July 28, 2016

ISD 2142 board stands by Volleyball Coach Tom Burnett termination action

By GDA

The conference room in the District Office of ISD 2142 was uncharac-teristically packed for the regular board meeting Monday at 5 p.m. The North Woods parents and volleyball players present weren't there for academics, they were there to speak over the non-renewal of Grizzlies Volleyball Coach Tom Burnett's contract for the upcoming season. The board had taken his name off the list for renewal and at a later meeting reaffirmed the action, with Orr board member Nancy Glowaski backing Burnett.
The meeting started with adding Burnett's non-renewal to the agenda.
Supt. Steve Sallee gave his report first. He reported that the administration would be meeting with FJJ on Thursday to start discussion on the Babbitt heating project. They will also discuss the 10-year facility plan with that firm. Sallee and Business Manager Kim Johnson will be meeting with the unions on Wednesday regarding health insurance. He said they have some cost cutting options available. The district was informed earlier that the cost for health insurance could be $500,000 higher this year. The recent storm was tough on South Ridge, ripping out the bleachers at the softball field. The school was made available for residents to get water and take showers. Sallee was pleased to announce that south Ridge's Carolyn Olson had obtained a $68,000 grant for 2017 from the Arts Learning Center.
The Burnett termination was next on the agenda with Tom Burnett called on first. Burnett spoke of parent issues and said that the Minnesota State High School League had said parents interfering was the number one problem for high school coaches. He said that 90 percent of the parents at North Woods were wonderful, while 10 percent were complaining. Last year North Woods held tryouts and some didn't make the team. The Grizzlies volleyball team started the season with nine players. A senior who had been playing volleyball for many years was among those who didn't get chosen. Burnett said that a player's ability was a top priority. He added that there were some hard decisions to make. Burnett spoke of the time he spent working with players, including hours after practice. Last year there were 25 players trying out for junior high and 15 for varsity. Burnett then brought up Cook board member Dan Manick and said he hadn't talked to him on this. He also said that ISD 2142 business manager Kim Johnson, whose daughter was on the team, had sent many emails to him complaining. An article in the Tower TJ apparently attacked Johnson, a frequent target from that paper, along with the district.
Several young players spoke out in support of Burnett. Some of the comments were: "We support Tom. We love volleyball. He is a great coach. He doesn't play favorites."
A letter from David Shuster, who is serving overseas, was read saying that Burnett had the best interest of the athletes. Three parents came up to voice their support for Burnett. Todd Olson, a former teacher and well-known coach, supported Tom, both for his on- and off-court actions. He noted that good coaches are hard to find. Jared Bangs had his letter read by his wife. He said that Burnett had "good rapport" with the players and parents. He felt that disgruntled parents' complaints could ruin the athletic program. He noted that he had covered volleyball games for the Cook News-Herald.
Athletic Director John Jirik said that players, coaches, players and parents have the toughest job. He noted that for many, it is all about winning, while the MSHSL is promoting Education Based Athletics. He said he recommended Burnett.
Nikki Vandervort, whose daughter Brystin Vitense was the libero for last year's 18-9 team, was not for Burnett. She said her daughter, who loved volleyball, is now in college and won't play it again. The reason was Coach Burnett. She told of Burnett yelling at her daughter in a game at International Falls, saying, "Shut your mouth, play the game." She spoke of the game at the end of the season when Burnett sat the starters down and put in subs as an insult to the players. She said her daughter said she never wants to see Burnett again. She added that the varsity players were "fed up."
Kim Johnson spoke up next to refute claims from Burnett that she sent a number of emails complaining to him. She said he was a liar and she sent him one after the Chisholm game telling him he made a bad decision. She also noted that when Burnett asked for some fans because the gym was too hot, she found the money to get some for him. A total of 25 people came to talk.
North Woods Grizzly seniors who are on the volleyball team, Tori Johnson and Brooklyn Isham, were next. They had a letter from the five seniors on the team this year, a team who ran through the Hibbing Tournament, winning all, including a game with MIB, before losing to the powerhouse Hibbing team. They had a hard time speaking, with tears coming. They presented the following letter to the board from the seniors, who said they would all play no matter what, but they weren't in support of Barnett.

