Interview with Kim Ross: Eden Prairie School Board Candidate 2020
Going back to the board
A former member of Eden Prairie’s school board, candidate Kim Ross is ready to do it again.
“With the events of this year- the pandemic and murder of George Floyd, it really got me thinking about how can I step up and serve my community at a time where we all need to be at service in whatever we can,” says Ross.
If elected, her time serving as a board member would be longer than a majority of the other members. Her familiarity with the school board’s policy model, she says, will be crucial during this time.
“With all the big decisions that have to be made quickly in times that are changing fast, my experience of understanding how the board works and how to get things done could be really helpful at this moment.”
Along with this, she has a few other qualifications that she thinks will come in handy. She has firsthand experience of the district k-12 as a parent of a recent graduate. She’s a long-time resident of Eden Prairie- 36 years to be exact- and keeps in touch with a large network of community members.
She also points to her background in business.“I’ve been a marketing executive for a long time. I’ve managed big budgets and all of those foundational things for when you’re serving on the board of what is a large, very complicated organization.”
Keeping the planet in mind
Ross hopes to improve the district in the area of environmental sustainability. “I want to be respecting and using the resources we’ve been given on this earth in a way that is respectful to our environment so that it’s there for many years to come.”
To her, simply keeping the topic of sustainability in mind and asking targeted questions is a good first step to change. “It’s making sure you’re having those conversations, and that as the board, you’re nudging the district towards evaluating and implementing things that contribute to sustainability.”
“I have not looked at the details enough to see what the district is doing in the area of sustainability,” Ross admits, “but I would say, not just in the district, but for every government, every business, every household, in this community, there’s room for improvement.”
She gives a switch to electric school buses as an example of something the district could consider. However, she says, actions to go green need thought and research, and she wouldn’t rush any plans.
“Changes,” Ross says, “especially big changes, take time. So you need to start thinking about them early on to get where you want to be further down in the road.”
Hearing more voices, having more understanding
Ross loves hearing from students, and she thinks the board could do that more. “I really try hard to listen and understand what you guys are going through right now,” says Ross. “As a board member, I can ask, ‘how are we hearing the voices of students?’”
Aside for wanting more room for student voice, Ross, from discussions she has had with students and staff of color, thinks that there might be a lack of a forum for their voices.
She says that means listening sessions and meetings need to be more actively inclusive. “You need to be intentional about reaching out to groups in the community who may have been historically underrepresented or underserved, or for whatever reason, don’t feel as comfortable showing up at a forum like that to voice their opinions.”
She’s also interested in making school board meetings more understandable to the public. Right now, when she observes at public meetings between the board and the administration, she thinks there are way too many questions being asked behind the scenes without context. She would be surprised if the average viewer could understand all of what’s going on.
That shouldn’t be happening, she says. “The board always needs to always be making the public aware in some way of the questions they’ve asked and why those questions are being answered to their satisfaction.”
Finally, she believes in being responsive to other residents, whether that be answering questions in emails or engaging in conversations that are needed. “It’s just paying attention, and being intentional about hearing all voices.”
Engaging in uncomfortable conversations and supporting social justice
“One of the things that prompted me to run was the murder of George Floyd,” says Ross. “In my own journey when it comes to social justice, my thinking has evolved from being supportive of diversity and equity to a belief that it’s important for all of us to be actively antiracist.”
“Since I was on the board before, I’ve continued to think about and struggle with how you have a meaningful conversation about race in Eden Prairie,” Ross says. She’s learning to engage in uncomfortable, meaningful discussions and educate herself on institutional racism. If elected, she wants to continue listening to all voices and question issues of equity.
She would also openly support social justice and equity. “At this moment in history, it’s really important for us to speak about those issues,” she says. “Stand up and publicly say, ‘Black lives matter. Genders are equal. We treat everyone kindly and with fairness.’”
“I think it’s important to be publicly saying as leadership, ‘this is important to us,’ and not being scared to make waves with those conversations. We have to have it.”
The school board is fairly limited in influencing curriculum, which is understandable, says Ross. Taking that into account, she encourages a racially inclusive curriculum to what extent she can, saying that students, and adults, should have a better understanding of institutional racism.
Having focus in the achievement gap
To address the achievement gap, Ross wants to be considerate and focused on making sure help goes to students who need it. “If we were to be looking at budget adjustments along the line, I think it’s important not just to look at the sheer number of students who are served by a particular program but what their level of need is so that you’re not reducing what students need just because there’s fewer of them in number.”
She believes in giving resources to the teachers and educators to target areas of focus, like the school board did successfully a few years ago with Forest Hills. After that, she would observe and repeat what strategies work.
From most studies Ross has read, she thinks focusing on earlier education, such as getting all third-graders to be reading at grade level, pays off more in the long run. She encourages getting more kids in the preschool and spending resources there appropriately.
However, she knows not to turn a blind eye to older students and give them the resources and engagement they need for after high school. “Focus earlier is better than later, but we can’t not pay attention all the way through.”
As for equity in a time of distance learning, Ross thinks that besides making sure that everyone has access to technology and resources, they also need to “make sure we’re assessing achievement on an ongoing basis.” She thinks teachers should be able to see where kids are falling behind and give extra help to those who need it.
Get more information about the candidate:
Watch her answers on the school board candidate forum: https://eden-prairie.granicus.com/player/clip/1518?view_id=3&redirect=true
Read her written questionnaire with the Eden Prairie Local News: https://www.eplocalnews.org/2020/09/26/eden-prairie-school-board-election-2020-candidate-questionnaire-kim-ross/
Visit his website here to learn more about her message: www.KimARoss.com
Check out updates on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KimforEP/