The Rushford-Peterson School Board faced some impassioned citizens at their Jan. 22 meeting. Despite inclement weather, residents came out to express their discontent with the decision of the administration to auction off school memorabilia, included banners and trophies from 1990-present. Any banners and trophies earned pre-consolidation will be donated to the Rushford and Peterson Historical Societies.

“I strongly disagree with the decision to sell the championship banners from the old school,” resident Rachel Svenningson said as she addressed the board. “Please take these banners and trophies off of your auction and come up with a better plan.”

Svenningson recounted her experience winning a championship banner in the 1999-2000 season with the girls’ basketball team. “That banner represents all the hard work and pride we had from that season,” Svenningson said. “They might be a piece of fabric to you. To me and other players that proudly wore the green and gold, each banner holds memories.”

Svenningson suggested that, if the board continues in their action of auctioning off the items, that they would consider making the auction a live one, rather than online. “I don’t know if I’m bidding against other parents or against someone who just wants to put a banner in their garage,” she said.

Before Svenningson’s comments, Activities Director Dan Bieberdorf explained why the district is moving forward with this decision. Currently, there are 242 trophies/plaques displayed in the new building. When Bieberdorf stepped into his role in 2010, he said that the trophy case was already “excessively full.” When planning for the move to the new building began, Bieberdorf asked the school’s coaches what they’d like to see happen. Ideas were floated around, including posting banners for outside events at their outside locations and inside events in their locations.

“We kind of felt that some would get lost or not get the same type of exposure,” said Bieberdorf.

Bieberdof explained that, at the direction of the coaches, the school would host activity banners displaying the accomplishments of each sport or activity. Each activity banner would consolidate several banners and indicate which years that the activity was conference champions, sub-section champions, or section champions. This approach would mirror that of other schools, such as Houston Public Schools, that showcase their past accomplishments. All activity banners would be displayed in the gym, including non-sports related activities such as one-act or speech.

“I don’t think anyone on this board disrespects the athletic accomplishments,” said Clerk Bonnie Prinsen. “Obviously, there was a communication problem. I spoke to more people who, when they understood what was going on, were behind it.”

The residents who spoke in the public comments indicated that they didn’t specifically have an issue with this new way of progressing. But resident Judi Tekautz said she was concerned about the lack of communication from the administration. “I’m here to call out the bigger issue: lack of trust and lack of respect that it appears that they have for us,” Tekautz said. “It’s a slap in the face to everyone who was a part of earning those banners and trophies.”

Tekautz cited other issues that indicated poor communication, including: the change in position of a second grade teacher being moved to working in preschool, poor website maintenance that does not have up-to-date minutes or posted agendas, and even the lack of communication that Monday’s meeting would indeed take place, considering the poor weather conditions.

“I’m kicking back tonight because of the comments made about a lack of trust in administrators,” replied Superintendent Chuck Ehler later in the meeting. “I want to make sure that we are doing the right thing.” Ehler then encouraged the board to make a motion that would receive public approval.

Director Dean Mierau noted that he was also surprised at the negative reaction. But with Directors Jon Pettit and Julie Koop absent, Mierau suggested tabling the decision to sell the banners and trophies until next meeting. The board unanimously approved this action.

The auction for other old school items will continue as scheduled for this weekend.

Insurance

Ehler informed the board of the district’s need to provide heat and water to the former school locations in order to maintain property and liability insurance for the buildings. Without these utilities, the buildings would no longer be insured against any sort of damages. Currently the district’s insurance policy would still protect them against any persons being injured on these properties.

To pursue insuring the buildings themselves, Ehler estimated that there would be a minimum of $5,000 to get the gas back on and the water running through the pipes once more.

“Liability is my biggest concern, in case anyone gets hurt,” said Chairperson Jon Linder. Mierau expressed his desire to keep the buildings insured, as a destructive event would hinder the potential sale of either building.

The board voted 4-1 to no longer insure the buildings, with Mierau opposed.

Personnel changes

In the consent agenda, the board approved both the resignation of Elementary Administrative Assistant Brittany Benson, hired in 2015, and Ag Education Teacher Heide Dudley, hired in 2016. Both of these resignations were approved.

Ehler noted his contract that will be finished in June. He asked the board to approve a one-year contract. “I’m reaching a point in my life where I am entertaining doing something else,” Ehler said. Ehler indicated that he had a few items that he wanted to accomplish before his time was finished, and a one-year contract would help enable him to do that.

The next school board meeting will be on Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m. All members of the public are invited to attend.