New Ulm School Board – Jo-ell Flitter
Why are you running for election to this position?
I am running for the New Ulm School Board because I am an engaged parent with four children who have been in or are in the New Ulm school system. I am a small business owner in the tax accounting industry, and I am very familiar with financial documents and concepts. As a small business owner, I know what skills are needed for the jobs available today, and our schools should be preparing our children with those skills. I believe a common-sense voice and approach are needed to prioritize the basic skills our children need. New Ulm had a graduation rate of 94% in 2021.
However, according to the 2021 MCA test scores, only 50% of these graduates were proficient in reading, science, and math. How is this preparing our children to be successful upon graduation? As a school district, we must do better in preparing ALL our children for future success. Politics and other distracting agendas need to be removed from our classrooms so teachers feel safe and are able to teach and our children feel safe and are able to learn. Creating happy, healthy learning environments for ALL students will allow our children to learn how to work hard, have fun, succeed and be proud of all their accomplishments. Seeing a child have an “aha!” moment is priceless!
What is the top issue facing Independent School District 88?
The top issue facing ISD 88 is outside divisive noise distracting us from providing quality education to ALL students. The distracting noises/agenda include college-level ideology, social media, hot political topics, and adult conversations that should never be allowed to flourish in our K-12 schools.
As parents, we send our children to school to learn how to become functional members of our society. This includes learning the basic academic skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and science. In addition to these basic skills, our children must learn RESPECT and ACCOUNTABILITY.
Respect is the attitude of accepting other people’s differences, and we need to respect these differences in order to coexist with others. To respect someone is to put aside our differences and focus on the positive attributes of the individual. We need to understand that it is these differences that make each of us unique. Respecting another person does not mean you have to agree with them on all topics. You simply respect their right to an opinion on any subject. If respect is not taught, chaos and disruptive behavior ensue.
Disruptive behavior disrupts the learning environment, affecting ALL students. When students are consistently put into a disruptive learning environment, those students who want to be engaged in learning are not able to due to the chaotic environment. More importantly, those students who require additional resources for learning are unable to get these resources because the teachers are constantly dealing with the students who are being disruptive.
Students who are disrespectful or disruptive need to be held accountable for their actions. Measures to correct these types of behavior need to be handled correctly and quickly. No one should have to be punished for the rest of their lives for a poor decision. However, quickly addressing the situation will send a clear message that this type of behavior is inappropriate and wrong.
What is your primary goal if elected to the school board?
Improving proficiency levels for basic academics for ALL students is my primary goal when elected.
We need to get back to teaching our children the basic skills to ensure they are educationally equipped to be successful in life. Reading, writing, and math are used daily by everyone, yet our schools fail to prepare our students to be proficient with these three basic skills. These three basic skills provide a solid foundation for our children, which they will continue to build on during their K-12 school years.
Do you support the operating levy renewal referendum?
I never stated I was against the renewal of the operating levy referendum. I stated during the League of Women Voters forum that I was undecided.
After conducting research on this referendum, I am now in support of renewing the existing operating levy. If the referendum does not pass, I feel there should be cuts across the board and not simply eliminate teaching positions. Eliminating teachers will not aid in improving the quality of education for our children.
However, I am extremely disappointed in the verbiage used in the advertisements to gain support for the referendum. The levy renewal will be adjusted each year by the rate of inflation, and yet the advertisements state “Zero-Tax Increase.” How can this be correct if we are currently at 8.2% year over year inflation? Even if my home value remains unchanged, there is a chance the state may decide to increase the percentage to 5 or 6%, from the current 1-3% inflation rate adjustment. So there is a potential for a tax increase and I wish the current school board members would have been a bit more transparent on this point.
Why or why not should the board be providing information in the schools on U.S. history of race relations?
I fully support the use of any and all materials that are truthful and based on facts, not theories about the history of the United States. The accurate teaching of the good, the bad, and the ugly events that transpired is vital to ensure history does not repeat itself.
Why or why not should the board be providing information in the schools on gender/sexual identity?
Parents must be their children’s primary sex educators. However, some parents have a difficult time talking to their children about sex, and therefore, I feel comprehensive topics related to sex education should be taught in schools, starting around 6th grade. Some girls in 6th grade may start their menstrual cycle and other body changes, and boys will start taking notice, so having informational discussions about these changes should take place. However, I do feel this discussion should be for boys and girls separately so the students stay focused and reduce the possibility of embarrassment for all students in attendance.
Since our children will learn about sex somehow, it is imperative to have a quality sex education curriculum. This curriculum must be designed to be age-appropriate and include topics such as: human development; reproduction; sexually transmitted diseases; contraceptives; pregnancy; childbirth; healthy relationships; same-sex relationships; the importance of consent; being respectful and accepting of those whose lifestyle is different than their own.
When it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation, teachers, school staff, and school administrators are unqualified to handle such a complicated topic, and therefore, these discussions should be handled by the parents. Teachers, counselors, or administrators should reach out to the parents immediately if they observe a student who is struggling in this area. Teachers, counselors, and administrators should never take the place of parents.
Parents should also be informed prior to these conversations and be allowed to have their child opt-out from attending any or all discussions involving sex education.
What else you would like to tell voters regarding this election and the position?
I am in full support of EQUALITY when it comes to our children’s education.
Equality means every child is given the same tools and opportunities to succeed.
I do not fully support EQUITY when it comes to our children’s education.
Equity is the process of reducing or removing the tools and opportunities for those who are excelling and transferring them to those who struggle. Equity reduces the opportunities for our children who are driven to excel and to reach their full potential. Equity focuses on putting everyone on the same level.
The problem with Equity vs Equality is that our children are not all the same. And striving for equity by tilting the playing field so some students get an advantage while other students are being held back causes resentment, distrust, and discord within the district and community.
I would also like to address the assumption of some of those in our district who believe I do not support the LGBTQ+ community. This could not be further from the truth. I have many friends and acquaintances in the LGBTQ+ community, and I have and will continue to support the LGBTQ+ community. When I say I support ALL students, I mean ALL students.