In just a few short months, Edina voters will be able to weigh in on four open seats on the school board.
The election will be held Nov. 5. All school board seats are at-large, meaning the entire school district will be able to vote for each seat.
Nine people—seven newcomers and two current board members—are vying for the seats.
Early each week, Patch is running a profile of one of the candidates.Today, meet Lisa O'Brien, a Ph.D. in child psychology with three children in the Edina school district.
Occupation: Ph.D. in child psychology; recent board member of Greater
Minneapolis Crisis Nursery; currently stay-at-home parent and community
Which neighborhood do you live in? Arden Park
Website, Facebook page or other contact information: www.lisaobrien.org
What unique perspective, experience or expertise would you bring to the school board?
My educational, professional, and volunteer careers have allowed me to learn from children and families with a wide range of ability levels, socioeconomic levels and cultural backgrounds. I earned a PhD in child psychology from the University of Minnesota and I was a researcher for 8 years on a longitudinal study of at-risk youth. For more than four years, I performed educational and behavioral evaluations for children with medical, behavioral and educational needs. I taught undergraduates at the University of Minnesota and have experienced the challenge of teaching to students with a wide range of ability levels. More recently, I served six years as a Board Member for Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, spanning two strategic planning sessions, programmatic design and implementation, board officership, and governance. I believe my deep professional insight into child development, education and child welfare will offer a unique perspective to board discussions.
As the parent of three, I will have children in Edina’s elementary, middle and high schools over the 4-year board term. I have been a volunteer or organizer for Bravo, Art Adventure, Media Center, Gifted Advisory Council as well as a classroom volunteer and field trip chaperone. These experiences have allowed me to spend time in classrooms and witness the great work our students, parents, teachers, and staff are doing. It has also allowed me to see the challenges our students and teachers face with increasing class sizes, varying ability levels, and changing curriculum. This has made me attuned to the parents' perspective of what works well within the District and where there is a gap to Edina parents' high expectations of excellence.
For more than 18 years, I have lived with my husband, Jerry, and our children in Edina – originally in the Countryside School neighborhood and currently in the Concord and South View School neighborhood. I have benefitted from excellent public schools my entire life, from kindergarten through graduate school. It is time for me to give back so others can receive the same benefits that I have.
What are the top challenges facing the Edina School Board?
Over the course of 150 years, Edina has earned a strong reputation for excellence in education. As a school board member, it will be my responsibility to safeguard that reputation. I believe that my role is to help the administration prioritize the District's efforts among all the well-meaning ideas. Because if everything is a high priority, then nothing really is and I feel our children's educational and intellectual growth should be the highest priority for the District. One of the challenges we face is addressing the individual needs of an increasingly diverse student population, in socioeconomic status, cultural backgrounds and ability levels. Children struggling to meet proficiency, middle learners, and children needing additional challenges may all learn differently and our District must adapt to meet these different needs. The school board should collaborate with the superintendent, staff, parents, students and community, to ensure that we meet these needs.
What role does a school board member play in helping raise academic achievement for all students and close the achievement gap?
For Edina students who fall within the achievement gap, it has a tremendous impact on their lives. I believe that personalized learning, a current strategic goal, is one of the tools to address the achievement gap. It is imperative that we identify the specific needs of each child, tailor intervention services to meet these needs, and monitor progress. We need to not only look at group differences, but also individual growth. If a child shows two years of growth in reading over a one-year period, that is a success for that individual child.
Every child deserves to grow and have access to the best education we can provide. As a school board member, I believe this should be the highest priority for our District. The school board, in partnership with the entire community, can be instrumental in raising academic achievement for all of our students by laying out a strong strategic plan supported by measurable and data-driven goals.