LWV Holds Forum for Bloomington School Board Candidates

The Bloomington League of Women Voters sponsored a candidate forum for the Bloomington School Board election candidates on September 19th in the Bloomington City Hall City Council Chambers. Five of the six candidates for three open school board positions participated in the forum.

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Pictured above, from left, they are Maureen Bartolotta, Nelly Korman, John Moravec, Mia Olson, and Heather Starks. Scott Christensen did not participate.

All of the five candidates who participated have education experience. The areas of differentiation between candidates seemed to be mostly on racial equity and school choice issues.

• Maureen Bartolotta wants to lead the School Board through its mounting fiscal concerns. 
• Nelly Korman was a teacher for 25 years and worked closely with minority students. 
• John Moravec stated that he spoke for the “voices of the unheard”. 
• Mia Olson was a substitute teacher, a crisis worker, and worked with runaway youth. 
• Heather Starks is running to promote early childhood education and to increase parent-teacher connections within each school. 

Why qualified to serve?

  • Maureen Bartolotta: her collaboration skills
  • Nelly Korman: her strong determined will and her administrative experience.
  • John Moravec: his extensive experience at analyzing hard data
  • Mia Olson: her previous experience
  • Heather Starks: her leadership roles in various education groups, her familiarity with state and local education policies, and her multi-disciplinary perspective.

On the question of the school budget:

• Olson is opposed to any budget cuts
• Bartolotta pointed to her experience in conducting budget negotiations
• Korman indicated that she always put the interests of children first, especially minority children
• Moravec extolled the virtues of empathetic listening, valuing children, and in reaching a win-win solution.
• Starks felt that her experience as a parent, teacher, and MN State PTA President had given her the negotiating skills to finalize sound school budgets.

“In the marketplace of school choice, do you believe that the Bloomington School District provides good or excellent school choice?”

• Bartolotta reported that the Bloomington School District had recently augmented its “mainstream” schooling with several Academies, U of M partnerships, and Career Pathways that allowed parents and their school age children to make decisions regarding their curricula and their personal goals.
• Korman stated that parents now have a choice to enroll their children in public schools or charter schools. She indicated that much more needs to be done to improve school choices within the School District.
• Olson explained that this required thinking outside the box and doing some real creative thinking in providing unique alternatives for schooling.
• Moravec asserted that there should be thousands of choices for children. He said, “Not only should there be various schooling options, but there should be choices in what classes a student takes, who their teacher should be, and choices in the content of the subject material he or she wants to read.”
• Starks lamented the few opportunities for students with disabilities and agreed that there should be more choices for these students.

In the opinion of one listener, Heather Starks had the facts and figures and was able to rattle them off flawlessly. For example, while most of the other school board candidates stated that current class sizes were too large, Ms. Starks pointed to research that showed the quality of the teacher was more important than class size.

This listener would also support

• Nelly Korman, given her current Board position, her Hispanic heritage, and her teaching experience.
• Maureen Bartolotta, given her current position as School Board Chair, her detailed response to the question on School Choice

To listen to a more complete record of the candidates’ positions on the questions raised by the forum, you may view the podcast on the League of Women Voters web site or as a TV program on the Bloomington Cable Access TV.

CLICK HERE  to find contact information for the Bloomington School Board candidates.

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