2020 Crookston School Board Election Profile: Jason Klinnert

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?

    I grew up on a dairy farm just west of New York Mills, MN and am a graduate of New York Mills High School.  I first moved to Crookston in 1996 and attended UMC for two years.  I met my wife Bobbi (Delaney) who is a Crookston native in 1999. From 2000-2008 Bobbi and I lived in Grand Forks and Manvel, ND.  We moved back to Crookston in 2008 to be closer to her parents and to live and be a part of a community we loved and believed in. Bobbi has worked at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks for 21 years as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist.

     We have four kids.  Our oldest son Casey works for the city of Crookston and he and his wife Karli who works for the City of Grand Forks have four girls and a son due to be born in November. Our son Brady is a 10th grader at CHS and daughter Bailee a 7th grader at CHS, and daughter Valor a Kindergartner at Cathedral School.  Apart from 6 years working with Tri-Valley as a driver/driver trainer I have worked primarily in property management and maintenance for the past 20 years.  

What is spurring you and/or inspiring you to want to serve on the Crookston School Board?

    First, I feel called to do it.  People have approached me over the years and said to me, “you should run for school board, I think you’d be great at it”.  I have felt and received a lot of support from people in our community and am humbled by that.  

    Another reason I guess would be I look at the makeup of the School Board and I only see one member with kids in school, and that member isn’t up for re-election this year. I am the only candidate this year who has kids in school. While not having kids in school doesn’t disqualify someone from being on the school board, I feel parents of students need a little more representation on the board.

If you had to grade the response and Crookston Public Schools’ overall performance and actions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, what grade would you give? Please explain.  

    Last spring, I would have given them a NI (needs improvement).  My kids had teachers that I felt weren’t staying connected with their students (my kids) and I was seeing firsthand the devastating effect of that on my daughter.  I brought my concerns to Dr. Olson, Mr. Bubna, and Mr. Trostad.  I went to them telling them what I was seeing, what my concerns were.  I have to say that all three were attentive to what I had to say. However, they really came through over the summer working with the teachers in developing a plan, a plan, in my opinion, that is working. The current hybrid plan has been working well for our family. My kids are much happier, and their grades have improved over last spring.  I would like to publicly commend the leadership, faculty, and staff of our schools for coming up with and implementing a plan that is working and working well. Today I give them an A.

Can you list what you think are the three best things Crookston Public Schools has going for it at this particular moment in time, and reasons why you chose these three things?  

    1. The leadership, faculty, and staff, support staff, bus drivers, grounds, everyone.  From a parent’s standpoint, any concerns or problems I have brought before them, have been addressed or solved to the satisfaction of my wife and I.

    2. The diversity of the three A’s. Academics, Athletics, and Arts.  I challenge anyone to find a school the size of Crookston’s that offers as diverse of a curriculum, as many athletic programs, and the number of fine arts programs as Crookston has to offer.  There truly is something for anyone at Crookston Public Schools.

    3.  Our community.  The people that make up Crookston and the surrounding area.  Without their continued support our school wouldn’t be what it is today.  With their continued support our school will continue to flourish.   

On the flip side, what trio of challenges facing Crookston Public Schools are the most daunting, in your view? What can/should/needs to be done to tackle these challenges?

    •    Enrollment.  In my view declining enrollment is a compound problem of schools competing for and trying to attract and recruit students because our population base is shrinking.  Families are smaller than they used to be and there are less families living in our area than in years past.  In order to maintain or increase funding from the state, which is based on enrollment, schools now have to market themselves like businesses and directly compete with neighboring schools to attract students.  I don’t like this, but it is what it is.  We need to make our school a center of excellence for all academics, athletics, and arts.  As we do this, people will want their kids to be part of our school.  

    •    Right-sizing and marketability.  I stated earlier that one would be hard pressed to find a school the size of Crookston with as many programs as we have to offer, yet the question I pose is, is this as much an asset as it is a liability?  Are we sacrificing quality with quantity?  Finding the right size and balance is the key. Do we offer too many sports?  Are we offering too many electives?  Do we have too many fine arts programs?  What do we have to offer academically, athletically, fine arts wise, to be attractive to potential families?

    •    Our facilities.  We have some very pressing concerns in the future with our buildings and sports facilities.  

Where do you see Pirate athletics in five years? Do you see the same amount of sports offerings, or less? What do you envision in five years when it comes to Pirate football and track and field facilities?

    Unless we do something in the next 2 years about the football field situation there will not be time to get funding, design and build a new football facility and track by the 5-year deadline UMC has given the high school.  I’m not sure that there is adequate space behind the high school for a good and proper high school football field and track.  What is the alternative?  Cut the football program?  I’m sorry, but that’s not a way to keep enrollment going in the right direction.  As for the other sports, we need to take a look at participation numbers and make a red line.  If we drop below this line the program will have to drop.  We should also factor in academic performance of the athletes and use that as a factor in determining if a sport should be cut.  

Please finish this sentence and try not to simply recite a mission statement:

Crookston Public Schools is…the heart of our community.  When our school succeeds, our community succeeds.

Can you list two people in your life that have particularly inspired you, or two people that you especially admire and try to emulate? Please explain your choices.

    That is so difficult to answer as there has been many.  The obvious choice for me is my grandpa Leo Klinnert.  I was fortunate to spend so much time with my grandpa as a kid.  I saw him almost every day.  He was the smartest man I knew with an 8th grade education.  Grandpa taught by example and not with words.  Loved all, hated no one, even those he didn’t agree with.  He taught mercy and forgiveness, of loving they neighbor.  He wasn’t perfect and never claimed to be but always strived to be.  The other would be my father in law, Bob Delaney.  Bob was a man of few words, and of great character and integrity.  I honor them both by trying to be what they were.

Jason Klinnert