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Board member questions future of Tower school

Swanson, Koivisto: Community shouldn’t have to sacrifice another teaching position

Marcus White
Posted 1/23/19

VIRGINIA - A plan to trim staffing levels at the Tower-Soudan School prompted a spirited debate at the St. Louis County School Board meeting here Tuesday evening with one school board member …

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Board member questions future of Tower school

Swanson, Koivisto: Community shouldn’t have to sacrifice another teaching position

Posted

VIRGINIA - A plan to trim staffing levels at the Tower-Soudan School prompted a spirited debate at the St. Louis County School Board meeting here Tuesday evening with one school board member questioning why the school is still open.

The original plan by superintendent Reggie Engebritson would have cut a full-time position, but she reconsidered after meeting with staff in Tower who asked to draw up the restructuring plans themselves for only a half-time cut. The superintendent agreed.

Board member Troy Swanson, who represents the Tower-Soudan area on the board voiced his opposition.

“I don’t want a reduction at Tower,” he said. We’ve had seven years of good success. We have kept the teachers there that work well together. I don’t want to mess with something that works well, I think we are playing with fire.”

Swanson added that the school doesn’t draw any funding away from any of the other district campuses.

Business manager Kim Johnson said the proposed cut, as modified, would amount to about $50,000.

Representing Northeast Range, Chris Koivisto backed Swanson.

“It isn’t that much to keep the teacher there,” he said. “It sends the wrong message.”

Yet, board member from South Ridge, Chet Larson, questioned why Tower was still even open since the school has the lowest enrollment in the district.

“How long are we going to even support Tower?” he asked “It’s an expensive school to run.”

Larson asked what message it sent to the other district schools that Tower was allowed to have the funding it does.

Swanson countered and said being able to keep their teacher was a small price to pay compared to recent multi-million dollar investments at South Ridge and Cherry.

“We’re talking about a community here,” Koivisto said. “We should be supporting this community. We can afford this.”

“At the expense of everyone else,” Larson countered. “If they’re a star school, why don’t the students come?”

“They used to have a K-12 school and now they have a K-6 school,” Swanson replied. “People want to stay with their families.”

Swanson said the referendum that consolidated the schools wasn’t working, and that students were being bled out of the northeast part of the district because of the lack of high school options.

He said the decision to close the high school left few good options in the community for families that want to keep their kids together in one school.

He said, nevertheless, the community stood behind the school.

Koivisto said the schools in the area were institutions that were helping the communities, and that the towns were behind their students and teachers. Koivisto said keeping the half-time equivalent position in the school would be a show of support from the district to the community.

“If the community was supporting the school,” said Orr area board member Pat Christensen, “we’d have better enrollment.”

In the end, Koivisto and Swanson were the lone votes against the plan, with all other board members present voting in favor of the cut.

Following the meeting, Swanson and Johnson said the district has no plans to close the Tower-Soudan School in the future.

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Unbelievable

Tower was punished because we overwhelmingly voted against the consolidation levy. Let’s keep all of money here and we will be just fine.

Thursday, January 24