I have no problem paying the extra taxes for the referendum but I know what it was to struggle financially raising a family.
How many of the letter writers are losing or close to losing their homes to foreclosure or raising a family on minimum wages without health insurance? How many retirees are living on less than $900 a month? We have a friend that does. One writer stated the tax on a $150,000 home would only cost $19 a month. This amount would buy five gallons of milk for a family on minimum wages.
Several writers stated kids would be in trouble without sports, etc. I was a 4-H leader and at times had 50 members. Most were not in sports or other activities. They all graduated without being in trouble and have lived productive lives. They were all good kids and won many awards. It's the parents' job to keep kids out of trouble, not the school.
With the cost of living increasing, foreclosures, homes for sale, cost of home fuel and gasoline and workers being laid off, tells me the economy is not good.
I'm sorry the student thinks his senior dream won't come true. The families that lost their homes also lost a dream. The lady living on $900 lost a dream too, her husband. The military fighting for freedom have many dreams of home and family, hoping they come true. We lost dreams during W.W.II, such as seeing our classmates come home from war safely, some didn't. But we all survived the lost dreams.
The referendum would be nice, but does "Kids First" mean just education, not their life at home?
School chess club may be cut
I continually hear the anti-kid advocates refer to our children as pawns. For those of us that have played a little chess, we know that a well cared for pawn can become a queen, rook, or another important piece on the chess board.
We should be thankful for the great schools in the Brainerd lakes community and support them, no matter the cost. Our schools have operated for years at a cost that is $600 per pupil less than the state average. The referendum will help retain our excellent school structure and guide these "pawns" to be future community leaders.
The irony here is that our local school chess club may be cut; this would affect nearly 80 kids that won't have the opportunity to learn and enjoy this great strategic game after school. Chess club is just the tip of the iceberg, at Forestview alone there are hundreds of kids each night involved in programs that won't exist with a failed levy. By supporting our schools, we are supporting kids and the future of our community.
Checkmate, let's do what is right for kids and the future of ISD 181; vote yes on Nov. 6.
Keep kids out of trouble
The referendum is here. What a controversy right now! The "Vote Yes" signs are everywhere, but you do not that many "Vote No" signs. The argument of the "Vote No" people is that the referendum is either too expensive or they do not have relatives or kids in the district, so it won't affect them. Some think our school district is greedy. A lot of the people voting yes have kids in school. Our town is known as a pretty safe town. We know from talking to kids that they haven't experimented with drugs because of their activities. There are a lot of kids who stay out of drugs and alcohol or stay in school because of the activities they are in. Do we want our town's reputation to change? Last Friday, one of our teachers asked all 88 of us who were in the class who was in a fall sport. About 90 percent of us raised our hands. That does not include the people in winter sports, spring sports and extra-curricular activities. Now, think if your grandkids, cousins, nieces or nephews were in this school district. What if sports, music or any extra-curricular activities were their life? What would you vote then? What if it was the only hope they had to make it to college? Would you jeopardize their future for a few dollars? Would you be able to look them in the eyes and say, "I'm voting no?"
Enid Swaggert and Siri Smith
Be informed and be involved
Thirteen years ago when our youngest child entered elementary school I made a decision to become involved in the parent organization to better understand the educational system and to be fully aware of my child's school environment. Since then I have participated in four school parent advisory groups, the district-wide Parent Advisory committee, a long range strategic planning committee, and the Community Education Board. Throughout each of these experiences I've been able to gain a better understanding of the educational process, become acquainted with staff and administration, and learn about the complexity of the educational financing system.
ISD 181's current financial dilemma isn't new. It's been highly publicized in the local media for years. State government funding formulas have changed drastically. Local school districts have had to ask taxpayers to supplement state funding through referendums. During the past six years the school board and administration have done a good job in using the additional $199.94 per student along with spending their savings to maintain the quality of education our community has come to expect and be recognized for. Without the current referendum request, the school board will be forced to make cuts to simply maintain current standards.
