Kelliher School Board chair resigns

Although every school board meeting is open to the public, it is very common for boards to conduct their business before only a handful of people. Most board business is quite routine in nature, and, in most cases, the only times there are large ...

Although every school board meeting is open to the public, it is very common for boards to conduct their business before only a handful of people.

Most board business is quite routine in nature, and, in most cases, the only times there are large numbers of observers is when something controversial will be acted on, or when the board, one of its members or the administration has said or done something that has upset somebody.

At the March 13 meeting of the Kelliher School Board, some 70 people were in the audience. Several items of interest were on the agenda including discussions on the superintendent search, budget cuts, long-range planning and athletic team participation at Red Lake. A late addition to the agenda was the resignation of Dick Florhaug from the school board.

In a prepared letter read by the new board chair, Frank Duresky, Florhaug stated, "For over 50 years I have served in various jobs that I've felt would make a positive difference and have always felt good about what I have done. Somehow, this has changed. If I am now part of a problem, it is time for me to step down and let someone with new ideas and visions take over. In Ecclesiastes chapter three it says, 'There is a time for everything, a time to search and a time to give up.' I wish you well and God bless you all."

After hearing the letter, the board voted to accept Florhaug's resignation with regret. Superintendent Terry Bartness said after receiving the letter, he contacted the Minnesota School Boards Association on how to fill the vacancy and was told that if the term is less than two years, as is the case with Florhaug's term, the board must fill the remainder of the term by appointment. He said the MSBA recommended the board appoint a committee to decide how best to fill the vacancy. Duresky, Ed Anderson and Peggy Vollhaber were appointed to that committee.


Sports agreement

Another major issue to come before the board was the possible elimination of the Kelliher-Northome Mustangs from the Northland Conference for deciding to not play varsity games at Red Lake. The decision to not play had been made after a couple incidents during basketball games at Red Lake had raised concerns about student safety. This season, Kelliher-Northome forfeited a boys basketball game rather than play in Red Lake. They did, however, play Red Lake in Northome and Bemidji, including a hard-fought playoff game.

Athletic Director Dan Alto said he had spoken with representatives from other schools in the conference and all had expressed their desire that Kelliher-Northome remain in the conference, but if the board continued to forbid play in Red Lake there were enough votes to eliminate them from the conference.

Alto said the Red Lake coach had told him that his players questioned why the Mustangs were not allowed to come to Red Lake. The players had asked, "Aren't we good enough?" and "What's wrong with us?" Alto also reported that Kelliher-Northome was the only school in the conference that had refused to play in Red Lake.

Vollhaber asked if coaches would punish a student whose parents refused to allow him/her to participate in a game at Red Lake. Alto said, "I would not support any sanctions or penalties against students."

Noting that by next year the incidents that had led to the decision would be three years in the past and that several changes had been made in Red Lake, Alto recommended allowing varsity and junior varsity to play at Red Lake, but not C teams.

"Maybe it's time we give this a shot," he said. "Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we are part of the problem or part of the solution."

A member of the audience added, "It's a shame you'd get kicked out of the conference over this. It's fear. You don't let fear rule you -- you rule fear." After moving to make this item an action item, the board voted to allow varsity and junior varsity teams to play in Red Lake.


Budget discussion

A third major issue was discussed at length and included a lot of audience input. The board went over 10 pages of proposed budget cuts item-by-item. Some proposed cuts had largely been agreed upon by the board at previous meetings. Others were noted for further consideration, and some had already been discounted as inconsequential, inappropriate or undesirable.

The discussion also involved the possibility of increasing open enrollment and how more students would mean additional revenue, thus offsetting some of the expected deficit. The board took no action on any of these issues, but encouraged everyone present to return at 7 p.m. Thursday for a public long-range planning meeting, during which open enrollment and budget cuts would be the main focus. Copies of the proposed cuts are available in the district office.


Applications for superintendent will be accepted through April 7. According to district business manager Laura Nelson, as of March 10, the district had received six inquiries and had sent out informational packets. One completed packet and application had been returned, three partial packets had been returned and there had been no further response from the other two.

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