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Kelly Hogness, Grand Forks School Board candidate

Q. Why do you want to serve on the Grand Forks School Board? A. I served 20 years with the Air Force. I like to serve. I feel it's my duty to serve the community. I'm new to the community, and I'm very interested in education as a whole. And I se...

Q. Why do you want to serve on the Grand Forks School Board?

A. I served 20 years with the Air Force. I like to serve. I feel it's my duty to serve the community. I'm new to the community, and I'm very interested in education as a whole. And I see some areas that could use improvement or could use a firm hand -- someone to really make a sound decision instead of just kind of tagging along for as many years as they've been doing.

Q. What are the issues facing the School Board?

A. Of course, we know that we have the declining enrollment. I can't blame the School Board itself for that, but the School Board should definitely be putting some pressure on the city to do something to bring industry into the area as well as put in the incentives to increase the population in those areas that are seeing the decline.

And Part 2 to that, I just don't feel that we have an accurate high school workforce to meet new industry's needs. So, I think that's kind of one of those hidden issues that they haven't touched on yet.


Q. What if enrollment continued to decline? What do you think the board and the district would have to do to deal with that?

A. I would put a strategic plan into place -- and again, this is just me. There are so many other elements but regarding this, I would say that by 2011, we put in new boundaries. We'd have to establish new boundaries, do that immediately and say that by the fall of 2011, the boundaries are set. Give the city five years from today to bring in enough industry to start to bring in the families -- and we're talking industry that pays better than minimum wage. We need to see some decent jobs that start to pay by 2016. If we don't start to see an increase in enrollment by that point in time, then we would definitely at that moment -- 2016 -- start removing a school and take the school with the least enrollment out of the equation.

Q. A consultant recently suggested closing Wilder and West elementary schools. What do you think of that recommendation?

A. The School Board itself really gave them no option but to select that. Again, we've kind of been playing with this for four years now, and nothing was ever done. Back in '08, there was a recommendation to redo the boundaries, and we didn't redo the boundaries. This most recent 2010 forum, the public again was not in favor of moving boundaries but they're willing to do so in order to save the school, and nothing has happened or was acted on it.

I understand where they came to this conclusion. There's no doubt in my mind; you can see it just from the numbers that it's factual. You have a decline to 85 with a minimum having been determined to be 150, so we're operating at just a little bit above 50 percent -- so we have to do something with that. Moving the boundaries would fix that, and that's where I would say we would put that in place and watch it grow for a couple of years. If the new boundary didn't work, then of course we'd have to follow suit and close.

Q. Talk a little bit about your background in the Air Force and your thoughts about UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and Grand Forks' potential with that industry.

A. I spent a year as maintenance manager with the UAV program being operated by the Department of Homeland Security). I went to California, and I met with the company that manufactures those aircraft. They're very, very busy. They are looking for places to go, places to increase their manufacturing. We're pulling from California -- southern California -- to get maintainers up here to help.

But we have an able-bodied workforce right here. We have high schoolers who, if we gave them the right career and technical education coming up through high school -- something more aeronautical-based, something more composite or advanced manufacturing-based, where they can walk out and either walk into Northland Community College or walk into UND, their aeronautical department for UAVs -- there is nothing that would stop a company from coming up here. We already have composite materials being manufactured at two facilities, so we know we have a pipeline to get that stuff where it needs to be.


Q. So this would be a school program that would help funnel young people into the aviation industry and use that as a tool to recruit companies?

A. By all means. We need to produce that workforce pipeline. And I think that's what we're missing. We're still looking at a 1985 or 1995 workforce pipeline. Well, that's gone. We haven't seen new industry come into the area for 10 years.

What is the new industry that's abundant or that we see in the future? It's the UAVs. The state of Virginia just finished having a summit where they came out and said we need so much more. We need to have "plug and play," we need to be able to use them for more than just Air Force missions and surveillance. We need to use them to move cargo.

There's so much room for expansion in this field. All we need to do is give them that workforce pipeline. We need to push the students in that direction. We are an aviation-centric community. We need to get away from where we are and really start gearing in that direction.

