Herald and Journal, Oct. 29, 2001

Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school board candidates

Here are interviews with the HLWW school board candidates. Two people out of seven will be elected Tuesday. Nov. 6.

Kirk Jensen's name will also appear on the ballot, however, he has since withdrawn from the race and requests to receive no votes.

Charlie Borrell

1. Why are you running for the office?

I believe that the current school board is out of touch with the citizens of our district. We are facing major decisions that will affect us for years into the future, and we must have a school board that listens to its constituents.

2. What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

I think the net loss of 300 students to other schools through open enrollment is a major issue. This represents a loss in state aid amounting to approximately 1.2 million dollars per year.

The current school board feels that the way to fix this is by building a new high school in Winsted at a cost of 27 million dollars. I simply disagree, not only with the location of a new school, but with the premise that a new school will "cure" our open enrollment situation.

We lose students to open enrollment for several reasons, but a major one is simply the lack of transportation. Parents that live in our school district and have their children dropped off at daycare in another district on their way to work often have no choice but to send their kids to the school that their daycare is in.

We should be looking into ways to provide those students transportation back to our schools. Whether it is sending a van or a bus to Buffalo, Montrose, or Delano to pick these students up, it should be done. Each student we save represents $4,000 to $6,000 per year in state revenue to our district.

Do we need a new school? This is another issue that is important to me. Have we truly looked at other more affordable options? The school district owns a full city block where the present elementary school in Winsted is situated. We also own 12 acres where the present elementary school in Waverly is located.

For far less money both of these schools could be expanded to accommodate the district's entire kindergarten through seventh or eighth grades, allowing the high school to use all the rooms the current elementary now occupies at Howard Lake.

3. Why should you be elected?

I think I should be elected because I will represent the "people" of district 2687, and I will bring common sense back to a school board that has obviously let theirs go by the wayside.

Our school district has excellent educators that are providing a superb education to our children. Let's work with them to improve our curriculum and athletic programs, and not be misled into thinking that just having a new school will better teach our students.

Randy Heuer

1. Why are you running for the office?

My goal as a school board member has always been to ensure that we, as a school district, provide the best possible education at a reasonable cost. That has always been the core value that I represent on the board.

At this point in time our district is at a crossroads. Part of ensuring that we do what's right for both the future of education in our district and long-term district economics is the driving force behind my desire to seek re-election.

2. What do you think the two major issues are at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

The two major issues that face the district are open enrollment and the need for new/additional facilities. From both of those challenges we can easily dovetail to many others, such as curriculum, possible consolidation, extra-curricular opportunities, etc.

As a district, we lose over 300 students to other public school districts because of open enrollment. There continues to be a misperception that this number reflects those students who attend parochial school ­ it does not. These students, and approximately $1.2 million dollars in funds, are lost to other public school districts every single year.

That means, in the simplest terms possible, our neighboring school districts are spending our tax dollars. That is not acceptable. If we are going to maintain and grow an excellent school system, those students and the funds must be recaptured.

Our district has spent extensive time and resources studying why students open enroll. The answers are simple and come down to three core issues: program offerings (both curricular and extracurricular) staff issues, and facilities.

The solutions are a little more difficult. In an effort to begin addressing these concerns a task force of community members examined our current facilities and made a recommendation to build a nine - 12 grade high school.

By doing this we would be able to attack those three core issues on two fronts, both facilities and program offerings. I cannot stress strongly enough that this was a community task force, made up of representatives from all communities in the district.

This task force included parents, community leaders, business owners and concerned citizens. The recommendation was unanimous and unequivocal; we need a new high school if we expect to meet the educational demands of the kids in the district today and into the future.

No more study is needed on the facility question. We ought to respect those who spent so much time studying the issue and move on.

The second part of the equation has come up more recently ­ consolidation.

Although we must do a great deal more study on this question, two things are absolutely clear: we could offer a much wider array of program choices for our students, and the cost of a new facility would be much more affordable for the average taxpayer in the district with consolidation.

We still must look into items, such as transportation and operational costs of a combined district. But, we must look at the option and be diligent in our responsibility to find all the facts.

