Monday, February 1, 2016

Why Isn't the State Funding Carrington School District To Build a New School?

I found this article by the Williston Post to be very interesting - especially the views of Charles Cartier and Attorney Robert Hale regarding the constitutional responsibility of North Dakota to provide good schools to our communities.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Carrington School District's New School Initiative

Russ Heidt: Concerned about Heavy Tax Burden

Carrington School District is in the process of presenting informational meetings to the public regarding a New School Bond Initiative which, according to them, will add $23.5 million dollars  (plus interest and other costs) to our local property taxes.  On Tuesday, February 16, 2016, school district residents will vote yes or no toward building a new elementary school complex, including a new gymnasium and separate auditorium.

The long-range planning meeting which I attended on January 13, 2016, consisted of Superintendent Brian Duchscherer showing a PowerPoint presentation -- during and after which he answered questions from people in the audience.  (You can find a copy of his PowerPoint presentation at the following location on the Carrington School District website:  http://www.carrington.k12.nd.us/Carrington/bulletin/Long%20Range%20Plan/Presentation%201-13-2016.pdf )   

This video consists of clips of local taxpayers responding to the presentation -- asking questions and commenting at the January 13th meeting.  I recorded the meeting for myself, not with the intention of publishing it.  However, after seeing how The Independent is covering the new school issue, I decided to let our community hear directly from local people expressing their concerns.

Please excuse the poor quality of the video.  I tried to include a short clip of most people who spoke up at the meeting, so at times it's like being on a roller coaster with quick starts and stops.  Also, the audio may go up and down according to how far the speaker was from my camera.  All in all, however, I think you can get a good idea of the concerns that were voiced by members of the community that night ... which is not particularly reflected in the reports of The Independent.

You will notice that most of the comments and questions were from taxpayers (business persons, farmers, home-owners) -- persons who are not employed by the Carrington School District.  There were many teachers and board members present, but I got the impression that they were not supposed to speak up... that Superintendent Duchscherer was speaking for them.  

One noticeable exception took place when a teacher retorted to a taxpayer who was voicing her concerns about the huge financial impact for  people on fixed incomes, the elderly and the disabled.  The taxpayer said that her children had received a good education in Carrington in the school to be replaced, whereupon the teacher interrupted the taxpayer with the statement, "It's not about you, ____."  What did she mean by that?  Shouldn't this teacher and the school district be concerned about the effect this bond will have on people with low and/or fixed incomes?  

And, what about the local farmers who will carry the biggest tax burden?  Why did Superintendent Duchscherer give an example of a tax burden based on marginal cropland which is not indicative of the value of the average cropland in the district? Some farmers are worried that if this School Bond Initiative passes, it will mean the end of farming for them.  Doesn't everyone know that Foster County depends upon the health and wealth of our farming community?  It appears that many in this community don't mind biting the hand that feeds them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Children -- Self-Taught Computer Whizzes



Okay, are you a person who can relate to this cartoon? I certainly can! Many of you know that I was a teacher before I moved to Carrington. At the last school where I taught 6th grade, I had a 30-computer lab right outside my door which we used for various activities every day. At that time, and even more-so today, by the time a child was 11-12 years old, he/she could be a computer whiz -- actually more advanced in computer technology than many teachers. 
Besides being advisor for our yearbook with a group of students who met after school every day, I also created and advised a group of students called "webmasters" who maintained a website for our school. They would interview the principal, teachers, students and parents in order to write news articles for our website. During class time, sometimes a teacher would ask if one of my students could come and help with computer or software problems. If the student was caught up on classwork and wouldn't miss anything important, he/she could go to help the teacher. The students loved to do this, the teachers appreciated it, and I considered it a great learning situation all around.
If I were teaching today, especially at the high school level, I'm sure I would constantly be calling on students to help me with computer situations. Did you know that many of our young people have much more advanced computer skills than their teachers with advanced degrees? They know how to get around the internet faster and find information quicker than most adults. Many of them have already taken apart many computers and put them back together again -- usually with improvements! Many of them have learned computer languages/codes so they can create their own software. And, what's so impressive, to me as a teacher, is they are mostly self-taught or peer-taught. 
It's truly amazing what young minds can accomplish if focused and really interested in something. We should never underestimate their capabilities!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

