Updated: Parent Files Petition to Require Stillwater Schools to Keep Bond Promises, or Seek New Voter-Approved Referendum

A Stillwater parent today filed a petition in Washington County District Court to require the Stillwater Area School District to improve elementary schools in accordance with the May 12, 2015 bond question approved by voters or seek new voter approval for a changed purpose.

Melissa Douglas, through her attorney Erick Kaardal, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the District Court.

A writ of mandamus is an order to require the School District to obey the law ― in this case alleging, District 834 “exceeded its authority and failed to meet its statutory obligations to the voters who approved the bond referendum,” according to a news release.

The petition states:

“Stillwater Area School District, after obtaining voter approval for school building bonds not to exceed $97.5 million now seeks to materially change the original purpose for the obligation proceeds. By doing so, the School District is violating not only statutory law, but the social contract between it and the parents to obtain passage of the bond obligations. Instead of making improvements to existing schools it now plans to close three elementary schools.”

“We, the taxpayers, voted on May 12, 2015 in favor of the bond project based on this planned investment in our neighborhood schools,” Douglas said. “This investment was an explicit endorsement and covenant by the Board to the voters that it planned to upgrade these schools and keep them open.”

Here’s a statement from Superintendent Denise Pontrelli regarding the legal action:

“Yesterday the District was served a lawsuit brought by a single citizen in an attempt to prohibit the School Board from making a decision to close the three elementary schools currently under consideration in the BOLD initiative.

In essence, the citizen and her lawyers want a judge to rule that the fact that the voters’ in our School District passed the bond referendum in May 2015 means that the District cannot make this decision about its schools. Our attorney believes this lawsuit has no merit and is part of a strategy to dictate the Board’s process and decision —regardless of the cost to the District.

We are now required to spend significant time and money to defend against this latest attempt to obstruct the legitimate and important decision-making by the School Board as to how best serve all our students and families in Stillwater Area Schools.”

Melissa Douglas’ Petition

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