At the April 17 meeting of the Kingsland School Board, some information and issues arose that area citizens need to know.

I addressed the board on a couple issues of extreme importance: 

1. The fact that open enroll continues to hamstring district efforts to maintain an effective system for our students not only because of lost state revenue, but because for every student that lives here and enrolls elsewhere, that likely translates into one or two “NO” votes on any referendum. 

2. Communication between local voters and district officials needs a lot of improvement. Town hall style meetings need to be held, not only to explain board actions, but more importantly to find out what residents think and what they support regarding facilities and operating funds for our students. 

What did we learn at the meeting? When asked about policy and protocol regarding open enroll, the board seemed confused. No one was able to cite the language of the policy. I expressed it would be advisable to request an exit interview prior to releasing grade transcripts, purpose being to try our best to learn the reasons for the student leaving. Mr. (Doug) Plaehn (School Board chairperson) stated he believed it would be illegal to refuse to release grade transcripts. 

He may be correct. That must not prevent us from trying. Stopping open enroll losses needs to move beyond having a secretary make a phone call to the affected parent, apparently the current protocol. When district dollars and votes hang in the balance, direct administrative involvement is imperative. 

It is also troubling that board members cannot quote open enroll policy ID and wording chapter and verse. New members excused, it is so crucial to the continued existence of District 2137, older members and certainly administration should know this information by heart.

At the end of my short talk I asked if there were questions. After a question about local tax rates from Mr. Plaehn, another board member chose to engage in a personal attack rather than address the topics at hand. Now personal attacks do not concern me as my profession as a construction supervisor has made me immune to unfounded criticism. What does bother me is the misplaced priority of this board member, who was more interested in attacking me than she was in addressing the needs of the voters and students she was elected to represent. At a later time when I was powerless to respond, the same board member, aided by another, launched into an attack on the middle school system, apparently unaware that the middle school system is highly endorsed by the Minnesota Education Association and Kingsland administration!  

To summarize, I am encouraged that we have at least two new board members who seem determined to effect much needed change. As a district, we need to always consider the needs of the majority of students, not just the ones at the top of the academic ladder. It is OK to have informational meetings, but at present, the board must listen to citizens a lot more then they talk. After all, what Jeff Erding thinks or what the board thinks is not as important as what the people think. At the end of the day, the voters must and should decide on the future of our district after an honest, civil and transparent exchange of information in town hall settings.

There is no other viable course of action. We owe it to our students to resolve our problems in their best interest. 


Jeff Erding