School Bond Initiative? Yes or No



On Wednesday evening, January 13, 2016, Carrington School District convened a special informative meeting conducted by Superintendent Brian Duchscherer. He gave a PowerPoint presentation detailing the scope of the new school project and how it would impact property owners' taxes.
During the meeting, numerous tax payers expressed concerns as to the affordability of the 23.5 million dollar project. A Carrington resident and taxpayer, Russ Heidt, expressed deep concerns with the impact of this new tax on top of all the other current taxes and obligations facing Carrington homeowners. He questioned Duchscherer about the validity of the total cost for the project and determined that with interest/other expenses/etc. it will more likely cost around $35 million.
Another concern coming from the audience was the potential $700/sq.ft. cost for construction. Two men in the audience questioned why the project was costing so much and gave examples of other schools which were recently being built for much less ($150-$350/sq.ft.) Carter Kleinsauser wondered out loud if we were getting ripped off, and the audience laughed.
Marlene Boyer, a retired teacher from the school district, was particularly concerned about the ability of the elderly, the disabled, and people on fixed incomes to be able to pay for this project. She expressed that her family had received a good education there in the past and wondered if some of the seemingly extra components could be cut from the project.
Charles Linderman stated, "We've got to decide what are our priorities. ... I think the school is our number one priority. ... If you want nice things, you have to pay for them." He compared the $320-a-year-extra cost for a $100K house to a trip that he and his wife might take to Fargo for the weekend, where they would spend much more than that.
Superintendent Duchscherer did an excellent job of answering questions from the audience and presenting facts in favor of the new school project - valid concerns as to why the school district hopes that tax payers will vote yes on February 16th to encumber their properties for the next 20 years.
(For more information, you might want to take a look at the Cardinal Pride Vote Yes Committee page on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/cardinalpridevoteyes/. Also, the "Long Range Planning" page at the Carrington Public Schools site adds ongoing information: http://www.carrington.k12.nd.us/…/bulle…/longrangeplan2.html.)
Also, if you're interested, you may want to attend an information meeting, being hosted by Angela Kutz in Sykeston on Sunday, January 17th at the Parish Hall. It will be at noon with lunch served to everyone who attends. Angela's goal is to get as many facts out as possible so people can make an educated vote.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

WDAZ News Special about SA Murphy's Resignation

Matt Henson from WDAZ TV was in Carrington on Monday morning - January 11th, interviewing people about the resignation of Foster County State's Attorney Paul Murphy. Take a look at his news special which was aired on WDAZ's Monday evening news at 10 p.m. 

http://www.wdaz.com/news/north-dakota/3922188-foster-county-criminal-cases-indefinite-hold

Thursday, January 7, 2016

FOSTER COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY, PAUL MURPHY, TURNS IN HIS RESIGNATION

01/06/2016: FOSTER COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY, PAUL MURPHY, TURNS IN HIS RESIGNATION


Today, Wednesday, January 6, 2016, State's Attorney Paul Murphy turned in his resignation to the Foster County Board of Commissioners. After his resignation, at a special Foster County Commission meeting later in the day, it was decided to have all the County files and equipment moved from Paul Murphy's office to the Courthouse where the new State's Attorney's office will be located. A notice will be published in the newspaper regarding the opening in Foster County for a new State's Attorney. 

01/07/16

Interestingly enough someone sent me a photo of all the Foster County legal files and filing cabinets sitting out on the sidewalk in front of Murphy's office.  There was no one in sight to protect them.  We made sure Commissioner Josh Dreher was notified about the unprotected files, and he immediately sent people to bring them to the courthouse.  





A visitor on my Carrington News Facebook site posted the following:  "Were these deliberately left here by Murphy with no intention of getting them to a safe place? If so, isn't this an ethical concern that should be reported to the state office that oversees county state's attorneys? or state bar association? I have no idea what is in these files, but I can only assume there could be private information on victims of various crimes, and I can't imagine this is the proper way to transfer files to the new states attorney."


Foster County Commission Chairman Josh Dreher Called for State's Attorney Murphy's Resignation.

