Stillwater Schools Respond to Report that Public Comment was ‘Nixed’ for Tuesday’s Marine School Closure Meeting

Stillwater Area Public Schools is responding to the Country Messenger’s report, “District nixes public comment at Marine school closure meeting.”

The Country Messenger reported that Superintendent Denise Pontrelli told Marine on St. Croix city officials that she will not attend this week’s city council meeting if residents are given the floor for public comment.

Stillwater Current shared the Country Messenger’s story on Facebook over the weekend.

But there’s more to the story, according to Stillwater Area Public Schools Community Engagement Manager Carissa Keister.

Here’s the school district’s response to the Country Messenger’s report, via Carissa Keister:

“Denise Pontrelli and several administrators met with leaders from Hugo, Marine, Oak Park Heights and Stillwater following the Dec. 17 learning session to discuss the BOLD proposal. She was invited by each of the three communities that would be impacted by potential school closures (Hugo, Marine and Oak Park Heights) to attend a city council meeting to share information and answer questions from city council members.  She attended the Hugo meeting on Jan. 4 and the Oak Park Heights meeting on Jan. 12.

She was surprised to learn through Facebook that the format for the Marine City Council meeting had changed from what had been agreed upon. Instead of presenting to the city council as she had in the other communities, Marine was planning to hold a public forum. Because this was different than what was agreed upon for all of the impacted communities, she requested the format of the Marine meeting be changed back.

Superintendent Pontrelli and her team are not refusing to hear from the public. All parent and community members will have an equal opportunity to provide feedback to the school board and administration later this month during public hearings on January 26, 27 and 28. Superintendent Pontrelli and her team have also met one-on-one and in small groups with parents and community members for the past several weeks and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.”

“The (Marine) mayor and council members were not happy with the arrangement,” according to the Country Messenger, “but agreed to post attendance rules and accept citizen’s questions via email.”

According to the city of Marine on St. Croix’s website:

A special City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. will be held to discuss the proposed closure of Marine Elementary school with Superintendent Pontrelli.

This meeting will be open to the public, however will be a listening session only.

All comments and questions to Superintendent Pontrelli will be asked by the City Council only and the City Council will not be taking any questions or comments during the listening session from the audience. The City Council requests that any member of the public attending this meeting please respect this meeting format.

Any questions for City Council consideration relating to the potential impacts specifically on the City of Marine and its residents can be emailed to the City Council atmosc@midconetwork.com, preferably by 5 p.m. Monday, January 18.

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