Sunday, April 10, 2011

More This Week in Opt Outs

The Press and Dakotan covers the impacts so far:  22 teachers and 39 coaching and activities positions.  Those totals do not include retirees whose positions won't be filled or resignations whose positions will also remain unfilled.  The P&D also reports “The unfortunate aspect of this is this is just the first round of cuts,” [YSD Superintendent Joe] Gertsema said. “By law we had to notify the teachers by April 15, we are still looking at additional cuts to the non-certified staff as well as programs in the district.”

The P&D also covers some YMS students' response to the dismissal of their teachers and the cutting of their activities.

On Tuesday, the P&D reported that those who petitioned to have the opt out come to a vote believe that the public has not been given enough information.  Charlii Gilson is quoted as saying
“So many of the people coming in to my office to sign the petition are saying they just feel as though the school district has not given them enough information,” she said. “They want to know what cuts have been made, what the district has done to save money, why the opt-out needs to be for as much at it is. The are saying that there has not been enough public discussion on the issues, and by sending the opt-out to a vote, it gives them the opportunity to get that information.
On Wednesday, a P&D editorial illustrated that six public board meetings since May 2010 had discussed the opt out.  Further,
Shortly after the opt-out was announced last month, the Press & Dakotan did a rather extensive breakdown in its March 18 edition detailing what the opt-out would mean to residential, commercial and agricultural properties. (It can be found online at

(Along the way, we’ve also explored what the state budget cuts would mean to the school district and, consequently, to the students who are being educated there, not to mention the personnel who work for the district.)
The editorial concludes that "ultimately, it may be up to the residents of this school district to decide just how much a quality education is worth, and whether it’s worth maintaining."

The other reason cited for bring the opt out to a vote was that a matter this momentous needed to be approved by a public vote.
". . . Bud Merkwan and Leroy Bring also turned in signatures that they had collected by late Monday afternoon.

“This was never about whether the opt-out was good or bad, it was about giving the people their voice,” Bring said. “I think it is only right to vote. The right thing is to let the people have a voice. ... The petition isn’t about voting one way or another, it is about having a say. If we can get a vote, a lot of light will shine in on what is going on and that is a good thing. If they have a great story to tell, they have nothing to fear. But there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”
The P&D, The Yankton County Observer, Superintendent Gertsema, and those who turned in petitions all fail mention previous incidents when 1100 local citizens have petitioned to bring to a vote a policy that they support.  I hope that someone will provide this information at Monday's YSD School Board meeting.

YSD Superintendent Gertsema,  however, did respond to the challenge to tell a good story.  Gertsema claims, “We have a very good story to tell and we are going to make sure that the public hears it and understands it. We are hopeful that after they see all the facts, that by election time, the voters will agree with the school board.”

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