Do I want to pay higher taxes? As a fiscally conservative person, definitely no. Is the increase worth the sacrifice? I believe it is. Our youngest will graduate this year and we have been blessed by the excellent education received by our children in the Brainerd School system. I'll vote yes on Nov. 6 to help assure that standard of excellence continues for all children.
Educate yourselves well and ask questions. If you have children or grandchildren in the school system, join a parent advisory group. I've found it's the best way to be informed and know what's actually happening in our schools.
Will they see clearly in 2020?
Remember Johnny Nash's international hit in 1972, "I Can See Clearly Now?" Ironically, the graduating class of 2020, our kindergartners, have started their educational careers.
Working for the past 27 years in Little Falls, Pequot Lakes, and the Brainerd School District, serving as a teacher and a principal, I see an increasing set of demands and urgency put on educators as they work well into the dinner hour correcting and analyzing students' work to prepare for the next day's instruction. Large totes accompany these teachers to the parking lot and home as they continue tasks to address the needs of already large class sizes. Master keys are doled out like Halloween candy so that these same teachers can come in Saturday or Sunday to ready classrooms for the week ahead. In summer months, teachers take university courses or participating in professional growth opportunities to refine skills. They're teaching remedial classes to children needing that extra boost, and administering before-school testing to make sure they hit the ground running with students on the very first day of school.
Parents and grandparents visiting schools appreciate the value of their tax dollars when they see the incredible day-to-day interactions between teachers and the young they love so dearly. I hope these people tell others about the hard work teachers put forth to promote academic growth and emotional well-being for our children, and go to the polls to vote 'yes' on Nov. 6 to ensure the current sense of urgency does not become senseless despair. With your support, kindergartners in the graduating class of 2020, along with all learners PreK-12, will say, "I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. It's going to be a bright, bright, bright, sun-shiny day."
Erin Herman, Principal
Baxter Elementary School
Parents have a responsibility
Last week a Twin Cities paper ran an article about the Crookston School District posting grades and behavior reports on students online. A good concept, but it still is a Band-Aid attempt at fixing a problem that they really aren't responsible for. You see the parents of students that do well in school already know that because they pay attention to what is going on in their kid's lives. The children who are in trouble in school most often have parents that are not interested in their kid's academic success and also are not interested in going online to find out what is going on.
The real seeds for success are sowed in the homes the children come from. Parents and guardians who care and work with their kids are rarely disappointed in the results, and seldom have any problems with the teachers or the schools policy's. This is called taking responsibility for their actions and the actions of their children On the other hand parents who have other priorities than their kids education are the first to blame the teachers and the schools for failing them and their kids.
This is not a new problem. It existed when I went to school and believe me that was long ago. It is a problem that has continued to be glossed over. Time, efforts and lots of money have been spent on useless solutions that somehow try to make the problem seem that the schools are failing these kids, when that is not the case. It is the parents failing them, and now that I have said it, maybe it's time for the schools to say it. In this world of tight money it would make education much more affordable for all of us, if we all did our part.
Getting off to a good start
I am fortunate to have a career that continually gives me hope and always leaves me humbled. There are also moments of frustration but they never overpower the "good stuff". The ISD 181 Learning Center offers educational opportunities for two very different student populations. The Early Childhood Family Education and School Readiness teachers welcome and support children and their families as they experience attending school for the very first time. I am repeatedly amazed and delighted as I watch teachers and parents working together to ensure that our precious and innocent children get off to a good start.
In another part of the building it is common for me to find students engaged in curriculum and projects as they work toward their goal of high school graduation. I see them being successful and having pure moments where nothing else matters. Their teachers are good people of modest means who work incredibly hard building trust and relationships. They remain patient and positive as they guide their learners back on track.
Now is a critical time for all students, parents, teachers and our entire school district. There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares most about. Please consider your decision carefully as you prepare to vote on Nov. 6.
Marlee Larson, principal
ISD 181 Learning Center
Help students compete
As a 2002 graduate of Brainerd High School, and 2007 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, I cannot say enough positive things about my experiences as a student athlete in the Brainerd School District. The academic and athletic environment provided a foundation that enabled me to meet and exceed life's numerous challenges.
