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Perham grade 6 girls showed 'School of Champions' spirit in wake of failed levy

How does a School of Champions react to a failed levy?

A menu of reactions is there for the taking: anger, frustration, exhaustion - yet the reaction I choose is gratitude. I am forever grateful to work in Perham - Dent Public Schools and grateful to work for a community that has historically supported its schools and the learners in them. We shall get through this financial crisis by working together. I know we can. Four sixth grade girls taught me that just last week.

By any count in these tough economic times, nearly 2,000 'yes' votes represent courage worth celebrating; one has to be grateful for that amount of "sisu", that kind of forward thinking.


Simply said, our kids are worth it.

Case in point: I had a meeting at the middle school last week with four sixth-grade, civic-minded girls. The reaction they chose regarding the levy results was both touching and one of personal responsibility (we will do something to help). They chose action; they asked permission to host a bake sale to help the school because "they have to do something." In talking with them, I realized I was witnessing something very special. It was the best real-life, walking-around-in-tennis-shoes example of what we mean by our motto, "School of Champions." These four girls have chosen the best during the worst; they have chosen to be positive; they have personally elected to take on civic duty. Believe me, whether you voted 'yes' or you voted 'no', these girls are the kind of citizens we need in our next generation.

What lesson do we learn from the four in sixth? As an administration, staff, and School Board, we must exhibit the same courageous, champion-like positive reaction to impossible odds. Then we must take action. The first action step is to listen to the community. There is no skill more powerful than that of listening. It leads to learning.

To be sure, there exists in all communities a selfish minority of takers who are seldom givers. That minority is not the rank and file of our school district. It is critical, now more than ever before, to simply take time to hear what hardworking, good thinking people have to say about the reasons behind the levy vote. We need to listen to the people, and to learn from them.

How can you be heard? There are a number of ways for citizens to be heard. Board members are public servants who are active in our communities. They will take time to just listen. School-staff, too, want to hear from community minded folks. Call or stop by at anytime to visit with me. The "Together for Kids Partnership" is curious about what the community has to say. And for those of you in the internet world, there is a short survey posted online. Please visit to take this survey. If you would like a survey mailed to you, please let us know at 346-4501.

Finally, there is a standing invitation to the community to attend School Board meetings. The next meeting is on November 19 at 6 p.m. in the Perham High School Media Center. At that meeting, you will help the district with the three R's: possible revenue streams, ideas for restructuring, and a plan for reductions in programs and services.

Collectively, we hold the fiscal responsibility to deal with a whopping $500,000 budget shortage for the next school year. Clearly a bake sale won't solve that. But adopting the mind-set of four young girls growing up in our "School of Champions"? Absolutely priceless.

We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.


Tamara Uselman, School Superintendent