How will rural Minnesota educate its kids? (5×8 – 12/20/12)

1) WHEN THE SCHOOLS FALL DOWN

rushford_school.jpg

When a community needs a new school but doesn’t want to pay for a new school, what then?

That, depending on whom you talk to, is the situation in Rushford-Peterson, where voters have rejected — fairly handily — a $15 million referendum to pay for part of a new school to replace the one built in 1906.

Rushford, you may recall, is the school district that tried to get the new school included in the state’s bonding bill because the locals wouldn’t pay for it. But the state didn’t want to pay for it, either.

“You can’t use the urinal, you know why?” district superintendent Chuck Ehler told MPR News last February. “The sewer pipe is completely rusted… The urine has been running into the sand base below the building… Those are surprises I find almost on a daily basis.”

The original pricetag for a new school — $29 million — would’ve forced property taxes up 48 percent. But the economy is terrible in Rushford-Peterson, especially after a flood devastated the area five years ago. Rushford only has about 1,700 residents.

It’s a scenario that portends the future of education in rural parts of Minnesota. As communities age and economies decline, how will towns educate their children?

2) RANDOM ACTS OF MUSIC

Perhaps you’re familiar with the PS22 chorus on Staten Island. The 5th graders became famous after some of their YouTube videos went viral.

This week they recorded a tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary by singing the school song.

Here’s a little background on the kids:

Once in a Lullaby: The PS22 Chorus Story (Trailer) from Jonathan Kalafer on Vimeo.

Related Connecticut: An Edina man, a member of the Bush White House, takes on the gun lobby in the pages of the New York Times:


Gun violence in particular frightens voters in middle- and upper-income suburbs across the country, places like my hometown, Edina, Minn. These areas, once Republican strongholds, still have many voters who are sympathetic to the economic platform of the Republican Party but are increasingly worried about their own safety in a country with millions of unregistered and unregulated guns. Some suburban voters may keep a hunting rifle locked away in a safe place, but few want people bringing semiautomatic weapons into their neighborhoods. They also believe that insane people should not have access to guns.

Related Music: The Mayo flash mob (Post Bulletin).

3) MR. NGO’S JOURNEY

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

“In the wake of a horrific act of random violence against children, you can’t help but find comfort in Danh’s (Ngo) very intentional acts of kindness toward the kids at St. Joseph’s, and the path that brought him there,” Jessie Sorensen of Catholic Charities tells us via email.

Mr. Ngo was honored recently for 37 years of service in the building maintenance department at St. Joseph’s Home for Children.

The journey to Minnesota started on a battlefield in South Vietnam…

Related goodbyes: Andy Sommer didn’t consider teaching in Woodbury to be a job, his colleagues say. It was a commitment. (Woodbury Bulletin)

4) JUST ANOTHER DAY ON TWIN CITIES HIGHWAYS

Your daily dose of road rage, courtesy of Sun News.


The incident began just before 6 p.m. Saturday when the victim, who was driving a small black car, honked his horn at a dark-colored SUV while driving on Cliff Road toward Pilot Knob, police say.

While they were stopped, an argument started between the man in the car and the man in the SUV. Both vehicles turned onto Pilot Knob Road and drove aggressively until reaching Diffley Road, where the man in the small car pulled into a gas station.

The SUV pulled up near the car, and both men got out of their vehicles. The man in the SUV allegedly threw the other man, a Vietnam veteran, into the car, smashed his head into the vehicle and knocked him unconscious. Police say the man sustained a broken wrist and nose.

The suspect fled as passersby approached the victim.

5) WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN THE 6TH GRADE?

Bonus I: Psst! The fish are disappearing from the ocean. (Boston Globe)

Bonus II: Today’s MPR commentary extolls the virtue of bicycling in the winter.

Would a rush hour in a snowstorm with bicycles be much different than a rush hour in a snowstorm with cars. What say you, Netherlands?

TODAY’S QUESTION

After its initial silence following the Connecticut school shootings, the National Rifle Association has announced that it will hold a press conference on Friday and “offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Today’s Question: What would you like to hear from the NRA?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The grim economic outlook for working-class men.

Second hour: The binge drinking gene.

Third hour: How the fiscal cliff might impact charitable organizations.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): On the day of the public congressional hearing on the Benghazi attack, from the America Abroad series, a program about Islamism in Africa.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The emerging security risks.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The story of Miss Subways. For 35 years, an unusual beauty pageant was part of New York City life. Each month, the public would crown Miss Subways, a title that celebrated the everyday working woman. NPR will have the story.

MPR’s Tom Crann will talk to former Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra director Hugh Wolff, who is in town to direct performances of ”The Messiah” with musicians from the locked-out SPCO.

  • MikeB

    When you lose the school you lose the town. Hard to believe they’d let this go. Or, to be charitable, maybe they see the writing on the wall and know their town is on life support.

  • Garage Logician

    When Eric the Bike Man starts advertising snowboards, put the bike away for the winter. When he starts advertising bikes again you can get it out again.

  • Chris

    How many students can there be in a town on 1700? And the new school would cost $29 Million dollars? That can’t be right.

  • Paul J

    Re: Bicycle rush hour in Netherlands

    Where are all the fat people?

  • Constance Hill

    Chris, remember that it’s the Rushfield-Peterson school district. Not only does it serve the town pf Peterson (5 miles away) but all the kids on farms surrounding the 2 towns.

  • John O.

    I have to say I tend to agree with MikeB. I travel across this state as a part of my job and the circumstances are similar in many, many places.

    Residents located in school districts like Rushford-Peterson simply cannot afford $29m for a new facility. Go into these towns and see for yourself. Many are retired and on fixed incomes. The vast majority of their children got their high school diploma there decades ago and moved away to go to post-secondary school. Most moved on to jobs in the cities or elsewhere.

    Also don’t overlook the fact that those communities forced into merging their schools recognize that decades of rivalries on football fields and basketball courts are now only a memory. For many long-time residents, it is also a loss of community pride.

    I don’t know what the long-term solution is–or should be. What is clear from my travels is that there are a whole bunch of Rushford-Petersons scattered throughout Minnesota that are in similar situations.