Education will remain a critical component in the success of our young people. High quality teachers and coaches provide mentorship and direction for students, while empowering them to dream about the future. In addition, extra curricular activities provide students with leadership opportunities that are incredibly valuable in the real world.
As a nation competing globally in the 21st century, education will be the difference between success and failure. However, without opportunities for our students to succeed educationally and athletically, we are inevitably setting them up for failure.
I remain grateful to the Brainerd School District for providing a top-notch educational and athletic experience. I would not be where I am today without your help!
Brainerd High School Class of 2002
How much is enough?
Let me start by saying, I'm all for the kids and I don't believe the school board is wasting money, but how much is enough? In 2003 $452 of our home's property taxes went to ISD 181. In 2007 the amount had risen to $828, almost double in five years. If this referendum passes, another $456 will be added the first year (total equals $1,284) and that total will increase each year for inflation and for increases in property value. How much will this total be in 10 years? It is unfortunate that the state hasn't increased funding, but it is also unreasonable to pass the entire burden to the property tax systems which is not necessarily in line with ability to pay. A moderate increase would have been much better and affordable. Just because we didn't send our kids to Harvard or Yale doesn't mean we don't care about our kids. It means we gave them the best education with the resources available and all are doing just fine.
It takes a whole village
"It takes a whole village to raise a child," our Up With People group sang. I traveled the world building bridges of peace with community service projects, such as, visiting jails and schools, and performing a show.
The concept of "giving back" led me to the Peace Corps in Uganda, Africa. Working with local Ugandans to build a village school is where you learn the true meaning of this credence.
People walked miles, parents made bricks, kids dug holes, and grandparents babysat. Ugandans exemplify community spirit in taking care of one another and realize the value of an education.
As a Brainerd High School graduate, I discovered "there's no place like home" and returned to the supportive community that provided me a first-rate education.
Currently, I work with freshmen at South Campus and feel honored to work with this population. Freshmen see the world with fresh eyes and have visions to "light the world on fire." Our current education system supports their dreams.
We also have our share of troubled youth. Last year, I saw a dramatic increase in self-injurious behaviors (cutting- 24 cases) and suicidal ideations (18 cases). Imagine, every week I deal with this behavior and I believe this is the "tip of the iceberg."
The American School Counselors' Association recommends one school counselor for every 250 students. I work with 542 freshmen. With budget cuts in the counseling staff that occurred in 2003, we have a gaping hole in counseling services. Our time is spent on crises rather than preventative measures.
As my parents bestowed the importance of education, my goal is to pass this on to my children. Education is the vehicle to peace and understanding world-wide. After all, it does "take a whole village to raise (and educate) a child." Vote Yes!
Jackie (Bye) Extrand
Be a guest in my classroom
This is an open invitation to the recent letter writer who implied that going into a classroom, unannounced would somehow reveal things that would "turn your stomach." I do not teach in the Brainerd School District; however, I would be happy to have you as a guest in my classroom. I am certain the things that you see, should you accept my invitation, would be very similar to what goes on in classrooms throughout ISD No. 181. Please come unannounced and more than once if you so choose. I look forward to seeing you!
Fifth grade teacher
Good schools are important
After reading all of the Open Forum letters on the referendum topic, I felt obligated to express my opinion on the upcoming school levy referendum. I am an 80 year-old widow on a fixed income. Back in the 1940s, I was a one-room school house teacher in the Verndale area. Times have changed a lot sine the 1940's - our style of living and working have changed, and our schools have changed, too. Hopefully, they'll continue to change.
If the levy referendum doesn't pass, our schools will take a big step backwards. Our community would lose a top-rated school system, and our entire community would lose too! How many people would be attracted to a school system with 35-45 students in a classroom, no athletics or after school activities in the middle school, and less than half of the athletics in the high school? With so many students in a classroom, more students will fall through the cracks because no teacher can successfully teach what needs to be taught to that many at one time. Maybe wealthier parents could pay for their children's sports, but what about the other kids?
Does this sound like a school district you'd like to live in? I have no children or grandchildren in the Brainerd School District, but I know the importance of a good school to a community. Vote "yes" on Nov. 6 to support our schools and community.
