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Nov. 9 - School Bond Referendum

Letter to the Editor

There have been two letters to the editor recently which claim all is well with the quality of education being provided at Northland Schools. Neither cite the Minnesota Dept. of Education's Multiple Measurement Rating or "MMR" which is the overall rating of the quality of education being provided based on student test results. Further, they do not compare Northland's MMR's with districts which border the Northland district.

Northland receives two MMR's; one for Elementary (through 6th grade) and the other for Secondary (grades 7 through 12). Using the average of MMR's over the 5 years (2011-2015) of data available on the Dept. of Education website, Northland's Elementary school has a better comparable MMR than any bordering school district (Walker, Pine River, Deer River, Crosby and Hill City). They're doing something right at Northland Elementary and should be congratulated. Northland's Secondary school is a different story however.

The yearly average of MMR's the State reports for 2011 through 2015 regarding Northland's Secondary school is 40.9. Comparable annual averages of the 5 districts bordering Northland are all higher with Hill City at 45.3, Walker at 52.9 and the rest (Pine River, Deer River and Crosby) ranging from 58.1 to 69.2. Thus, for grades 7 through 12, Northland ranks lower than any bordering district. Everyone should keep in mind Secondary education is especially important because it is intended to prepare students for graduation and life after high school.

All MMR data used herein can be verified by accessing the Minnesota Dept. of Education website. Remember, MMR's are the State's overall assessment of the quality of education being offered. It's not my assessment nor that of the school superintendent, teachers or school board members.

In closing I pose a question to Northland's Superintendent which it's hopefully requested he answer ASAP via another letter to the editor so all potential referendum voters have the benefit of his answer well before November 9. The question is: Are you aware of any independent studies done following the opening of newly constructed Secondary schools which concludes the impact of the "bricks & mortar" significantly improves the quality of education provided thereafter? If the answer is "yes" please provide reference information so taxpayers can review such studies before voting.

I sincerely hope the Superintendent will answer the question posed above. Failure to do so, however, will be a strong indication what the answer would have been.

Clayton Shonka
Trelipe Township

Mental Illness Awareness Week celebrates 25th Anniversary

Letter to the Editor

The first full week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). It was established by Congress in 1990 thus we are holding this event for the 25th year from October 4 through October 10. After a quarter of a century of work to raise awareness, educate the public about mental illnesses and promote acceptance of people with mental illnesses one must ask – has it made a difference.

The answer is yes – although our work is not close to being done. Thanks to MIAW and other awareness campaigns such as Make It OK, Bring Change 2 Mind, and efforts by NAMI through the In Our Own Voice program, public understanding is improving. A Harris Poll conducted in August of 2015 found that 89% of people responding felt that mental health and physical health are equally important. People certainly know more about mental illnesses and the brain than they did 25 years ago.

One surprising finding is that while the public’s understanding of mental illnesses has increased, attitudes towards people with mental illnesses have not changed enough. Mental illnesses and violence continue to be wrongly linked, which affects a number of things including people seeking treatment early, the ability to finish school or maintain employment, and the willingness of communities to support programs to treat and support both children and adults with mental illnesses.

Public policies, which have a huge impact on people’s lives, have changed as well over the past 25 years. Long-term discrimination under Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance meant there was no steady stream of  funding to pay for treatment and services. While some refer to “our broken system of care,” the reality is that the system was never built. That same Harris Poll found that many (43%) felt that mental health care is not affordable and a third felt it is not accessible for most people and that people do not know where to find mental health care.

Key legislation has helped with awareness and inclusion, namely the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, and, most recently, the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which guaranteed healthcare coverage through exchanges.

The Minnesota legislature also made significant recent investments in its mental health system in 2013 and 2015, creating a framework and a set of services and supports that will be further developed during the next two years across the state, providing hope for thousands.

Andy Warhol said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” MIAW has made a difference; and the incredible changes that have taken place have been due to the hard work of countless individuals with mental illnesses, their family members and mental health professionals who have joined together to continue to change attitudes and laws not only during MIAW but throughout the year.

