Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

LFR’s ‘early years’ were spent mostly offering opinions on international events. That abruptly changed when John Murtha accused the Haditha Marines of murdering Iraqi civilians in cold blood. That weekend, I spoke with Leo Pusateri about the lies that Murtha was told. Later that weekend, Leo started the Murtha Must Go blog on Blogger. (Actually, the first couple of years of LFR were on Blogger, not on this website.)

Thanks to some committed retired Marines and that website, the Haditha Marines weren’t railroaded by John Murtha. Murtha was the quintessential corrupt politician. I kidded at one time that they should rename his office after he died to the ‘Office of Corporate Welfare’. After he died, Nancy Pelosi didn’t take my advice. The good news is that the Haditha Marines either had their charges dropped or they were acquitted.

The next thing LFR dealt with extensively was the anti-war movement, which started with John Murtha and Amy Klobuchar, who I nicknamed St. Amy of Hennepin County. When she ran for the Senate, St. Amy of Hennepin County said “America needs a change of course in Iraq,” Klobuchar said. The measure “continued an open-ended commitment with no clear transition to Iraqi authority,” she said. “My priority is to transition to Iraq authority by beginning to bring our troops home in a responsible way.” I noted at the time that St. Amy didn’t express an interest in winning the war. Her interest was in bringing “our troops home in a responsible way.” It isn’t surprising that St. Amy has been an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama’s lose-at-all-costs strategy in Iraq.

We’re still paying the price for the 2006 and 2008 elections.

At one point, LFR was hacked, which kept the website down for almost a month. Thankfully, I wasn’t silence thanks to Click on this link to subscribe to my articles. They’re entirely different than the things I publish on LFR.

One of the things that I’m most proud of is the role I played in defeating the School Board bonding referendum here in St. Cloud. The ISD 742 School Board tried passing the $167,000,000 referendum without giving people the opportunity to give input into the project. When the ballots were tallied, 7,393 people voted to approve the bonding while 8,460 people voted to reject the School Board’s proposal.

For a little perspective, most School Board elections and special elections in the St. Cloud area have a turnout rate of 18%. This vote produced a 31% turnout rate. After the measure was defeated, I got an email from a frequent reader of LFR which said in part “They had a turnout strategy and tons of money. You had common sense and the ability to motivate 8400 people to vote. (31% turnout in an odd-year election? with reduced polling places? Just amazing.)”

While it’s nice getting credit for producing those results, the reality is that the ISD 742 School Board was its own worst enemy. LFR was just the amplifier that highlighted their corruption. They tried keeping the vote below the citizens’ radar. They tried making voting as inconvenient as possible. When pressed why people couldn’t see the blueprints for the future Tech High School, the leader of the Vote Yes campaign explained “What a lot of them don’t recognize is, with the cost of designing a building, 80 percent of it isn’t going to be designed until after the referendum. And the plans we’ve got now are still tentative.”

Imagine that. The School Board wanted the citizens, since nicknamed “The Uppity Peasants Brigade”, to give the school board a blank $167,000,000, $115,000,000 of which is for a building that wouldn’t be designed until after the bonds had been approved.

Daniel Stavrum’s LTE in the St. Cloud Times efficiently rebuts Sarah Starling’s diatribe on who voted against the St. Cloud Tech bonding referendum. One of Ms. Starling’s first accusations was that “about 8,000 of you went into our schools, many of you looked our children in the eyes, and told them they did not deserve a higher quality of education because you don’t want your property taxes to increase.” That’s shredded by one of Mr. Stavrum’s first points.

It’s the point Mr. Stavrum made when he said “Let’s be clear. I favored the school levy approval. But I voted no for several reasons. First, we were not given enough detailed information on the new school nor what improvements Apollo needed, nor the plans for old Tech.”

