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Jim Nelson letter 'incorrect, incomplete'

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I am once again writing in response to a letter submitted by Jim Nelson, who is a retired teacher and Frazee-Vergas School Board candidate. The information in Mr. Nelson's Letter to the Editor, printed in the Sept. 2, 2010 edition of the Frazee Forum and the Sept. 3 edition of the Detroit Lakes Newspapers, is incorrect and incomplete, and a correction will be submitted.

Mr. Nelson has run numerous letters, which reference either the details of my various tentative contracts, or my contract in combination with that of other individuals. At the bottom of his letter which ran in the Frazee Forum on July 22, there was an Editor's note which included the following: "This will be Mr. Nelson's last rebuttal on this topic."

Perhaps that comment was only in reference to that particular tentative contract. Since that is apparently the case, I have some comments.

1. At the Aug. 9 School Board meeting, Superintendent Deron Stender reported that the District's practice is to hire "the best candidate, the best person, regardless of who they are or where they're from." In response to that, in his most recent letter to local papers Mr. Nelson implies that I am not qualified for my position as Community Education director, by writing that Mr. Stender's comment was "evidently . . . to clarify to the public who questioned why members of Stender's, Nudell's, Thorp's, Cook's and Erickson's families have been hired and paid on independent contracts." Mr. Nelson, I'm sure you do not intend to single out particular individuals or be slanted against them because they are not members of a bargaining unit. I would appreciate it if you would recognize my licensure, which was the reason for my contract increase between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 contract periods.

2. In a Thursday, July 29 Frazee Forum "Meet the Candidates" response regarding academic achievement, Mr. Nelson wrote about hiring local individuals: "Local staff candidates should not be excluded from consideration. It seems that anyone local is unacceptable to our administration. I feel being a local person has been the 'kiss of death.'" Many local individuals have been hired, and I, too, am a native of Frazee, Mr. Nelson. I do not expect preferential treatment because of that, but I do expect you to set aside your personal conflicts and open your mind to working with me if you are elected.

3. Also in regard to conflicts, in his Sept. 2 "Meet the Candidates" response Mr. Nelson stated, "I react strongly when conflict or criticism is caused by dishonesty. I feel the conflict and criticism must be stated honestly and then it can be worked on for resolution." I hope you are sincere about resolving issues, Mr. Nelson. In the future, please focus on presenting the factual information, which you said was essential to the process.

4. I have been told by our local newspaper owners that they have no responsibility in ensuring that letter to the editor information is factual, since letters are opinions expressed by an individual. They added that corrections or letters to the editor can be submitted. This is even the case with Mr. Nelson's most recent letter, when details such as "30 additional days paid off" for several employees do not correspond with either the contracts or what the Frazee Forum recently covered as being in the contracts.

5. Mr. Nelson, I'm sure you're aware that every employee of the school signs a contract. You signed a contract each period when you were a teacher and coach, and following your placement on administrative leave last fall, on Jan. 15 you signed a resignation agreement. Under the terms of that agreement, which is public information, your total package includes $35,282 for the eight months of the 2009-10 school year in which you did not work, a severance payment of $26,316, a payment of $10,800 into your Health Retirement Account (HRA), another payment of $1,940.51 contributed to an HRA, and a payment of $425 which equals $85 per day for your five accumulated personal leave days. That would be a total of $74,763.51.

I do agree with Mr. Nelson that openness and transparency are needed. I have suggested that individual contracts be posted on-line on the school's website so that District residents and others can easily access the information.

I appreciate this District's support of its students, as well as the opportunity to serve its residents and neighbors. -- Lori Fischer Thorp, Frazee-Vergas community education director

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