Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Press Release, March 22, 2011 - ISD 2142 SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER TALKS TO PARENT


To view in .pdf click here: ISD 2142 SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER TALKS TO PARENT

Contact: Ami Keene
Phone: H. 218-827-2473
           C. 612-516-9048


rose, SCHOOL by any other name…

Communities not just on the Iron Range but also around our country distinctively rally in support of our schools and thus our children. The notion is so purely American that even the Beach Boys tossed it out there with “Be True To Your School”. Changes to such a core part of our community affect everyone in every part of the community; in this case, several communities spanning about 231 square miles. [estimating sq miles at;108 Babbitt, 45 Embarrass, 36 Wassa, 42 square miles Tower‐Soudan‐Breitung]

As the communities surrounding the Babbitt‐Embarrass and Tower‐Soudan schools struggle with the educational changes already upon them, I’m reminded of the question, ‘Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?’ Of course, we are not talking horticulture but about tradition, community, spirit, identity, ownership and schools. That’s right schools… our basic k‐12 everyone attends.

Due to the drop in enrollment and thus loss of funding, ISD 2142 has sought several times to pass operating referendums that would fund the existing schools and failed. The latest, a ‘bonding referendum’, passed including the approval of restructuring and investing in modern facilities. Of the purposed changes were the closing of several school buildings and the creating of regional school sites. Even with the passing of the referendum it has still been a tremendous challenge.

Change is difficult and the loss of a school in a community is profoundly unquantifiable. Art Dale, a Soudan resident, recently commented on the pain of loosing the Tower‐Soudan High School on the ISD 2142 facebook page. His words of sorrow and hope linger, “The waves of sorrow do not last… we adjust and can begin a new life.” The community of Tower has had longer to address the closing of their school than the Babbitt residents. Perhaps because the residents of the Babbitt‐Embarrass school at first believed they would only be going through a remodel only to realize that five month ago, it too in a sense would close. The building would then be newly renovated into a ‘new’ combined four‐community school and would thus receive a new name, mascot and colors.

While the community WAS asked to help in the initial renaming process many chose to boycott the ballot since the existing names and colors were not an option. As a result in the ‘seven week window’, to submit suggestions only about 250 responses had were collected. The ballets were distributed several ways; handed to parents at school conferences, sent home in backpacks, printed in local newspapers, and as a web survey that was linked to the B–E School home page. Questions did arise as to why the previous schools colors, mascots, and city names where not included as options. Principal of the B‐E School, Gary Friedlieb explained to those who first asked, those were his instructions. Later after the School Boards policy change allowed Cherry to keep its name, he then began telling concerned community members who were adamant in keeping the same names or colors to ‘write them in’.

During a scheduled day of Leadership and Team Building the students of both B‐E and T‐S Schools then whittled the received suggestions down. The day also included the building remodel plans, a scavenger hunt, community building activity and financial aid all at the school in Babbitt. Whether the Babbitt residences were waiting for publicized survey results or an invite to the Leadership and Team Building event is still unanswered. Some believe by boycotting the survey process community members didn’t take the voting seriously. Now at the eleventh hour after two denied requests for a one‐year moratorium at the district school board, perhaps the opposition waited too long to get involved with the process. Strong ‘Unified’ public opposition did not surface until February, after the students had already come together and their decision was approved by a unanimous vote of the school board last January. It was noted on the ISD 2142 facebook page that at the time the board voted there, “was concern that more of the community didn't get involved. There was discussion on how Cherry came up with their name and the new South School came up with their name.” Why did the Babbitt‐Embarrass‐Tower‐Soudan residents not participate when asked? We may never know. A student at the Babbitt City Council meeting asked a similar question of why residents care what the mascot is, he hasn’t seen them at their games. A student also pointed out how the school has lost so much, including sports like hockey. The student then explained he was ready to come together with others as the Northeast Range Nighthawks and work to get it back.

When I met with the B‐E School Board Representative, Gary Rantala, I asked for his perspective and reasoning behind his vote on this issue. He explained “The reason the windshield is so much bigger than the rearview mirror is because we need to concentrate on where we are going verses where we have been.” Rantala was at the day of Leadership and Team Building and from the beginning has worked with all who have participated in the process. As promised at the March 14, School Board meeting, Mr. Rantala handed me a letter of position that could be submitted to the press with this article.

Monday night, March 21, during the Babbitt City Council meeting again residents discussed the existing name change. This time students, parents and residents ALSO spoke ‘for’ the new school name, the Northeast Range – Nighthawks. But more importantly they spoke on a need to stop the inaccurate and negative letters being sent to the papers about their principal.

I myself spoke before the council as a Babbitt resident and parent. I love this city, our region and, yes, the Knights. I however understand that the Babbitt school will no longer just represent the Babbitt community alone and I made my stand with a call for an END to the negativity by stating as a Babbitt parent of two children, I will NOT continue to send my children to school in such a negative community, noting the peaceful neighboring district so close. If I feel that way imagine how a Tower‐Soudan parent might feel?