Later, Ms. Starling said “We have failed our children and our entire area’s future. People refuse to live in the St. Cloud area because our schools are horrendous – yet we refuse to improve them. To the people who voted no, why don’t you care about our community?” I wonder how she’d respond to Mr. Stavrum’s saying “Finally, I was amazed by the reduction of polling places from 65 to 13. The Times Editorial Board called this a “mistake.” No, it was a deliberate strategy to disenfranchise rural and elderly voters who might tend to vote no. For example, I live in a rural township, my normal polling place about 1 mile away. The levy plan, however, had me and my neighbors driving nearly 14 miles to vote. Area voters aren’t stupid. School district officials shouldn’t treat them like they are.”

I wrote this post on Sept. 13. I wrote then that “For instance, the school district combined the 2 projects (refurbishing Apollo, building a new Tech HS). The way it’s worded, you can’t vote down the Tech proposal and vote for the Apollo refurbishing. That’s a sly way of forcing people who want to refurbish Apollo to vote for the Tech project, too. That’s a sly way of forcing people who want to build a new Tech HS into voting for the Apollo refurbishing.

It’s pretty obvious why it’s set up this way. That isn’t the same as saying the school district should get away with forcing taxpayers to vote for both projects if they only support one of the projects. This is a scam propagated by the school board. This isn’t a mistake. It’s a feature! It’s intentional.”

I’d like to personally thank all of the Daniel Stavrums of the world for voting against the $167,000,000 bonding referendum. It’s the only way we’ll get the ISD 742 School Board to interact with St. Cloud taxpayers.

Since Sarah Starling has taken it upon herself to speak for ISD742 students in this LTE, I, as one of the leaders of the Uppity Peasant Brigade, will reply. First, Ms. Starling melodramatically said “about 8,000 of you went into our schools, many of you looked our children in the eyes, and told them they did not deserve a higher quality of education because you don’t want your property taxes to increase.”

My first question of Ms. Starling is simple but it’s one she won’t answer. How does she know that 8,460 of us uppity peasants went into ‘their schools’ and told their children that “they didn’t deserve a higher quality of education” because we didn’t want our property taxes increased? How does she know that we didn’t vote no for other, more practical, reasons? As far as I know, Ms. Starling hasn’t asked a legitimate portion of the people who voted no to understand why we voted the way we did.

It’s apparent that she doesn’t read LFR. It’s apparent that she didn’t notice that I was quoted by Kevin Allenspach in this St. Cloud Times article, either. That’s where I said “We didn’t have the opportunity of asking whether there is a cheaper way of doing these things. What’s the enrollment model? Are we over-building or under-building?” said Gross, who is 60 years old and has lived in the same St. Cloud house since 1962. “There were no town hall meetings asking for input from the citizenry. That’s the opposite of representative democracy. But I’m not an expert. The district is having forums in these last few weeks, but that should’ve been done before they had a proposal together. At this point, the horse is out of the barn.”

After that first accusation against the Uppity Peasant Brigade, Ms. Starling makes these ill-informed and hyper-melodramatic accusations:

You voted against providing more secure entrances and updated technology. We have failed our children and our entire area’s future. People refuse to live in the St. Cloud area because our schools are horrendous – yet we refuse to improve them. To the people who voted no, why don’t you care about our community?

First, it’s disappointing that Ms. Starling didn’t know that technology is part of the operating levy.

Next, it’s disheartening that Ms. Starling didn’t affix blame on the School Board, led by Chairman Dennis Whipple, for attempting to keep this a low profile event. When the St. Cloud Times publishes an Our View editorial in mid-September asking where the school bonding campaign is, that’s an indicator that the School Board wanted the bonding levy to pass but didn’t think it could pass if the Uppity Peasants Brigade started asking the right questions. The simple truth is that 15,853 citizens voted, with 8,460 citizens voting no. The simple truth is that approximately 5,000-6,000 voters show up for most school board votes or special elections.

According to Chairman Whipple, citizens had surpassed that average by 11:00 am on election day. By objective-minded people’s opinions, turnout was fantastic for a single-issue referendum. Ms. Starling apparently doesn’t think that but that’s the truth.

Finally, it’s time that Ms. Starling understood that lots of citizens voted against the referendum because the School Board didn’t even have the decency of telling the taxpayers what the new Tech High School would look like. They couldn’t because, according to Barclay Carriar, 80% of the building wouldn’t be designed until after the referendum vote. Asking people to vote for a $167,000,000 blank check without telling them what that money would pay for is indecent.

