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May 19, 2011     Tri-County News
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mmlil --,-.m-_lJnll|UlIIiU,IlIminllIlim 1 P00a,00e 4 n----  --&apos;-- Thursday, May 19, 2011 p Up][.][J].lU][ " Tri-Coun News Kimball, MN ....... .............. ' Letters to the Editor e':'anD':"::]g/a ' Worth it Will you vote again to support impASveWeefitishoU[aceitfirt:anfd adcatim.mwnitieSnttcobt cked the May 24th referendum, I won- those efforts for the future. We are education? For nearly 12 years now, I've attended school board meetings on a regular basis - about 125 so far. It's been a very educational (pardon the pun) experience. Here are some of the important lessons I've learned: No single individual can rev- olutionize how things are done, or control what happens. Running a school district has very little in common with run- ning a business. Throw out all common sense when dealing with government-dictated programs. The "product" of schools is students. The state sets the quality standards of that "product" and what price it will pay (regardless of actual cost). Payment is often cut, temporarily or permanently, and is often delayed, sometimes for years. All of this is out of the con- trol of school districts. While much of what goes on at board meetings seems mun- dane or boring, there are painful discussions and decisions to be made. Many board members take their roles very seriously and ago- nize over these tough issues. It's a bit like watching King Solomon threatening to split the baby in order to please both mothers. When it comes down to it, the good of the students trumps all other concerns. Much has changed in the past 12 years with school districts, the economy, and government. What we may have understood 10 or 20 years ago doesn't really apply any more. School districts are the only taxpayer-supported entity that has to ask its taxpayers to raise their own taxes. Cities, counties, state and federal governments, all can raise your taxes to pay for what they deem necessary. Rural schools are most affected by the uneven school funding system in practice in the State of Minnesota. While sub- urban schools whine about hav- ing to cut fourth-grade orches- tra, rural school boards have had to face tough choices like four-day school weeks, cutting extracurric- ulars, eliminating bus service, and even cutting sports and physical education (which are not required by the state for graduation). The State of Minnesota and its Department of Education can be counted on to over-regulate and underfund just about everything. Other than that, you can't count on much. School teachers and staff have been incredibly creative in finding ways to keep education interesting and effective given the cut-cut-cut realities they face. Cooperation is increasingly necessary, between schools and their communities and between communities in a region. The days of happy isolation are long gone. Teachers are hard-working people who truly love what they do and care about educating chil- dren. They are licensed profes- sionals; having a college degree is not enough to teach. If you ever think they might be overpaid babysitters, I dare you to spend a day shadowing a teacher in any grade. (And I'd bet you don't last the day.) Successful schools are much more than teachers and admin- istrators. They include parapro- fessionals, staff, custodians, bus drivers, parent and grandparent volunteers, community volun- teers, and supportive state repre- sentatives. And, of course, moti- vated students. Technology is a key compo- nent of education today, even in the earliest grades. But technology from two years ago is outdated; 10-year-old technology is nearly useless. It can cost more (in dol- lars, time, and security risks) to keep an old system running with duct tape and chicken wire, so to speak, than to keep up with cur- rent technology. We want our students to go into the world and be the best they can be: farmers, nurses, teach- ers, doctors, artists, or whatever. They need more than books. They need motivation, a chance to suc- ceed, and a feeling of pride in their achievements, their school, and their community. They need to know the community supports education, and supports them. There is no quick, cheap fix. Delaying needed facilities repairs, maintenance, or upgrades almost always costs more in the long run. In the case of Eden Valley-Wat- kins, they could have completely new buildings for a mere $30 mil- lion. That's not what they're ask- ing. They need sufficient perma- nent classrooms for their grow- ing class sizes. They need a new gym where athletes don't smash into a wall at the edge of the court. They need a stage for a variety of drama and music and community events. They need to have a single entrance and exit point at the high school, for security reasons. They need updated technology. They need the bathrooms and elevator at the high school to be handicap- accessible. The Eden Valley-Watkins school district has been able to spare painful cuts to their pro- grams and staff by delaying work on their facilities. That can't be put off any longer. This is the responsible choice. It is a conservative choice. It's the least expensive choice. Now it's your choice. der how many times generations before us were at the same cross- roads. We have been very lucky that our forbears believed in us and invested in our future as we were moving through school. Most of the times when they invested in the future in their communities or schools, they had much more to lose than we have. It is now our turn to invest in the future of the next generation of students. We must not pass up this opportu -" nity to improve our schools. We are not asking for a Cadillac or a Taj Mahal. We are asking to reno- vate the present facilities that we have to provide more space, and to make our physical environment more safe and secure for students. This is an opportunity to etch for- ever a belief and hope that our children's children for generations can have a quality education like others have had in the Eden Val- ley-Watkins school district. Our system has enjoyed much success in the past years academ- ically, as well as in extra-curric- ular activities. That success has occurred because of a fine staff, good students, supportive parents one of the few rural school dis- tricts in the state of Minnesota that is growing at the present time. We risk losing that growth and going the other way if our facili- ties are not brought up to par with our neighbors. The best bang for the buck for this project is now. We can get our best bids for the bonds and construction costs in this environment. We can't teach our kids to be "all they can be" and strive for excellence if we live out a cut-rate example in front of them. Our facilities are not meeting our needs and are not up to the stan- dards we ask of our students in other areas. We