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Fri, Feb 16th, 2001
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Editor’s note: The Journal invited the Houston Board of Education to respond to Ms. Tschumper’s letter.

To the Editor,
In November 2000 the Houston School Board approved a three-year contract for the district superintendent. Last week a group calling itself Houston Kids Come First (HKCF)sent a flyer to all district residents that has created confusion regarding the language of the contract and the salary of the superintendent. Letters to area papers have also contained inaccuracies.

On Tuesday, February 13, the Houston Board of Education approved a district response designed to clarify issues raised by the previous mailing. This publication will be sent to all district residents.

One major error by the HKCF group is their claim of a 56% increase in compensation for 2001 over 2000. The actual figures are as follows: salary increases: 7.6% for 2001-2002, 5.3% for 2002-2003, and 5.3% for 2003-2004. These increases bring our salary level closer to the average superintendent salary of similar sized schools in Southeastern Minnesota. If the total package, including health and dental insurance, additional duties, expenses and severance, is calculated, the increases for each year are 17.55%, 4.8% and 4.81% - far below the inflated figures of the HKFC group.

One month after our present superintendent assumed duties, he discovered that Houston School District was in statutory operating debt (S.O.D.), a condition of financial deficit that had been developing for some time. This predicament was due to several factors: 1) inadequate state financial support; 2) declining enrollment, and; 3) increased costs. The superintendent and the board of education immediately took a proactive approach making numerous short-term and long-term budget cuts, and approving a plan for getting the district out of S.O.D.

The board looked at trimming operation expenses and finding creative ways to increase funding. One-cost saving measure included providing transportation for Minnesota State High School League activities only. Many members of the community demonstrated their solid support by funding the remaining transportation costs. In fact, during the first year or our S.O.D. plan, community donations to the school district were in excess of $20,000! And today, even after staff reductions, class sizes are still quite favorable at 13.7 students per teacher with a full-range of course offerings and extra-curricular activities.

The administration, staff, and teachers of Houston Public School have also demonstrated their commitment to pull our district out of S.O.D. The superintendent’s salary in 1999-2000 remained the 16th lowest in the state. Teachers accepted a schedule freeze during the last negotiated teacher contract, even though increases in health insurance costs made an additional impact on take-home pay. The community passed a referendum. Everyone pulled together, and thanks to positive efforts on the part of our staff and community, Houston will be out of S.O.D. in June.

We are thankful for the many members of our district who so generously support our local school. The group calling itself “Houston Kids Come First”, paint a very different picture of our community. I believe that school leaders who take active roles as volunteers and financial supporters are those who truly demonstrate what it means to put children first.

Terry Rydberg, Chairman
Houston Board of Education




To the Editor:
I commend Sen. Kenric Scheevel for his thoughtful piece on Minnesota’s electric energy shortfall printed in the Feb. 5 issue of the Fillmore County Journal. Sen. Scheevel’s membership on the Senate Telecommunications, Energy, and Utilities Committee makes him a key player on the issue. His endorsement of energy conservation and promotion of renewable energy sources like wind and biomass place him squarely in agreement with Minnesotans statewide.

A recent poll showed that two-thirds of Minnesotans are concerned about the supply of electricity – and 64 percent prefer "alternative" sources of energy over building conventional power plants.

In the face of an energy shortfall predicted for 2006, we must act as soon as possible to avert trouble and ensure clean, reliable, affordable power. The first impulse might be to drop in a coal plant, but coal plants are difficult to site – often taking six to 10 years to completion- require coal trains and large transmission lines, and increase mercury levels in fish and incidents of asthma.

For power fast, plugging into wind, biomass, methane digesters, microturbines, co-generation, and fuel cells will produce reliable power cleaner and quicker. In addition, putting the end user near to an energy source (distributed generation) limits the need for new transmission lines.

The concept of clean distributed generation is so critical that in late 1999 a project to expand distributed electric energy generation in Minnesota was launched through the University of Minnesota’s regional sustainable development partnership program-actually through the Southeastern region’s initiative. Its aim, through practical approaches, is to optimize community energy-self reliance in what is an increasingly problematic national energy picture.

In collaboration with the regional partnerships, the university’s Institute of Technology is undertaking a report on distributed generation of electric energy in Greater Minnesota by focusing on five community case studies representing differing power needs and various options for local generation.

To inform the study and stimulate timely public discussion, the regional partnerships have organized a statewide conference to address Minnesota’s electric energy future, distributed energy generation, and technical assistance needs in local communities. The conference has been planned in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the University of Minnesota, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota Project, and other groups. The Conference is scheduled March 29 and 30 at the St. Cloud Convention Center – contact Emily Green at (612)625-8759 or gree122@tc.umn.edu for conference materials.

I encourage Sen. Scheevel, and others to attend the conference as we plot the course to a clean, secure energy future for Minnesota.

