Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What you should know before you vote

Friends, Families and Staff of District 197:

On May 8, District 197 will ask residents for approval to issue building bonds for additions, renovations and repairs at all of our elementary and middle schools and the high school. Leading up to a referendum, there may be some who will use statistics and tactics to confuse voters and distract from the issues. 

In response to anonymous mailings and other information circulating online and in newspapers, we’d like to clarify some of the misleading and incomplete information about the election and the school district that has been distributed.

What you should know:

District 197’s math and reading MCA scores have gone up since 2013 and are above the state average. Henry Sibley’s scores are among the top when compared with neighboring high schools with similar demographics, such as the percent of students living in poverty (see chart). District teachers and administrators are committed to increasing achievement for all students. But in the end, our students are not a test score. They are vibrant young people who achieve great things inside and outside of the classroom each day.

The district works hard to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. In fact, since 2015, the district has earned a Finance Award from the Minnesota Department of Education each year for sound fiscal health and financial management policies and procedures.

In 2014, due to the district’s stable financial position, Standard & Poor’s upgraded the district’s bond rating to AA-, which allows it to sell bonds at a lower interest rate than in the past.

The district’s request for approval to issue $117 million in building bonds is an investment of about $7 a month for the median value homeowner ($237,200). We recognize that, if approved by residents, this would be a significant investment in our schools by taxpayers. We do not make this request lightly or without our community in mind. Using input from community surveys and open house meetings, the Facilities Task Force developed a plan that addresses the district’s maintenance and educational needs. If you would like to know the specific tax impact for your home, please visit

The projects proposed in the referendum go far beyond a stadium and a pool, which are not only for high school sports, they would also be used for physical education classes and community activities. For a full list of projects at all of the district’s elementary and middle schools and the high school, many of them maintenance items, visit

The school board took time to listen and conduct further study when the stadium was not approved in 2014. During an 18-month district facilities study, which included a Facilities Task Force, feedback from the community indicated continued interest in having a multi-sport turf field complex located on the Henry Sibley High School campus.

Changes were made to the proposal that make it different from the 2014 request. The location has been moved to the northwest part of the Henry Sibley campus instead of the south and the cost has been reduced. Further, the preliminary plan now includes a track and would allow a greater variety of sports and activities to use the facility. 

The Questions and Answers section of the bond website is a great place to find additional information. Simply visit 

Thank you for taking the time to be an informed voter. Please vote on or before May 8.


Peter Olson-Skog

What you should know before you vote

Friends, Families and Staff of District 197: On May 8, District 197 will ask residents for approval to issue building bonds for additions...