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School levy defeated by 2-1 vote margin

Picketing in favor of a "yes" vote for the Perham-Dent school levy was a common sight during the week prior to election day. Here, "Together for Kids" supporters campaigned on Halloween night--complete with costumes.

The hopes of hundreds of hard-working Perham-Dent school activists began to dim by 9 p.m. election day.

From pickets to phone campaigns to ads to door knocking, the Together for Kids group was a crack team over the past three weeks. The "vote yes" message was everywhere, and hopes were high that the levy referendum would restore financial stability to the Perham-Dent school system.

But when the first three precincts--the precincts with the very voters they hoped would carry the measure--came in, the "no" votes were ahead. These were the Perham city, Perham Township and Pine Lake Township precincts--the Perham and Perham "suburb" precincts.

In the end, the levy was defeated by more than a 2-1 margin--at 4,054 to 1,911.

"I think the immediate Perham area was our best chance," said Perham School Superintendent Tamara Uselman, sounding grim on the telephone in the early hours after the polls closed. "It's probably going to get tougher the farther out from Perham."

At 9:30 p.m., Together for Kids co-chair Stacy Malikowski was "cautiously optimistic...We knew it was going to be close, but hopefully close in our favor."

There were still about 60 precincts remaining to report at that time. But by 11:30 p.m., the "no" votes were running twice those of the "yes" votes.

"We were hoping that people would realize the vote's importance to the community; that it was a vote for kids and the schools," said Together for Kids co-chair Pat Nordick.

"I don't know if anything could have been done differently as far as the campaign. The work was done, and we just prayed people would step up and do what they needed to do," said Superintendent Tamara Uselman.