Four-day school week for North Branch, unfortunately

To the editor

It was a sad day in North Branch March 7, 2013 when the school board met and the decision was made to move forward with the four-day school week for another long three- year term.

The two newly seated board members were the first to speak and took their first gulp of the proverbial toxic Kool-Aid.

Not realizing the fact that $4.5 million fund balance represents the shortfall of home equity in this community due to the un-marketability of the homes and business in North Branch.

Not realizing the people in North Branch are aware that soon that $4.5 million fund balance will make its way to the Union coffers.

Not realizing this is not about or even more importantly for the kids, and only benefit a few in this community, staff, teachers, superintendent.

Scare tactic and threats of cutting staff and increasing class sizes were spewed in the budget proposals comparing four-day budget to the proposed five-day budget, when in reality five days should have been represented as growth and opportunity.

Strategic plan now includes the following plan:

Move towards a capital levy to be held in a non-voting year, picking inconvenient time and location when and where most voters would not come out to vote.

“Declining enrollment” is one of the side affects of four-day school . Over the past five years, NBAPS is losing students at a 5-1 ratio against its nearest competing and neighboring district, Chisago Lakes.

With a $4.5 mil fund balance, four-day school, NBAPS does not need a one-sided levy.

Community intervention is needed here in North Branch.

Kevin Orf

North Branch

  • What is the level of toxicity?

    When I first read this letter I thought a giant meteor was headed for North Branch or something. Toxic Kool Aid? Spewed? Scare tactics and threats?

    I talked to a local real estate agent the other day who said 2012 was the best year they ever had as an agent. I immediately knocked the juice out of his hand in case it was toxic. You just never know with that gol-dern school district. I probably saved his life.

    I wonder, how much does the district have in its Kool Aid toxin budget line-item? Didn’t the state cut funding for that a couple years ago?

  • Judi Fitcha

    It’s always amazing to me that people continue to suggest that the School Board and District “have it out for us.” What possible reason would they have for driving the school district into the ground? It seems to me if they destroy our schools, they also endanger their own livelihoods.

    While I haven’t always agreed with decisions made, our school district has gone out of their way to publish information regarding the financial situation. Superintendent Henton has repeatedly submitted columns encouraging anyone with questions to contact her directly. You can go on the school district website and look at all the Board materials and minutes, along with financials. I know for a fact that one of the new Board members wants nothing but the best for our school district and that is why that person ran for School Board.

    The problems our district has are due to many factors, a lot of which are out of the control of the district. The fact that our per student funding from the state is so much less than other districts certainly doesn’t help.

    It would be nice if the school district and town would work more closely together for our students. The financial future of the schools certainly looks bleak given the projected deficits for the next 4-5 years. You can find out these figures yourself by looking on the district website as I did.

    Whether it’s right or wrong to continue with a 4 day week is open to opinion I suppose – but the fact is it is saving the district money. I know one thing, inflamatory statements accusing people of being nothing short of hell bent on the destruction of our district certainly don’t help anyone. It would be better if all that energy were put toward helping to make things better.

  • Resident

    Is it possible that the unmarketability of North Branch is due to the fact that we don’t have any “big box” stores and people don’t want to drive to Cambridge or Forest Lake to shop, as most of the current residents now do? I’m pretty sure the reason North Branch isn’t growing is due to many factors – to blame it all on the school district seems shortsighted.

  • Kelly

    I don’t live in North Branch and after reading an article like this one, I don’t want to. I remember a time when I was looking to buy a home there because I loved the way the community seemed to rally around the schools. I don’t know of any other district where the teachers would volunteer their time to put on a talent show to raise scholarship money for graduating seniors. I loved that the town would go to the show (we went every year, for many years, even though we didn’t live in the district) and that tickets would sell out. So North Branch citizens, keep putting out information like this and don’t worry, your good schools will be gone. Along with your home values.

