Hundreds of students from Baxter and Nisswa Elementary Schools have heard this school principal talk often about the importance of "choices" and "decision-making." The parents, grandparents, and other Brainerd area residents will soon be making a critical decision affecting the future quality of the ISD 181 school experience for over 7,000 young people in each of the next several years. Having worked in three different schools systems in the state, I can assure residents in this community that you have an excellent educational program which, year after year, produces results positively impacting us.
As I walked around the dark Nisswa Elementary School building today (Sept. 20) after a power outage had taken out all lights, phones, computers and electronic teaching tools, I could only marvel at the teachers and students found calmly reading, laughing and conducting lessons with flashlights, near the best lighted window they could find. There was no complaining, no crying. Singing was coming from the dark music room with only a flashlight to be seen. There was no panic in the gym or classrooms, no fear among the 5-10 year olds strategically being cared for by quality staff. There was order, purpose and creative energy at work. Why? The children were being taught by excellent teachers making professional choices.thinking about both the academic and emotional needs of the little ones. I've been in the education business for 38 years and I know their parents and grandparents greatly value and appreciate the skill and caring I witnessed in a situation where fear and uncertainty could have easily gotten out of hand.
On a personal note, my wife and I have witnessed a product of the Brainerd school system, a young man who used to live full time in our basement. One of our sons is freshman at Augustana College this semester; he's learning about chemistry, biology, journalism and economics (washing mixed colors in cold wash to save 50 cents). He's talked about the value of the AP classes he was able to take at Brainerd High School and the benefits in adjusting to college level expectations. We are concerned about the possible cuts to this program. We truly recognize the value of the AP course rigor coupled with the guidance of excellent teachers. ISD 181 has sent him off with the tools and attitude to be successful. He was benefactor of effective teaching in foreign language, school newspaper and most certainly in a variety of sport activities. His teachers and coaches cared about the whole child and he felt it.
Of what value is that school experience to his parents and grandparents - huge! Do I worry about having the same quality choices available for my high school sophomore as well as all the children I've worked with in the ISD 181 elementary schools - absolutely! We have a choice to makeone we just cannot minimize or overlook.
Will my taxes go up - yes! Is a quality school system a draw for this community- yes! Long ago I remember seeing a t-shirt saying "If You Can Read This - Thank a Teacher." On behalf of my own children, I want to thank their past teachers. My wife and I also greatly appreciate community members who no longer have children in school, have limited income, but continue to value what Brainerd Schools have done for their family in the past and are willing to help our young families experience a quality system in the lakes area.
Of what value does one attach to a quality school system if you are parents, grandparents or a business in this community? What's a good education worth in the future of a child or their family? Is it worth some careful reflection?
There is choice! Seek out the facts, be informed, ask questions, get answers, share your feelings. Our collective choice will indeed impact the quality of schools in this community. Do we want to continue with a quality in - quality out model or something much less.
Death and taxes are inevitablebut we have a choice please support the future of our schools.
TERRY HERMANSON is the half-time Nisswa Elementary School principal and a resident of Baxter.
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