need to seize the moment here and invest in the future of education in the district. I have been proud to be in this school district the last twenty years as a high school principal and superintendent. I have been very lucky to have known some great students with great support- ive parents. Our present kids need to know that we believe in their future. I encourage a yes vote on Mag_ for the future of the dis- trict. It is worth it. Larry Peterson Richmond, Minn. More taxes for schools? At a time when many of us sup- port aggressive efforts to get fed- eral and state spending under control, we face a May 24 school- district referendum that would increase our taxes to address school-building needs here in the Eden Valley-Watkins District. Is this a tax increase we should support? On the face of it, it's a tough call. We have no children in these schools, and never have. We have paid school taxes for over 40 years on Clear Lake property that we enjoyed in the summers before making this our year-around home eight years ago. Like other retirees, we are resistant to add- ing to our tax burden, especially in these economic times. But remembering how oth- ers supported such referendums when our six kids benefitted from excellent public schools, we believe we should be open to con- sidering whether this referendum is based on quality and economic issues that deserve our vote. We decided two factors would influ- ence our decision. Quality We like the idea that this school district is focused on kids and their learning, not fancy new build- ings that are not the primary driv- ers of quality, quality our schools demonstrate each year with their exceptional student test scores, a tribute to the effective Eden Valley Watkins District leadership and school revenues overall. It is clear that we need school building improvements to support very basic updating and additions to school facilities, but together with the new classrooms in Wat- kins and in Eden Valley, how are these investments intended to produce economic benefits? First, because our high-quality reputation attracts kids from other school districts, we can sustain and grow that potential, and they bring money with them, a per-stu- dent revenue flow from which we benefit as property-owner taxpay- ers. Second, because the build- ing improvements are intended to be accompanied by upgrading technology capacity in the class- room, where such investments are shown to produce more efficient and enhanced quality teaching, thus it potentially reduces overall costs. And third, as a direct benefit to us as taxPayers, we have con- sidered how high-quality schools have a huge bearing on the value of our property. Families choose their home location, based in large part, on the quality of schools. Studies have shown that when ref- erendums like ours pass, there are measurable economic returns based on increases in property values. YES! We are proud to be residents of a school district that is efficient in .... ,,Z+M,tI_ its dedicated teachers. Excellence, managing the spending it can con-  ! .   while containing costs, is the best trol, while producing outstanding indicator of quality, student results. When we consider ; L " Economics all of the taxes we pay on what we , Voting to pay more taxes for earn and what we spend and what t - our schools should be tested on we own, we consider this much gkY  ]-]/111]1[]] good investment grounds. How smaller investment in the edu- F"W-LII [' 11  I I is this vote for the schools in our cation of the kids in our commu-   't)VI[/I economic interests as taxpayers? nity a privilege and a duty we will --_L- While continuing to assure qual- enthusiastically support.  tI ity education might be a sufficient We hope our neighbors will too.  benefit for some, others of us will Ron and Lemmie Graham :- -e want to know how this will impact Watkins (on Clear Lake) w.t" ty MN ww rlcoun news. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to the Tri-County News, RO. Box 220, KimbaLL MN 55353. The Tri-County News (USPS 639- 180) is entered at the Post Office, KimbaLL, Minnesota 55353, as Periodi- cals. It is published Thursdays by the Tn-County News, Inc., RO. Box 220, KimbaLL MN 55353, Steams County. LOCATION: Our office is at 70 Main Street South in downtown KimbaLL. Weekday office hours are Monday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Tuesday through Fri- day 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Our telephone and fax number is (320) 398-5000. E-maiL can be addressed to <news@tricounty news.biN>. Our Web site is <www. tricountynews.hlN>. We also have a drop site at Ertt Hardware Hank in downtown Watkins. DEADLINE: 2 p.m. Monday. RATES: Subscription rates are S36/year ($26 for age 62 and older) in Minnesota; $46/year ($36 for se- niors) elsewhere in the U.S. SingLe copy price is 75 cents. STAFF: Jean Doran Matua, Editor and PubLisher Sue Hughes: Creative Designer Maxine Doran: Admin. Associate Marguerite Laabs: Photographer Marlene A. Young: Ad Sates Rep The staff of the Tri-County News recoinizes that it has a responsibiLi- ty to report the news accurately and fairly, and that it is accountable to the public. PLease contact our office if you feet we've faLLen short of that objective. LETTERS: The Tri-County News welcomes Letters promoting the ex- change of ideas and opinions. To be considered for publication, Letters should address a topic of current or general interest. Private thanks, po- Litical self-promotion, Libelous Letters, or Letters denigrating character or reputation wilt not be published. ALL Letters must bear the writer's signa- ture, address and telephone number. We reserve the Hght to edit for clarity and readability. LEGAL PUBLICATION: The Tri- County News is the publication of record for the city of KimbaLL, In- dependent School District #739, CLearwater River Watershed District, Stearns County, and the Townships of Fair Haven, Kingston and Maine Prairie. RECYCLING: The Tri-County News is printed with soy inks on re- cycled paper whenever possible. We encourage recycling. COPYRIGHT: ALL content herein is the property of the Tri-County News and is protected by U.S. copyright Law; content may not be reproduced without our written prior consent. We are proud to be a member of: Minnesota Newspaper Assoc. Kimball Area Chamber Kimball Area Historical Society Stearns County Press Assoc. 2011 MNAAd Contest first-place winner; 2010 MNAAward for Best Website; 2010 MNA Award for Best Self-Promotion Ad; 2010 MNA Award for Best Color Ad; 2010 MNAAward for Best News Photo; 2009 MNA Award for Best Self-Promotion Ad; 2008 MNA Award for Best Advertise- ment; 2008 Award for Portrait and Personality Photography; 2007 MNA Award for Advertising Excellence; 2007 MNA Award, Best Information Graphic; 2006 MNA Award, CLassified Adver- tising; 2004 MNAAward, Advertising Excellence; 2000 MNAAward, Best Local News Story. 2011, Tri-County News