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The Northfield School Board has voted to revoke its sponsorship of Village School.

Here it is at

In the Northfield News:

Charter school will be closed
School board pulls its sponsorship

Adam Johnson, Staff Writer

NORTHFIELD — The Northfield School Board on Monday voted 5-to-2 to not renew its charter contract with the Village School of Northfield.

The decision came after more than an hour of discussion and several months during which the board was presented with multiple studies, site visitation reports and other data that had included concerns about academic accountability and safety at the K-12 public school that had been in operation since 1997 and is Northfield’s first charter school.

The decision must be formally approved by the Minnesota Department of Education, but once the district terminates a charter agreement, that charter school cannot seek another sponsor.

“This is not about not supporting choice, but choice is not good in and of itself,” board Chairwoman Kari Nelson said.

Several board members praised the care and dedication Village School staff members have shown for the approximately 40 students attending the school, but cited a disconnect between the school’s “free and democratic” mission and the accountability requirements set in state and federal law, as well as in the school’s charter agreement.

“Some of the changes we’re asking (the Village School) to make would be a real challenge given the school’s philosophy,” board member Mike Berthelsen said.

Board members also stated concerns over inadequate discipline and the lack of “a set of rigorous expectations set out for every student.”

Village School Director Olivia Frey could not be reached for comment at time of publication, and several Village School students and staff members at the meeting declined to comment on the decision. However, the atmosphere in the high school media center was anything but calm when the decision was made, with several audience members breaking down in tears and jeering the school board.

Prior to the vote for non-renewal, board member Wendy Smith had motioned that the district extend the Village School’s charter agreement for one year with the condition that it seek a new sponsor beyond next year.

“I don’t think Northfield is the appropriate sponsor for this school …,” Smith said, citing the apparent incompatibility between the school’s mission and the expectations of the district. “But we need to encourage and enable them to find a new sponsor.”

Smith said she recognized a need for some reforms within the Village School and that it is not an environment for all students, but pointed out that school officials have announced their intention to begin embedding state standards and implement some computerized testing starting in the fall. She also emphatically asserted that the school has been a benefit to many children.

“For some of these students, they stay and they find a home and they find success,” Smith said.

Board member Paul Hager echoed some of Smith’s statements, and suggested improving communication between the district and its charter schools to avoid a repeat of this situation. Smith and Hager cast the dissenting votes in the final decision to effectively close the school.

Superintendent Chris Richardson, who had recommended the non-renewal, said he was worried about creating a double standard if the district’s expectations for accountability don’t apply equally to all three charter schools in the Northfield area.

“If they’re going to take public dollars they have to be in the same mode as everybody else in terms of accountability of student achievement,” Richardson said.

After opening in 1997, the Village School’s contract was renewed for one year in 2000, and again for two years in 2001. It received a three-year contract renewal in 2003, though Richardson called the basis for the latest renewal a “short review with limited documentation.”

This year, the board drew from site visitations from the Department of Education and the Minnesota Sponsors Assistance Network; letters of concern from the Northfield Police Department; a report detailing potential safety issues by the Fire Marshall’s office; audits and self-analyses from the Village School; and a public hearing May 18, at which more than 60 people attended and more than 30 students, staff and family members spoke out in defense of the school.

Today is the last day of the school year for the Village School, and its graduation ceremony will take place 2 p.m. Saturday in the school’s gymnasium.

— Adam Johnson can be reached at 645-1113 or

From the Village School site

And in the STrib:

Northfield vote will close Village School

The Northfield School Board voted 5-2 Tuesday to withdraw its sponsorship of the Village School, the district’s first charter school.

Emily Johns, Star Tribune

NORTHFIELD, MINN. — Students at Northfield’s first charter school need to start looking for a new school for next year.

The Northfield School Board voted 5-2 Tuesday to withdraw its sponsorship of the nine-year-old Village School of Northfield, a move that will essentially close the school. Board members cited academic performance, student safety and compliance with state education standards as reason for concern.

