Frequently Asked Questions

Why are you running for office?

As a life-long member of the Hastings school community I have enjoyed being a student, teacher, coach, advisor, assistant principal, and principal.  As Superintendent of Intermediate School District 917 (which supports ISD 200 and eight other school districts) I have been able to understand each local school district operates independently.  I am very proud of Hastings Public Schools and want to do anything I can to support the effort to maintain the exceptionally positive reputation that it has.

How would you recruit and keep qualified candidates amid the current teacher and paraprofessional shortage?

The present teacher and paraprofessional shortage is real and will sustain for many years; it is also not geographically isolated. The public’s trust and faith has been needlessly diminished by outside forces. As school board members, we need to continually find ways to express our gratitude and pride with all of the staff. We need to model the expected civility, professionalism, tolerance, and passion that we expect from our staff.

 

As superintendent of Intermediate School District 917, I directly negotiated each contract with every employee group by utilizing Interest-Based Bargaining. This approach allows for open communication and consensus building between the bargaining group and management. It results in fair compensation, problem solving over time, and positive relationships. This is just one aspect of building a positive culture.

What do you hope to accomplish as a school board member?

As a school board candidate, I intend to use my compassion and experience to support students, staff, families, and the community.  I do not have any “pet projects” or “single issues” that I am interested in.  I have spent my entire career supporting the unique needs of individual people. We need to remember that students are people first, and pupils second. If we intend to teach and serve every child, we must strive to reach and serve each child. 

What would you do to help meet the increasing Special Education Service needs of the district?

In my 30 plus years of experience as a superintendent, administrator, and educator, I have attended over 1,000 IEP and 504 meetings. Because of this I have an extremely well informed perspective on special education and the provision of 504 services. The burden on special educators, and all instructional staff, has increased every year. 

 

If special education was adequately funded, more staff could be hired to share the workload. Because there are not enough special education teachers currently, we need to make more of them.This is an urgent matter that the Minnesota Department of Education stands ready to support financially through Grow Your Own Initiatives. I have three years of lobbying experience at the state legislature with my fellow intermediate superintendents. Proudly, the cross-subsidy for special education was decreased for the first time in more than 15 years.

How do you understand the role of a school board member?

A school board member operates as one member of a board of seven.  All decisions at this level are policy and leadership decisions. The school board member reflects and represents the needs of the community.  As the Minnesota School Board Association states: “school board members put the ‘public’ in public schools. A large part of the responsibilities of the school board revolves around ensuring long term success and stability. With a career of leadership in education I have continually assured to think broadly and with the future in mind. The school board helps to create the culture and community within Hastings Public Schools and surrounding areas.

What are you thoughts regarding book selection and the review process?

I am aware that the current school board is engaged in consideration on not only how to manage individual books, but whether or not a policy or procedure should be developed for any concerning content in school.  

I also understand that there are several books that have been challenged by families in many communities nationally. I believe that the people that are stating their opposition to these books are well intended and are trying to protect their children from being exposed to information that they either are not ready for, or is counter to the beliefs of their family.  

We know that children access information in many different ways; the television, their friends, the library, and their phones.  I encourage parents to be aware of the resources that their children are engaged with.  Ask them what they are reading, monitor their online exposure, and express any concerns that you may have regarding the content they are consuming. I too want to protect children and as a life-long educator, I have had to make many decisions regarding what may or may not be appropriate.  There are several thoughts that guide these decisions. 

  1. Students are not all at the same developmental level.  Content that may be too mature for one child may be precisely what a different student needs to know.

  2. There is information that a student may want to learn more about that they do not feel safe asking an adult about.  A book may be a useful way to gain the information they are seeking.  Graphic novels are particularly accessible for students that may struggle with reading. 

  3. If we decide to make a resource unavailable for one child, we are often making the resource unavailable to all children.  

  4. What is the purpose of questioning the content? This will guide future decisions.

The school board makes decisions collaboratively and it is the collective decision that determines the action that will be set in place. I believe that my experience, wisdom, and judgment will be helpful in attributes for building consensus.

Are you prepared to make difficult economic decisions?

As the superintendent of Intermediate School District 917 I operated and oversaw three fiscal years of balanced  budgets exceeding $50 million dollars.  As a principal of Hastings Middle School, I operated over 20 years of budgets that represented more than 25% of the district's total expenditures.  I also have significant experience in lobbying at the state legislature, and through local referendums to explain the need for school funding. 

What is your perspective on history and social studies curriculum?

There have been expressions of concern over the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools throughout the nation.  To be clear, Critical Race Theory is not taught in Hastings Public Schools, and it would surprise me to learn that CRT is being taught in any k-12 setting anywhere.  The knowledge background, and critical thinking skills that a person would have to have is extensive and only appropriate for graduate level college courses.  

 

There is an attempt to equate the teaching of accurate American history with Critical Race Theory.  This is not an appropriate endeavor.  The concern seems to be related to this simple fact: there are events in the history of the United States of America that are uncomfortable and do not reflect kindly on the dominant culture.  

 

The intention of teaching accurate history is not to make people feel bad.  The greatest effect of teaching accurate history is that we will be less likely as a country to repeat it.  Care needs to be given in the teaching of history to not assert blame on the students in the classroom, while explaining and presenting the true history.  

 

There is enough “good stuff” to go around.  I live my life, and I lead with the belief that there is “enough to go around.” We are better, stronger, faster, healthier, and more competitive globally when we work together!

How can I get involved or donate?

On the get involved section of this site, you can volunteer, request a sign on your property, and donate to my campaign.  
 

You can also email any specific questions to markzuzekcampaign@gmail.com.  If technology is not your thing, you can contact me via telephone at 651-335-0786.