Familiar face enters Lakeville School Board race

Kathy Lewis brings 22 years of board experience

A Lakeville nurse who held a seat on the Lakeville Area School Board for 22 years is stepping back into the race after a two-year absence.

Kathy Lewis
Kathy Lewis

Kathy Lewis, 63, said she decided not to seek re-election in 2012 to care for her ailing mother, a commitment that required her to be away from the district too often.

“In my heart, I didn’t want to leave,” Lewis said. “If it had not been for that, I would have run again.”

She described herself as an involved mother of five Lakeville graduates and grandmother to seven students in the district and one who just graduated from Lakeville schools and will attend college this fall.

Lewis said she is running again because she missed advocating for students and doing what she can as a part of a board focused on providing educational opportunities.

“I still have a passion for education,” Lewis said.

She said she supports innovative programs like Impact Academy, a multi-age, hands-on classroom that groups students by skill level in reading, writing and math and incorporates service learning in the curriculum.

“I don’t think everybody learns at the same rate,” she said. “I don’t think they all learn at exactly the same time. I think some concepts you grasp very quickly, others it takes a little bit longer, so I think we really need to help students to be able to learn as they can, yet saying that, we still need to hold them to a high standard as far as what they’re learning.”

Lewis said Impact Academy may not work for all students, however, and she would support providing options.

“I’m not so sure that it is a good option for every student in the whole district,” Lewis said. “That doesn’t mean I’m not supporting it, I just don’t know if I would expand it to every school and say this is how everybody has to change.”

Lewis said Impact Academy is a reorganization of classrooms that is like having two different school districts residing in the same school, so she said if there is a lot of demand for it, it may be better to house it in one or two schools in the district.

She called closing the achievement gap is “absolutely crucial” and is an advocate for enhancing the work of the Mental Health Task Force.

“We need to be able to support students with the things they’re dealing with in their lives,” Lewis said.

She said that while school security has been a concern for years, it has evolved and changed into more violent scenarios.

“It certainly requires more collaborative work between your police force, your city, your community, your parents,” she said.

Lewis said there has to be a balance between having the school open to the community and protecting students.

She said the issue can be addressed by better use of technology, improved safety training for personnel and working to create an atmosphere where the staff really gets to know students.

When situations arise from individuals outside the buildings, Lewis said they can rely on their policies, security plans, technology and working with the police force to address them to develop strategies that keep schools safe.

Lewis said she is also supports the school resource officer programs that allow a Lakeville police officer to have an office in each high school building.

Lakeville School Board members have been discussing a technology levy in 2016, and Lewis said she would “probably support” holding a levy referendum but needs to find out more about it before fully backing it.

Lewis emphasized that technology is important in learning, and she supports having students bring their own device, not only because doing so saves the district money, but because students can put it down, come back and all their information and work is easily found and accessed.

She also said she needs to do more research about Common Core, the federal government’s initiative to create consistent learning standards in every state.

“The concept of Common Core can give you that balance that we do need to have some basic things that all kids need to learn,” she said.

Minnesota adopted the Common Core Language Arts standards, which were implemented during the 2012-13 school year.

Lewis said it is important for Lakeville that Common Core “really meets our needs,” and suggested looking for ways to enhance it, because she wants students to have the best educational opportunities, not just meeting the minimal level.

“It’s a very complicated subject, because everybody hears Common Core and says ‘Oh, this is great, why don’t we just jump right into it.’ But I don’t know if all of the standards of Common Core have been fleshed out well enough and are accurate enough that we want to be able to teach it.”

Lewis said many people in the community have told her she would be a viable candidate who brings skills and a perspective that would be useful in the district.

“I think I have a lot of experience,” Lewis said. “I still have an extreme passion for education. For me, it is absolutely overriding, it’s an overriding principle in my life.”

An intensive care nurse who has worked in the Fairview system for decades, Lewis has continued to pursue advanced training. She recently earned a Certificate of Leadership Studies at St. Catherine University’s Leadership Institute, studying topics that included global studies, global workforces, leadership training and moving organizations forward.

She said she has an open mind about issues and always listens to people’s concerns.

“I think I have an open mind, and I’m able to evaluate the benefits of things with my experience and my history in the district and the things I have supported I would be an excellent candidate,” Lewis said. “I have these grandchildren in school, and I not only want to do what’s best for them, but what’s best for other students.”