Sue Abderholden,
Executive Director of NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of children and adults with mental illnesses and their families through its programs of education, support and advocacy

Support for Court of Appeals decision on Sandpiper Pipeline

Letter to the Editor

On September 14, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the Public Utilities Commission its June decision approving Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline certificate of need. Our 1200 member, nonprofit lake association is pleased with the Court’s decision requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be completed before making next pipeline decisions. We are joined with all lake associations, Friends of Headwaters and others concerned about the risks to the quality waters of our area in north central Minnesota, and all “Good and High Quality Lakes” areas.

A week ago, Speaker of the MN House Kurt Daudt and his GOP caucus opined about the jobs and property tax revenue negated by the Court’s decision, and expressing their displeasure with the decision. We communicated with Speaker Daudt and expressed our displeasure with their failing at their press conference to address ALL relevant environmental and major economic factors for our area of Minnesota, and their providing misleading jobs and tax data.

We are NOT OPPOSED to pipelines, but were ARE OPPOSED to approving pipeline routes in area of quality lakes and waters and an area with a major significance to the Minnesota economy and the travel and tourism economy. Pipelines are not DFL or GOP, the last I checked.

Travel and tourism and second homeowners provide over $600 million ANNUAL expenditures and over $300 million ANNUAL tax revenues in Hubbard, Cass, Crow Wing and Aitkin Counties combined, an area through  which Enbridge proposes not one, or two, but multiple pipelines. Travel and tourism also provides an estimated 17,250 JOBS. This travel and tourism employment is more than ten (10) times the 1,500 jobs Enbridge proposes for work to be performed along the proposed North Dakota to Superior route, which is not limited to the four (4) counties as inferred. Enbridge testified at an August 24th Pine River hearing, they expect 20-25 jobs would be long-term along the entire pipeline route.

We have offered Rep. Kurt Daudt and his assistants our research information covering property, income and sales tax revenue and spending, and related employment, generated by second homeowners, businesses, visitors, and conferences/events in Crow Wing County, Whitefish Chain of Lakes (the 9th largest lake in MN) area, and the four counties through which Enbridge prefers the Sandpiper and Line 3 pipelines routing.

Because unanticipated environmental consequences can be costly to undo and environmentally sensitive areas impossible to restore, environmental review creates the opportunity to anticipate and manage these issues before projects like pipelines are built in significant “environmental, social, and economic” areas. The more comprehensive EIS, compared to the limited CEA analysis, should also examine whether there are alternative project designs or locations or existing pipelines that would result in fewer environmental impacts. This should have been completed long before now, based on my eighteen years’ experience as a Mayor and an elected municipal government official in Ramsey County (retired in 2009), when considering local land use decisions and comprehensive plans, managing actions to sustain quality water, and addressing dangerous chemicals in groundwater (a drinking water source).

We agree that the estimated $25M in annual property taxes and 1500 jobs is important, but SMALL compared to the consequence of a negative event (e.g. oil spill, breaches, and “Enbridge anomalies”), considering Enbridge has experienced 800 spills, or more than 1.5 per month, or about 200 barrels per each spill/”anomaly” in past ten (10) years.

Speaker Daudt should know that the estimated jobs and taxes will be realized wherever a pipeline is constructed. But we can’t predict when and where spills will occur. They will occur! Enbridge does not deny that fact!

Incidentally a pipeline using the southern Minnesota existing corridor to Enbridge’s Chicago destination, as recommended by Friends of Headwaters and others, and not through Superior, would have MORE jobs, MORE tax revenue and a southern Minnesota route in an area with “lakes under stress; mostly likely can’t be restored” as the DNR/EPA reports.

The EIS is critical before any decisions are made as Governor Dayton implied. We also invite and encourage Speaker Daudt, the House GOP, all of our legislators, and regulatory agencies to consider all relevant  environmental, social, economic and routing alternatives during the preparation of the EIS and before any next pipeline decisions are made.