Vote because you care
Many no voters support education reform. Many no voters want to see better use of tax dollars and better results in student achievement and function.
The current education structure and methods that prevail in the United States are limited in raising the competency level of the majority of our students to that of other advanced nations - more money spent does not equal better education. There are outstanding American students, however most students do not function at a comparative quality with past scholars or with their global contemporaries.
Many citizens have seen "about average" (the Prairie Home Companion values) results from our education system that costs millions and continually plans for increased spending - even as other businesses and organizations in our society have adjusted to economic limits (revenue reductions). Can most citizens realistically count on getting a pay raise next year?
A no vote is not a denial of opportunities in education; but is a signal to community leaders that excessive taxes do not equal improved education results. Education of our youth will not collapse by voting no on this referendum; it will be a wake-up call to officials at the higher levels to address quality education, tax fairness, and related issues.
Your choice is important. Vote because you care about our community.
Lessons learned about 'us'
I am a lifetime resident of Brainerd and have been employed by the Brainerd schools for 21 years. Over time, I have seen tremendous growth and change in our schools and community. Over the course of time, I have learned a few things about "us:"
1. We are a passionate community. We care about our neighbors and are quick to defend when we feel others have been wronged.
2. We step up. When there is a crisis or emergency in this community, we come together to help.
3. We are a proud community. Proud of our area and our schools.
4. We are not perfect. As a district or community, there will always be ways to improve.
Our recent Community Homecoming reminded me of all that is good about "us." It demonstrated that our schools are an integral part of what makes our community special and much of our identity as a community comes from our schools.
I often view our schools and community as one entity. I am concerned the referendum vote has polarized us and is separating schools from the community, creating an "us" versus "them" mentality. I fear on Nov. 6 there will be two categories, "winners" and "losers."
Our current school funding system is in need of an overhaul. All our voices need to be heard at the Capitol, targeting those who have the power to change the system. Directing anger and bitterness at one another can only serve to damage our schools and community.
For now, I would ask that we join together to secure our immediate future as a community and school district. There is still much work to be done. Together, we can continue to be schools and a community of excellence. Separate, we all lose.
The use of 'to' and 'too'
With the Brainerd school tax levy vote soon approaching, I am seeing yard signs both in favor of and in opposition to the referendum. These signs are designed to grab our attention and possibly even sway our vote one way or the other. At the end of my road are two such signs. One says "Children First - Vote Yes!". The other one says "School tax to much $ - Vote No!". That's right, it says "to" much money, not "too" much money. It's a difference of one letter, just one little "o", but it's also the difference between two completely different words. Too bad the sign makers paid little attention to detail. My reason for writing this letter is simply to point out how ironic it is that those who are against spending money to improve education have spent a lot of money on signs that misuse the very language that our educators work hard teaching our kids.
Only action gets work done
When it comes to voting, it can seem that one vote, your vote, doesn't make a big difference in the end. But I can't think of an opportunity that equals the Nov. 6 levy referendum for School District 181. The backbone of a healthy community is a well-trained, educated workforce, and those willing to invest in their schools will reap the benefits of their sacrifice for generations. On behalf of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber board of directors, I urge everyone, our 1,200 members of the Chamber and the entire community, to consider the real impact of weakened schools. It means our students lose out, as a rapidly changing world passes them by. And sooner than later, it means we'll all lose, as businesses seeking trained professionals look elsewhere, costing us careers, cash flow and a solid tax base. This crisis is real, and it will be decided one person at a time. But your vote only counts if you take the time to show up at the polls. So mark it on your calendar - and remember polls open at noon and close at 8 p.m. Call your friends and employees. Remind them that good intentions are fine, but only action gets work done. Our schools, our community, will not succeed without your support. Vote yes on Nov. 6.
Chief Executive Officer
Brainerd Lakes Chamber
Just say no to the levy
Ask yourself "How did the school board allow the budget to go from a need of about $200 per pupil to almost about $1,000 per pupil. That is a almost a 500 percent increase. It did not happen overnight. Could it be that the school board and administration were not doing their jobs? They were not so just say no! If offered something bad, just say no!
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.