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VIRGINA- ISD 2142 school board chair Pat Christensen will continue in that position after being reelected at Tuesday’s annual organizational meeting, one that featured a routine slate of …
VIRGINA- ISD 2142 school board chair Pat Christensen will continue in that position after being reelected at Tuesday’s annual organizational meeting, one that featured a routine slate of business housekeeping items that generated little discussion, save for the selection of the district’s official newspaper.
The meeting began with the ceremonial swearing-in of newly elected District 3 member Rob Marinaro and District 5 member Lynn Hilde, who served on the board the past year as an appointee to fill out the term of the late Lynette Zupetz and was elected to the position in November.
District 2 member Nathan Briggs, also elected in November, was attending an out-of-town training and was not present for the ceremony, but had already signed the legal oath of office, as had Marinaro and Hilde.
In addition to Christensen, vice chair Bob Larson, treasurer Chet Larson, and treasurer Hilde all were elected to continue with those responsibilities.
The Cook News-Herald has long served as the district’s official newspaper for legal notices and was listed on the meeting agenda as the recommended choice again.
However, for a second consecutive year, member Chris Koivisto recommended that the district choose the Timberjay instead.
“I still think that I prefer to see the Timberjay as the official newspaper for the school primarily for the coverage that it has by comparison to the Cook News-Herald,” Koivisto said.
Cook News-Herald Publisher Gary Albertson countered Koivisto’s comment by claiming that his newspaper’s circulation is larger than that of the Timberjay, although no actual circulation numbers for either newspaper were included in the discussion. Duluth-based Business North’s annual directory of regional businesses lists the Timberjay’s circulation at 3,091, but doesn’t list the Cook News Herald. It does list a purported circulation of 902 for the Albertson-owned Tower News, but notes that the figure is “unverified.”
In a bid letter emailed to Superintendent Reggie Engebritson and multiple board members on Tuesday, Timberjay publisher Marshall Helmberger said that the Timberjay had “substantially higher circulation and much broader distribution” than the Cook News-Herald.
Helmberger also pointed out that the Cook News-Herald is out of compliance with a state law that requires newspapers to publish legal notices on their websites. A check of the News-Herald website on Tuesday revealed that it hasn’t been updated since Dec. 16, 2021. Legal notices appearing in the Timberjay are posted on the newspaper’s website weekly and are freely accessible to the public and are archived and searchable, Helmberger said.
Helmberger’s letter was not presented or discussed in the meeting, but Cook/Orr Editor David Colburn reinforced the same points in comments he made to the board.
“I disagree with that statement altogether,” member Chet Larson said after Colburn’s comments, noting that the Cook News-Herald is a designated legal newspaper for St. Louis County.
Albertson ignored comments about being out of compliance with state law regarding website publication and instead highlighted that articles he writes about ISD 2142 also appear in other publications he owns, providing expanded coverage around the district, although he made no mention of the district’s legal notices appearing anywhere other than in the News-Herald.
Albertson also reminded members of the Timberjay’s investigative reporting surrounding the district’s promotion of a $78.8 million bond issue in 2009 that resulted in findings by the state Office of Administrative Hearings and the State Auditor that the district had “engaged in an inaccurate and misleading campaign” for the issue, which Albertson said “cost you about a half million dollars in legals (fees) to fight them.”
The Cook News-Herald has also provided 80 scholarships to Cook and Orr students over the years, Albertson said.
“We are big backers of the district,” he said.
The News-Herald was approved as the district’s official newspaper on a 3-2 vote, with Koivisto and Marinaro dissenting. The rate the paper will be charging was not discussed.
In other business, the board:
• Maintained the established board member salary of $400 per month and raised the hourly rate of compensation for attendance at special meetings, committee meetings, and workshop and conference sessions from $12 to $15 per hour. Meal per diem rates were held the same at $15 for breakfast, $20 for lunch, and $25 for dinner.
• Established board member committee assignments.
• Designated Fradsen Bank, North Star Credit Union, and Ely Area Credit Union as official depositories for district funds.
• Selected Colosimo, Patchin & Kearney, Ltd. as the district’s legal counsel.
• Reconvened in a one-item official session to immediately terminate North Woods Custodian Ethan Olson.
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