Local Views

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Dear BOLD Supporters: This is Why I’m So Passionate About Opposing this Proposal

Dear Pro-BOLD supporters,

As a parent who isn’t directly impacted by the closing of these schools (as my son will be moving to the middle school before these closings take place) I’ve had many people ask me why I’m so passionate about opposing this proposal. I encourage you to read further in hopes that some of these reasons may cause you to reflect on your position on BOLD and at a minimum agree to respectfully disagree. Of course my true desire is for you to feel compassion toward those students, teachers, parents and communities impacted by this proposal, but let’s just start with an open mind. Here’s a few of the reasons why I don’t support BOLD:

1. As a tax payer I was marketed to and sold on statements that if I supported the bond and levy that it would result in no schools being closed. Continue Reading →

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Letter to the Editor: Stillwater BOLD


Thank you for listening to both district administrators and community members. I can understand the dilemma you must face: On the one hand, BOLD’s promise to save $1.26 million annually would benefit our district’s chronic budget shortfalls, and closing small schools where few students live may allow educational resources to be allocated elsewhere. But on the other hand, are we a district that makes major, community-impacting decisions in such a short amount of time without involving or engaging the support of our constituents? I find this question troubling. Regardless of whether BOLD may benefit budgets or students, there are far greater matters at stake: the district’s partnerships with other governmental entities and the public’s trust. Continue Reading →

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Opinion: Stillwater Area School District’s BOLD Plan Won’t Solve District Problems

When I first heard the BOLD proposal to close three of Stillwater School District’s best schools, I wanted to understand the goals and how the plan would achieve them. However, the more I listened, read and researched, the more confused I have become. If this is a declining population issue, then why are we building a new elementary school? We just need to adjust the boundaries northward. Why are we adding on to our high school if we wont have the students to fill it? Continue Reading →

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Opinion: Table BOLD

District 834 Board Members,

I am writing you as a resident of District 834 with over 50 years of board experience. I am an elected Stillwater Town Board Supervisor. Board members of any board have an overarching responsibility to be fiduciary agents of the organization. All decisions must be viewed through a financial viability prism. The BOLD proposal may or may not be the correct decision for District 834. Continue Reading →

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Opinion: Opponents of BOLD Proposal Lay Blame on Superintendent, Yet No Self-Responsibility Has Been Claimed

The privilege Americans have as members of a democracy is the ability to directly participate in our democracy. After reading through several articles, article comments, conversations with district residents, I am puzzled by the clear lack of understanding of how a democracy works. Citizens elect officials to best represent their views on the school board and in the state legislature. When enough people are fed up by the incumbent’s actions, one would generally assume that they’d vote the member out of their position. This is where 834 residents anger becomes fickle, because their actions don’t reflect their anger. Continue Reading →

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Mike Ptacek Shares His Views on Stillwater Area Public School’s BOLD Proposal

I still question the basic assumptions behind the BOLD proposal. Number 1, will the BOLD Proposal result in $1.26 million to be reinvested in the remaining 7 elementary schools if Withrow, Marine and Oak Park elementary schools are closed. The BOLD proponents have put forth this expectation as an enticement to garner support from the remaining 7elementary schools, but will it happen? Will the 250 displaced kids from Withrow, 156 from Marine and 450 from Oak Park travel to southern and western schools in District 834, and the approximate $10,000 in state per student aid follow them to those schools and into the coffers of the District? Or will a significant number of parents, who are questioning the wisdom and efficacy of the BOLD Proposal seek education elsewhere? Continue Reading →

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Shelley Pearson Shares Her Thoughts on Education, Discussion Surrounding Stillwater’s BOLD Proposal

Up until this moment, I have remained relatively quiet regarding the proposal from District 834 administration to close three elementary schools. I have been asking questions, responding to emails, meeting with community members, parents, staff and administration, losing sleep, sacrificing family time, and thinking about it constantly.  I will continue to do all of these things until my vote is cast on February 11. I signed up for this. You voted me in (I am blaming you a little). I will do my very best to make the right decision for our kids.     

