BISMARCK ALLIANCE FOR NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS

QUESTIONS FOR THE CANDIDATES

Bismarck School Board Election will be held June 12, 2018

Heather Kitzan

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If elected, what would be your top three priorities?

First, would be implementing changes on how we communicate and engage our stakeholders. Public feedback is really important in making decisions that affect our community. There is a lack in communication from the Superintendent and the Board to parents and staff. I want to know what kinds of changes are happening, safety concerns, and other issues that come up. I would rather be aware of what is happening at the schools, then just left wondering why changes are happening. Being proactive and sending out information is very helpful in preventing a lot of questions after something is put into place, and no notification is being given.

Second priority would be reviewing the budget to determine some next step goals for the future of our school district, and setting goals in planning for expanding is instrumental for progress.

Third priority would be safety. It is a huge concern. I feel that we need to plan for what could happen, not just be status quo on safety. There are many low cost or even no cost options that could be implemented at schools. For items that do cost, the board needs evaluate the need and add into the budget.  We have an obligation to keep kids safe during the school day. There is not a one and done solution, it’s an ongoing issue that needs to be taken seriously.  


How do you plan to address the projected continued growth of Bismarck’s student population, especially in north Bismarck?

The community is growing at a fast pace. In order to keep up with the increasing population, we need to work with the community to find solutions that will work for expansion. The school board needs to set goals for the district and have a solid plan for the future. This involves community feedback as well as experts in the field. Just building new schools, doesn’t solve the problem, as we have already seen, all the schools are having additions added to them because they are running out of room. I’m committed to public involvement with core decisions of the school board. I feel that the school board needs to engage the community, ask questions, and take surveys to find out what We as a Community want to see happen within the district. I do not feel that closing schools and building new larger schools is always the answer. A lot of people talk about all the benefits of small schools. Have you noticed, how safety concerns are ever increasing, as small schools are being shut down? I definitely see a correlation to the tight knit small schools and how well students succeed in those settings, compared to large schools where kids are sometimes lost in the shuffle of trying to get everyone through that year of school. The student goes from an environment of thriving, to an environment of just surviving.


How do you plan to address the continually shifting school boundaries for Bismarck’s elementary students?

New schools do not have to be built for hundreds of children, new schools can be built on a smaller scale. Older schools can be renovated to help accommodate new growth in the area. More room is needed for students, maybe we need to look at repurposing old buildings. St. Mary’s high school is going to be vacant soon. Saxvig is still sitting empty and not being used. Roosevelt has room to add on an addition. Certainly, more cost effective than purchasing more land, to build schools further out of town. It’s time to invest in our neighborhoods and have easy access to schools instead of moving schools out of our areas and away from where we live. Reinvesting in the schools already in place would help with capacity. Then boundaries could be changed for the additional students those areas are able to take in. That could help alleviate the pressure on the schools at the north end of town. By doing this, it would cut down on boundaries changing so frequently.


In the face of looming budget pressures, do you see it as a Bismarck school board member’s responsibility to advocate for K-12 education funding in state legislature?

As a parent, I would advocate for more funding, if needed. As a board member who has agreed to take on the responsibilities of the school district to get the assistance needed, it would be no different. I am very familiar with various types of Federal grant money and programs available for schools that do not get used. With that knowledge I would be able to assist with recommendations for schools to tap into resources that are already available. There are a lot of programs available to schools to help with funding, sometimes it’s a matter of making those resources known to the school administrators and district so they can use them. Collaboration within the district to share information and make schools aware of programs and funding out there would be a key instrument in helping the district with funding needs.


In 2017, BPS administration figures erroneously suggested smaller neighborhood schools are significantly less efficient than large schools on Bismarck’s outer edges, subjecting neighborhood schools to closure (the recommendation was later rejected by the school board). How do you plan to maintain the integrity of Bismarck’s neighborhood schools? 

I am a huge advocate of neighborhood schools. Both my sons go to Roosevelt Elementary. I feel it’s a wonderful learning environment for them. I myself went to a small rural school. I am glad they get the same type of opportunity in Bismarck. I understand the need to accommodate more children in the district by building new schools. I don’t see the need to close existing schools. I feel if we had kept open schools and reinvested in existing schools, we would not have the space crisis we are seeing now. This is where involving the parents, teachers, and other stakeholders in the decisions would be worth the effort.

 


Additional Comment:

I want to thank you for asking these questions and letting me share ideas and thoughts. As a parent of two young boys in elementary school, I have a long vested interest in the school district. As a State employee for over 15 years I understand how to budget. I have had to contend with a tight budget and how to keep daily operations going and still save money. As a steward of State funds, I know how to be fiscally responsible. My knowledge of cooperative agreements for contracting services and longtime career in Government procurement would definitely be an advantage for the school district. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am always willing to help advocate for our children!