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Fri, Mar 2nd, 2001
Posted in

To the Editor,
Monday, March 5, 2001

I enjoyed Nancy Overcotts interesting article about the little town of Spillville.

I remember in the 1920s when we stopped at the farm to see the Bily clocks. Showing the clocks were two quiet men and a lady you had to look for to pay.

I was surprised there was no mention of the Inwood Pavialion in the park. This has been used, I think, for 80 or more years for many functions. It has also hosted many of the famous Big Bands for years and attracted people from many miles around. At one of these dances you could easily visit with people from Austin, Rochester, La Crosse, New Hampton, Waterloo and Mason City.


George A. Johnson
Chester, Iowa

To the Editor,
Monday, March 5, 2001

I enjoyed Nancy Overcotts interesting article about the little town of Spillville.

I remember in the 1920s when we stopped at the farm to see the Bily clocks. Showing the clocks were two quiet men and a lady you had to look for to pay.

I was surprised there was no mention of the Inwood Pavialion in the park. This has been used, I think, for 80 or more years for many functions. It has also hosted many of the famous Big Bands for years and attracted people from many miles around. At one of these dances you could easily visit with people from Austin, Rochester, La Crosse, New Hampton, Waterloo and Mason City.


George A. Johnson
Chester, Iowa

To the Editor,
Monday, March 5, 2001

I attended the Houston School Board's special meeting on 2/14/01. A group of people that attended the meeting were quite upset that they were not able to voice their opinions. This meeting was not an open forum. The meeting was to prepare a response to the anonymous mailing, that went out from a group calling themselves Houston Kids Come First, regarding our Superintendent Kim Ross' contract.

I agree with a statement in that mailing - "Houston, we have a problem. "Houston's Problem is this...It's a group who call themselves Houston Kids Come First (HKCF) who is hiding behind the facade of trying to "help" the kids in Houston. Who is the HKCF? They apparently were afraid to sign any names to this mailing. HKCF sends out a mailing with a bunch of numbers put together and some people believe it as gospel, no questions asked. Did anyone take the time to total up a couple of the columns and see what the correct addition should be?

I called a person, who from her past actions, I thought may be involved in the HKCF to ask some questions about the numbers contained in the mailing. She said that she was the "contact person". She wondered how I got her name. I told her that "I just took a wild guess". She stood behind all the numbers, but when I asked her how she came up with them, she couldn't tell me how the "Facts & Figures" were arrived at. Usually when you publish a mailing of
"Facts & Figures" you should know how you got the figures and at the very least, make sure that the simple addition is correct. I was told by her that there would be an open meeting by this group in the near future. She said that this would be "unlike a school board meeting" because everyone would get a chance to talk and to get the "correct facts". She said that I would get a special invitation... but I haven't gotten one as of yet. She also stated that the best thing for this district would be consolidation! Then she hung up on me.

At the special school board meeting I heard the husband of the contact person say to Mr. Ross, "See, I told you we would make an issue of this!" as he (the husband) passed out copies of the new superintendent contract.
Their real issue appears to be a personal vendetta against Mr. Ross.

Mr. Ross started as superintendent in Houston in July 1998. Our previous superintendent (who didn't live in the school district) started the years 1997-1998 out at .8 time for a base salary of $55,166. Part way through that year, the board increased his time & pay to .9 or $62,062. This would mean that his "full time base salary" in 1997-1998 would have been $68,958.00 plus benefits. And he wasn't even a district resident. Where were all of the "outraged" HKCF members then?

In 1999-2000 Mr. Ross had the 16th lowest salary in the state of MN. Mr. Ross' base salary in 2000-2001... $66,306 plus benefits. Hmmmm... This issue appears to have very little to do with school finances.

Contrary to the HKCF's contention, the school board did give a lot of time and consideration to Mr. Ross' new contract. The numbers that the HKCF put down are misleading. Even after Mr. Ross' new contract base salary ($71,360 for FY 01-02) he is still at the low pay end compared to neighboring districts' base salary for this year. Rushford's Superintendent receives $82,000; Caledonia's, $88,2000; Mabel-Cantons, $69,550 (FY 00-01); Spring Groves, $80,000; LaCrescents, $90,173 (FY 00-01).

If for some reason we had to search for a new superintendent, doesn't it also seem logical to say that we would have to offer to pay "market wage" for our area? (It would be higher than what we are paying now.)

There is a verified shortage of school administrators. Superintendents can pick and choose a district to settle in. After the publication by HKCF, why would any superintendent agree to work here at market wage, when faced with a group of district citizens with such a personal axe to grind as these few people?

I do hope that this episode gets more people to attend the school board meetings. Then they can see for themselves what a good job our superintendent,school board, administration, teachers and support staff are doing, and the very positive things that are going on in the Houston School District.

The HKCF group insults the MAJORITY of people in Houston who actively support the school, who get the facts first-hand, and who think for themselves...rather than hide behind anonymous mailings.

Yes, Houston Kids should Come First, but don't let this group hide behind our children as a way to carry out their personal vendetta against a good, decent man who also happens to be a GOOD Superintendent one we're fortunate to have living, working and... paying taxes in our district.

As it says in the HKCF mailing, "Any additional comments on the matter would be greatly appreciated." I urge all of you who support our school and administration to call the HKCF group and make a lot of noise----IF the members of this group ever come out of hiding.

Dan Kildahl
Houston, MN

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