During difficult moments of decision when the waters are muddy, I often head back to the website I used during my campaign (www.shelleypearson.net) to remind myself of what my values are. Continue Reading →

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An open letter to the Stillwater School Board regarding the BOLD Proposal

Hello. My name is Steve Carr. Personally, I have no “skin in the game” as my children are grown and doing well, due in part to the excellent education they received from Withrow Elementary School. As I have no knowledge of Oak Park Elementary School, I will confine my comments to Withrow & Marine although I imagine that the issues are similar regarding Oak Park. As you move down the path toward announcing your decision regarding the closure of the three elementary schools, please consider the following:

In the 35 years that I have lived in Withrow, it has always been obvious that District 834 has considered the Withrow & Marine elementary schools to be more of an unwanted liability than an asset. Continue Reading →

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Local Views: Disgusted By Lake Elmo City Council’s Ongoing Spectacle

Given newspaper stories over the last year, I have been drawn into watching the Lake Elmo Council meetings. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many I talk to, the council majority made up of Smith, Fliflet and Lundgren have shown themselves incapable of reaching sound decisions. I assume they are reasonably intelligent, but it appears their contempt for either Mayor Pearson, council member Bloyer and/or previous members of staff is impacting their ability to make sound decisions. They have caused a mass exodus of staff with their overbearing behavior and anyone who has paid even a modest interest in these proceedings understands this. Unfortunately, when council member Bloyer makes a few curt comments at a midnight council meeting, they seize on this episode as a way to explain those same staff departures on anyone but themselves. Continue Reading →

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Local Views: Stillwater’s B.O.L.D Proposal Will Impact All of Our Elementary Schools, Not Just Marine, Withrow and Oak Park

Dear Residents of the Stillwater Area School System,

In mid-December the superintendent and administration of Stillwater Area Schools proposed a plan to close Withrow, Marine, and Oak Park Elementary schools, under the guise of fiscal efficiency and higher educational quality and equity. The plan to “right-size” or consolidate our schools has been outlined in the district’s BOLD initiative.  The district’s intention of “right-sizing” our schools looks great on paper; however, national evidence-based studies have consistently shown that the negative effects of consolidation far outweigh the good. Proposed benefits of the BOLD initiative include:

Equitable learning experiences

Improved access to support services

Balanced class sizes across the district, and

Long-term stability for staffing (“BOLD FAQs,” 2015). Superficially, the benefits of BOLD seem worthy of “right sizing” our schools, however research shows that small school consolidation increases class sizes and student/teacher ratios, decreases academic performance, reduces rates of student participation in extracurricular activities, lowers graduation rates, decreases teacher performance, and is associated with more dangerous school environments (Howley, Johnson, & Petrie, 2011). Continue Reading →

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A Trip Back in Time: Stillwater’s First Christmas

The first Christmas held in Stillwater has been a story that has been handed down from family to family. It has been reprinted in newspapers and books, but this first Christmas, celebrated nearly 175 years ago needs once again to be handed down as a heritage present to the readers of the Historical Messenger. 

It was Lydia Carli, who traveled from Chicago to what is now Stillwater in 1841. She came here and lived in the Tamarack House that was constructed by her half-brother, Joseph R. Brown. It was that Christmas that Mrs. Carli would latter tell about to Mr. A.B. Easton, the publisher of the Stillwater Gazette and the two volume History of the Saint Croix Valley published in 1909:

“I suppose I ought to tell you something about the first Christmas celebration ever held in Stillwater. And speaking of that reminds me that several years ago a fellow was here and talked a long time about this old time affair, and then went away and wrote a nice story about it; but made a bad break in the first line by saying there was but one person living in this city who observed Christmas day in 1841. Continue Reading →

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Superintendent Column: It’s Time to Clean House as We Build Our New School District

It’s been so much fun to see the latest drawings cross my desk as architects work with teams to design a new elementary school, additions and renovations at the high school, and other building updates across the district. When we break ground on these projects in the spring we’ll be well on our way to providing beautiful new spaces that will open up many opportunities to our students. What isn’t so obvious is all of the great work going on behind the scenes to plan for the learning that will take place in these new spaces. Changing grade configurations will result in benefits to our current students and all those yet to come. Preschool students will be able to get a head-start in our elementary schools, sixth graders will find new opportunities in a middle school environment, and a whole new world of learning will open up for ninth grade students at the high school. Continue Reading →

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Editorial: Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel Talks Trash