This St. Cloud Times Our View editorial cites some things that’ve gotten questioned on this blog. When the Times says that the “price of a new Tech was $113.8 million, and Apollo’s improvements tallied $46.5 million”, that isn’t accurate. If the Times wanted to say that the ISD742 School Board said that these figures are accurate, that’s one thing.

I cited Barclay Carriar in this post because he said “What a lot of them don’t recognize is, with the cost of designing a building, 80 percent of it isn’t going to be designed until after the referendum. And the plans we’ve got now are still tentative.” Hypothetically speaking, that means they couldn’t have more than a rough estimate of the school’s cost.

If the School Board doesn’t let interested taxpayers see the blueprint of the new Tech, they’ll face an uphill fight. That’s because people now know that a) the combined enrollment of Tech and Apollo is roughly 2,700 students and b) the projected capacity of the new Tech and the renovated Apollo will be 3,600 students.

This morning’s editorial asks the question “So how do district leaders, elected and professional, craft another referendum that addresses so many potential points of disagreement?” The answer is simple. They shouldn’t try. On a project this big, they should immediately commit to listening sessions before attempting to draft another question. Specifically, the listening session should include a healthy percentage of people who voted no this past Tuesday.

If the School Board changes a few things, then presents essentially the same plan with a smaller price tag, it’s possible they might prevail but it’d be hardly worth it. It wouldn’t be worth it because they wouldn’t have won over a spirited bunch of people who opposed the referendum for multiple substantive reasons.

It’s especially worthwhile to note that 15,853 people took time to vote on this referendum. According to Dennis Whipple, the chairman of the ISD742 Board, most referenda have a turnout rate of about 18%. In this instance, the turnout rate was 31%. They turned out because they were upset. They felt like they were taken for granted. They thought that they were talked down to.

If Chairman Whipple and the Board treats the taxpayers like ATMs again, they’ll face an uphill fight on getting a new referendum passed.

Most importantly, they will have wasted the opportunity to build a little trust with voters.

This paragraph from Kevin Allenspach’s article show how out of tough the school board was:

“We were cautiously optimistic for this vote because we had the support of so many community groups,” said Harner, co-chair of NFSE. “It turned out the no group wasn’t very big but they were powerful. Now we’ve got to go back quickly and get feedback. We’re going to have to have more listening sessions and see if we can get the input we need on what to change about our message.”

Here’s a hint to Ms. Harner. It wasn’t the message that caused the referendum to fail. It was the fact that people weren’t included in the planning process from the start. It’s that we didn’t have the opportunity to vote separately on the issues. It’s that you tried sneaking this referendum past us.

In short, you pretty much did everything wrong.

After last night’s bonding referendum victory for taxpayers, a loyal reader of LFR sent an email to Jerry von Korff. Here’s von Korff’s response:

What I heard is that you are so angry at Somali immigration that you are going to screw the white kids along with them.
If that is not the correct message to receive out of all of this, then what is your message.

Here’s what was sent to von Korff:

When we stand UNITED we ARE heard.
We were respectful.
We spoke FACT.
We were transparent.
We asked to be heard and were ignored, brushed off, and arrogantly pushed aside and insulted.
We fought the media, we fought the self-righteous political “leaders” with agendas that ARE not sustainable.

Where did von Korff purchase his dog whistle? Talk about hearing what a person didn’t say. That’s stunning. That’s considered an anti-Somali email? WOW. I think it’s time that Mr. von Korff retires.

Last night, the taxpayers sent an unmistakable message: they didn’t appreciate the ISD School Board trying to shove a bad plan down their throats. Let’s not kid ourselves, though. Taxpayers won this fight but the battle still continues. Anyone thinking that this corrupt School Board will stop trying to push this plan through next year is kidding themselves.

Before last night’s vote totals started rolling in, the Board members getting interviewed were reminiscing about the great civic participation that they’d seen, how they were proud of how citizens of past generations had built schools that they’d benefited from and how confident they were. I got the impression from listening to those interviews that they were totally blindsided when the first polling stations were reported. Those results weren’t that close. Some polling stations’ results reported blowouts. That’s the honest way of putting it. It’s important that we not sugarcoat things.