July 25,2016
To anyone willing to listen,
With all the words that have been said, that have since turned to actions, my teammates and I decided to collectively write this letter to express to you where we stand. As the players who experienced all the pressure and heartache of this past volleyball season, we think you should hear from us. Let us tell our side of the story, not the coaches, not the parents, nor the speculators. Hear us out before simply telling us we're overreacting. This letter in no way means to undermine Burnett as a person, we do, however, question his ability to coach varsity volleyball.
Volleyball, just as any other sport, should be fun, without the shortage of friendly competition of course. However, this season we witnessed what it was like to see our fellow teammates mentally defeated. Some considered quitting the game they had poured their heart and soul into, while others came home from practice in tears from inappropriate comments that were made or their self-confidence being diminished. With the understanding that girls' sports aren't the easiest to coach, we also understand what we need and deserve in a coach.
We need a coach who will give us the respect we deserve, and in return we will reciprocate. We need a coach who will ask for our input, but also follow through on the information they have received. We need a coach who will play the girl who works the hardest, regardless of physical appearance or family relations. We need a coach who has the means to help us when we're struggling, and not deny us the opportunity of outside coaching. We need a coach who will build up our self-confidences, not tear them down. We need a coach who will play to our individual strengths and weaknesses, and won't compare them to our teammates'. Finally, we need a coach who will put in just as much or more effort than what is expected of us as players. We don't expect perfection, we do, however, require respect and effort put forth from a coach if they are expecting this of us.
With this being said, myself, and my five fellow teammates who were a part of last season's varsity volleyball team, and who will be returning next season, believe appointing a new varsity volleyball coach would be the most beneficial option. Beneficial for not only us, but for upcoming groups of volleyball players. These girls should never have to witness their teammates in such anguish. They should never know the feeling of such mental abuse from someone who is suppose to build them up. Finally, we hope these girls never experience what its like to question how far they've come or if it's enough to continue playing the sport they're ever so passionate about.
Sincerely,
Members of the 2015 North Woods
Varsity Volleyball Team
Board member Nancy Glowaski moved to hire Burnett, with Troy Swanson of Tower seconding it. Board member Chet Larson and NER board member Gary Rantala spoke out on how board members made it to most of the games. This was in response to claims that they never attended. A roll call vote was called and the motion was defeated 5-2. The time was 6:40 p.m. and the rest of the meeting was next.
School district policies in the 400, 500 and 600 series were approved. Policies in the 700, 800 and 900 series had their first reading.
The St. Louis County School District has been having trouble with their phone system, so a new system was approved that will save the district $100,000 to $170,000 over the next 10 years.
A new math curriculum called Math Expressions was approved. The cost is approximately $165,000.
A Memo of Understanding with the bus drivers and clerical unit was approved dealing with sick leave.
The board next approved a Shared Service Agreement with the Mt. Iron/Buhl School District to do their payroll. MIB will pay ISD 2142 $30,000 a year for this service. This could be the start of other shared service agreements.
Orr board member Nancy Glowaski had an item on the agenda that would give board members $30,000 life insurance at a cost of $4,973.04. This could raise the cost for other employees due to the ages of board members. Glowaski moved for its adoption saying it wasn't unreasonable. Chairman Chet Larson questioned why taxpayers would pay for it. Gary Rantala, NER board member, said he was on several boards and he can't recall any paying for life insurance. Glowaski's motion went down to defeat, her second loss of this meeting.
The district's 2016/pay 2917 levy for their Long-Term Facilities Maintenance Plan was passed.
The North Woods campus will have a new 26 x 28 storage garage constructed by Economy Garages, with Parsons Town & Country Electric doing the wiring. The total cost is $26,245.
Corrections in the hiring of teachers that took place earlier was next. Kathleen Meier was recalled from ULA, Rebecca Chopp was hired as a tenured teacher and Mary Fleetwood was made 1.0 FTE.
Emily smith, Indian Education Academic Mentor at South Ridge, resigned.
The retirement of North Woods paraprofessional Shirley Baumgartner effective Aug. 31, 2016, was approved.
Two coaches resigned. Brandon Benner as NER girls basketball coach and Shara Jarvela as NER assistant volleyball coach.
North Woods will have a new head volleyball coach. The board hired Gabrielle Sundquist of Chisholm. Her hiring is subject to her acquiring a MSHSL Coaching Certificate and passing a background check. This hiring was done quickly since volleyball practice starts soon.
The meeting then adjourned at 7:08 p.m.


