Weather Forecast


Excellent schools are no accident

I'll start out immediately by admitting I'm very biased. For 36 years my top priorities in life were in order: my family, my faith, my students, my friends, and my community. In 1999 I retired from teaching and with my wife Judy came to live on Big Pine, where we still reside year around. Financially, we get by on my Teacher's Retirement, which I paid into all during my job years, and our combined Social Security. In the overall scheme of economic security, I suppose we are in the lower half of the middle class.

Most of you don't know me because Judy and I tend to keep to ourselves and are not what you'd call social activists. Still, we feel fortunate to live in a place where we love it and near a community as progressively energetic as Perham is. We do almost of our business within Perham because we believe it's important to support the businesses here. Every week we faithfully read the Perham paper from cover to cover, and we've noticed time and again at the center of everything about this good place to live are Perham's schools, which brings me back to my opening statement concerning being very biased.

I'm definitely going to vote yes on the upcoming school referendum, and for what I consider no-brainer reasons. When I taught at Marshall in Southwestern Minnesota, I was the school's Teacher of the Year in 1996, Southwest Minnesota's Teacher of the Year in 1997, a semi-finalist for Minnesota's Teacher of the Year in 1997, Wal-Mart's Teacher of the Year in 1997, and elected to Marshall School's Hall of Honor in 2005. Now I know this sounds as if I'm very full of myself, but that's not at all why I mention these things. I know what a very good school looks like, and Perham has one of the best I've ever run across. During my career I served on several North Central Evaluation teams and went all over Minnesota to grade public schools. I saw none that were any better than Perham's school system and many that were far less impressive. In both curricular and extra-curricular areas your schools are a community treasure and one of which you should be exceedingly proud. ­This accomplishment in a time when school after school is having to cut back on staff, programs, and extracurriculars is extraordinary and no accident. It's a matter of many people working very hard to achieve the goal of excellence: administration, school board, staff, support staff, students, parents, businesses, and community. More than ever, in these days it's also a matter of shared sacrifices.

I realize why some of you are urging a no vote on this referendum, and it's not up to me to second-guess your situations. From a personal perspective, the inevitable and substantial raise in my personal property taxes will not be easy for us. Still, I can't come up with a single place in which I'd rather invest than in the future of my community's young people. I absolutely believe our Superintendent when she says the referendum is not about frills but about maintaining what we have, and there have been superintendents I haven't trusted much farther than I could throw them. One way I guarantee that you can turn a school into a mediocre one is by needlessly increasing class sizes and by showing what is clearly an excellent staff that you really don't value their work and commitment that much. I hope and pray that enough of you see things as I do come election day.


Greg Van Hee, Perham