We cannot sell the kids in this district short because we are too stubborn and shortsighted to examine possibilities that could make us better. Each day leaders in the communities of our district look for ways to give their community an edge over those around them.

As a school district we must do the same or we will cease to exist, the trends are very evident to those who choose to see them.

As a board member, it is my responsibility to see those trends and address them, even if the best answer is painful in the short term. To do any less would be a failure to do my duty.

3. Why should you be elected?

I believe I should be reelected for a couple different reasons. The first is that I have, and will continue, to listen to people's opinions and collect the facts about those topics that we discuss.

The first part of being a responsible board member is learning as much as possible about a subject in which a decision needs to be made, and then making a decision. It is in that manner that I have and will continue to serve.

The second reason is that I have been bold in speaking for my positions on the issues that face our district, as well as being a spokesman for the board.

The second part of the responsibility of being elected to serve is moving forward after a decision is made, based on the best facts available. It would be the height of irresponsibility to waver in the face of criticism.

The bottom line is this. We have studied the problem, identified the solution, and now we must move on. I will help in providing the district the bold leadership we need to do just that.

We owe this to those community members among us who have invested so much time and energy in this process thus far, and we owe it to the students in this district to provide them the opportunities they deserve for continued growth and development. To do any less would be a failure in fulfilling our responsibility.

Richard Lammers

1. Why are you running for the office?

I have been on the board of education since 1988. I would like to see our district continue to grow in a positive way. I feel that the high school needs to stay in Howard Lake, because it is closer to the center of the district, and the main population of our students.

2. What do you think the two major issues are at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

The two major issues at this time are, consolidation with Lester Prairie and the proposed site of the new high school. I will not support either issue. As I have stated, I feel the district needs to take care of what it has presently and not consolidate with a district that has a negative fund balance of 1.5 million.

We need to be concerned with open enrollment, and make this district more attractive for our families. The heart of our district is in Howard Lake, and it must stay there. I will fight to keep the high school in Howard Lake.

3. Why should you be elected?

I have the experience needed for continuing to serve on the board of education. I graduated from Howard Lake High School in 1974. I have lived and worked in and around this community most of my life.

I have strong feelings for this district on issues of public safety, and I have always felt that our students have been provided with a top-notch education.

I speak on behalf of people living in our community whose life is the school ­ those parents and grandparents that make every game, every play, contribute to every fund raiser and those individuals that volunteer their time to keep scores, arrange meetings, and to clean up after an event.

I would also speak for our founding fathers, whose dream it was to build a school and center it in our community as a symbol of pride.

John Lideen

1. Why are you running for the office?

Our school district is at a major crossroad in its identity. The decisions and communication of these decisions by our current board are dividing the residents of our three communities. We need to unite all residents of school district 2687 and build an education environment that goes beyond the standard thinking that building a new school will solve our problems

2. What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

Communication and new high school. We are told that parental/community involvement in our students education is crucial. Has our school informed our residents of the important things happening in our schools?

1. Official correspondence of school district 2687: Herald (local Newspaper): Where is "Meet the Lakers?" Why does Lester Prairie High School and Holy Trinity dominate the sports pages? Does "Focus on Education" really tell us anything that is going on in our schools?

2. Outreach: Why does this school publication just come out with the newspaper? Is it for newspaper subscribers only? How else is it available?

3. The HLWW school web site: www.hlww.k12.mn.us. Look at it! It has been at least two years in the making. It is not up to date with current staff or events that are going on in our district. Many schools use this to show student's progress and it can be a direct line of communication between parents and teachers.

I will work to get our community involved with our school system by informing them of what is going on through enhancing current means of communication and looking at ways to truly reach everyone. I will seek out feedback from the residents of our district that I represent as a school board member.

New high school

Do we need a $26 million dollar high school? Has our school board looked into all possibilities that would meet the needs of our students' education? Have we looked at all options in our current sites? Can we make additions at a lower cost and unite the residents in the process? Our current school board appears to have "tunnel vision" and sees the "new high school" as the only way to improve our educational situation.

