In a recent posting on a Facebook page named “Citizens of Prior Lake,” a member of the group allegedly was asked to share a statement by Dr. Dan Edwards, PLSAS Director of Teaching and Learning. Lakers4Change would like to respond to his letter, please read to the end.
The statement reads as follows,
Weighing in on the school board elections. Posting on behalf of my good friend Dr. Dan Edwards. Dan is a lifelong resident of Prior Lake and respected educator in the district:
Laker Pride is Alive and Well
As a lifelong resident of Prior Lake for over 50 years, a PLHS graduate, and a professional educator serving the Prior Lake-Savage Area School District as a teacher, coach, and administrator for the past 29 years, I feel compelled to address the residents of our school district via this forum, as we head to the polls on November 8th.
Throughout my time as a resident, parent, and educator within our school district, I have refrained from engaging in political banter or online community forums, instead choosing to spend my time serving in a professional capacity during the day and as a volunteer coach on evenings and weekends. It is through these experiences that I have had the privilege to see amazing opportunities and accomplishments the youth of our community experience day in and day out, true Laker Pride.
First and foremost, I want to share my perspective that as a result of the tireless and amazing efforts of our current school board and over 1300 employees of PLSAS, our students are thriving. Do we have areas where we need to continue to improve so that all of our students experience high levels of success throughout our system? We most certainly do! Is our school district committed to striving for excellence in all that we do? I can assure you that we are! This is precisely why I have never been more proud to be a Laker!
You might be asking yourself, why would I feel compelled to share my personal opinions in advance of the upcoming election? It is because of two recent flyers that I have received in the past few days that have me extremely concerned about the future path we could be heading down in our school district.
The first flyer entitled, “For a Better Prior Lake,” and it included pictures and names of most of the Republican candidates running for state offices as well as pictures and names of four school board candidates appearing to be running on the ‘Republican ticket’. The question this left me asking myself and a question I would encourage you to ask yourself as well, since when are local school board elections tied to our two-party political system? I must share that this causes me serious concern. As a former American government teacher, I can fully appreciate the complexities of our political system, and the benefits and challenges of a two-party system, but I am very concerned with how that currently appears to be influencing and dictating the elections of our local school board. It would be my hope that those making decisions for the benefit of our students MUST could put aside party politics and do what is truly in the best interest of students, not a political party!
The second flyer that caused me concern was included as an insert in the October 29th edition of the Prior Lake American. This flyer identified “Your COMMON SENSE candidates” again with pictures and names of the same individuals included in the previously mentioned ‘Republican ticket’. It wasn’t the fact that these four candidates were listed together once again that concerned me, more importantly, it was the ‘promises’ that were listed at the top of the flyer, two of which I would like to address, specifically “Bring Back LAKER PRIDE” and “Empower Teachers”. Regarding the first, as I have stated above, I do not believe there is a need to ‘bring back’ Laker Pride, it is truly alive and well and based upon my study of the listed candidates, I have significant concerns about their willingness and ability to truly deliver on this ‘promise’. Similarly, in the case of the second promise, once again, based upon my study of the candidates, I have serious concerns that they actually intend to “empower”, I might even suggest that they may actually stifle our amazingly talented and dedicated teachers and staff.
I want to assure you that Laker Pride is alive and well and I feel confident that this pride will continue into the future if we, the electorate make careful choices on November 8th by choosing candidates who truly want to help our school district achieve its mission, to educate all learners to reach their full potential as contributing members of our ever-changing global community. The school board candidates that I believe will be collaborative problem solvers and will support our amazing staff in their work to achieve this mission are Enrique Velazquez, Jessica Olstad, Michael Nelson, and Jonathan Drewes.
Dan Edwards, Ed. D.
The above statement is dripping with hypocrisy and it starts with the opening phrase “Laker Pride is Alive and Well”. Our Laker children have spent the past year being shamed for the sins of a few. They have endured protests, one where a firearm was brought onto school grounds by an outside agitator. They have had pep rallies replaced with “student voices” rallies. They have had a basketball season cancelled because of one student’s actions. They walk through hallways and into classrooms with walls covered with the word HATE.
Is this what Laker Pride looks like? Is Laker Pride really alive and well?
Next, it seems necessary to address his statement, “our students are thriving.” As a district administrator, how do prove this statement to be true? What is the data from which you draw this conclusion? According to the definition of THRIVE, it means to grow vigorously or progress toward or realize a goal despite of or because of circumstances. Perhaps thriving is exactly what he means. Our children are graduating despite the circumstances (circumstances in this scenario are, of course, the devastating proficiency rates.) So if thriving is, in fact, realizing a goal despite the circumstances, then yes, Dr. Edwards, “our students are thriving”.
Images below show that the graduation rates have averaged 96.9% since 2017 while math proficiency has averaged 57.8%, reading averaged 62.6% and science averaged 59.5%.
After this, Dr. Edwards continues with, “The question this left me asking myself and a question I would encourage you to ask yourself as well, since when are local school board elections tied to our two-party political system?” Well, Dr. Edwards, the answer is quite simple… 2018. In 2018, the Prior Lake-Savage Education Association, a.k.a. teachers union, prepared and paid for a district wide mailer that endorsed four candidates for school board. Those four candidates were elected, three of them are running again this year. That 2018 mailer endorsed Michael Nelson, Jonathan Drewes and Enrique Velazquez. That 2018 mailer also endorsed Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan of the DFL. Working as a teacher and district administrator for 29 years would suggest that you would have been very aware that the local teachers union, one that you likely have been a member of at some time, tied themselves and therefore, their endorsed candidates, “to our two-party system.” The flyer that you likely received as a conservative voter in our district, Dr. Edwards, is recommending candidates that align with conservative values. Much like the teachers union’s 2018 flyer was recommending candidates that align with progressive values.
In regards to your concern about “the second flyer that caused me concern”, it is interesting that you say “in the case of the second promise, once again, based upon my study of the candidates, I have serious concerns that they actually intend to “empower”, I might even suggest that they may actually stifle our amazingly talented and dedicated teachers and staff.” Yes, the Lakers4Change endorsed candidates DO intend to empower teachers. They intend to empower teachers to hold students accountable, to demand respect, to feel safe reaching out to board members for support when they feel unheard by their administrators and to focus on the students and their academic success rather than the social agenda being pushed into their already heavy workloads.
If Laker Pride is images of HATE, protests, shaming, barely proficient graduates, disciplinary issues, increasingly larger class sizes, under staffed schools, lack of support for academically diverse students and hiring more administrators, then yes, Dr. Edwards, “Laker Pride is Alive and Well” and you should “feel confident that this pride will continue into the future if we, the electorate” follow your lead, the candidates “to achieve this mission are Enrique Velazquez, Jessica Olstad, Michael Nelson, and Jonathan Drewes.”
The following video is in response to Dr. Edwards letter, shared with permission from author.