Q. What are the district's current weaknesses and strengths, and how would you work to address them?

A. The strengths by all means are the community, the parental involvement and the fact that there is an active board. There's not a member on the board whom I could point a finger at and say that person's doing anything bad. I think they have a strong board and a strong administration. When I was sitting in on District 140 (the Grand Forks Air Force Base School Board) before I retired, I got to meet some of them and work with some of them. Management-wise, board-wise, community-wise, you're very strong.

Where are we weak? I think we're just a little old-fashioned. We keep hearing it's one of the best school districts out there. Well, it is, but we need to keep moving along. Yeah, we could be the best at something forever, or we could try some new things and make them work and eventually become better. So, we need to become better for industry and for the community as a whole versus just showing a great program.

Q. Where would you like to see the district in 10 years, and how would you work to get the district to that point?


A. Again, I would love to see the district to the point where we have all of our schools open that we presently have, all of the remodeling jobs finished that need to be done. We have a new elementary school down south so our parents down south aren't having to drive 10 miles or 5 miles to get their kids to their middle school or their elementary school.

That's what I want to see. We need to see that growth as well as maintaining the areas we already have and see that growth down south.

And again, I keep pushing that same button, but the only way we can do that is we need the city to really push to get industry into the local area. We need the school to build a curriculum that can feed that workforce pipeline.

Q. There seems to be an emphasis on using test scores to assess student performance. Is that a good thing or is there some better way to evaluate how students are doing?

A. That's twofold. To see that once a year assessment on how the district is doing is great. It's nice to see how each school did. But tests should not be how we rate whether or not we're meeting the requirements, whether our kids are learning. We need to do something that's individual to each student.

It's a great snapshot in time, but it doesn't tell us whether our kids are progressing along.

We have not met the standards for a couple of years now -- three years, I think, is where we're at. We're going to start to see the funding start to be shifted, with mandates as to where it's going to go. Not a good thing.

And I also question, too, the subgroups that are being used right now. I've seen a report that was done up in 2007; I believe it was (North Dakota Sen. Byron) Dorgan who requested that a review be done. And it had made reference to the fact that the subgroups -- you could have a subgroup in a classification, the same person could be listed in three different locations. So if that same person got a bad score, they could have a bad score in the ethnic group, whether there's a disability, whether or not they could speak English. You could take that same bad score and move it to several locations, which would alter your outcome.


So, a little bit of work needs to be done. Each one needs to be counted but counted only once. We need to double-check how we're assessing students. We need to reward the schools that are showing progress throughout the education of that individual, not just for one year.

Q. Are there school reforms around the country that have caught your eye?

A. At this point in time, no. I have not put a whole lot of emphasis on it. Again, we have a district that seems to be operating well within its budget. We're living within our means. We don't see a huge flow of teachers coming in and out, we don't see schools at gross failure rates. Our test scores are just right on the edge.

No, I do not see any major reforms right now. All that I really think our district needs for the next several years is a little curriculum modification, and we need a city that's willing to go out there and start advertising and doing a couple of tax incentives, do whatever it needs to do to bring the industry in to get our enrollments back up.

Maybe in a couple of years, that's going to be a different question. Especially if we do decide to keep schools open. We're going to start to see that money become less and less, but the bill and the budget's going to be bigger and bigger. We're going to have to start looking at, OK, how are we going to handle this issue? But at this point in time, until that 3.5 percent pay raise that all the teachers are getting, until that really sets in and we really start to watch that affect the overall budget, I don't see any reason to modify anything there yet.

Q. What are your thoughts about negotiations, about the general district relations with the teachers' union and how the School Board in general should get along?

A. Well, we have no choice but to work with each other. You have to come to a consensus at this point in time. Do I think that the union is a good thing for the district? I would say no. is it a good thing for the teachers? By all means. Am I going to turn away votes from the teachers with that? Definitely, there's no doubt in my mind. But to be honest, that's what's driving these huge retirements, these huge incentives, these huge annual increases. It's that union putting the pressure down.

We are a right to work state, so I don't know the exact numbers on how many teachers are out there that are part of the union and how many that are not. I know that there is a mix, but I do not know those numbers.

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