The following was posted in the Star News on the Saturday, October 25th , 2014 paper. 

Candidate: Shane Steinbrecher

Address: 13792 247th Ave. NW, Zimmerman, MN

Age: 33

Family: Wife: Kari Steinbrecher, Daughter: Abigail attends Westwood Elementary School, Son: Colton attends Zimmerman Elementary, Daughter: Isabella.

Occupation: Self employed, owner/founder Steinbrecher Companies, Inc.

Previous experience in elected office: Current director for Elk River Area School Board. Current board member of Minnesota Onsite Wastewater Association (MOWA).

Previous civic and community involvement: ISD 728 Legislative Action Team 2007-2010, Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce, Committee member of Shiver Elk River, Member of MN Better Business Bureau since June 2005.

I am an active member of St. John’s Lutheran in Zimmerman. I am on the Church Building Committee and Youth Group Committee.

1. What prompted you to run for Elk River Area School Board? If elected, what is your top priority in 2015?

As a father and a small business owner, nothing is more important than ensuring that our children get the education they need to become productive members of our local and global communities. I have started the work necessary to accomplish this and am running for reelection to continue to make strides to balance the budget while simultaneously providing the programming we need for our children.

2. What makes you qualified to be a member of the Elk River Area School Board?

I have been in business since I was 16 and run a successful company, both profitable and offering secure, growth opportunities for my employees. This is the same model schools need to function effectively. I am very involved in my community and in the lives of my children. It is a personal goal of mine to communicate with constituents and provide the information and dialogue to ensure the best possible decision making is done. I am committed, high-energy, and will leave no stone unturned in my efforts to serve our children. I have used all of these skills during my first term.

3. What distinguishes you from your opponent and makes you the better choice for this position?

I don’t see myself as a career politician. I am serving to accomplish the short-term requirements of our district to get our financial house in order, while also continuing to implement our Strategic Plan. This is a delicate balance. I have four years under my belt in bringing the results we need and do not require any “getting up to speed” to get the job done. Finally, I come to the table without any biases, neither personal nor professional. In my opinion, it would be difficult to serve on the board if my wife were a teacher, as my opponent will have to do if he is elected. I would be very conflicted in making decisions dealing with multiple stakeholders knowing it will directly affect my immediate household.

4. What previous decisions of the Elk River Area School Board have you liked, and what decisions have you disliked and why?

Although terribly controversial, I was very pleased with the board’s decision to implement all-day kindergarten. The research clearly says if children read by grade 3, they have a greater chance for success during the rest of their schooling and beyond. On the other hand, if they cannot read by grade 3, at least one state predicts incarceration based on this fact in determining how many prisons to build.

The decisions I have had the most difficulty with are anything that requires spending large amounts of money between budget cycles. That seems to be poor planning. I realize there are some things that unexpectedly hit us, but I do not like to respond to those that could have been folded into our overall planning process.

5. Do you support the bond referendum? Why or why not? Do you support the accompanying operating levy? Why or why not?

I fully support both the bond referendum and the accompanying operating levy. We have been watching capacities on our buildings for all four years of my term. We have no choice but to provide classroom learning space for our children. In looking at input from the focus groups, it supported the fact that we should look at equitable additions across the district at the same time. None of these were new either, so it made sense to wrap them into the plan, too. With the restructuring of our debt, we were able to put together a package that will cost taxpayers less to vote for these than if we have to go to a lease levy without their vote to provide the building requirements. That is because the state provides up to 40 cents on the dollar for us if the bond passes. That is too hard to pass up.

6. What will be your approach to the Elk River Area School District’s budgeting process? What aspects of the strategic plan are most important to you? What aspects of the strategic plan are most vulnerable if sizeable budget cuts are needed?

We need to find ways to bring innovative programming without all of the traditional costs. It would be impossible to fully implement all elements of our Strategic Plan without some budget earmarks, but it is always possible to prioritize our spending rather than just believing we can add more. The Delimiter Statement provides us the template for accomplishing this: do not add without subtracting. In my mind the most vulnerable parts of the plan are not budget related, but rather an area we have the least amount of experience – community collaboration. That is the area that we need to put more energy into and it will likely be the area from which we derive the answers to some of our questions.

7. If the bond referendum fails, the Elk River Area School District has indicated it will need proceed with its most critical building projects to address space concerns with the use of its available levy authority. The school district does not have enough levy authority to address all the district’s aims, including dedicated space for early childhood programming in the north and south or auditoriums in the north and south. What will you suggest the district do about these pursuits?

If the bond fails, it will be back to basics. Unlimited budgets never exist and priorities need to always be considered. We need to house our students and plan for enrollment increases through solid research. We need to control class sizes, with an eye on grade level requirements. We may need to hold the reins on expansions of programs in early education through additional dollars and instead use funds generated through those programs. Auditoriums may have to be delayed and the North and South may have to work with our Elk River facility to carve out time to use it or to begin to examine the possibility of district wide productions. None of these is perfect, but is very similar to the concessions families have to make in the midst of budget difficulties.

8. Statewide implementation of teacher evaluations begins this year. What about this excites you? What concerns you? Do you support legislation that would require districts to consider performance as well seniority when deciding teacher layoffs?