  • Linda Johnson

    Wow. Another rambling message from the amazing and super intelligent Kevin Orf. Let me be the first to state that I would love to take up a collection to help Mr. Orf move out of town. I’m guessing we will have to drive him to his new city with the whiskey plates, but maybe the “proverbial toxic kool-aid” in his house has been spiked a little too often. That same kool-aid must also prevent him from writing in complete sentences.

  • Resident

    Could it be that Mr. Orf is perhaps bitter about not winning a seat on the School Board in the last election?

    • Kevin Orf

      I appreciate being told that I am intelligent, Thank You. As for the rest of the response, why is this about me and not the issues? I know that I should have expected people to try to deflect from the issues by going after me, but I was hoping that adults would be posting to this site. I am not sure why there is so much anger directed at me, when I am just pointing out the facts. As for plates, I would welcome a visit from you where we can pull out some plates and maybe have a piece of pie and a cup of coffee and discuss the 4 day school week and the real budget, not a proposed budget. Maybe we could all learn something and work together to see how we can help to fix some of the issues surrounding the schools in our community. If you do see me on the street and my license plates are what is being discussed, I drive a green car with plates that start with a 9, in case you have some question of if it is me or not, now you will know. I am always open to a good discussion so I hope people do stop me for a chat. Maybe we could also discuss my dedication to this community where I volunteer hundreds of hours every year, including the Volunteer Fire Department and Coaching childrens sports. I was hoping to do more by joining the School Board as was pointed out by another person who I assume must be to insecure to put their name out there, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I am not bitter about that and that is not why I am posting this either. I am just trying to point out some truths and hopefully get people thinking so they don’t just sit back and let things happen because they don’t think they can do anything or don’t think it matters.

  • Kevin Orf

    I am sorry to everyone for basically posting twice with the same message, but after a few hours I assumed the first one was to long or said something the paper didn’t want to print so I submitted another expecting that the paper would filter one of them out. Of course maybe once again that will get people thinking and help get the word out that it is ok to stand up and give your opinion.

  • Michelle

    Kevin – please do not give up your fight on returning our school district back to a five day. I want my children to have the same opportunity that 99% of American children already have, learning five days a week. It saddens me to think that so many families choose their personal liking of having an extra day off rather than educating our children an extra day. Don’t get me wrong, I too like sleeping in Monday morning but believe it is not what is best for my children and would gladly give up my extra sleep in morning.

  • KJ

    I am always so thrilled when Kevin speaks. It is fascinating really, kind of like admiring a bobble head doll. It is so unfortunate that there is a handful of bad apple bobble heads that constantly spew this stuff in the North Branch community. It really makes for a negative community.
    We have had 2 children already graduate from North Branch who have done extremely well. This distict is one of the most dedicated districts I have had the pleasure of living in. The teachers are outstanding; they are caring people that give a lot of their time and their own money to help do the right thing when needed for their school kids. All of the staff have been amazing, from the Principal’s down to the bus drivers and the janitorial staff. I think it is the dysfunction of the city that is the problem with the home values and people of course like those bad apples that wreck it for the whole community.
    After 13 years we are moving out of the community. I can honestly say that leaving the school district is going to be heart breaking. Leaving the community on the other hand will be refreshing and our closing can’t come fast enough!! If you are thinking of moving to NB, I would HIGHLY recommend the school district! Just last year they were named in the top 100 in the state by US News. They are constantly winning awards and are fiscally responsible! I have been to the audit meetings and they have earned many KUDOS from auditors. Randi Johnson and Deb Henton make a wonderful team of doing the right thing for the NB School District! They are fiscally responsible and do an amazing job of advocating for our district!!
    It is high time that the bad apples and the City of North Branch did something that even slightly compares to the outstanding job of what our school district does. I haven’t seen any awards or kudos for the City of North Branch printed anywhere. So it is high time that the bad apples and the City of North Branch actually did something positive for their community rather than spew their sewer water tainted kool aid! Then people might actually enjoy living in North Branch so they can be part of a fantastic school district!! And the 4 day week is awesome! We will miss it in our new school district! We won’t miss the bobble heads though!