Ronna Schreiner, candidate for GF School Board
Interview with Ronna Schreiner, one of seven candidates for four seats on the Grand Forks School Board. Q. Tell us where you are from. A. I live in Grand Forks and have lived here since my family moved here when I was in fifth grade. So, I was ed...
Interview with Ronna Schreiner, one of seven candidates for four seats on the Grand Forks School Board.
Q. Tell us where you are from.
A. I live in Grand Forks and have lived here since my family moved here when I was in fifth grade. So, I was educated in the Grand Forks School District. I went to Lewis and Clark, Schroeder and Red River High School. I went to UND, and my husband and I moved to Rochester for about nine years; we moved back to Grand Forks in 2002, and we've been here since then. My husband works at Altru.
Q. Do you work in the school district?
A. I have my teaching degree, and I am on the substitute teaching list. However, with four children, it gets complicated and I don't get to sub as often as I would like. But I do work at Macy's in the fragrance department a couple days a week.
Q. How did you interest in the school board come about?
A. I've thought for some time about running for school board, and with my children getting a little older, I'll have time to commit to it.
I think that with my strong background in education, I may have some insight to offer the schools, and I also feel it is extremely important to give back to the community. I feel it is important to find ways to volunteer in things that are important to you, and education is very important to me. So this is why I am interested in channeling some of my energy and time into this.
Q. Are your kids in school now?
A. All four of them. My oldest son, Josh, is 18, and he'll graduate from Red River this year. Luke is 16 and in the 10th grade; Zoe is a seventh grader in South Middle school, and Olivia is a fourth grader at Kelly Elementary.
Q. What are you general impressions over the years?
A. I am very impressed. I feel the district is very pro-children. They work to have the best, most optimal learning environment for the kids. Having had our children in the Rochester school district, which was a very good school district, there were things when we moved home that were so nice -- such as small class sizes, the curriculum being laid out nicely. Overall, I've been extremely impressed what my kids are getting from it.
I was also impressed with what I got from the system when I went through the Grand Forks schools.
Q. We hear few complaints about the schools themselves. What does concern some people are the property taxes and how the school district sets the mill rate. What are your thoughts?
A. Well, that's a loaded question and I know that has been a huge issue.
I sat in on the Grand Forks forum back in January, and they talked a lot about taxes. Personally, I know it takes a lot -- having been an administrator in a school district -- to run a district. I am not "pro taxes" by any means; however, with inflation and as prices go up, we need to continue to stay at a level where we can keep up with inflation.
Again, I am not saying to raise taxes. I am saying that a school district needs to be fiscally responsible. I think that for the most part, the board members are, but I think one area that deserves attention is the need to publicize or get information out to the public.
When we sat at the public forum, the board member listed everything in this packet about taxes, where the money goes and how it works. A lot of people said, "Oh, that makes sense" -- but that information needs to be out there more, so people don't think the district is just wasting money.
Q. You're a teacher. Electing you might strike some people as letting the fox into the henhouse, given that the school board negotiates with teachers over salaries. What would you say to those people?
A. I've been not only a teacher, but also an administrator who ran the budget for a school district. I ran the budget the elementary school and was assistant principal for five years in Rochester.
I know what it takes to run a school and that there just isn't a lot of money floating around. I was also the staff development facilitator in Rochester, where I had a budget of more than $3 million to be divided up for staff development and continuing education.
I know the background and what it takes. Once again, it comes down to being fiscally responsible. When the board goes through the negotiations, there's a lot of thought and discussion that goes into it. So, I wouldn't be one to say, "Let's give teachers a 20 percent raise."
Q. Minnesota seems to be having a harder time that North Dakota because so many school districts there can't get their referenda passed. Have you got a sense of the different dynamics in the two different states?
A. The best way to sum it up is that in Rochester, our property taxes were quite low for our home versus what they would be here; however, our state income taxes were considerably higher. Most of the funding for the schools in Minnesota came from the state, not the local area.
In North Dakota, we are the flip side where most of our funding comes from local property taxes. And any time it's localized, you are more able to control the dollars from your own community.
If you have a small town such as East Grand Forks, you are vying for dollars based on a formula of per-pupil spending, and you're going to be suffering against the big Bloomington Jefferson School District in Minneapolis, for example, because of the way the funding is set up.
Q. Were there any programs in Rochester that you wish were offered here?
A. From my experience, the interests and activities that my children have experienced have been adequate, and I've been extremely pleased with what Grand Forks offers.
My oldest son has been in advanced placement courses. I feel very good about the education he's got with that. All four of my kids have been involved in the athletic programs.
I don't have any set agenda going in that there should be this program or that program. I just feel that for what children have gotten its adequate.
Q. You would be one of the supervisors for the new superintendent. What kind of guidelines would be suggested to him?
A. This is a big year for Grand Forks with the transition into a new superintendent given the fact that Dr. Mark Sanford had been here for so long. So it will be interesting to see how he views the school -- what his vision is.
I think it's going to be a wait-and-see approach until he actually gets on board and has the chance to voice his views.
My dad is an educator, Ron Gruwell. And one of the things he told me is, "Just go in that first year, learn everything you can about your new position and don't make a lot of changes over the course of that year." That's usually where there can be conflict. People don't always like change, and you need to earn the respect of the community before you make a lot of changes.
So, my advice to him would be to go in, really learn about the district and think about it before you try to make a lot of changes.
Q. Any other thoughts?
A. The biggest thing I have to offer is the fact that I've gone full circle in the education system in Grand Forks. I was a student in the district; I'm now a parent; and, I've worked as a teacher in the district. I've been an administrator in another district, too.
I think that full-picture view would help the school district. Also, in Rochester, I got a lot of training in conflict resolution and management and felt it to be a good tool.
So, I have a well-rounded background in education.