The election is Nov. 6.
First, could you provide a bit of background information, i.e. your age, family, career and educational background, etc.?
I’m 35 years old. My husband, Victor Obisakin is a firefighter with the Crookston Fire Dept., a QA at SunOpta and coaches soccer in the Spring/Summer. He’s an Alumni of UMC. My daughter, Azomali is a Kindergartener at Washington and has been a part of the RRV Gymnastics pre-competitive team for the past 3 years. My son, Arhi is a student at Sunrise and is in gymnastics. We have a dog named Zack, that we adopted from the Humane Society. I was the former Executive Director of United Way. I hold a bachelors in Organizational Psychology from UMC and currently I’m working towards Grad school at UND in their Public Administration (M.P.A.) program.
I’ve been a part of the Crookston community since 1993. Growing up my family was an active member of the 1st Presbyterian Church and the Apostolic Assembly Church which is in the former Ben Franklin store.
Please list the three main reasons behind your decision to run for a seat on the school board.
My first and only reason is because I believe the board lacks representation of all families and students served by the district, specifically in two important areas; Age and race/culture.
I’m a Millennial, therefore, I know the impact technology has on a student both, academically and socially. I also understand how industries are adapting to technology to grow their business. Unfortunately, older generations don’t fully embrace this and poke fun of the younger generations’ work habits. I don’t’ know how many times Baby Boomers and Gen X’s have shown me the “Millennials Job Interview” video thinking it’s so “accurate” and I cringe every time because social media has become a very powerful tool in the job market. Later work hours or shorter work weeks have also been proven to increase productivity. Therefore, I feel it is important that the people that oversee creating policies that affect the students understand the new challenges and changes instead of putting them down.
In college my advisor, Dr. Alvin Killough taught me a valuable lesson, when identifying problems answer the 3 following questions; What? Who? Why? What’s the problem? Who does it affect? Why should people care? In regard to race/culture, our home is quite diverse. My husband is Nigerian, I’m Mexican, my brother who’s currently living with us is from Spain and my sister, Sandy is married to a Russian. Growing up, my stepfather was a migrant worker and had extended family that were 1st generation Americans and Tex-Mex. This has shaped the way I view things. I’m able to see a bigger picture and better answer What? Who? And Why?
What do you think are Crookston Public Schools’ three main assets?
1.Their school principals. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Denice Oliver and Chris Trostad on a professional level and Eric Bubna on a personal level. I’ve seen them first hand in action. They’re committed to the success and wellbeing of each student. They go above and beyond to make sure their students get the help they need to achieve their academic goals. This achievement has been recognized through the award Mr. Trostad has received for the afterschool reading program. They thought of every barrier and found solutions to them in order to achieve the success they have.
Mr. Bubna’s international exposure allows him to understand and sympathize with students from other countries; whether they’re here as New Americans, International students or being a minority in school. He understands the challenges students face when having to adapt to a new way of life.
2. Their support staff like Anna Ogaard-Brekken who create solutions like the summer food program, Brigette Burzette-DeLeon who created the Washington garden or all the teachers and staff that work after school in the reading program to help students thrive and add value to our community. These are just a few of the staff that go above and beyond their work duties, but there are others who go under the radar but that their impact is felt.
3. The great support for athletics and the arts through our Pirate Booster and Pirate Fine Arts Booster. Many districts wish they had the booster clubs we have, especially when it comes to our Pirate Fine Arts Booster; that’s a gem in the school world!
On the flip side, what do you see as being Crookston Public Schools’ three biggest challenges or shortcomings?
The first one that we have policies, but not proper procedures to enforce such policies. We don’t do our due diligence to figure out the logistics of the policies we want to implement until it’s too late. Or we don’t have a policy in place for such issues as dealing with racism or discrimination until students are in high school. Studies show that children as young as 3 are able to tell racial differences. Discrimination happens at all ages, our policies should reflect that.
Communication among key players; Teachers, support staff, and counseling staff sometimes are not provided important or relevant information. This sometimes affects the wellbeing of the student.
We put a high level of interest or input on Athletics and the Arts; which is a good thing! But, we forget about the other students who are not athletic or artistic nor do they have the means to pursue them even if they have the talent. How are we making sure we’re including them in our system and community? I wish we had more opportunities like the Terrific Kids program that help fill that gap.
All three incumbents up for election this year, Tim Dufault, Patty Dillabough and Patty Dillabough, are seeking another term. How do you think they’re doing? Are you running more because of reasons specific to you and wanting to get involved, or do you see a real need for change on the school board?
I can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree. The districts vision statement is “School District 593, as an academic destination, will create a community where all individuals will strive to reach their full potential in academics, co-curriculars, and as productive citizens in a diverse and global society.” How can we ensure we are preparing our students for a diverse and global society when our board does not reflect that? That’s what I bring to the table. I don’t just talk about diversity, I live it, I understand it. Between my husband and I we have lived in 6 countries.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how big of a problem do you think bullying is in Crookston’s public schools? Please explain.
I would say it is at an 8.5 because of its nature to go undetected by adults due to technology and the current climate. It’s especially problematic when the bullying turns into sexual harassment among girls. To say that it’s not a mayor issue is naïve and quite problematic since its repercussions have long term effects. We can’t continue to sweep this issue under the rug. As a board member, I would take the proper steps to educate myself better on this issue to ensure we are doing all we can to help students who are facing bullying and sexual harassment. We have failed many students in the past and present!
What are your early impressions of Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson?
I think he’s a great fit for the district. I know having an open line of communication is important to him and being able to successfully share the district’s story is a priority we both share. Transparency is key when trying to have the support of the community. They need to feel they are part of the change if we want to create any outcomes.
Could you list some favorite hobbies or other things you like to do in your spare time?
I love to travel and buy local art from the places I visit. Their artwork has more meaning than purchasing a souvenir. I also love spending time with my family, specially watching my children grow. I’m fortunate to be able to take an active role in their school life. Soccer is big in our family, so we enjoy watching La Liga, Champions and the World Cup. Our goal as a family is to go to a World Cup and that might come true when Canada, US and Mexico host in 2026. I also enjoy painting but haven’t done it in a while. I’m lucky enough to have my work on display at the high school as I’m the one who created the mural in the commons area. I can actually say I spray painted the walls of the school and didn’t get in trouble.
People like to toss the word “hero” around a lot, but could you list three people that you really admire, or look up to, and explain a little why you’ve picked these three?
The first hero in my life is my mother. Her fearless nature and sense of adventure is what brought me to this place. She doesn’t let fear stop her from reaching her goals. She acts now, thinks later which made for a very interesting childhood. She takes the bull by the horns and is unapologetic. She inspires me to be better. She’s not the type of mom to be impressed easily, she pushes me to do more.
The second person is my husband. Very few people can say they married a hero and I’m one of those lucky people. He’s ran in front of a moving vehicle, not once but twice, in order to save a child from getting hit. The drivers were distracted on their phones! He’s got a heart of gold, which is why I’m not surprised he loves being a firefighter and belonging to a group that puts their life on the line to help others (Thanks for your service Firefighters). I admire his diplomatic demeanor when tackling problems and standing up for the rights of others, especially when it comes to bullying and discrimination. He’s truly one of the best human beings I have ever met!
The third is more of a group, like the Justice League; my friends Jason Perreault, Kari Brault, Sarah Reese and Tracy Kuchan. When I think back to the toughest times of my life, in one way or another, they came to my rescue. That’s what heroes do, they show up in your time of need.