Every successful business that I know provides feedback to its employees to help them grow or to find a position which is better suited to them. In the absence of feedback, employees don’t know what to do differently so everything remains static. I believe our district’s approach is appropriate and that the implementation of the Marzano Model as part of it will go a long way to ensure alignment across the district. What one person does will connect with what others do, which will ensure our focus and direction.

I support a system that holds all teachers accountable in three areas: classroom observation, student surveys and student achievement.

What concerns me is that the teacher evaluation is another unfunded mandate. While the intention of legislation is worthy, it needs to be fully funded so that it can be implemented well for effectiveness which ultimately increases student achievement.

9. This past year’s delimiters process became incredibly controversial. What do you feel the district has learned from this or should have learned from this?

The word delimiter was confusing, but the outcry had more to do with the change than the word itself. The delimiter or operational results process was a turning point in our district as we upheld many of the results that were articulated in the strategic plan.

I stand by the changes that we made on behalf of students and programming. We made systemic change on behalf of our students to better prepare them for their future. With every change we learn. What we learned is that to effectively manage change, leaders need to involve their employees in the process. That doesn’t mean the employees get to make all the decisions, but it does mean that they are not surprised.

Some of the CLT’s initiatives involved staffing changes. It would have been impossible to have everyone happy so management decisions were made. Clearly a critical lesson learned was to ensure that input and communication with constituents is preserved when making systematic changes.

10. The Elk River Area School District has done a great deal of strategic planning. What aspects of it are you most hopeful will improve the school district? What do you hope to be able to say about the district four years from now as this term you are seeking nears its end?

I truly do believe that our mission is achievable. Educate inspire and empower is what we have to do and if the board and administration can keep the focus on that, it should pave the way for our staff to carry this out. Four years from now I hope we have continued to advance in our test scores; are a district of choice for teachers and other staff, that we have strong community backing and involvement in our schools and that our students are competitively positioned for continued education or the world of work. If all of that occurs, then I would feel I have done my job.

This is Great News. 

Our ACT scores have been trending up over the past five years and our composite score in 2013-14 was above the state level for the first time ever. Our participation and performance exceed the “standard” level – the level which the educational effectiveness audit set for us to be identified as a highly effective school/district. The percentage of students scoring at a level identified as being “college ready” was higher for the district, when compared to state and national percentages, in all four tested areas

Click here to view the 2014 ACT Report

What is a School Board Directors job?

The School Board transacts matters pertaining to the maintenance and operation of the state’s eighth largest school district. The School Board is elected to represent the taxpayer's interests in determining how our schools will operate. The state gives the School Board the authority and responsibility to:

Develop and adopt policies for the operation of the schools.
Employ a superintendent to provide educational leadership for the district and to serve as its chief administrative officer.
Provide materials, equipment, supplies and facilities to support an effective educational program.
Express and represent the view of the school district community on educational issues.
Provide equal educational opportunities for every child in accordance with state and federal statutes.
What are the questions on the November Ballot?

Question 1
The first question would raise approximately $5.9 million in annual operating levy money. Here’s how the School Board anticipates the money will be spent:

Open and operate newly constructed learning spaces addressed in ballot question two.
Estimated Project Cost: $2.3 million
Hire teachers to reduce class size throughout ISD 728. Estimated Project Cost: $1 million
Improve technology, including: hardware, software, tech training for teachers, technology repair and maintenance staff. A frequent point made by parents and residents has been that they view up to date technology as essential. Estimated Project Cost: $2.6 million

Question 2
The second question will ask for approval for $98.03 million in new bonding money that would be used to:
Build a third classroom wing at Rogers High School to solve a significant over-crowding issue that demographics suggest will continue well into the future.
Build a new E-8 school in Otsego on land ISD 728 already owns. Opening this school would also alleviate over-capacity enrollments at: Otsego Elementary, Rogers Elementary, Hassan Elementary and Rogers Middle School.
Build auditoriums at Rogers High School and Zimmerman High School.
Make classroom and other facilities improvements and upgrades at Zimmerman High School and Elk River High School.
Build additions at elementary schools in Rogers and Zimmerman that would be dedicated to district early education programs.
Improve security at seven schools across the district.
Remove and replace portable classrooms with permanent structures district-wide.
If voters do not approve Question 1,
the projects in Question 2 will not move forward, even if voters approve question 2.
What’s the difference between a bond election and an operating levy referendum?
Bond revenues pay for “brick and mortar”—for constructing buildings and facilities.
Operating levy revenues are used to pay costs to open and run schools — utilities, employees, supplies and equipment.

Why does the district currently need to construct new buildings?
Otsego and Rogers have grown tremendously in the last few years and leaders in those communities expect growth to continue for the foreseeable future. As community populations have grown, so have school enrollments.  During the past school year, Rogers High School, Rogers Middle School, Hassan Elementary, Otsego Elementary and Rogers Elementary all were at or above 110% of their capacity.

Construction of a third wing at Rogers High School, as well as a new E-8 building in Otsego, will relieve the enrollment pressure at those five schools. Additionally, it will help ISD 728 prepare for a future that includes more families and more students.