Diane Jensen, Director,
The Minnesota Project, St. Paul
Editor’s note: The Journal invited the Houston Board of Education to respond to Ms. Tschumper’s letter.

To the Editor,
In November 2000 the Houston School Board approved a three-year contract for the district superintendent. Last week a group calling itself Houston Kids Come First (HKCF)sent a flyer to all district residents that has created confusion regarding the language of the contract and the salary of the superintendent. Letters to area papers have also contained inaccuracies.

On Tuesday, February 13, the Houston Board of Education approved a district response designed to clarify issues raised by the previous mailing. This publication will be sent to all district residents.

One major error by the HKCF group is their claim of a 56% increase in compensation for 2001 over 2000. The actual figures are as follows: salary increases: 7.6% for 2001-2002, 5.3% for 2002-2003, and 5.3% for 2003-2004. These increases bring our salary level closer to the average superintendent salary of similar sized schools in Southeastern Minnesota. If the total package, including health and dental insurance, additional duties, expenses and severance, is calculated, the increases for each year are 17.55%, 4.8% and 4.81% - far below the inflated figures of the HKFC group.

One month after our present superintendent assumed duties, he discovered that Houston School District was in statutory operating debt (S.O.D.), a condition of financial deficit that had been developing for some time. This predicament was due to several factors: 1) inadequate state financial support; 2) declining enrollment, and; 3) increased costs. The superintendent and the board of education immediately took a proactive approach making numerous short-term and long-term budget cuts, and approving a plan for getting the district out of S.O.D.

The board looked at trimming operation expenses and finding creative ways to increase funding. One-cost saving measure included providing transportation for Minnesota State High School League activities only. Many members of the community demonstrated their solid support by funding the remaining transportation costs. In fact, during the first year or our S.O.D. plan, community donations to the school district were in excess of $20,000! And today, even after staff reductions, class sizes are still quite favorable at 13.7 students per teacher with a full-range of course offerings and extra-curricular activities.

The administration, staff, and teachers of Houston Public School have also demonstrated their commitment to pull our district out of S.O.D. The superintendent’s salary in 1999-2000 remained the 16th lowest in the state. Teachers accepted a schedule freeze during the last negotiated teacher contract, even though increases in health insurance costs made an additional impact on take-home pay. The community passed a referendum. Everyone pulled together, and thanks to positive efforts on the part of our staff and community, Houston will be out of S.O.D. in June.

We are thankful for the many members of our district who so generously support our local school. The group calling itself “Houston Kids Come First”, paint a very different picture of our community. I believe that school leaders who take active roles as volunteers and financial supporters are those who truly demonstrate what it means to put children first.

Terry Rydberg, Chairman
Houston Board of Education




To the Editor:
I commend Sen. Kenric Scheevel for his thoughtful piece on Minnesota’s electric energy shortfall printed in the Feb. 5 issue of the Fillmore County Journal. Sen. Scheevel’s membership on the Senate Telecommunications, Energy, and Utilities Committee makes him a key player on the issue. His endorsement of energy conservation and promotion of renewable energy sources like wind and biomass place him squarely in agreement with Minnesotans statewide.

A recent poll showed that two-thirds of Minnesotans are concerned about the supply of electricity – and 64 percent prefer "alternative" sources of energy over building conventional power plants.

In the face of an energy shortfall predicted for 2006, we must act as soon as possible to avert trouble and ensure clean, reliable, affordable power. The first impulse might be to drop in a coal plant, but coal plants are difficult to site – often taking six to 10 years to completion- require coal trains and large transmission lines, and increase mercury levels in fish and incidents of asthma.

For power fast, plugging into wind, biomass, methane digesters, microturbines, co-generation, and fuel cells will produce reliable power cleaner and quicker. In addition, putting the end user near to an energy source (distributed generation) limits the need for new transmission lines.

The concept of clean distributed generation is so critical that in late 1999 a project to expand distributed electric energy generation in Minnesota was launched through the University of Minnesota’s regional sustainable development partnership program-actually through the Southeastern region’s initiative. Its aim, through practical approaches, is to optimize community energy-self reliance in what is an increasingly problematic national energy picture.

In collaboration with the regional partnerships, the university’s Institute of Technology is undertaking a report on distributed generation of electric energy in Greater Minnesota by focusing on five community case studies representing differing power needs and various options for local generation.

To inform the study and stimulate timely public discussion, the regional partnerships have organized a statewide conference to address Minnesota’s electric energy future, distributed energy generation, and technical assistance needs in local communities. The conference has been planned in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the University of Minnesota, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota Project, and other groups. The Conference is scheduled March 29 and 30 at the St. Cloud Convention Center – contact Emily Green at (612)625-8759 or gree122@tc.umn.edu for conference materials.

I encourage Sen. Scheevel, and others to attend the conference as we plot the course to a clean, secure energy future for Minnesota.

Diane Jensen, Director,
The Minnesota Project, St. Paul

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