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School board bids farewell to departing members

Outgoing Perham-Dent School Board members Dan Nodsle and Bridgit Pankonin.

School board members bid farewell to two of their colleagues Dec. 17.

It was the final Perham-Dent School Board meeting for eight-year board member Bridgit Pankonin and Dan Nodsle, a member since 2004.

Both were presented plaques--handcrafted by Perham High School students, with the laser-cutting equipment in the school shops.

"Thanks for putting up with me," said Pankonin, in a brief message to the board.

Parting wisdom was offered by Pankonin, who has sometimes played the role of "moral compass" on the board.

"We do a good job on academics, but I hope you remember the importance of character education as well," said Pankonin, who has been a proponent of promoting values and decency at the school.

In fact, when asked about one of the more difficult issues during her eight years on the board, she immediately recalled the struggle with the library and book policy of about three years ago. Pankonin was almost the lone voice on the board favoring limited student access to books with adult content. The issue drew the largest crowds of the past six years to school board meetings.

Pankonin also remembers crying at a meeting, saddened by staff cuts the board had to make.

For four-year board member Dan Nodsle, the decision to close the Dent school was especially close to him.

Not only did he campaign as a representative for the Dent area, but both his kids attended school there.

"Our farm is actually in the Pelican Rapids school district, but we open enrolled the kids to the Dent school," said Nodsle.

The Dent school will close to elementary students after this year, and it will be a sad day for Nodsle.

"I don't feel good about it, but it was inevitable. Things always end sooner or later," said Nodsle. "Consolidation is tough, but it is a fact of life in every town, in every state."

Several Dent voters said they couldn't vote for Nodsle because he "let Dent down" by voting to close the school. Nodsle filed for re-election, but was defeated in November.

But Nodsle is still going to bat for Dent, as a firefighter and a former city council member. Though he declined to offer details, Nodsle said there is a serious plan to utilize the Dent school facility, involving another institution. Being the strong, quiet type, Nodsle wouldn't comment any more about the confidential project--except to say that he expects to be able to go public with it in about a month.

"I enjoyed my five years on the board," Nodsle commented at the meeting, urging the board to remember "the kids. They are our future...Keep fighting for them. That's what this is all about."

Further farewell advice was offered by Pankonin, including encouragement to keep the school's community advisory board active. "It is a great way to involve parents and the community," she said.

She has always had a pet peeve about the board not recording its meetings, for which she gave one last pitch.

"Also, you need to have water at meetings...I don't drink coffee," she laughed.