Specialized gear brought in to help restore electricity for Lake Country Power members

Lake Country Power has not only called in additional crews, but also specialized heavy equipment to replace more than 200 utility poles damaged by Thursday's storm. Nearly 27,000 outages were reported after the storm ripped through the region July 21. The rural electric cooperative reported the number of outages had dropped to less than 1,400 consumers without power Tuesday morning. LCP expects the outages will last through Thursday or Friday, with a few outages to repair on individual tap lines this weekend. If any member is still without power, they should call Lake Country Power to report it at 800-421-9959 and then press 1. Lake Country Power wants to be sure all existing outages are entered, or re-entered, into the system for crew assignments.
Field crews are clearing and replacing sections of line up to a mile long through state, county and federal forest lands. Specialized heavy equipment, equipped with tracks, booms and saws, is being used to clear downed trees and broken poles.
After calling in help from Dakota Electric, Connexus Energy, Great River Energy, Lake States Tree Service and Lake States Construction, the co-op received additional crew support from Grand Rapids Public Utilities, Okay Construction Powerline Contractors in Princeton, Minn., East Central Energy in Braham, Minn., along with powerline contractors from Paynesville and Moorhead. Nearly 140 field personnel are working to restore outages for LCP members.
The crews and equipment are clearing the way for new poles and line to be set in areas where LCP is still dealing with the devastation caused by the storm. It's making a difference, and crews will continue working 16-hour days until all power is restored.
"We're covering the most difficult terrain and hardest hit areas," said Todd Johnson, Lake Country Power's director of operations. "In some areas, it looks like a hurricane went through. Most of what we're dealing with is off main roadways at this point. This is the part of the restoration process that will take the most patience ­ for both members and crews. Everyone deserves a pat on the back," said Johnson. "We appreciate the patience members have shown, and the thanks they've passed on. Crews have been making amazing progress."
The 42,000-member co-op saw outages from as far south as Sturgeon Lake to Crane Lake in the north and from Leech Lake near Walker in central Minnesota to Fish Lake near Duluth.
Johnson said the work is tedious, and the number of poles that need replacing means crews will be working well into this week to restore electricity for some consumers.
Thousands of trees were uprooted or snapped off throughout the co-op's 10,800 square mile service territory. More than half of the co-op's consumers were affected by the massive storm with winds clocked from 70 to 100 mph.
Lake Country Power has two important reminders for consumers:
1. Members are encouraged to check the main breaker in their home, cabin or business because it may have "tripped" when power was restored. If the main breaker was tripped, members may have power without knowing.
2. If the power is still out after checking the main breaker, members may wish to verify their outage by calling LCP. Members can verify by calling 1-800-421-9959.
More information is available on the co-op's outage viewer at http://mi.lcp.coop:82. Members may also visit the Outage Center online at www.lakecountrypower.coop for a real-time outage status. Updates are also available at: www.facebook.com/lakecountrypower or twitter.com/LCPCoop.


Commissioner Landwehr to be featured speaker at Sportsmen's Club 48th Annual Meeting

The 48th Annual Meeting of the Sportsmen's Club of Lake Vermilion will be held Saturday, Aug. 13, at St. Martin's Catholic Church, 107 N. 3rd St., Tower. This is a new location for this annual event. Please use the lower level covered entrance.
The meeting kicks off with a 4:30 p.m. social hour, followed by a 5:30 p.m. buffet dinner catered by Zup's. The business meeting will begin at 6:15, followed by the evening program. The featured speaker will be Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr. He will share his perspective on the greatness of Lake Vermilion and the challenges currently faced protecting the lake for fishermen and recreational boaters.
The lake association's annual meeting is a time for members and their guests to talk about club activities and share ideas with the Sportsmen's Club board. Board members will be wearing name tags, so please take time to discuss your thoughts concerning the lake with them. After dinner, a brief business meeting will include reports from club officers, along with election of board members. The ever-popular door prize drawing will be part of the agenda.
The dinner buffet menu will be catered by Zup's and includes: beef, chicken, meatballs, Polish delights, wild rice, baked beans, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, turkey and ham tray, veggie and cheese trays, rolls, coffee, and milk. Additional beverages will be available onsite from Good Ol' Days.
The cost ($20 for adults and $10 for children 12 or younger) includes the buffet dinner, five drawing tickets, a reunion with friends, and a great program. Additional drawing tickets will be available for purchase. Seating is limited to 200 persons. RSVP by Saturday, Aug. 6, to one of the following. Please also mention dietary restrictions.
- Sheri or Lauren Sawatzky, 218-666-5512
- Ellen or Mel Hintz, 218-753-2401
- Rhonda or Rob Joki, 218-666-6147
- Georgia or Wayne Suoja, 218-753-2162
Members and their out-of-town guests are welcome. The annual meeting is casual; come as you are in vacation attire. New annual memberships purchased at the door extend through 2017.


 

Pick up this week's paper for more stories and pictures...

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