I believe we can look for alternatives that would promote our student's education and draw our communities together, and at the same time, stimulate growth in our district.

3. Why should you be elected?

It is time for the residents of our school district to decide, what they believe will be better for our children's education. I will look beyond the standard thought process, that a new high school is the way to improve our school district.

We need to be innovative and look at other possibilities that may not have been researched. I will find ways to enhance communication with the residents of our communities so we can work together and be proud of our students and their education in school district 2687.

Rob Merritt

1. Why are you running for the office?

I am running for the school board because I want the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District to be a district that parents want their kids to attend. I see a district that has a great future if we are willing to meet the challenge. Let's be proactive.

The world has changed dramatically since I graduated from high school in 1975, and so have the demands on the students, teachers and facilities. We need to address and deal with these changes.

I also want the communities to get together and move forward to provide the best possible education for the children in our district.

My wife and I have three children in the HLWW school district and have been pleased with the education they are receiving, but would like to see more courses and extracurricular activities offered.

2. What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

The issue of the new school is probably number one for me at this time. All around us school districts are expanding their facilities, curriculum and the extracurricular activities they offer and we cut back. Those districts are getting our kids.

It is my understanding that we lose 300 kids per year to open enrollment. That costs the district over $1 million in lost revenue. Think of opportunities we could offer the kids and the community if we had that money.

With the facilities and student numbers we presently have, the district is limited in what it can offer. I have only one vote when it comes to a school and I would vote "yes" for a new school regardless of the location. I would prefer it closer to Howard Lake because of where we live, but would gladly accept the Winsted location.

The Winsted site makes sense if you look at the bottom line, especially if consolidation were to occur with Lester Prairie, but I don't want to wait years for a decision to be made by Lester Prairie for our district. People have said, "I don't think we need it now, but maybe in a couple of years." Time is money, and the longer a decision takes, the more a building and the land will cost.

Hiring and retaining the best possible teachers is another priority of mine. We need to hire teachers who are excited about teaching our kids. In the years to come we are going to lose several teachers through retirement.

Many of these teachers are in the math and science areas where the fewest number of teachers are graduating from college in. We will be in competition with the surrounding districts, not only with the salaries and benefits we offer, but with the facilities these teachers will be working in.

The better the teachers, the better the programs, the better the programs, the more students we will attract.

3. Why should you be elected?

I believe I should be elected because I want things to change. I don't want things to remain as they are or they were. Public schools are in competition for students and we have to compete if we want to survive. Let's go on the offensive, create the opportunities here and keep the kids in the district.

I also want detailed information sent to every residence in the district on a new high school for both the Winsted and Howard Lake sites so the voters can make an informed decision based on facts, not rumors.

Stephanie Smith

Smith did not turn in her questionnaire before press time Friday. Several attempts by the newspaper to contact her failed.

Leo Weber

1. Why are you running for the office?

I've enjoyed the past 20 years of service on the school board and working with the teachers and administration to build a strong district.

As a board member in the old Winsted district, I made a strong effort to get Winsted and Howard Lake-Waverly as one district. My goal was to get the best for our students and that is still my complete goal.

I feel very bad that some of the public think we aren't doing the will of the people. The school board and task force put in many hours of research as what could make our school one of the best in out state Minnesota, and I believe we are going in the right direction.

2. What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

The first major issue is to move our school forwards amd keep up with what other districts have to offer. Schools are like businesses. They have to continually improve and offer more to remain competitive and attract students.

The second major issue should be to keep trying for the agricultural school if we can get enough grants to pay for it. The agricultural school wouldn't only be for farming, but for many other programs. It would give us a program none of our surrounding districts have. We all need to move on to progress, or we will all lose in the future.

3. Why should you be elected?

The bottom line in my mind is what is best for our students because they are our future, but we must also keep our taxpayers in mind. Some years back the Howard Lake-Waverly and Winsted districts had debts, and we were able to get them paid, and still keep a good school system. I will work hard not to overburden our taxpayers. Thank you.

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