Josh Dreher - Foster County ND - Commission Chairman
BREAKING NEWS  01/05/2016: Foster County Commission Chairman Josh Dreher Called for State's Attorney Murphy's Resignation.
After a lengthy discussion at the Foster County Commission meeting today - January 5, 2016 - Chairman Josh Dreher called for State's Attorney Murphy to resign. Voices of frustration were heard throughout the meeting from both Chairman Dreher and Commissioner Gussiaas regarding Murphy's poor performance as State's Attorney for Foster County. Reasons given for their frustration with Murphy included the facts that he seldom shows up for commission meetings, that he doesn't give them valid legal advice, that he says he will get back to them with legal advice but doesn't do it, that he uses his office for personal preferences as opposed to public fairness and the good of the community.
Paul Murphy - Ex Foster County State's Attorney
Also, during the meeting, Ted Keller was on the agenda to point out that most, if not all, of the procedural problems of the new country shop were the direct fault of State's Attorney Paul Murphy. Keller stated that Murphy failed to advise, counsel and direct the commission in the proper procedure of handling the construction process of the shop from its inception. He stated that to make matters worse Murphy advised the commission in an executive session to disobey the law because insurance would cover the county for any losses. Keller went on to play parts of the executive session, pointing out how Murphy misled the commission.
Ted Keller - Foster County Resident
Lastly, Keller pointed out that he had been threatened by Murphy about six months ago regarding a post on this website. He disclosed to the commission that he feared reprisals from State's Attorney Murphy. He produced a copy of an email from Murphy in which the ND State's Attorney stated that "Law enforcement can either be your friend or your enemy, it is your choice." Keller went on to say he has been hesitant to come forward because of the threat from Murphy.
After Keller's presentation, the commission continued discussing Murphy's position with the county. They decided to have a special meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, at 8:30 p.m. to discuss the matter further.
Watch the entire meeting which will be televised on Dakota Central's Channel 17 this week, and judge for yourself whether Murphy should resign or be removed from office.

FOSTER COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY, PAUL MURPHY, TURNS IN HIS RESIGNATION



01/06/2016: FOSTER COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY, PAUL MURPHY, TURNS IN HIS RESIGNATION
Today, Wednesday, January 6, 2016, State's Attorney Paul Murphy turned in his resignation to the Foster County Board of Commissioners. After his resignation, at a special Foster County Commission meeting later in the day, it was decided to have all the County files and equipment moved from Paul Murphy's office to the Courthouse where the new State's Attorney's office will be located. A notice will be published in the newspaper regarding the opening in Foster County for a new State's Attorney. 

STATEMENT FROM COMMISSION CHAIRMAN JOSH DREHER:


Thursday January 7, 2016 Statement in regards to SA resignation
On Tuesday January 5, 2016 at the regular Foster County Commission meeting much discussion took place in reference to the past and present performance of Foster County State's Attorney Paul Murphy. In the past several months our county has received inaccurate and unreliable legal advice in relation to the Foster County Shop. He refuses to accept any accountability on this and several other issues. It is my belief that in the last few months Mr. Murphy has allowed personal issues to cloud his judgment and negatively affect his performance as State's Attorney. Other issues were discussed including alleged misconduct of Mr. Murphy in his official capacity against another county employee and the potential liability issues of the State's Attorney office being located off county property within a private residence. After these issues were discussed, I called for the resignation of Paul Murphy. Later Tuesday Afternoon a special meeting was called for Wed. January 6 at 8:30 pm. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss moving the SA office to the courthouse. At the meeting auditor Casey Cables presented us Mr. Murphy's resignation.
We will be holding a special meeting Monday Jan 11 at 9am to move on accepting the resignation, and moving forward to fill the vacant position.
Joshua Dreher
Foster County Commissioner

Thursday, December 24, 2015

ARE YOU VOTING YES OR NO ON THE TAX INITIATIVE TO BUILD A NEW SCHOOL AND MORE?





CARRINGTON/FOSTER COUNTY: ARE YOU VOTING YES OR NO ON THE TAX INITIATIVE TO BUILD A NEW SCHOOL, ETC.?

A vote will be taken on February 16, 2016, regarding whether or not citizens of Carrington/Foster County want to build a new elementary school and sports complex at a site east of the current high school. This is a serious topic for our community and every property owner to consider because it involves a vast amount of taxes distributed over a 20-year period.   

We are attempting to obtain all of the new tax assessments for every land and property owner in Foster County to be able to calculate each individual's tax liability if this tax initiative passes.  That way each tax payer of Foster County and we can better understand exactly what passing this tax initiative will mean to our finanial committment for the future.  Specific facts/information can help each citizen/property owner determine whether or not they wish to encumber their property for whatever amount for the next 20 years. 

We have included a copy of a letter from Russ Heidt, a Carrington resident, who explains what he thinks this initiative will mean to each of us if passed.   We've also included an article from the Foster County Independent which sees the initiative from the school district's perspective.  We understand that a Facebook site has been established in support of this initiative at: https://www.facebook.com/cardinalpridevoteyes/.   Also, you can read very detailed information at the Carrington School District site: http://www.carrington.k12.nd.us/Carrington/bulletin/longrangeplan2.html.

We hope you will take time to thoroughly study and understand what it means to either vote yes or no on this initiative in February.  We invite all comments - for or against - this initiative.