Political Guest Column: Leathers: Continuing to work for the district

Published 6:30 am Saturday, October 17, 2020

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Editor’s Note: Each candidate for office gets one guest column to run during their candidacy.

Hello, voters. I’m Don Leathers, and I am running for a four-year position on the Austin School Board. I have worked on the board over the past several years to make Austin Public Schools (APS) the best it can be. Together, I believe we can make it even better.

A little about my personal background. Wife, Marsha, and I are lifelong Austin residents, having graduated from Austin High School (AHS). Marsha is an Austin business owner, and I taught high school English at Glenville-Emmons High School for 33 years before retiring. We have three grown children, each of whom graduated from AHS, earned college degrees, and are managing their careers and families quite nicely. We all feel that APS prepared us well for the subsequent lives we have led.

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Having been a teacher and a firm believer in lifelong learning, I felt that, when I first decided to run for the board in 2012, I could somehow impact the lives of Austin’s students and the quality education they so richly deserved. I believe that I have helped to advance APS’s core values of “Engage  Empower  Inspire.” Three powerful words.

During my time on the board, I have strived, as fully as possible, to be an informed and contributing member. I have served on several district-wide committees, been elected treasurer and have attended functions honoring students, staff and teachers alike. I have dined on the delicious fare of Hy-Vee Catering on more than one occasion, an unbelievable Board perk.

As a board member, I have vigorously sought to represent APS on several levels. I am treasurer of the Albert Lea/Austin Oakland Special Education Board, as well as being an elected member to the Southeast Service Cooperative Board, which represents public schools and governmental bodies in our region.

I have been a representative to the Minnesota School Board Association’s (MSBA) Delegate Assembly, a body of 100 school board members from around the state of Minnesota who vote on resolutions that affect policy in public schools. Those final resolutions are sent to the legislature for consideration and, oftentimes, become state laws that enrich public school policy.

Finally, I have attended almost 400 hours of MSBA training at sites around the state to increase my understanding and improve my skills toward being the most effective board member I can be. That training has been highly rewarding.

Should I be re-elected, I will work to help achieve the following:

• Ensure that students and staff receive a quality education and mental-emotional support during the pandemic;

• Work with administration and staff to increase test scores in math and reading;

• Continue in the district’s efforts to lessen the achievement gap between white and non-white populations at APS;

• Strive to further initiatives, like the 2+2 Program, that work to ensure that APS staff ‘s cultural makeup more clearly reflects the demographics of our district and to embrace the diversity of the community and student body; and

• Encourage the continuous excellence of APS’ curricular and extracurricular activities.

Much work still needs to be done to keep APS moving forward in a positive direction. Staff, administrators and parents know this, and each group is working diligently toward making Austin’s schools the best they can be.

The “Vote Yes” Committee is an excellent case in point. School and community members are working together to pass a much-needed referendum which aims at getting more funding to our district to keep student programming at its current level.

Your vote for me on Nove. 3 would be much appreciated. However, a “Vote Yes” for our students’ quality education is, in a word, essential.

Please vote on or before Nov. 3.

“Together We are Stronger”

Thank you,

Don Leathers