prinicpals.