Letter to the Editor

Positive changes in school board

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I have been quite openly critical over the past year concerning the leadership of the Spirit Lake School Board. From the handling of the firing of former principle Jedd Sherman to the $2 million spend down of budget authority to asking the State for $400,000 of "forgiveness" to being convicted of open meeting laws to its insatiable appetite for capital spending. I, and many others, have never blamed this on the board itself, but by the stubborn way this board was being led. So, it was a great surprise to see the professional manner in which the board handled the stadium improvement discussions.

For those of you who do not know, we have old bleachers, a track that could be considered dangerous, and a natural grass football field. A certain local business man has been pushing very hard (almost demanding) to make $1.4 million in improvements this year to our athletic facilities including new bleachers, landscaping, new press box, new track, and a new synthetic FieldTurf football field.

I was impressed by the board entering into a healthy public discussion on this issue. Despite the push to make these improvements immediately, I was happy to see the board delay the decision and take the time necessary to fully research the implications of making these improvements. Do a Google search and you will find that there is much controversy on the installation of the current generation of synthetic FieldTurf ranging from MRSA transmission rates to the hidden costs of maintaining to environmental effects of lead leaching from this product into the soil. Several organizations have been forced to close their fields and or remove them due to issues. The CDC currently has a health alert on this type of product. Taking the time necessary to research, discuss, and possibly put it to a public PPEL vote shows a great deal of responsibility on behalf of the board.

Here is my opinion. Do whatever is necessary to improve the safety of our bleachers, track, and restrooms. Determine if it is fiscally responsible to even consider justifying a new football field. Understand general enrollment trends. If it still makes fiscal sense, take the next year to really research this issue, understand the facts, and put it to a public PPEL vote. While I am still not happy about past actions, I am starting to see good signs of responsible and accountable actions by our school board.

Mark Niccum

Spirit Lake