Washington County commissioners run up against challenges each day we are in office – delivering social services in a cost-efficient manner, keeping up with road building and maintenance, maintaining the safety of residents. One of the biggest challenges that we have is garbage – how to reduce it, how to recycle it, and what to do with it once it is collected from households across the county. It’s a major question, because the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requires counties to manage solid waste. Unlike other challenges, there seems to be few good solutions to dealing with garbage. In the past, garbage went “away.” In recent years, we’ve found out that “away” is not a good place for garbage. Continue Reading →

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A Trip Back in Time: Burying Stillwater’s Dead

Stillwater is known as the “Birthplace of Minnesota” and even though Stillwater has given birth to many industries, business, and of course people, there have been many deaths as well. When a person dies in Stillwater there are several cemeteries that our loved ones are buried in. But what happened to those settlers in the early days when there were no cemeteries? Of course, a burying ground is not necessary unless someone dies. The first deaths in this area were told about in a interview with Stillwater’s first female resident, Lydia Carli. Continue Reading →

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Talk of the District: So Many Reasons We Can All Be Proud to be Ponies

The start of a new school year is always exciting. I am sure the smile on my face stretched from ear to ear this year as I watched our Pony students rush into their schools on the first day. After two months on the job, it was so much fun to see our staff, students and families coming together and to feel the energy and enthusiasm we all bring to the new school year. We are Ponies – from the biggest to the smallest – and we are truly a community. I can say with great confidence that I am proud to be a Pony. Continue Reading →

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Local Views: A Hazel St Development that could add 182 daily cars crossing Browns Creek Trail

A proposed development of 19 homes at the west end of Hazel St could add 182 daily cars crossing Browns Creek Trail. If you are one of the many people out there enjoying the new trail, you have probably noticed the challenging trail crossing at the foot of steep Hazel St. It’s dangerous now, imagine 182 extra cars not to mention a few years of construction traffic coming together at that chaotic crossing. Hazel is a dead end narrow Street. There are only a few other way to access it without crossing the trail, and they aren’t real safe options either with blind hills and no sidewalks. Continue Reading →

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Judge Greg Galler Highlights the Standards of Review in the Appellate Process

Trial court judges hear testimony, review evidence, and apply the law in making decisions. Sometimes one side or another believes that the trial judge erred either in analyzing the evidence or in applying the law. Our judicial system allows for people to appeal to the Court of Appeals or, in some cases, the Supreme Court. Some mistakenly believe that appealing a case basically starts it over from scratch with a new group of judges at the Court of Appeals. This is not correct. Continue Reading →

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Facebook Just Updated Your News Feed: Here’s How to See What’s Important to You First

Facebook users, this is for you:

Facebook has rolled out a new See First tool that allows you to control what posts appears at the very top of your news feed. This new tool allows you to prioritize friends and your favorite pages (ahem, Stillwater Current) so you see what you’re interested in first, not what an algorithm thinks you’d like to see. Here’s how to do it:

If you’re using Facebook on a computer, click on the friends or pages you want to See First, then scroll over the liked or follow button at the top of your friend or favorite page, and click on See First. Boom. You’re seeing more of the stuff you want to see, first. Continue Reading →

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Bored Already? Here’s a List of Fun Summer Things To Do in the Valley and Beyond

Are the kids already complaining?  Banish summer ennui with events and activities found locally in the St. Croix Valley, around the Twin Cities and across the river in Wisconsin. Here’s a list of events happening this summer:

Treat yourself to The Sound of Music and enjoy local thespians young and old as Stillwater Community Theater presents a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Performances on July 9, 10, 11 and 12 at Stillwater Area High School promise to please. (www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/community-education/community-theatre)

Creative writing is play and imagination becomes real at the Shire Literary Center for Youth. Continue Reading →

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Motorcycle Rider: Response Letter to Rumble on the Deck

Response letter to Rumble on the Deck:

WOW never before have I heard such an assault on the freedoms of the American people. The city council is right! The Freight House is doing nothing wrong and the “Bikers” have as much right to gather for event as anyone else. You have concerts in your town that generate a lot more “NOISE” than any motorcycle ever could and traffic and drunks and trash all over and yet that is ok. But because the rumble of a well-tuned bike is not music to your ears like it is to mine you think you have the right to banish me and my kind from holding events in Stillwater. Continue Reading →

