Melanie Cole, active school board chair for the 2021 calendar year, has a longstanding commitment to the children in the community, serving on the school board for 18 years and working as a child protection investigator for Otter Tail County. In her free time, she likes to embrace her inner child atop her go-cart.
Q: How long have you been in the job?
A: I have served on the school board for 18 years and much of the activity in this role is conducted in the evening or on weekends. My other (day) job is working for Otter Tail County as a child protection investigator and prior to that worked as a probation and parole officer for 26 years.
Q: What are your job duties?
A: The role of the school board is to be a representative for the public in directing the affairs of the school. This includes a wide range of topics from fiscal oversight to personnel matters to brainstorming ways to involve parents in their children’s education. It is hard to predict the issues which may come to the board for discussion and decision-making, and this year there have been many decisions to make about how to handle the pandemic. Often we are advised and informed by school administrative staff on background to the issues. In my role it is my intent to reflect the community’s priorities for educating our children.
Q: What is your daily routine? As for the school board responsibilities, there is not a daily routine. I need to be attentive and available if an emergent situation requires decision-making, but much of the activity is staying informed and attending the twice-monthly board meetings, plus the various committee activity. The school board covers the broad strokes, not the daily details, of running the school.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?
A: The hardest part is communicating effectively with the public. There are often many facets to consider when making a decision and it is hard to compact a complex consideration in a short sound bite. It is hard to effectively communicate to parents new to the school that this is a shared venture in educating their child, not something the school district completes between 8:20 a.m. and 3:10 p.m. for 170 days per year.
Q: What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
A: I like it when I get to read books in the elementary classrooms. I enjoy the graduation ceremony, and realize I am but a cog in a great working mechanism. I enjoy witnessing the many positive and kind actions of our staff and students and take pride in the Otters’ good reputation for sportsmanship.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?
A: I enjoy spending time in the woods, clearing brush, making firewood and making trails. I love to ride in my little go-cart and going “whee” over the bumps. I love to read and baking sweets is something I enjoy. Best of all is time spent with family and friends.