“I believe this is not the right program for a public school in this place and time and for our district,” said board member Mike Berthelsen, who voted to withdraw the school’s sponsorship. “Though (the school) can work and has worked for some students, we have an obligation to look out for all the students attending.”

The Village School is a democratic, project-based charter school that receives about $500,000 annually in state funding. Students at the school choose when and what they want to learn, and they base their learning around projects such as growing tomatoes or building a boat.

School officials pride themselves on providing a home for at-risk students who struggle in a more traditional school environment. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 32 percent of the students qualify as special education students and 55 percent are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, meaning they come from low-income families.

“We are looking at a unique population of students at the school,” said board member Wendy Smith, who voted against withdrawing the Village School’s sponsorship. Smith started crying while saying the board should give the Village School a year to find another sponsor. “I think it’s important to give this school a chance.”

District concerns

District officials told the school in March that its sponsorship might not be renewed because of district concerns over student safety and academic performance. The school has not met the state’s definition of adequate progress for the last two years and it has only a 59 percent graduation rate.

In January, Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith sent Superintendent Chris Richardson a letter citing concerns about student safety and behavior. He said police officers have found students selling marijuana downtown during school hours, trespassing at the nearby AmericInn pool and fishing, claiming it was a math assignment.

Charter schools started opening in Minnesota in 1991, and there are now 125 in the state, according to Morgan Brown, director of the school choice division at the state Department of Education. The Village School is only the eighth of these schools to lose its sponsor and be closed.

Charter schools are publicly funded, and sponsors can be school districts, colleges or universities, nonprofit organizations or foundations. If a school district withdraws its sponsorship, it is unlikely that the school could find another sponsor, Brown said.

Plans for next year

Village School parent Marcia Frazier said she was surprised by the decision, and said board members who voted for withdrawing the school’s sponsorship don’t care about her children.

“This district personally failed six of my seven kids,” Frazier said, while daughter Felicia stood by. Felicia Frazier said she refused to go back to the Northfield School District, and would rather be home-schooled by her mother.

Half of the Village School’s 40 students live within the Northfield School District’s boundaries. Richardson said some families have already contacted the Northfield Area Learning Center, a district school for at-risk high school students. Younger students could consider home schooling, or applying to the district’s two other charter schools for admission if they’re not interested in returning to the Northfield School District.

Village School student Chris Lindberg said he thought the school board did the wrong thing.

“I think they’re kind of ignorant. You can’t really know what the school is like if you just visit it a couple times,” said Lindberg, 18. He has been a student at the Village School for five years, and said he would consider going to a different charter school next year.

“It’s a type of group community that they don’t understand,” he said. “I think it was a horrible decision.”

Emily Johns â?¢ 612-673-7460

Another Letter to the Editor from David Griggs, of Trout Lake Townsihp. He’s the one who every so innocently called Tom Micheletti, who started bitching at him, saying he’d been (GASP!) talking to that Carol Overland! And he hadn’t, he was just concerned about a big gas pipeline and a transmission line through his yard, but he paid attention to what Tom said and shortly thereafter we had a great chat! David’s been looking at this “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS” claim, and actually read the Duluth U jobs report, and read the Excelsior application, and noted the numbers didn’t add up! (you can find the entire application at He’s got this great habit of going right to the source… and … well, read for yourself!


Here’s Grigg’s Letter to the Editor in the Grand Rapids Herald Review:

Reader questions if power plant will result in local jobs

Last Updated: Friday, May 26th, 2006 05:18:10 PM


I attended the public information meeting organized by Excelsior Energy Inc. (aka the coal gasification plant) in Taconite on May 16. Iâ??ve heard many arguments for and against the proposed plant.