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Local Views: How to Have Family Money Conversations with Adult Parents

Every year, we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to honor the people we love and reflect back on the memories we’ve made with them. But as our loved ones age, adult children may want to also consider setting aside time to have a family money conversation. Why? The simple fact is that at some point, mom or dad may need help organizing and/or managing their finances. Sharing important information with one another today may help you and your family be prepared when the time comes that you or a sibling needs to step in to lend a hand. Continue Reading →

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Why I Filed a Complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education Against St. Croix Preparatory Academy

An open letter to the faculty and staff of St. Croix Prep

As some of you may have heard or read, in May, I filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education regarding St. Croix Preparatory Academy and its authorizer, Friends of Education.  I want to explain what the complaint is about and why I filed it. The complaint concerns this question: does the SCPA board have the authority to not seat newly-elected members until after they have completed additional, non-state-required training?  The charter school law does not provide a clear answer. I filed the complaint because I believe that the summer months are the best time for newly-elected board members to take their seats and work to heal the rifts that developed this spring. Continue Reading →

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Local Views: Do Stillwater Police Turn a Deaf Ear to ‘Plainly Excessive’ Motorcycle Noise?

Is it just us, or do Stillwater police turn a deaf ear to the plainly excessive and highly irritating noise of motorcycles that negatively impact the quality of life for thousands of residents from May to October? We certainly got an earful on Friday May 1 when dozens of illegally loud bikes roared through and around town. Because it was so loud on Friday, members of our group met downtown on Saturday, the day after PD Pappy’s opened for the season. The photos show the first thing we encountered at about 2:15 pm. One shows three guys, presumably bikers, drinking adult beverages beyond the “No Beverages Beyond This Point” sign. Continue Reading →

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Should Strong Dollar Affect Your Investment Choices?

Information provided by RBC Wealth Management and Eric St. Martin:

A “strong dollar” sounds like a good thing. And, in some ways, it may be. But what does it mean to you, as an investor? Before you can answer this question, you need to be familiar with what the phrase “strong dollar” really means. Continue Reading →

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A Tribute to a Community Friend – Scott Zahren

Last week Stillwater and the entire Greater Stillwater Area lost a wonderful person with the passing of Scott Zahren, former Chamber board member (2005-2011), local event promoter, executive director of Hope House and volunteer for many nonprofit efforts. As secretary of the Chamber’s Downtown Revitalization Coalition, Scott’s only goal was to see that downtown reach its full potential. He was a tireless promoter of all things downtown. For those who met Scott for the first time, they weren’t quite sure what to make of his unique style and colorful phraseology. I was subject to the same impression some 15 years ago. Continue Reading →

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Local Views: City Council Race Spending Tops $17,000

Each of the campaigns for Stillwater mayor and for the Ward 1 council seat appear to be self-funded enterprises, with none of the candidates reporting any cash or in-kind (goods or services) donations over $100 from anyone else. See this link to the city’s website for the campaign finance reports for the city races. Other highlights:

1. As of 10/24, John Rheinberger has outspent Ted Kozlowski about 2-to-1 (~$9,700 to ~$4,700)

2. In Ward 1, the reports show Doug Menikheim outspending Ryan Collins by a more pedestrian ~$1,700 to ~$950

The mayor’s job pays $9,000 annually, and councilmember $7,200 annually. Continue Reading →

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You Decide: Is it Appropriate to Troll a Political Candidate’s Facebook Page for ‘Friends’?

Is it appropriate to troll a political candidate’s Facebook Page for ‘Friends’? How about spamming local business profiles with politics? Social media took a step to the “creepy” side Sunday morning for several people who follow Stillwater mayoral candidate Ted Kozlowski’s Facebook page, Ted for Stillwater. At least 30-40 of the people who follow Kozlowski’s page randomly received “friend” requests—just seconds apart—from Matt Behning, a moderator on the Facebok page, “Washington County Watchdog,” and the profile of a purported Stillwater resident none of them knew, “Scott Cosentino.”

Kozlowski posted this to his candidate page on Sunday:

“ATTN: Beware of a fake friend invite from a guy named “Scott Cosentino.” He’s got my campaign button as his profile pic. Continue Reading →

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