I voted at Talahi Middle School. The vote there was 695 yes votes, 861 no votes. Here’s some more results:

  • Tech High School 473 yes, 635 NO
  • Colts Academy 695 yes, 784 NO
  • Talahi 695 yes, 861 NO
  • Lincoln 132 yes, 171 NO
  • Apollo 621 yes, 777 NO
  • Discovery totals: 468 yes, 515 NO

I don’t doubt that the School Board will listen to that rejection. Whether they draw the right conclusions is questionable. I’m betting they don’t.

First, they didn’t plan right. The plan they presented to the public called for a capacity of 1,800 students at Tech, 1,800 students at Apollo. The combined student enrollment at those school this year is approximately 2,700. Why anyone would think that St. Cloud high school student enrollment would increase by 33% over the next 25 years is incomprehensible. That’s a fantasy.

The ISD742 School Board acted like a political machine. It’s time to stop that machine ASAP. That’ll require citizens from outside the ‘Education Community’ to run for the school board. That will require them to campaign hard. That’ll require them to respect the people they represent.

If that doesn’t happen, then yesterday’s victory will have just delayed the inevitable.

Yesterday, the ISD School Board put its best happy face on during their interviews. Whether they believed that they were going to win or whether they knew a defeat was in the cards, the indisputable truth from Tuesday night was that taxpayers rejected the School Board’s proposal by a pretty significant margin.

Tuesday afternoon, School Board Chairman Dennis Whipple told KNSI’s Dan Ochsner that most referenda and special elections attract approximately 4,000-6,000 voters in St. Cloud. When all the ballots were counted, ISD742 residents cast 15,853 votes; 7,393 (46.6%) were yes votes while 8,460 (53.4%) were no votes.

It’s one thing to lose a tight race. It’s another to lose by 1,000+ votes.

Tuesday afternoon, I told Dan Ochsner that we would look at the Times’ Our View Editorial as the turning point if this bonding referendum lost. At the time, I wrote in this post that it’s “foolish to think that this group of “experienced leaders” is running an under-the-radar campaign because this is a terrific deal for St. Cloud. If this deal was that important and that well thought out, these “experienced leaders” would’ve canvassed St. Cloud at least 3-4 times.”

The fact that only 3 mailers were sent out and that few Vote Yes signs were put up around town indicates that the School Board didn’t put much effort into this campaign. In hindsight, I never saw anyone from EdMinn dropping lit or knocking on doors.

Whipple said that the School Board would “return to” listening to the people. Hint for Chairman Whipple: it’s time for the School Board to start listening rather than talking amongst the education community, then telling the taxpayers what their bill will be for the School Board’s plans.

This afternoon, Dennis Whipple, the chairman of the Independent School District (ISD) 742 said “We are having record, historic turnout. All of our polling places — it’s really exciting to see the community engaged around this vote.” Later, Chairman Whipple said “Historically, we were told to expect for a special election or a referendum to expect between 4,000 and 6,000 votes to be cast. As we understand it, that happened before 11:00 am this morning.

This afternoon, I followed Chairman Whipple on Dan Ochsner’s Ox in the Afternoon show. (Click on this link to listen to those interviews.) One thing I highlighted is that I didn’t see EdMinn people pounding the pavement this cycle. I didn’t see many yard signs out, from either side really, either. This was a low-profile campaign on a high-profile issue.

Though there wasn’t much advertising run on the issue, interest in this issue ran high. When you break the turnout record before noon, that’s exceptionally high turnout.

Check back after 8:00 pm for updates and election results.

20:15 — Chairman Whipple was just on a local radio station from ISD 742 headquarters. He was asked what the next step would be if the bond was approved or rejected. Whipple said that it’s the same either way, adding that if it’s rejected that “we’d go back to listening to the concerns of the district.”

20:45 — The absentee ballots are being counted as this is being written. We might have those results at the top of the 9:00 o’clock hour.

