School Board Q&A: Former teacher Leathers brings experience in education

Published 5:43 am Monday, August 13, 2012

School Board Q&A:   Don Leathers, running for Austin Public Schools Board


Q: Why are you best qualified to represent Austin on the School Board?

A: Life long resident of Austin. Graduated from Austin Public Schools and the University of Minnesota and taught high school English for 33 years in Glenville. Wife, Marsha, also graduated from Austin High School and has gone on to be a successful businesswoman in Austin. Our three children all graduated from Austin — our sons have college degrees and our daughter is a senior in college. Austin Public Schools prepared all of us to compete in the workplace and to contribute to our communities.

I have been involved with Austin athletics as both a coach and an official for 35 years. I am an active member of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. I also serve on the Austin Library Board, the Alumni Committee at Riverland Community College, and the Missions Committee at Our Savior’s. I am a member of the Austin Area Retired Educators Group and represent them on the Southeast Retired Educators Association of Minnesota Board in Rochester and the Retired Educators Association of Minnesota Board in St. Paul. I have deep interest in ensuring that our young people are given every opportunity to succeed in school and in life.

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Q: Board members may be asked over the next few years to make budget cuts. What initiatives or programs would you cut? What do you consider too important to cut?

A: I may be a member of a board that in the future may be asked to make cuts to the budget. However, it is premature at this time for me speculate as to where those cuts should be made. I would work under the advisement of the district business director and the superintendent when making key decisions that ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. One area that I believe is crucial to success is a reasonable teacher-to-student ratio in all classrooms, districtwide.


Q: What technological advancements do Austin Public Schools need to make?

A: I believe that the district is currently working to equip all classrooms and learning areas with WiFi by the start of the school year. That appears to be a promising step in the right direction.


Q: Sumner Elementary School is in the second year of its year-round, 45/15 schedule. If Sumner students show gains in state comprehensive testing scores, should 45/15 be adopted district-wide?

A: The 45/15 calendar, though it may be a prudent idea in many instances, was implemented at Sumner for specific educational and socio-economic reasons. Parents, students, and teachers should have input in such large decision as “year-round” school. I would never tie test scores to a district-wide decision about the calendar.


Q: What programs, initiatives or class would you like to see added to the district?

A: In the wake of global competition, America cannot ignore the importance of math and science to our children’s future success. We need to continue to identify excellent instructors who can instill a love of those subjects in our young people. And our students need to read — for enjoyment, for knowledge, and to gain the creative ability that separates America from much of the world. And I believe in the significance of the fine arts in our schools which tap our students’ creative nature — band, orchestra, choir, speech, and dance, to mention only a few.

Lastly, I will do everything possible to address the achievement gap between white students and students of color in our district, supporting educational strategies that deliver measurable progress for all students.