Tom Watson, President
Whitefish Area Property Owners Association
Crosslake, MN

Free market capitalism

Letter to the Editor

As I was doing my Bible reading the other day I was reading parables. I was thinking about our economy. I thought what would I compare free market capitalism to and it came to me that it is like a poker tournament which everyone must play until only the winner has any money left. The only relief from playing is when you retire with a pension that isn’t affected by the market. There are some differences of course, usually the tournament has some rules that aren’t changed until the game is over. Free market capitalism really has no rules (that is why it is called free). It is usually considered wrong to do things that are illegal where you are at, at any given moment. However, it is okay to get the laws changed by buying the different branches of government in the place you want to conduct business, corruption is good unless you are caught. When I hear Christian leaders touting free market capitalism I wonder if they are naïve or corrupt. However I know that it is not mine to judge and I will be judged on what I do; they will be judged on their actions and I on mine when judgment comes. I see nothing Christian about free market capitalism.

Jesse Nix
Emily, MN

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What do we want for our kids?

Letter to the Editor

I have been wondering where the information for the Northland School District 118 November referendum is! I haven’t received any mailing from the school district or seen any posting in the district’s official newspaper.

For the second time in 6 months school officials are bringing a multi million dollar bond (27 million after adding 1 million for inflation) issue to the voters. During a public meeting I attended last May regarding the school rebuild and remodel, I was told the school’s 10 year warranted roof was leaking after 12 plus years and the schools poor air quality was identified 25 years ago. I wondered why building maintenance was being ignored. Then I asked about the school’s strategic plan and was told it had been thought about, but a decision was made to purchase a couple of laptops instead of developing a plan. Astrategic plan for a school would focus on 3 things…where the school is now, where the school wants to be in 3,5,10 and 20 years and how is the district going to get there. The plan would provide direction with a clear vision of what the school is trying to achieve by setting priorities, focusing energy and resources, strengthening operations and ensuring everyone is working towards a common goal in agreement. Without this plan I wonder how a school board can make a decision to burden taxpayer’s with 27 million (actually closer to 45 million during the 30 year pay off). Even available literature recommends that rural MN schools use energy more efficiently, conduct routine building maintenance and renovate existing structures before building new ones.

Perhaps we need to take close look at the district’s budget. Over the last few years Northland Schools has created a rather large debt, with current debt being over 1 million in long term and over 1 million in short term debt. The cost of servicing these debts is over $100,000 yearly.

All that put aside, how are our kids fairing? There seems to be a great variety of activities to participate in and the teaching staff is averaging over 10 year tenure and around 20% have a master’s degree. In spite of that, Remer Elementary is a MN Focus school which means, as a Title 1 school, it is functioning in the bottom 10% of MN elementary schools and is receiving additional support from the Regional Center of Excellence.

The bottom line? What do we want for our kids? Please cast an informed vote on November 9th at Northland School or apply early for an absentee ballot through the Cass County Auditor.

Jan Skjolsvik
Crooked Lake Township

Northland Community Schools’ bond referendum vote is on Nov. 9, 2015

Letter to the Editor

Northland Community Schools has invested a ton of money to provide its students with the technology necessary to prepare them for college and careers after high school. This has been a real advantage for our students, but has been problematic for our infrastructure. Simply put, our buildings have not been designed to handle the energy demands of using and charging hundreds of laptops and Ipads. This results in tripped breakers and overheating issues that often cost valuable educational time. Our buildings also were not designed to be “tech friendly” in terms of wifi access, and, although we have found ways to work around this, a new facility built with these issues in mind would better serve our students.

The current model for how media centers are to be used is a flexible, energetic space where kids can share ideas, gather information and the space to allow for small group work, multiple classes during a class period without safety concerns, and cut back on congestion with a more efficient design. This is far from what is available at NCS. In the high school library there’s only one entrance and students are going in and out of it hour after hour carrying expensive technology while trying to get to class on time. It’s hard to believe an accident hasn’t already occurred. Our students are also engaged in many classes online from MNInfinity and CLC, which they take in the library. The constant in and out is very distracting for these students, especially during testing. Finally, if a student does need a quieter place, it would be nice to offer them something other than a supply room.

