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Put the needs of students first when voting for Frazee school board

For a long time I have not spoken about what is happening in the Frazee-Vergas School Board election. Because I care about our students, school and taxpayers, I feel I must speak out.

I am writing because of concerns I have about some of the candidates and current school board members in the Frazee-Vergas School District.

It involves the following persons: Candidates Jim Nelson and Kenny Fett and school board members Richard Ziegler and Steve Jepson. It has come to my attention that before the Oct. 11 school board meeting, the above mentioned persons met at Jim Nelson's house. My question is for what purpose did they conduct this meeting?

My specific concern is this: what are they planning and why? Are they planning strategy for the school board and the school district?

Mr. Nelson has publicly stated his opposition to how the school district is being run. He has made statements as to the misuse of funds.

Yet he resigned and demanded a large buyout in the 2009-2010 school year amounting to nearly $75,000 in addition to the 2 ½ months he was already paid. Why did Mr. Nelson leave in the middle of the year anyway?

What amazes me even more is the fact Matt Bauer has not come out in opposition regarding the payment to Mr. Nelson. Mr. Bauer made a big display of criticizing a payment of several hundred dollars to me for work I did during the negotiations with the teachers union at Frazee.

Yet when Mr. Nelson receives a payment of more than $75,000 dollars for less than 3 months work, Mr. Bauer said nothing. When I personally asked Mr. Bauer if he planned on saying something about this payment to Mr. Nelson, he stated that it was "water under the bridge" and that he would leave it alone.

Oscar Birkeland, where are you? On July 8 in the Frazee Forum you raised issues with the superintendent's contract. Yet you supported this large settlement demanded by Mr. Nelson. In my opinion you should have spoken out against a large payout amounting to $199/hour for Jim Nelson's severance payment of almost $75,000. I do notice that Jim and Oscar sit together at the board meetings. Buddies, eh?

For me, the bottom line is this. As a taxpayer, parent, and citizen, I cannot in good conscience vote for any of the above candidates. Mr. Nelson, Mr. Fett, Mr. Ziegler and Mr. Bauer do not get my vote.

The one person whom I do admire and who has served our county in uniform, with the Lions Club, the Community Club, Commander of the American Legion, and as an advocate of disabled veterans, is Mr. Don Thorp.

Yet he did not make it past the primaries. Still, I will write his name in on my ballot, for I trust him and know him to be an honest man of good character. He will put the students of our school district first and foremost in all of his decisions.

If you want the teachers of the Frazee-Vergas School District to be well represented on this school board, by all means, vote for Mr. Nelson, Mr. Fett, Mr. Ziegler and Mr. Bauer.

Then when negotiations with the Frazee teachers' union begin next spring, let's see how much of a pay raise the teachers get. Be prepared to open your wallets and break your piggy banks on that contract.

If you think teachers are underpaid, know this, the starting pay for a full time teacher is more than $23.60 per hour. The top pay for teachers is at least $41 per hour. If a newly hired teacher worked a full year (2,080 hours) he or she would earn an annual salary of over $49,000. If our top-paid teachers worked a full year, their individual salaries would be over $85,000. Are they really underpaid, especially in this poor economy?

I know that most of our taxpayers make much less than that per hour. My question is, how someone making $8, $10 or $15 per hour can afford to give pay raises to someone making as much as the teachers make.

The time to vote for the new school board is coming soon. I hope you exercise your right as an American citizen and go take the time to vote.

When you do, I hope you put the needs of students and a good education first and choose candidates that will represent you well.

It has been an honor to serve the Frazee-Vergas School District as a member of the school board. I want to thank those of you in the community and school district that have supported me over the years.

As I leave the board in two months time and as the upcoming election approaches, I wish the best for students in the Frazee Vergas School District. -- Dwight W. Cook, Frazee