21:00 — St. John’s University vote is in: Yes 74. No 45

21:45 — Ballots have arrived from Colts Academy, Tech High School, Talahi Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School. They’re counting the absentee ballots and the ballots from Apollo High School. Thus far, the SJU ballots are the only ones counted and announced.

22:15 —

  • Tech High School 473 yes, 635 NO
  • Colts Academy 695 yes, 784 NO
  • Talahi 695 yes, 861 NO
  • Lincoln 132 yes, 171 NO
  • Apollo 621 yes, 777 NO
  • Discovery totals: 468 yes, 515 NO

With 7 of 13 precincts in, 3,148 yes ballots, 3,788 NO ballots. Oak Hill ballots just arrived. Summary thus far: Yes: 45.4%, NO 54.6%

22:30 — Oak Hill totals: 1,379 YES, 1,146 no
With 8 of 13 precincts reporting, 4,527 yes (47.8%), 4.934 no (52.2%)

23:00 — St. Augusta totals: 435 yes, 835 NO. Westwood ballots just arrived. (H/T Kevin Allenspach) With 9 of 13 precincts reporting: 4,962 yes votes (46.2%), 5,769 NO votes (53.8%) total votes cast: 10,731

23:10 — Westwood results: 588 yes, 560 no. Unofficial totals with 10 of 13 precincts reporting: 5,550 yes (46.7%), 6,329 NO (53.3%). (H/T Kevin Allenspach) Total votes cast: 11,879

11:30 — SCSU results: 342 yes, 256 no. Absentee results: 435 yes, 487 no. Total votes: 777 yes votes, 742 no votes. Total votes cast: 13,399 With 11 of 13 polling stations reporting, 6,327 yes votes (47.2%), 7,072 no votes (52.8%)

Technically, there’s still 2 polling stations still left to report but the referendum will fail by a pretty substantial margin. School Board Chairman Whipple and Superintendent Jett haven’t officially conceded defeat but they’ve made gloomy-sounding statements before leaving their ‘Victory Party’ headquarters.

Consider that the last update of this post.

Here in St. Cloud, the ISD742 School Board is attempting to lift money from taxpayers’ wallets by writing a bonding proposal so that the taxpayers either accept a massive tax increase or they reject school renovations. I thought that the ISD742 School Board was corrupt. (I still do, actually.) That was until I heard about the outright theft and vandalism campaign being conducted by the Vote Yes people in the north metro. Mitch Berg’s post highlights the DFL’s depravity, including this link to the Washington County Watchdog’s Facebook page. You’ll want to check out the screen grab of a Vote Yes activist (thief?)admitting (actually, bragging is more accurate) that she stole Vote No lawn signs. Mitch further quoted that the “Watchdog confirmed that one of the women is affiliated with/employed by the “Vote Yes” campaign.” Actually, that person was uninhibited enough to say that she “might make a day” of stealing the Vote No signs.

What’s particularly disturbing is Nicole _____’s total disinterest in obeying the law. At one point, she said “Logan and I may go to jail today but at least we have coffee!” Check this screen grab out:

The woman who admitted that she’s stolen Vote No lawn signs isn’t a Republican or an independent. She’s a hardline progressive who thinks whatever she does is justified because it’s done to achieve her goal of raising people’s taxes to pay for a huge bonding referendum.

Theft is a crime. Because she’s already admitted to committing the crime on Facebook, the police should arrest her ASAP. She should then be prosecuted at the earliest possible time without violating any of this activist’s constitutional rights. Then she should be given the maximum sentence/fine allowed by law. It shouldn’t matter if she’s never been arrested before. It shouldn’t matter if she’s been nominated for any civic award.

Clearly, this woman cheerfully violated other people’s constitutional rights (the First Amendment, specifically) without hesitation. She did it to prevent people with whom she disagrees from exercising the same rights the Vote Yes campaign is using.

Further, the legislature should write a law that makes the theft or vandalism of lawn signs a felony. This punishment should be 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Keeping this a misdemeanor with a slap-on-the-wrist fine keeps in place the plan that gives the Nicoles and Logans an incentive to continue vandalizing campaigns. It has to stop ASAP.