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School needs community support

The Wadena-Deer Creek-Bluffton communities expect an excellent education for their children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends. This is as true today as it was 50 years ago.

As our community shrinks in a declining population (as is the state of Minnesota), the school will continue to "downsize" and streamline services for children. As you may know, it is harder to downsize than it is to increase instruction to meet the needs of a growing population. Wadena-Deer Creek has downsized considerably in the past three years by $2,123,228 through reductions in staff and resources. And, we will continue to streamline both staff and programs over the next three years as our student population continues to level off. In an effort to help our current financial situation, I have frozen my salary for the remainder of my three-year contract.

The quality of education programs for our students will not be the same without local support. In fact, the Legislature has put the quality of education back on us, the taxpayer. Of 340 public school districts in Minnesota, 309 currently have school referendums (operational levies) in place to support instruction. The good news with our school district is that if we as a community support K-12 education with an $800 per pupil referendum in 2010, we will receive state aid to cover 44 percent of the cost, or $345,003. If we support K-12 education with a $650 per pupil referendum in 2010, we will receive state aid to cover $326,870.

When I accepted the position as your superintendent, I fully understood that the school district was close to what the state refers to as statutory operating debt (SOD). My most immediate fear is that, with further cuts to staff, programs and resources, our district will no longer be in a position to provide Wadena-Deer Creek-Bluffton children with the quality of education our community deserves and expects. Locally, today, we enjoy control of program offerings including agriculture, wood working, home economics, music, and a range of advanced course offerings. These quality indicators that characterize the curriculum from which our children today benefit will, at best, become severely jeopardized and, most likely at worst, cease to exist should our school district fall into SOD.

Times, indeed, are a changing. We absolutely must provide students K-12 with reading, mathematics, and technology "basics." By 2012, WDC students will, as a requirement for graduation from high school, be required, through demonstrated use of technology, to pass state examinations in reading and mathematics. I cannot overstate that these are but the basics.

I trust that our community is unanimous in the commitment that Wadena-Deer Creek-Bluffton students most certainly deserve the basics. My fervent hope, however, is that our community shares in the belief that children deserve much more. The "basics" are but the minimum that our students will require just to survive in the changing world economy. Indeed, for our children to thrive, we need to prepare them to become meaningfully competitive. Their futures, in the most important of ways, are in our hands. Let us consider doing no less than the very best we can to prepare our children for the world that they, in all too brief a time, will inherit from us.