June 22, 2022

Amanda Peterson, candidate for the Bismarck school board |

For some time I have been called to do even more for my community and the local public school. I have dedicated my life to public service and education. As such, I have held several positions in public schools: state principal, dean, educational coach and English teacher. My husband and I were both educated at BPS and are proud parents of three boys who attend Solheim, Wachter and BHS. Representation from Southside would be welcome on the board. I also know how important it is to get involved and continue to hire and retain strong educators and leaders to reach all students. Those who know me best know that I enjoy being the worker bee in the background, achieving my personal and professional goals while uplifting those leading the charge, helping out and giving credit when and where I can. Now, however, is not the time to stay in the background. The past few years have been very difficult for all of us in education – overcoming a pandemic while maintaining focus on maintaining a strong education system has not been easy. At a time when many qualified people from the public service are leaving, I feel like I am in a unique position in my personal and professional career to fill this position.

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What do you think are the most important issues facing the district?

My top priority is to be an advocate and voice for all students. There is a need to individualize instruction to ensure that all students have a safe place to learn, grow and thrive. There is an opportunity to improve the link between educational outcomes and safe and healthy schools. Finally, it is important to ensure that the district achieves academic goals, allocates resources responsibly, and engages appropriately with its stakeholders, while being a good steward of public funds. The biggest challenge is to balance and maintain consistent expectations while enabling innovation and growth. Additionally, I see a need for the district to celebrate successes, share accomplishments, and build on what works best for students. It will be important to learn lessons from the pandemic and analyze what has worked well in order to make strategic decisions about how best to support initiatives launched with the influx of federal relief funds.

How should the district manage growth in the years to come?

Bismarck is a growing community steeped in tradition. This makes growth and expansion difficult when trying to balance neighborhood schools with efficient public education options. However, I promise to make sure that I am completely transparent about all decisions and always ask informed and thoughtful questions. Budget decisions should always be based on data and needs. School size, student body demographics, teacher needs, and required resources should always factor into conversations about funding. I will ensure that funding is targeted appropriately and equitably to the schools and students who need it most and is linked to results.

How should the district handle COVID-19 protocols?

Maintaining the physical and mental health and safety of students and staff should be the top priority of any school board. The board should work closely with district and school leaders, health experts and other officials to make the best decisions possible with publicly available information. Refining school/district plans and using lessons learned from current health, safety and remote learning protocols will be essential to respond effectively in the event of a new wave. Hindsight is 20/20. We know so much more now than when the pandemic was in its infancy. It was difficult for school boards, state and local school leaders, and teachers to navigate rapidly changing news, science, political pressures, and more. Learning what went well and what didn’t over the past two years will help keep children and teachers safe. and able to receive a quality education.

In terms of supporting teachers and staff, what specific actions would you suggest?

We ask teachers to personalize instruction, focus on a variety of student needs, and examine data to make decisions. This is very difficult to do effectively when class sizes are too large. I wish BPS really looked at the needs of the actual students in each class when making class size decisions. In addition, BPS must return to a constant respect of the planning and the duration of the contract. I’ve seen too many great teachers burn out early because they’re over-committed with little or no extra pay. We also need to be sure to encourage additional committee work, professional learning, and additional tasks with additional time and/or money. This question, however, really needs to be put directly to teachers, and the board really needs to listen and respond to feedback. I also plan to stay involved in the larger conversations happening in our state and our nation to continue bringing great ideas to the table.

Do you think critical race theory should be banned from schools? Why or why not?

As a member of the school board, it is not my role to lobby for one position or another. I should follow state and national laws as they are passed. The North Dakota Legislature passed 15.1-21-05.1 of the last biennium which states, in part, “a school district may not include instruction relating to critical race theory in any part of the required curriculum of the district, or any other program offered by the district or school. For the purposes of this section, “critical race theory” means the theory that racism is not simply the product of prejudice or individual prejudice learned, but that racism is systematically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.” This theory (as defined) is not currently taught in public schools in Bismarck, so we need to focus on supporting teachers in teaching content standards and not let national policy dictate the local issues. We need to tackle and prioritize local issues that impact children now.

What do you think of cameras in classrooms?

The cost of a camera in each Bismarck class would be excessive and not a necessary priority at this time. Classrooms are already open to colleagues, instructional coaches, principals, district staff, the public when it’s a project-based learning experience, volunteers, media specialists from library, community members, etc. justify the need for a camera, principals should implement other security measures.

What role should community members have in curriculum review?

Before a program is adopted by a school or district, there should be an opportunity for community review. Additionally, there are several opportunities for parents and families to review what is being taught in real time: teacher/school/district websites, open houses, power school, parent/teacher conferences, and talk directly with teachers. and your own children. Now more than ever, parents and community members can find out what is being taught if they have any questions.