The No. 1 reason most people give for supporting the plant is: â??We are an economically depressed community; we need jobs.â? In an informational sheet handed out at the meeting, under â??Job Creation,â? the number of peak construction jobs is quoted at 3,000. However, in the application to the Public Utilities Commission it lists 1,200-1,400 as the peak work force. The PUC application also states â??The labor will be provided through the local Building Trades.â? But the information handout provides the names of Fluor, ConocoPhillips and Siemens as construction contractors, and theyâ??re not local! When I asked about this, Excelsior admitted that construction contracts will not go to local companies because of the nature of the technology being built.

Regarding the permanent jobs to be created, the informational handout claims that â??MesabaOneâ? will employ more than 100 people during a typical year. The PUC application is close â?? about 107. The PUC application details the types of positions and the number of persons employed for each position. What both sources omit are the educational and experience requirements for each position.

I contacted a human resources person at the coal gasification plant in Terra Haute, Ind., who stated that upper management, engineers, chemists, and environmental personnel positions required at least a four-year college degree, which applies to about 15 out of 107 employees. That leaves 30 operators who must have â??previous power plant or similar experienceâ? and 60 other positions, such as millwrights, boilermakers, electricians, that requires training and experience in industrial settings such as refineries or power plants. The point the HR person stressed is that these are highly specialized jobs, and people canâ??t just walk in with little or no experience and expect to be handed a job.

Our community is being sold the idea that the jobs provided by this venture will go to local people, but the facts donâ??t support this argument. Will the permanent jobs at the plant be union jobs? I spoke with Local IBW31, the union at the Boswell plant, and they have nothing in writing. Large out-of-state contractors are going to get the big, high-paying construction contracts, and people with college degrees, extensive power plant training, and industrial experience are going to get the high-paying jobs. What does that leave the local residents?

These â??answersâ? raise more questions than they answer: Where are the 1,400 construction workers going to live for the three years the plant is being built? What needs, costs and impacts will all these workers and this facility have on the quality of life in our community?

David Griggs

But hey, I’ve got to be fair… Excelsior has not just already created “jobs,” but Excelsior has created “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs!” Don’t believe it? Look at their lobbyist list! Excelsior has 16 registered lobbyists! Oh, wait, one terminated last week, so there’s only “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs…”

When it sounds like one of these…

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full of these…

and then it decides to do one of these…


… needless to say, a computer laying by its dish is not a pretty sight, and it sure screws up my life! But then again, it’s continuing to breathe long enough to get most of my files out. So yes, there is a Dog.

Onward… ignore those bombers and fighter planes flying overhead…

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From the site with some great photos of the 2005 Wings of Freedom Red Wing show (check the one where they’re scoping out the river — it’s gotta be by the Prairie Island nuclear plant!)

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From CNN’s “Nuclear power plant tower imploded

“Trojan closed in 1993 for financial and safety reasons…”

We’ve got the sense to implode the Trojan nuclear plant — how long before the rest follow?

Here are some videos from the p-nut gallery — seems the bluffs were lined for the show.

Here’s the local TV station’s bird’s eye report

Because of its size and unusually strong build, Loizeaux said the tower is of keen interest to the nuclear power industry.

“Everybody is watching,” Loizeaux said. “Because at some point in time, their’s will have to come down.”



Tall Buildings Needed

To the editor:

What is all this flap about a towering condo at Centennial Lakes?

Isn’t this a major metropolitan area with too many people driving too far everyday, which logically argues for higher density land use? Aren’t there many tall buildings – office and residential – within a stone’s throw?

Yes, tall buildings don’t do much for me, but it is not out of character with what is already there. And I have to admit, things have changed. My brother and I used to run our dogs at the gravel pit – oh, its now called “Centennial Lakes.”

Long to return to the good old days? OK, reduce those tall buildings to rubble, bulldoze the smaller ones whose owners don’t want larger buildings inflicted on them, and have a good space to run the dogs on Sunday afternoon.

I would just as soon as Lunds and Target were farms again, and there was a horse running through the neighborhood now and then. Oh well … it’s time to adjust to the 21st century.

Carol A. Overland

Edina (NOT!)
(I’d emailed it with my full office address, where on earth did they get this idea??)

Yes, even the developers admit it was a gravel pit

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