Joe Schulte, Sartell
I would like to start this letter of support for a yes-vote on the operating levy by asking every community member this question – “If the ISD748 community is not about education, then what are we about?”
You might answer, “We’re a mill town.”
Sadly I’d say, “…not any more.”
Maybe you’d offer, “We’re a bedroom community.”
I believe we are so much more than a place to sleep. We’ve got more than “big opportunities and small-town charm,” and we’re not just “a place to call home.”
We are communities that surround, support and continue to enjoy the benefits of having exceptional schools. These public schools have set their own bar and high standard of excellence in education for 51 years. The faculty of Sartell-St. Stephen schools have been and continue to be drawn to the challenge and opportunity to teach in this district, stemming from a community that believes in something more for their students. As a 1997 graduate, I am a proud Sabre and product of ISD748, and as a technology education teacher at SHS for the past 11 years, I was one of those teachers who have answered this call. I continue to be humbled and impressed by the talent and dedication that surrounds me. I work alongside so many amazing and skilled professionals, and as the current president of the Sartell Education Association, I represent more than 280 members who collectively stand ready to continue the tradition of excellence we have helped to build. I can also tell you we cannot promise to deliver on continued excellence without the continued community support we have felt so strongly in the past.
A big part of that continued support takes the form of a YES vote on our proposed operating levy.
The additional pressure I have seen and felt on the Sartell-St. Stephen faculty from increased class sizes, reduced budgets, reductions in prep time and an increase in supervision duties has resulted in the loss of common planning time together, teachers falling behind earlier than ever, stressing out about how they can make it through this year. It has teachers frustrated, defeated and questioning why they can’t do their jobs to the manner and standard they are used to. Some are already questioning whether or not they want to continue teaching altogether. This materializes in our classrooms as students having to wait, questions going unanswered, feeling the pace of learning slowed or simply not experiencing the rigor and level of learning that previous classes have had. Teachers are having to put more effort forth than they have ever before just to try to maintain what has been the standard.
It would be easy to not vote, and just as easily allow our school district to slip into educational mediocrity. You could choose to vote no as a misguided means of driving the change you think is necessary in our school system or in education. The reality is the new Sartell High School at 3101 Pinecone Road now stands, ready and equipped, with the space, technology, teachers, and staff willing to continue a tradition of excellence.
The new building is not going anywhere. However, if this community chooses not to fund it adequately, we will never realize the potential of this space, and we will certainly fall short of academic expectations relative to past performance. The district’s other buildings are staging for major renovations that will poise them for much the same potential of continued success, but they, too, will fall short if not funded to provide for appropriate class sizes and adequate staffing for teachers, cooks, custodians, paraprofessionals, technology support staff, specialists, bus drivers, administrators and administrative support.
The plain truth is we cannot expect to maintain the reputation and standard we currently hold with reduced community support. Something has to give. It is painful to experience right now, but my only hope is this pain is short-lived and we will avoid the terrible mistake of turning our backs on our schools. I urge you to ask yourselves what your community is about, and if education comes to mind, make the effort and commitment to vote YES.
When you do, you will ensure we continue to be a community that is about GREAT education.