NEW?ULM - As the only incumbent running for re-election, Hoffman offers the unique perspective of an experienced board member.
"It is far more work than I anticipated," she said, asked how the reality of serving on the board compared to, and corrected, her initial expectations. "There are many extra meetings at all hours of the day. I work full time but am able to adjust some of my work schedule to accommodate the extra meetings. However, I don't have much time left over for other projects or groups where I'd like to be involved..."
Asked about what she has learned while serving, the candidate says:
"We must work together. We don't always see eye to eye, either among the board members, or even with staff, administration or the public. Many times we have information that can't be shared publicly because of data privacy. That is hard for people to understand. However, most importantly, I am one voice among seven, and we must reach some sort of consensus on every decision (even though we use a majority vote). My job is to do my homework on the issues, share my knowledge and state my beliefs, but once decisions are made, I must help support them, even if I've disagreed. That's how a democracy works."
Hoffman says the current board "is working fairly well together."
"Right now everyone has different areas of expertise. I am not a business person or very gifted with finances, so it really helps to have several members who understand that. Sadly, we've had to focus so much on the budget that we haven't had as much time to do the kind of work we all hope to accomplish as board members. We've worked with [Superintendent Harold Remme] to spend more time on long-range planning, which is evidenced by our monthly board study sessions where we invite conversations about big picture challenges and opportunities, rather than leave most of that to the committees. I think this is a very positive change."
Hoffman sees her greatest personal accomplishment as a board member in "staying positive in the midst of tough times and tough decisions." Asked about what she feels she's "failed" to do, she notes:
"Failure is an interesting word...I see failure as opportunity for growth. As a district, I think we haven't been able to come together all the time to recognize we see the world from our various perspectives, and to try to understand others. While test scores and knowledge are very important, the most important thing we teach our children is how to work together, especially with people who see things differently. Businesses recognize the importance of those 'soft skills' and want to hire those kinds of people. I've spoken about that a great deal, but still think it's an area for growth."
Asked how her priorities evolved during her term, she notes:
"When I was first elected I still had children in the school system. Obviously I was thinking about their future. Now I have the opportunity to be far more objective and try to see what's needed for all children, teachers and the community. I will be not always see that clearly, but it helps to work in higher education and be able to read current research. I think that helps me stay positive, because many schools ARE doing remarkable work in spite of the odds being against them. I think New Ulm can be one of those districts, and in fact, we do have much to celebrate."