Increased safety, improved technology with referendum vote

Nov. 5 – Election Day! On that day, the residents of Marshall Public Schools will be given an opportunity to vote on a $150 per pupil operating referendum. The referendum would be in place for four years. Currently, the Marshall Public Schools only has one operating referendum in force, and the vote for this second referendum is an important one for the Marshall Public School students and staff.

The operating referendum would support two key efforts in the Marshall Public School District. First, we are reminded all too often about the need for increased safety and security in our schools. Unfortunate tragedies, such as the violent acts in Newtown, Conn., and the recent school shooting in Sparks, Nev., remind us that we cannot view school safety and security as “business as usual.” Therefore, Marshall Public Schools is proposing to enhance safety and security by reconfiguring the primary entrances of each school building. The reconfigured entrances would include locking secondary entrance doors, creating a new entrance into each main office area, and additional camera surveillance and locking systems in the buildings. The preliminary costs for these measures for the district are an estimated to be approximately $240,000 per year over each of the next four years.

The second component of the operating referendum is a focus on creating a 21st Century Learning Experience for Marshall Public School students. Over the next four years, the District would transition to a 1 to 1 learning environment where each student would be equipped with a personal learning device such as an I-Pad or similar tablet computer. Across Minnesota and the country, schools are embracing digital technology to transform the educational experience for students by engaging students in learning, by creating more relevance in what students are learning and why they are learning the skills and content they are learning, to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap, and to ensure students are equipped with the necessary skills to thrive and survive in the 21st century workplace. Along with the purchase of technology devices, the district would also do extensive teacher training and staff development to ensure the devices are used to their greatest potential. The projected costs for the technology efforts are estimated to be approximately $590,000 per year over each of the next four years.

The Marshall Board of Education and school administration is committed to advancing both of these efforts in the district. However, in order to achieve these two improvements in the Marshall Public Schools, the district had to make some decisions. Rather than immediately beginning to eliminate programs that may have less of a priority, the Board and Administration decided to offer the community an opportunity to fund these efforts through an operating referendum. While there is a property tax impact if the referendum would pass, there would still be a net property tax reduction as a result of two factors. First, the state Legislature passed property tax relief for local property taxpayers during the 2013 session. Additionally, the Marshall Board of Education took action to refinance outstanding bond debt in the district, saving the community in excess of $300,000 annually. So, even if the referendum would pass, a local property tax payer with a home taxable value of $150,000 would see a net property tax decrease of $17 annually on the school property taxes payable beginning in 2014. This is very good news for all Marshall property tax payers.

So, what can our community do? First, I would encourage everyone to be fully informed. There have been community forums, television shows on the local cable access channel, and several newspaper articles about the referendum. Furthermore, we have continued to update our district website with information about the upcoming vote and how it will impact the District. It is important that everyone will know and understand why the referendum is being presented and how the funding would be utilized to enhance safety and security and to provide improved technology to students by providing students with a personal learning device such as an I-pad or a similar device. Second, ask questions. If you are unclear or need additional information, know that the District Office can help address your questions and concerns. You can contact the District office at 507-537-6924 and someone will be able to help you with your questions or concerns. Finally, please vote. It is important that community members have their voices heard on the referendum vote. The security measures and technology improvements are important issues in our schools and in our community.

In closing, I want to offer my appreciation for the ongoing support everyone offers to our schools and our students. As we close out the fall activities seasons, I am always impressed with the outpouring of support for our nationally-recognized marching band, our football, volleyball and other sports teams, as well as other student activities such as the FFA programs, the Business Professionals of America club and our student internships. As a community we can all celebrate the accomplishments of our students and look to a future filled with promise. Thank you, and remember, it is a great day to be a Tiger!