Herald and Journal, March 4, 2002

Seven board members, several different ideas

HLWW kicks around long-term facility ideas

By Lynda Jensen

Strong discussion ensued during a special board meeting about the long-term facilities Thursday at the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district.

Several ideas were suggested with Chairman Jim Raymond moderating the discussion.

The board decided to solicit public input, and to meet with an official from the Department of Children, Families and Learning, tentatively set for Monday, March 11.

"Maybe someone in the community has a good idea," Board Member Charlie Borrell said.

"We need help," Raymond said.

Some board members appeared battle-worn, reluctant to retrace old ground, since the issue has dragged on for five years.

"We're back to square one," said Board Member Ken Zimmermann.

Zimmermann indicated that he didn't understand how the public decided against the financial sense of paying half as much for a school "in the country," he said, referring to the proposed site of the new school near Winsted.

Board members Charles Weber and John Lideen proposed waiting until the new superintendent was hired to actively discuss the space issue.

However, Borrell urged the board to continue its discussion on the site issue, since it has been going on for so long.

"Now is the time to get going on it," Borrell said.

"We want people to come in and work with us," Zimmermann said. "We want more ideas . . . not arguments."

"We have an immediate need for space in our schools," Lideen noted. "We have kids doing work in closets," he said.

"The (existing) board was well aware of the space issue for many years," Board Member Jim Fowler said. "We had a plan that didn't work."

Supt. Riley Hoheisel indicated there was a lot of homework regarding the site issue.

However, a lot of this "homework" ­ in the form of demographic studies, and the collection of information about area schools' curriculum, etc., had been gathered already during the past five years and can still be used now, Hoheisel said.

"I'm not willing to sit on another task force," Fowler said.

Public input

Lideen indicated that the public would back the board if it knows what is going on.

"If we sell it to our communities ­ what we think is right ­ if we give them a reason to believe that what we're doing is the right thing," then the public would support the board, he said.

"If we give the nitty gritty things ­ for example, why the size of the band room had to be cut ­ that would make a difference," Borrell said.

Raymond indicated that the board already tried this, and it didn't work. "People don't want to believe," he said. Aside from this, the public should be attending board meetings, he said.

"If you expect people to come to every one of our meetings, it isn't going to happen. Everybody else has a life," Lideen said.

"We have to go out of our way to show the people what we're looking for," Lideen said.

"How far are you going to go?" Raymond asked.

Borrell emphatically agreed with Lideen, stressing the importance of actively pursuing public input.

Another committee ­ which would disappear and come up with final answers without the entire board's input ­ was not the answer, Borrell said.

"I think we have a task force right here," he said, indicating the seven board members. "It's our job to get this done."

Officially, the board reviewed its district goals for the coming year.

It unanimously dropped the two goals related to the Lester Prairie

New high school idea

Although Borrell and Lideen voted to remove the new high school from the district's list of goals, the other board members ­ Fowler, Lorentz, Weber, Raymond, and Zimmermann ­ voted against dropping the idea altogether.

"I think the new high school is done for," Zimmermann said regretfully. "All that it's done is split our communities so much . . . that it would take 100 years to come back together."

"The new high school was a good idea. It would have been great for this community, but it's just not feasible at this moment," Zimmermann said.

"I'm OK with it . . . 10 or 15 years from now," Borrell said.

Hoheisel noted that the previous new high school idea included the conversion of the existing high school into a K-8 school, he said.

Raymond suggested building a middle school where the Fiecke property is, near Winsted.

"I disagree with that," Borrell said. However, he was open to the idea of a middle school, he said.

"I think what we need is a K-12 school," Lorentz said.

"If you would build a K-12 school where would you put it?" Zimmermann asked.

"That's the problem," Lorentz answered.

Adding or remodeling

Earlier in the discussion, Zimmermann suggested the idea of adding to the Winsted and Waverly buildings, as well as remodeling the existing high school in Howard Lake.

Borrell echoed this sentiment. Other members cautioned that this idea should be researched before it was promoted to the public.

Board Member Gene Lorentz pointed out that at one point in time, the Department of Children, Families and Learning told the board that the existing high school could not be expanded, because it was landlocked.

However, Hoheisel said this may be up in the air.

"We're not sure what's left of the CFL," as the result of budget cuts, Hoheisel said.

The CFL also advised the board not to operate more than three schools at a time, Raymond said.

Fowler advised against what he described as a Band-Aid approach, such as adding or remodeling. Lideen agreed.

Fowler also pointed out that suggesting ideas during the meeting was putting the cart before the horse, since the remodeling and expanding ideas were not demonstrated to be financially sound or legally viable yet.

Raymond said that the former board decided a new high school would attract students, not remodeling.

"Would adding two rooms to Waverly impress people?" Raymond asked Borrell.

Weber told Borrell he was missing the boat.

"We've been talking buildings, buildings, buildings," he said.

What the board needs to do is add subjects, Weber said. This is what attracts students. "We're at a bare bones minimum right now."

This is true at a high school level, Curriculum Director Dean Wessman said.

However High School Principal Mike Day said that the curriculum was strong, and currently offers a core of solid basic education.

Lideen asked how the board could add more subjects for curriculum.

Day indicated that about 75 percent of teachers are working at overload capacity right now. To alleviate this ­ and then add subjects such as third-year foreign languages ­ would take more teachers, he said.

Still, Day stressed that HLWW is in good shape.

"I believe we're competitive now," Day said. Otherwise, he wouldn't have his children attend HLWW, he said.

At the end of the meeting, the board conducted public input with fewer than seven people in attendance.

One resident, Bruce Jagodzinski of Howard Lake, reminded the board of its duty to the public.

"You need a majority of the people, not the majority of the board," Jagodzinski surmised. He suggested they questioned the voters at the last election about the issue.

Former board member Randy Heuer also voiced his opinion, cautioning the board not proceed as a committee of the whole (including all of the members on the decision making). He criticized Borrell for closing the board process off to the public.

Heuer also said the board should remember the top priority, which would be the quality of education.

Heuer suggested making two things a basis for the board's decision making:

1. How to keep kids in the district.

2. How to make sure students get the best possible education.

Then Heuer wished them luck.

Search continues

About 29 resumes have been received for the superintendent position, secretary Marilyn Greeley noted.

The board set a committee meeting for today (Monday) to discuss the questions to be asked of superintendent applicants.

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