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Meet the candidate: Gita Rijal Zeitler

School Board candidate 

What are your three biggest priorities if you are elected? 

My three main priorities are education excellence with more choices of advanced and catch up classes, recruitment and retention of science, math and English teachers in urban schools and more involvement of parents and community members.

The School Board recently passed a $1 billion budget for St. Paul Public Schools for the 2024 fiscal year, the first budget of that size for any district in the state, with a plan to increase the number of teacher and support staff in the district. The increased budget includes an increase in state funding, a substantial portion of general reserve funds and federal COVID relief funds that will sunset at the end of next year. Do you approve of the plan for this budget? How will you prioritize budget items in future years as funding sources reduce, sunset or become otherwise unavailable?

St Paul Public School must be transparent about the spending. School funding first must focus on educating children, their safety and hiring competent teachers.

As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, test scores are continuing to show students tracking behind pre-pandemic levels. While test scores aren’t the only measure of academic success, what are your thoughts on the district’s response to the learning loss experienced by students during the pandemic? 

We must give our school children all the tools to make them successful by offering resources to overcome barriers rather than blaming the testing system. We cannot forget that our high school graduates must compete internationally in colleges and workplaces. So offer more choices and resources to prepare them for lifetime achievement.

Student’s need to feel safe to learn their best, yet St. Paul Public Schools has had a number of high profile violent incidents in recent years. In fact, a recent survey by SPPS found that about a quarter of families reported one or more of their children being involved in a violent incident. What is your position on how the district is addressing violence in St. Paul’s schools and ensuring student safety?

We can agree that children only can learn when they feel safe and content. I am open to having a security guard under the St Paul Police Department including mental health workers as a team. Also important to involve retired school teachers, professionals and parents as a volunteer in the school to help in addressing behavior issues and for school safety.

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