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Frazee school board's first year accomplishments

On January 10, 2011, three new school board members and one incumbent board member took the oath of office and were seated on the Frazee School Board. The next item of business was re-organizing for officers and committee assignments. Thus a new board was in charge of the school district. So what have the accomplishments been in the period of almost one year? Let's examine!

Soon after getting started, we heard rumors of the possibility of buying out the contract of the then-superintendent. To many, including me, this seemed like a step in the right direction. This in time proved to be not rumor but actual fact and the superintendent was gone. A new legal firm was hired to represent the school district and eventually a new accounting firm became a part of the re-organization. So far, so good!

It wasn't too far into the year when Heath Peterson read what I considered a scathing rebuke of the board and I believe asking for some resignations. I responded to Heath Peterson's remarks the following week with a letter to the editor. I was equally scathing in remarks to Mr. Peterson. Now with nearly a year gone by, I am beginning to wonder if Heath Peterson wasn't far more accurate in his assessment of the school board than I was in my assessment of the same board. After working under an outside custodial contract for more that a year, there seems to be a lot of questions as just how good our custodial services are. Now could someone please explain to me how you can get rid of local people who live here in the District, pay taxes in the District, and spend money in the District, and replace them with an outside company, which is out to make a profit and still save money for the district? Don't tell me about it. Just show me the figures in the ledger!

We have another outside contract in place that is also supposed to save us a large amount of money and even make a nice profit for the school. This contract is with a company called Chartwells, and this company is based out of a city near London, England. This company has taken over your school lunch program because it has been inferred that the food service staff wasn't able to do a satisfactory job. I have beside me a "fact" sheet of sorts, given out by Dana Laine to board members at last June's board meeting which is extolling the fact that Chartwells will guarantee our school a profit of $39,000 just this year. If we are going to make a profit, aren't the students being charged way too much for their lunches? I was always under the impression that school lunch programs were a "break even" program, and that lunch fees were to cover costs. Another item that Laine extolled was that Chartwells would buy $10,000 worth of equipment for our school, "guaranteed." If you look at the signed contract that I also have laying beside me, it clearly states that any equipment purchased for the school lunch program will be depreciated at the maximum allowable rate until the equipment is paid for. How is that "free?" Everyone should get a copy of the fact sheet and also the actual contract and read it. Read the fact sheet first and then try to find the same stated facts in the contract. This contract is coming up for renewal very shortly so you may want to talk to some of the board members about it. Before the actual vote last June, I was under the impression that most of the board members would be voting against getting an outside company for a food service program. However when the vote came, only Jim Nelson voted "No." When I asked Ken Fett why he voted for the contract, his reply was that if he could save the school $39,000 after just buying out Stender for $377,000 then he felt he had to do it. Like I said before, show me that $39,000 in the  contract. The contract does show where we paid Chartwells an up-front fee of $37,500 when the contract went into effect. If you can't find the fact sheet or the contract and you want to read it, contact me.

These are just a few of the things that I feel the school board isn't doing much to correct. They have done nothing to have open discussion with the public at meetings and for the most part the public is non-existent at meetings. I guess the attitude is, "why bother, they don't want to talk to us anyway." There has been nothing done to improve the sound system. It is almost as if the board members don't want the public to hear what they are talking about. Another thing that bothers me is that to the best of my knowledge, there is no effort by the board as a whole, to encourage citizens to come to meetings. No notices in the media, no mail-outs, no appearances on any radio station, nothing!

In conclusion I would like to say this: Keep your eyes and ears open because there is much coming up in the next two or three months which will have a direct effect on you. This includes the referendum being brought back for a vote in November.

-- Oscar Birkeland, Frazee