The elementary library has issues of its own. It is a wide open space. This sounds advantageous in theory, but is difficult in practice. The library is part of the largest walking space in the school. There is constant traffic there. If you’re the librarian and you’re trying to do a read along for example, it’s hard to keep 5- 12 year old’s interest when a constant stream of students are walking by. If you need the space for a student to make up a test, or flexibly group students for lessons, etc., there’s nowhere to segment off or gain a quiet space to study. Even book checkout becomes difficult if a large group is in the racks and others are transitioning from lunch, physical education, or music classes.

The administration, faculty and staff have used creativity and patience to try to provide media centers for our students. We do the best we can with what we have. A new facility designed for today’s model of education would benefit our students greatly. The way that students are educated is not the same as it was 50 years ago--it’s not even the same as it was 5 or 10 years ago. So much is changing so quickly, our current facilities have really become inadequate for the future.

Please come out and Vote on November 9, 2015 to give all the students, families and educators at Northland Community School the building they deserve.

Carol Procopio
Remer, MN
Northland Remer Education Minnesota

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s 150th Year Anniversary: Why Great Neighbors are needed again now!

Letter to the Editor

In our 150th year, we’ve been asking: What makes a Great Neighbor?

The most heartening answer: Someone who is watching out for you, sees your need before you do and then takes the initiative to lend a hand, offer financial help, bring a meal, shovel your driveway or check on your well-being.

We are celebrating our 150th Anniversary by holding up the work of 150 Great Neighbors.

In 1865, a pastor and his congregation in Southeastern Minnesota took in four orphaned children and fitted out the basement of their one-room church, starting the Vasa Children’s Home that, 98 years later, became Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

It’s been my conviction that since World War II, Baby Boomers have become affluent enough to buy services for their neighbors. People with disabilities have moved to group homes, older adults have moved to nursing homes and youth who become homeless have been served in shelters.

As we care for that aging Baby Boom generation, we will be hard-pressed to buy services for all of them, not to mention everyone else who needs support. And so we believe we will see neighbors who need support staying in their families longer and the growth of home, community-based and outpatient services. We will also see a greater call than ever for foster and adoptive families and host homes for short and intermediate-term care.

This will place new burdens on family members caring for their loved ones, and they will need great neighbors.

10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring every day and will need more support as they age. We’ll need to invent new living alternatives that cost less for people with mild disabilities and save more taxpayer dollars for people who have greater health needs. Today, we have kids who are unable to go home and need a safe place to stay for a night, a weekend, or a year.

As we look ahead, we’re redesigning our services to imagine how all of our neighbors — young, old, vulnerable and alone – can thrive and live well in community in productive, meaningful lives.

We’ll need more people to look in on elder neighbors or to have youth hang out at their house until they can mend relations at home.

Today through Lutheran Social Service of MN, we have families who are opening their homes as host homes to people with disabilities, often to provide a stepping stone for someone who wants to try living more independently before they take the step to apartment life. We’ll be using this host home model more and more for youth to avoid having them spend even one night without a safe place.

For older adults, we’ve designed what we call Abundant Aging to ensure our aging neighbors have choices and opportunities to contribute in our community. We will see more Baby Boomers themselves leave full-time work and seek meaningful ways to spend their free time by helping their neighbors run errands or get to appointments. We even have one energetic 94-year-old volunteer who is still driving and delivering meals to her neighbors through our home-delivered meals service!

At our 150th Anniversary Celebration for Changing Lives on September 26, we’ll be lifting up 150 Great Neighbors — inspiring examples of caring people in our community who have joined hands with us to carry out our mission to inspire hope, change lives and build community. They include foster grandparents, senior companions, active volunteers, foster parents, host homes, safe neighborhood champions and adoptive parents.

The good news is that being a Great Neighbor has always been part of the “DNA” of Minnesotans. That is why we are honored and privileged to have served by your side for the past 150 years.

Thank you, Minnesota! And here’s to the next 150!

Jodi Harpstead, CEO Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

Correction by Wounded Warriors-MN

Letter to the Editor

Wounded Warriors MN wishes to express their regret for having omitted Crosslake Auto Body as one of our sponsors for the 11th Anniversary MC Ride for Homeless and Wounded Warriors. Our sponsor relationships are very important to us.

Steve Eisenreich, event coordinator

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