Baesler announces members of Family Engagement Cabinet

State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Wednesday announced the 23 members of her first Family Engagement Cabinet, a group of family members who will offer advice about ways to strengthen relationships between families and the educators who teach their children, according to a press release.

The members represent nine North Dakota cities that have Class A schools and a dozen Class B communities, Baesler said. They have 24 children in elementary school, nine in middle school, and 10 in high school, as well as six children who have not yet begun school.

The new Family Engagement Cabinet has members from the Standing Rock Sioux, Spirit Lake Sioux and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indian reservations. Four of the parent members have children with disabilities.

“The North Dakotans who asked to be part of this Cabinet have a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences,” Baesler said in the press release. “It is evident from reading their applications that there is a need for more and better communication between our North Dakota educators and families. The more I learn about the backgrounds of our Cabinet members, the more excited I become about what this group can do to improve education in our schools.”

Fifty-seven North Dakota parents and grandparents applied for positions on the Family Engagement Cabinet. A group of NDDPI employees evaluated and ranked the applications.

Each applicant was asked to list personal characteristics they had that would benefit the Cabinet, and what they believed were the most important issues on family and school relationships in North Dakota. They were also asked to describe an experience that illustrated for them the need for improved family and school partnerships.

Baesler said the group’s first meeting will be May 23. The Cabinet will meet with Baesler every three months. Members will serve 18-month terms, and they will be eligible for reappointment to a second term.

The 23 members of the Family Engagement Cabinet are: Kimberly Berdahl, Towner; DeAnn Bjornson, Fargo; Jennifer Braun, Dickinson; Jody Eckert, Bismarck; Kristi Engelstad, West Fargo; Jacqueline Frost-Hodny, Lankin; Sarah Gackle, Kulm; Bree Anne Hinojos, Devils Lake; Sheila Hoffman, Williston; Amanda Johnson, Bowman; Suzanne Kilichowski, Minto; Mike McHugh, Mandan; Kris Piehl, Marion; T.J. Rooney, Bismarck; Melissa Sagness, Bowbells; Jayce Schumacher, Grafton; Chantel Southam, Sherwood; Courtney Davis Souvannasacd, Grand Forks; Joy Sparks, Tioga; John Stevens, Dickinson; Maxine Thunder Hawk, Cannon Ball; Greg Vandal, Fargo; Angie Waletzko, Lisbon.

The Family Engagement Cabinet’s makeup and purpose are similar to the Superintendent’s Student Cabinet, which Baesler began in April 2015. Student Cabinet members are chosen from applicants who range from fourth to 12th grades. They meet with Baesler quarterly to give their opinions and advice on education proposals and policy.

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