How did the district decide what it needs and is asking for?  Did you ask the public?
Comments from parents and residents were the driving force behind everything ISD 728 is seeking on the Nov. 4 ballot.  A community-based dialog about auditoriums for Zimmerman and Rogers High Schools began in 2012 with heavily attended public meetings in both communities.  From those two meetings, a group of community members from both communities was formed and continued to meet for more than a year. In August, 2013 the School Board was presented the group’s recommendation to build auditorium additions in both communities. In January 2014, as a result of five southern schools being 110% or more over capacity, the district convened a group of over 40 staff and community members representing the five schools to discuss and develop short and long-range solutions to the capacity challenges of these five schools. Those recommendations were presented to the Board in April, 2014 and are also reflected on the ballot. Finally, in April-May 2014 ISD 728 conducted a pre-election public survey that encouraged residents to ‘weigh-in’ on several possible bond/levy election questions.  Nearly 2000 responses were received, and ISD 728 administrators and School Board members used survey results to develop the bond/levy questions.

What did those conversations and the survey reveal?
Comments and survey answers revealed a desire for new construction in Rogers and Zimmerman, as well as classroom improvements at Elk River High School and Zimmerman High School. Additionally, there was clear support for hiring more teachers, improved technology and security, elimination of portable classrooms and for the construction of auditoriums in Rogers and Zimmerman.

Did conversations and survey answers reveal things parents and residents clearly didn’t want?
Absolutely.  Survey respondents did not support converting the district’s three varsity athletic fields from grass to artificial turf, nor did they support construction of a field house for Elk River High School.

Will money be used to reduce class size?
Yes. The Board intends to allocate $1 million of the operating levy money to reduce class size by hiring teachers.

What would new auditoriums in Rogers and Zimmerman look like?
They’d be typical high school auditoriums, with comfortable seating for the audience and professional sound and lighting for actors and musicians. They would be designed to be community-gathering spots for a long and varied list of events and activities.

Would money be used for early education purposes?
Yes. Bond funds in Question 2 would build an E-8 building in Otsego with dedicated space for District early education programs. Dedicated early education space would also be built onto existing elementary schools in Rogers and Zimmerman. District early education programs include Early Childhood Special Education, Early Childhood Family Education and School Readiness (Discovery Learning). 

Why is getting rid of portable/temporary classrooms such a big deal?
Teachers are the biggest factor in a child’s education and a good teacher can reach a student in any environment.  However, temporary classrooms are often not designed for long-term use.  They are typically wood-frame construction, have been prone to mold, are expensive to heat and cool and are detached from the main school building, making them somewhat less secure. 

What’s it going to cost me?
It’s expected that if voters approve both questions taxes on a home valued at $250,000 will increase about $42 per year, or about $3.50 per month. Additionally, taxes on commercial, industrial and apartment properties would go down.

How is it possible that taxes would go up so little and in some cases actually go down?
According to Ehlers and Associates, ISD 728’s financial planner, there are several contributing factors affecting the amount of the tax impact.  They include:

Financial participation by the State of Minnesota. The state would pay about 40-41 cents on each dollar of a voter-approved $98.03 million bond issue, and would also pay about 30% of a voter-approved $5.9 million operating levy.
The structure of the debt repayment schedule.  As proposed, the bonds would be retired over a 20-year period, but for the first six years ISD 728 would pay interest only on the debt.  At the six-year mark, bonded debt from previous voter-approved bonds will be retired and be replaced with principal payments from this 2014 proposed bond.
ISD 728 would end a current “pay-as-you-go” alternative facilities levy of approximately $7 million per year.  State funds are not a part of alternative facilities levies — local taxes pay the entire portion.  ISD 728 has used alternative facilities funds for several previous deferred maintenance projects throughout the district.
The relatively low current long-term interest rates.

The combination of these factors results in a tax reduction on commercial and industrial property, and the relatively small increase in taxes on residential property.

Is it true that if both questions fail the ISD 728 School Board will still move forward with some projects? What is ISD 728 asking for?
Yes.  Considering student enrollment growth trends and current and future space needs, as well as comments from parents and residents, the school board has determined new learning spaces must be built. The classroom addition at Rogers High School as well as additions to two of the three over-capacity southern elementary schools would address urgent E-12 classroom space needs. These projects would cost approximately $22 million.  By a majority vote, the School Board could approve funds for these classroom additions using lease levy funding — with no state funding assistance.

So why bother going to voters?
To provide a choice for residents, and for financial reasons. Ehlers and Associates estimates the cost of a School Board authorized lease levy would be about $79 annually for a $250,000 home as opposed to the $42 annual rate for the combination of $5.9 million in operating levy and $98.03 million in bonds.

The ISD 728 School Board is seeking voter approval for a voter-approved levy and bond approach because it would provide more projects with a smaller local tax impact thanks to state assistance.

If one question passes and the other fails, do the projects move forward?
Both questions must pass in order for the projects to move forward. That’s because the first question includes funds needed to open and operate the new learning spaces called for in the $98.03M second question.  If the second question passes, but the first one does not, the construction work will not happen.