Local Views: Keep Politics Out of Contingency Plans for School Boundary Changes

Recently, District administrators proposed contingency boundary changes. This necessary exercise will be a reality if The Minnesota Court of Appeals decides the District illegally closed three schools.

Unfortunately, another District proposal is causing controversy. Students and families are having to face the possibility of moving to completely new schools, farther away from their current school, including longer bus rides, and greater hardships on parents whose children participate in after-school activities.

Not only does this proposal move students to completely different elementary schools, some of these schools will feed into new middle schools. Rutherford Elementary School, for example, is proposed to feed into Oak-Land Junior High, while Anderson Elementary students will be going to Stillwater Junior High. Just looking at a map with the locations of these schools shows how impractical this plan really is.

The most dramatic changes affect the central schools. These changes have the potential to cause the most disruption and displacement of students and families.

On September 28 and 29, the district held “Community Conversations” at Stillwater Junior High and Oak-Land Junior High to explain this contingency plan and listen to public feedback.

Why is it necessary to realign the entire district, displacing nearly 900 students, impacting 20 neighborhoods? Instead of making a more logical proposal limiting disruptions to our community’s families, who are already trying to manage so many changes going on in our school district, administrators are creating unnecessary turmoil.

The timing of this contingency plan and the outrage it’s generating right before the November 8 school board election raises serious questions whether this district is playing politics with our students and their families instead of making a thoughtful, practical proposal.

Many in the community are asking why the district is using scare tactics to influence public opinion and steer voters towards candidates supported by district insiders. This old-school, manipulative political tactic has been used for years—threaten voters by telling them something important to them will be taken away unless they vote for certain candidates.

Some will immediately dismiss these concerns as outlandish accusations. Anyone looking for proof that political motivations are driving this contingency proposal, should talk to parents who attended the September 28 Community Conversation at Stillwater Junior High.

Many of those in attendance complained that Ms. Buchholz threatened them with the current boundary proposal if they vote for candidates opposed to school closures. The message was clear: if you support candidates opposed to school closures, your kids will be moved to schools much farther away.

At a meeting designed to discuss and generate community input on a boundary proposal, a current School Board Member used the opportunity to inappropriately advance her political agenda.

This behavior doesn’t just step over ethical boundaries, it vaults into political manipulation designed to threaten voters while ignoring the real needs of students and families. Hopefully, every voter sees right through this despicable political maneuvering.

Voters should be able to make informed decisions free of threats. Districts should be able to make thoughtful boundary proposals free of political subterfuge