NEW ULM - A District 88 graduate with fond memories of New Ulm Public Schools, Jill Hulke hopes to bring positive ideas and energy to the District 88 School Board.
Hulke, 32, is one of eight candidates for four seats on the board.
Jill (Schneider) Hulke grew up in New Ulm and graduated from New Ulm High School in 1998. She studied accounting at St. Cloud State University and Minnesota State University, Mankato. For the past six years, she has been employed in the supply chain department of Christensen Farms in Sleepy Eye. She is married, with four children. Two attend District 88 elementary schools, and two are younger. The family lives on a farm outside New Ulm.
"As a New Ulm native and graduate of District 88, I thrive on the positive experience I had while going to school here," Hulke says. "As a mother to school-aged children, I've been exposed to the changes that have happened over time, and the changes that are being talked about for the future. As I hear about the struggles our district is facing, it has motivated me to make a difference and help bring back that spark I remember from New Ulm's school district.
"So, why am I running? A lot of reasons, but the top four [are] Hunter, Afton, Brogan and Moxson," the candidate says, referring to her children. "I want them to have the experiences we had as graduates of the district. I want them to look back and have their best times and memories made at New Ulm's schools. I want them to think this is the best place to raise kids."
Hulke believes she has "the motivation and devotion to bring positive, powerful ideas to the schools of New Ulm."
"I am willing, and eager, to devote the time and energy this community deserves in fulfilling my duties as a board member. I understand the importance of the role, and see the need to solve problems as they occur, and have the strength to stand up for what's right."
Hulke also lists "decision-making, leadership skills, communication, commitment to the students, staff and community and ability to work collaboratively towards academic success" among her personal strengths. She sees "legislative involvement and public relations" as areas she needs to learn more about, to be effective in serving on the board.
Hulke believes that teachers are one of the best assets of District 88.
"I believe that we have a strong group of teachers who have the skills and experience to prepare our students for education beyond high school," she says.
On the flip side, "we need to seek more community involvement and offer more opportunities to the future of our community, the students," the candidate believes.
Asked what the district can do to improve, she highlights "support for college-level learning opportunities in high school, strategic and integrated virtual learning opportunities, the provision of suitable accommodations for students with special needs, high-quality professional development of teachers and incentives for experienced, quality teachers." She also believes the district needs to "leverage resources to improve Title (federal income-based) and special education programs and partnerships with state or other institutes of learning; foster community involvement for the upcoming generations; and look towards new programs to offer students."
Hulke names funding as the main challenge to the district.
"If the referendum is passed, some of the issues we are faced with will be eliminated," she adds.
Another challenge is declining enrollment, she says, but adds she believes this maybe partially a result of the lack of programs offered in the district.
"We need to appeal to the families of the communities, we need to give them reasons why their children should be enrolled in District 88 schools," adds Hulke.
Hulke believes school offerings can be enriched through technology enhancements, including, perhaps, iPads to replace textbooks. The curriculum offered at the high school level could be enriched with shop, carpentry, agriculture, business, health and science classes, the candidate adds.
"We need to prepare students for tomorrow's challenges, as well as tomorrow's opportunities," says Hulke.
Other views shared by the candidate:
On the upcoming school referendum:
"I support the referendum and funds it would bring to the district. I believe we need to expand our curriculum offered, as well as fund the areas that are currently at risk for being cut. However, education on the referendum is something that has been lacking in the past. People need to know what a 'yes' vote means, where will the money go? As parents, we need to do our part in educating the community as to what opportunities the students will gain with a 'yes.' The community has a stake in the school district, a soaring school district results in a growing community, so their support is crucial to New Ulm's economic growth and development."
On plans to sell the former middle school and the resulting space needs of the district:
"Without being involved in greater detail with this issue, as an outsider looking in, I believe the best thing to do is to sell the middle school and look at moving the admin offices back to the annex. Potentially working with the city of New Ulm to purchase the middle school, and in return working with the district to utilize some space, would be ideal. We all belong to the same community and working together is essential to grow. Potentially look at the need for another facility for extended-day programs, preschool programs, etc"
On changes that might come up for discussion (four-day week, curtailing the kindergarten program):
"I do not support either of those changes. I believe preschool programs and kindergarten should be a large focus on the best curriculum our school can offer. The early years are the most important to children's development both socially and mentally, we can't skimp out on those programs.
"I believe a four-day week provides disadvantages that are not offset by very large savings, which leads me to ask, why would we consider this? I believe there is more data to show negative impact than positive..."