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UPDATED: Richfield School Board Calls Special Session To Revisit Lights Decision

The special session will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday night.

Last Update: 2 p.m. on June 26, 2012

June 11, it has now been called to a special session on Thursday to reconsider the project and decision.

The decision proved to be quite controversial, with many community members—both for and against the project—e-mailing and calling board members over the past two weeks. were mostly in opposition to the project, however, there were a few champions as well. The project takes $200,000 of rents from the newly revamped turf field to pay for the lights over the next seven years.

In order to call a special session, the board chair (Sandy Belkengren), the board clerk (David Lamberger) or three board members (at least one being from the original four who voted in favor of the measure) need to make a request. agreed to revisit the issue, hitting the need for three members and joining and John Easterwood in requesting the special session.

Ashmead told Patch his decision to call the special session was not to say he changed his mind on the issue, but rather to let those concerned know they've been heard.

"My biggest concern for the district is passing the referendum in the fall," he said. "I was getting calls from other significant people in the community, not just parents. ... I saw the need to try to calm things down and I thought the best way to do that is to listen to what these people were saying [and go ahead with a special session."

The special session will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28 at the Richfield Public Schools District Offices at . The meeting is open to the public.

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Brad Dimond June 27, 2012 at 12:17 PM
The public has been heard - in Board meetings (3 previous meetings considered the proposal), in blogs like this, on the phone, in person, in email, in snail mail... Is the concern that the public has not been heard founded on true concern that there were not sufficient avenues of communications or is it a function of dissatisfaction that certain "advocates" are not getting their way?
Caitlin Burgess June 27, 2012 at 02:10 PM
It's common in both school board and city council meetings that public commentary is not allowed. There's a required method on how business is conducted. However, it is quite possible that all of the letters, e-mails and phone conversations could be read into "record" by board members. That's just a guess. I'm not exactly sure how that will all pan out.
Teresa Kruse June 27, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Brad - the Board discussed and elected to not move towards a motion relating to the lights during the April 23, 2012 meeting. The minutes specifically cited "no revenue stream to pay for this part of the project" and "no resources in the budget to support this additional expense." This item – presumed a dead issue – did not show up in any of the following meeting agendas or minutes until the discussion and vote on June 11, 2012. The community was taken by surprise. Yes, I have sent emails and letters, and made comments on the news articles. Sandy Belkengren is the only member who responded to me. In her response, my single question was not addressed and remains unanswered – “How can the District make lights on a baseball field a priority over our students and teachers?” The Board cut $875,000 from the budget. 12 athletic coaches were eliminated for a total of $44,000. Staff development has been cut to the tune of $30,000. How can lights be more beneficial to our kids than athletic coaches and well trained, educated teachers? Class sizes were increased, a custodian has been eliminated along with a couple media center staff, and supply budgets have been frozen – a combined total of $595,500. How can lights be more beneficial to our kids than the tools and resources needed to help them throughout their day? See the District website under School Board Bulletins February 21, 2012. Some may perceive the public has been heard…but that is not the case.
Ghislaine Ball June 27, 2012 at 08:31 PM
@Brad - could you tell me how/when and who in the community was notified prior to the first vote?
Caitlin Burgess June 27, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I think John Ashmead's decision to go forward with a special session was definitely a move that took public feelings into consideration. While he may not change his mind on the issue once all is said and done, agreeing to discuss it again shows a lot in my opinion. I do however understand that it is frustrating that this meeting is a board discussion, rather than a public forum. As I stated above, the calls and letters that all members have been taking (for and against the project) will likely be brought up.

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