The Brainerd Public Schools belong to all of us. We strive to ensure that the children in our trust are provided the educational programs and opportunities necessary to promote the well-being of everyone. A recent Open Forum letter implies that the current situation of our schools is fictional. Unfortunately, the situation is serious and real. In response, here are facts:
1. Proceeds from the sale of Franklin have not yet been received, but under law must be held in the district's capital fund.
2. There has been no addition of new teaching positions. In fact, over the last four years, 42 teaching positions have been eliminated from our district. Teachers hired this year filled retirements and kept class sizes at or under 30. Additional teacher cuts were taken last spring at Forestview (physical education) and Brainerd High School (science and English) to balance three new hires at Forestview (two sixth grade teachers) and Baxter Elementary (one fourth grade teacher).
3. The total number of district teachers has been reduced while the student population has stayed nearly the same. In 1998-1999 the school district supported 7,296 students with 506 teachers. Currently we support 7,192 students with 466 teachers. We now have fewer teachers, not more.
4. In 1998-1999 the schools supported a comprehensive set of activities and athletics, including 29 varsity sports. In 2007-2008 we maintain a comprehensive set of activities, though athletics has been cut by $250,000. We still offer 29 sports; we have 25 fewer athletic coaches, and fees for participation have increased.
5. During their elected term, School Board members receive the district health insurance plan and an annual stipend of $4,200--a figure unchanged since 1987 - as support for their significant public service.
We urge all citizens to become educated about the issues regarding the referendum. We ask that you talk with others about the impact the referendum will have on our community. Finally, and most importantly, please vote on Nov. 6.
STEVE RAZIDLO is assistant superintendent of Brainerd public schools.
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