Regardless of our final school name, mascot and colors. Our four communities need to come together to educate our children. New families look at curriculum offerings, course level work and test scores along with community image.

Our communities need to come together with positive “renewed” vision to support ALL children in this region ‐ at the new school.

Reasons to attend the ‘New’ Northeast Range High School

 New state of the art technology center that will include computer lab, audio & visual broadcasting/ recording equipment, green screens and much more

 Newly remodeled chemistry, physics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) labs

 Interactive white board technology in every classroom

 Certified Nursing Assistant lab

 Performance auditorium with state of the art lighting and sound systems

 Remodeled locker rooms, weight room and swimming pool

 Two art rooms

 Remodeled Home Economics kitchen labs

 Updated biology lab

 Seven industrial arts education labs (Mechanics, Masonry, Woods, Metals, Construction Welding, Lecture Facility)

 College level graphics arts computer lab

 Band instrumental lessons offered

 Spanish I. II & III available

 College classes offered through ALIGraphic Arts, Industrial Maintenance,Drafting/Blueprints, Mechanics, Masonry/Carpentry, Intro to Computers, Forestry, Natural Resource Management, Certified Nursing Assistant

 College classes offered through CEP College Writing I & II. History, Algebra, Trigonometry, Public
Speaking, Novels, Biology. Environmental Science, Psychology, Sociology,Government, Economics

 Be part of a new school that merges the BEST “Babbitt, Embarrass, Soudan and Tower” ‐ Home of
the Nighthawks


Ami Keene

Parent ‐ Dist 2142, St Louis County Schools
Member, Babbitt‐Embarrass PTO
Parent Mentor, PACER Center
Co‐Chair, SEAC (Special Education Advisory Council), Northland Special Education Co‐op
Member, Autism and Disability Support Group for Families
Co‐Chair, NSEA (Northern Special Education Awareness)
Director, Timber Hall Kids Club
Secretary, Embarrass Region Fair Association

The following words were submitted by ISD 2142 School Board Member Gary Rantala, to be run
simultaneously with the article above.

My duties as a school board member require the evaluation of numerous issues as they arise during the course of a school year. As a board member I do not want to "micro‐manage" day‐to‐day issues that are more properly taken care of by hired district personnel. Board members should be concerned with the overall well being of the school district.

When I vote on an issue that comes before the board, I believe that I need to be concerned with the impact that issue is going to have on our students first of all as well as the overall financial impact. Many other factors come into play depending on the issue at hand, such as legal matters, employee union contracts, community perception, as well as social issues just to name a few. However, it is still the student that needs to be our target concern, after all that is why we are in existence as a school and school district. I strive to be informed on all issues and to learn the whys and wherefores of that issue by reading all board material and attending relevant training sessions.

There are issues that are not cut and dry, such as that of the school name for the new Babbitt‐Embarrass,Tower‐Soudan attendance area. I am aware that there is substantial disagreement on what we are doing.

We need to make the transition between Babbitt‐ Embarrass and Tower‐Soudan as welcome as possible.
The melding together of students of both areas to form a new student body at the high school level has brought about many exciting opportunities for our youth. They have made a collective choice for a new school name, mascot and colors within parameters established by our administration. I support their choices. In hindsight, perhaps some things such as input from the communities involved could have been done differently. We need to remember we are there for the students. Without the cooperation between our two attendance areas, I question the long‐term viability of the Babbitt‐Embarrass, Tower‐Soudan facility without making a strong programmatic high school for them. Bluntly, we need Tower ‐Soudan, they need Babbitt‐Embarrass. With a current enrollment of 308 students the potential to maintain viable numbers of programs for our students will decrease without the influx of students from Tower‐Soudan.

We need to find a mechanism that will enhance the possibilities of increasing our student numbers that will enable us to offer the courses we have and to add to those course offerings.

For too long a time, I believe, we as school board members have often bowed to political expediency rather than doing what is good for the students. It is time to change.

Gary Rantala
School Board Member
ISD 2142 ‐ St Louis County Schools

Friday, March 18, 2011

ISD 2142 News: March 17th, 2011

Article summaries from the Cook News Herald:

North School Moving Forward -
ISD 2142 board approves $18,982,879.54 in bids for North School
Rick named Administrator of Excellence
Construction manager John Henry - South Ridge School Right On Schedule
Fair number of Babbitt residents against name & mascot change - Board votes second time to retain Northeast Range Nighthawks at school board meeting.
Orr Council says 'No' to school survey, wants project to proceed

The future of the 2142 School District.!/topic.php?uid=68030627294&topic=28160
March 17, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

ISD 2142 News: March 3, 2011

Articles from the Cook News Herald: March 3, 2011

ISD 2142 News: March 3, 2011

Four finalists named for ISD 2142 superintendent job... one said, 'No'
Students want dean of students, principal for Cook/Orr School
Editorial by Gary Albertson, Editor-Cook News Herald