Editor's Note: This week, we will introduce you to the five school board candidates with Q&A articles. Look for a new article every morning through Friday. The school board election is on Nov. 8 and four seats are up for grabs.
St. Louis Park Patch: Why did you decide to run again?
Nancy Gores: It feels like to me the work is never done, and my part of it isn’t done. We did the . And I think we kind of naively thought, “Well, we move the teachers, we move the students, we get people into place and it’s a done deal.” Well, it’s not a done deal. The kids are doing fine. But you’re still building communities in the schools. We’re still making new traditions. We’re still looking at what we do at the . We’ve got a for the . And I thought, “I have a history. I have relationships that I’ve built.” It sounds kind of hokey to say this, but I’m passionate about public education.
St. Louis Park Patch: What are some of your main policy goals?
Gores: Really, it’s to make the reorganization work for all kids. That’s always our goal. It’s making these schools that are the same but different, really, work well for all kids. That’s the main goal that I have. We’ve (also) done a lot of work on the achievement gap … we’ve increased counseling in the high school. I was the first in my family to go to college, and I wouldn’t have figured it out if I didn’t have a good counselor to help me, because my parents didn’t know (about going to college) … So, we’re really working to help kids who don’t have those skills learn them. Because it’s tricky (to go to college), and I think it’s gotten trickier since I went.
St. Louis Park Patch: What are some of the main issues or challenges facing St. Louis Park schools right now?
Gores: I think the big challenge, and it’s been an ongoing challenge since I’ve been on the board, is resources, and how we most efficiently use them. How we try to get more. The state and federal government give us our baseline (funding)—they used to give us everything. Now, because of the economy, I kind of think of it as the baseline, and what they think of as baseline is not what I think of baseline anymore. I mean, we’ve had to reconfigure how we do art at the elementary levels. We’ve had to reconfigure how we do some other things, because it’s not in the baseline anymore … So it’s (about) how do we use the funds we have, and how do we go out and get other funding?
St. Louis Park Patch: What do you think are some strengths and weaknesses of how the district is operating currently?
Gores: I think the strength is that … we’ve shifted the culture a bit in the last few years and we’re really intentional about (a classroom) being part of a larger whole. The elementary schools prepare kids for the junior high, the junior high prepares kids for the high school, the high school prepares kids—hopefully—for their best futures. And I think we’ve gotten much better at that. I think it’s important that everybody feels part of the whole as they’re working on their individual pieces. I think another strength is that we just have the most phenomenal teachers and staff that really care … (Another strength) is that this community really cares … I think it’s because the city is configured the same as the school district. I think that helps. I think it’s (also) the history here … The weakness, and I’m not sure I’d call it a weakness but a challenge, is that we’re more and more diverse. We’ve always been a diverse community in St. Louis Park. We’re seeing more economic diversity, I think. So some kids can afford things, and some kids can’t, like field trips and things like that. How we manage that going forward (is a challenge). Now if the economy turns around like I hope, that may shift again. But right now, that’s not where we are.
St. Louis Park Patch: How has campaigning gone so far for you and what strategies have you used?
Gores: I think it’s gone well. I’ve sort of let the City Council race have the primary focus for the early months, because I think those are more challenging races to some degree, because there are four (candidates) for two seats. I’ve been talking with people, getting some signs, getting some literature. The conversations have been good.
St. Louis Park Patch: What do you think makes you a good fit for this role?
Gores: No. 1, I love it. And I think if you’re not really passionate and you don’t want to do it, you shouldn’t be doing it. Two, I’m an attorney and an arbitrator by training, so there’s a problem-solving skill that comes with that. There’s a fundamental sense of process, that there almost always are two sides. It’s really important that those get heard and understood when making decisions. There’s the experience I have, in terms of an understanding of the district and the configuration of what we’ve done. But more than that, the relationships I’ve built over time with teachers and administrators and principals. A lot of what the public sees is what happens at the school board (meetings), but a lot of the work is the phone call, or the conversations, or the running into someone in the school hallway … I (also) come at this as a 25-year resident of the community, and the parent of a graduate from St. Louis Park who is now at Michigan Tech. I have a great niece who is now going to , which I love, because it just (gives me) another perspective on one of our schools, which informs me as a board member.
St. Louis Park Patch: In addition to being on the board for eight years, what other experience do you have in the field of education?
Gores: I went to Macalester College. (Before that) I went to Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis with the former governor, Jesse Ventura, who was then Jim Janos. My little piece of trivia. At Macalester, I double-majored in psychology and anthropology, and I got a secondary teaching license. So I did student teaching and got licensed and thought that’s what I was going to do for my career. In hindsight, I could have made better use of the counseling office (laughing) … but it all worked out for the best. I really should have gotten a history degree if I wanted to teach in the social studies area. Right now, psychology and anthropology are more common classes then they were back then, so it was a small market. No. 2, to teach social studies back then you needed to coach a male sport … I didn’t do that (laughing). But I did get the teaching training, and I did get the classroom and the high school experience. From there, I was a police dispatcher and then I went on to law school. And then I went to Duluth. In Duluth, I was an adjunct professor at (the University of Minnesota-Duluth) for four years, teaching legal research … I got that sense of the classroom. And then having chaired the (St. Louis Park School) Board that whole year we were looking at reconfiguring, I bring those things together to say, “Sharing a room of 30 is difficult, how (teachers) chair a classroom, so to speak, is a challenging thing we ask them to do.”
St. Louis Park Patch: What do you do professionally?
Gores: I am an attorney. I do civil litigation, insurance defense and personal injury work, which means if you have an accident in your vehicle, and somebody sues you, your insurance company will hire a lawyer for you, and if you’re insured with the company I work with, they may hire me. If you’re a business and somebody slips and falls, and they think it’s the business’ fault, I might represent you. I do that kind of work, and I love it because it involves people. I also work as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association. So that’s what I do to pay the rent, or the mortgage as it were.
St. Louis Park Patch: What do you like most about the St. Louis Park community?
Gores: I like that this community cares. I like that it really does have a tradition of value in education, and it really does have a history of being inclusive.
St. Louis Park Patch: Tell me about yourself outside of your job and campaigning. What are your hobbies and interests? And tell me about your family.
Gores: I’ve lived here for 25 years. I live in a great neighborhood, which is another beauty of St. Louis Park, I think it has great neighborhoods. My son is 20 and at Michigan Tech. He spent a year at home after high school doing junior hockey. He thought he wanted to play hockey in college, (but) he got too many injuries. It’s interesting, because I’ve kind of been the parent-focused mom, plus work, plus the school board for lots of years, and I’m now the empty-nester. And it’s a transition. I joined Life Time Fitness, and I’m working out more. I’m getting back into taking photography, which I really enjoy. I’m in a book club and doing some reading, and I want to get into doing some writing just for me. I’m a movie freak—I love them.
St. Louis Park Patch: What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the last year?
Gores: Harry Potter, the conclusion. I have to say I loved it; I loved how they wrapped it up. I love how those characters were heroic and redeemed (themselves).