State Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker visited Fairmont Elementary and Fairmont High School on Monday, kicking off a statewide listening tour to promote Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed education budget.

Fairmont is one of just eight schools throughout the state the commissioner is visiting this week….

Ricker first toured the elementary school, stepping inside several classrooms and observing teachers and students at work. She toured the ECFE wing and heard about Fairmont’s voluntary pre-K program. Next, Ricker went to the high school, where she toured the vocational wing, including the welding shop, wood-working shop, and family and consumer science room.

A roundtable discussion then took place with many school and city leaders, including several school board members from Fairmont and Truman, school principals, area school superintendents and the Fairmont city administrator and mayor.

“It’s really clear to me that the communication is so intentional in this school community,” Ricker said. “The communication with faculty and staff and students and families and the community. You’re constantly scanning the horizon for what your students need next and how you’re going to get it for them.”

Linsey Preuss, Fairmont’s economic development director, said: “My goal is to meet with 50 businesses a year. I always feel like I can talk to Joe (Brown) or anyone in the school for a need that a business is seeing. We don’t work in pillars here. We’re more open-thinking and we’re willing to share ideas and make things happen rather than saying we can’t do something because it’s not in our line of sights.”

Elementary Principal Michelle Rosen commented on the child care shortage in Martin County and how Preuss has stepped up to help. Rosen said the district has 80 voluntary prekindergarten spots, but it relies on state funding to keep them.

Under the Democratic governor’s plan, Fairmont Area Schools would receive an additional $2 million in state funding over the next two years. In contrast, the Republican-led Senate proposal would provide the district an increase of $322,000 over the next two years.