By Bill Rogotzke, Chair of the Red Rock Central School Board
Like all of us, Red Rock Central Public School District has seen a number of challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve worked hard to keep our students as our main focus, and we appreciate all of the challenges our students and families have faced through this crisis. At the same time, we have been planning for our long-term future by continuing our study of the best way to address serious deficiencies in our facilities.
In May 2017, we began a process to assess facility and building infrastructure needs and engaged the community to get feedback about challenges and potential options. Our current building has several issues including accessibility concerns, safety and security, and major systems that are beyond their service life. A task force that included community members met regularly, and in November 2019 it voted to recommend the option of building a new building. We are grateful for a community so willing to be involved in this process.
Red Rock Central Public School District is now beginning to consider a referendum in November 2020 that would provide funds to complete the work. We have an opportunity to greatly improve upon the environment in which our students are educated every day with a facility that will be effective for decades to come.
Our current building has a great legacy, but much of it is beyond its useful life and simply doesn’t do the job for a 21st century education. Construction costs will continue to grow if these issues are ignored. With a proposed substantial reduction in our operating levy due to savings from the closing of the Jeffers building, the timing is right as interest rates are at historic lows, and the Ag2School Tax Credit is in place to ensure that the state of Minnesota covers 58% of the bond costs to keep the tax burden lower for our agricultural community.
We sought community input to develop the plans for the referendum proposal. Community members helped evaluate options that would address the problem. We listened. A survey was conducted in 2018 and another was sent out to residents at the end of May.
As we pledge to provide honest, factual information every step of the way, we need your commitment to study the facts that the district provides regarding the possible referendum. We promise to provide all the information you need and to fulfill our legal obligation to provide only factual information.
We also know that some advocacy groups sometimes share information that is confusing or misleading. Advocacy groups have free speech rights allowing them to say anything - so they do not have to stick to the facts. In many cases, these groups hire someone who has no investment in our communities and no investment in our students’ academic success to sabotage a referendum and to divide a community. One such consultant is Iowa resident Paul Dorr. A representative of his company, Copperhead Consulting, has already been making appearances at our community engagement meetings. Mr. Dorr is a self-proclaimed “bond buster” who works with local groups across the Midwest to defeat public school ballot initiatives. You can read some articles on Paul Dorr and his tactics on our website.
You have our pledge that we will provide you with ongoing factual information through various mailings, e-mail newsletters and on the district website. School district officials are also personally willing to come to your home/neighborhood to speak with you and your neighbors when the state begins to allow gatherings. Then, you must decide how to vote based on the facts.
This school building is your school building. Please stay informed. The future of our schools and the children of the communities we serve depends on you and your neighbors.