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"Critical time" for Perham-Dent schools after election

The Perham-Dent Public School District is moving forward after voters did not approve a controversial levy referendum on Nov. 2.

District officials are looking at the results as an opportunity for the students to learn about democracy, and life.

High school students and staff at the school district came together the morning after the results were announced.

"I think this is a teachable moment," Superintendent Tamara Uselman said. "We have, coming to school every day, children whose families and they, themselves, both supported and do not support the levy. We believe our jobs as educators are to teach children how to disagree without taking it out on the other person. We don't want fist fights, personal insults, bullying, or lying about the facts."

High school students, young adults, came together and reacted "just awesome" according to Uselman.

"We told them long after the financial issues are solved, what people will remember is how they were treated," she said.

As for solving the school's financial issues, next year's budget will be planned between November and February. The budget process will be "very public," Uselman said.

Next year, the school will lose about $120,000 in revenue with no levy in place and no additional equalization.

"There isn't any new revenue, so I have to find savings on the expenditure side," Uselman said. "That will be a very public process. I encourage the public, particularly those who are suspicious of expenditures. I want them to feel welcome, not just 'no' voters, but also 'yes' voters and also non-voters."

Budget decisions will be made by the school board, who take input from the public seriously and are always open to different ideas, Uselman said.

Now, Uselman encourages the community to stand together to help make the district, and the community stronger.

"This is a really critical time for the school district, as a result a really critical time for the community," Uselman said. "Our board does a superb job to listening to the public. You don't always get your way, but you always get your say."

While she said she is disappointed with the outcome of the election last week, she assured the public that the community will move forward.

"People in this community are not quitters," Uselman said. "I think collectively we may come up with some passion and momentum that we don't have individually to find fiscal solutions. It's hard work ahead, but it's work we can do."