The American-News welcomes letters of opinion from our readers. Letters regarding current local and national news items are encouraged. All letters are subject to editing for length and style. Letters containing potentially libelous or obscene statements will not be published. Letters must contain name, address and phone number for verification and in case of questions. E-mail letters to: Letters may also be mailed to: Editor, Montevideo Publishing, P.O. Box 99, Montevideo, MN 56265

The American-News welcomes letters of opinion from our readers. Letters regarding current local and national news items are encouraged. All letters are subject to editing for length and style. Letters containing potentially libelous or obscene statements will not be published. Letters must contain name, address and phone number for verification and in case of questions. E-mail letters to: Letters may also be mailed to:  Editor, Montevideo Publishing, P.O. Box 99, Montevideo, MN 56265


Youth help usher in Lent


On Tuesday evening last week, St. Joseph Catholic Church celebrated its annual meatball supper. This is always held the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent excitement and celebration.


Paul and Julene Dezeeuw chaired the event again this year and it was a huge success. In addition to a great meal before we fast and abstain from meat, it is also a great community celebration and social bonder as we enter six weeks of spiritual preparation via prayer, fasting and alms — giving to prepare ourselves for Easter and the Ressurection.


This event is held at a time when we all need a Winter pick-me-up. We’re all looking for something to celebrate in the bleek and cold of winter, especially this one.


Our church youth and adults really worked hard to make everyone who came as guests feel welcomed.


At least 17 youth participated To The Max to help make this a truely whole parish celebration.


—David Swenson




The numbers are in


The numbers are in!  Over 250 families attended the Letters and Art Night on February 10!  We had over 35 PTSA, ECFE and student volunteers, Title I teachers, celebrity readers, and staff help make this event a wonderful evening! Children’s artwork from preschool classes, ECFE classes, and all classrooms at Sanford and Ramsey were displayed for all to enjoy. Many, many slices of pizza, water bottles and apples were served, and free books were distributed.  


The “thank yous” are many as well — to Jennifer Philaya, PTSA chairperson and Amy Strunc, ECFE coordinator and PTSA vice president, for their excellent organization;  Bill Sprung, MN Reading Corps, and Title I staff;  Thunder Hawk student artists and athletes; PTSA members; the fabulous celebrity readers; PreK through third grade teachers for their classes’ artwork; Margaret Diggins for the logo; and MinnWest Bank and Culligan for their donations. This evening was truly a group effort, a fun group success.


Children at Sanford and Ramsey are also participating in a “read-a-thon” which will help the Ramsey and Sanford libraries, and will stress the fun and importance of reading! This is a voluntary event, and with generous donations from Knights of Columbus and Lions Club, all students that chose to participate will have sponsors.


Please contact MontePTSA with any questions!


We invite you to join us for our Letters and Art Night next year!


—Kris Christopherson




It’s time


Did you know many Minnesota adoptees have two birth certificates? The original birth certificate is issued at the time of birth with the biological parent(s) listed. A new birth certificate is issued at the time of adoption with the adoptive parent(s) names on it.  The original is sealed.  It’s time we are granted the right to see our originals.


Gretchen Traylor, of Brooklyn Park, says it well: “We are the only group in Minnesota that is now consistently denied the right to celebrate being who we are, because we are not allowed to know who we are.  Never have we sought to legislate reunions with, or on going relationships with, our families of origin.  These are things that must be worked out between people just as they are handled among anyone else.”


So, our fellow Minnesotans, please remember us adopted adults who don’t have access to our original birth certificate.  You can do this by contacting your Senator and asking him to  support bill SF 2369 and your Representative and supporting bill HF 2440-original birth records.  Both of these bills would allow us access to our original birth certificates.  The deadlines for passing committees are coming quickly-March 21 (House) and March 28 (Senate).


—Carleen Helgeson




Response to school board


The Montevideo school board under the direction of Superintendent Dr. Luther Heller, has proposed a $300,000 budget cut ostesibly due to declining enrollment and less money coming from the state of Minnesota.


Two-thirds of this cut is to come from reducing the work hours of the district’s Educational Assistants, no cuts to sports, no cuts to adminstrative salaries. The proposal would cut 10,000 hours from the district’s assistants.


What does this mean for students of the Montevideo  school district? It means that 10,000 hours of direct contact with students will vanish. Educational  assistants work with students who have special education needs, students with Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) and any other students who need help. With class sizes averaging 25 to 30 or more students in the high school alone, teachers cannot devote individual attention to each and every student.


Educational Assistants are responsible for multiple students in each class that they are in. It is not ucommon for one assistant to have three, four, five or more IEP students in one class.


The most IEP students I was responsible for in one class was 11.  We help students who are not on our caseload.


What exactly does this mean for the Educational Assistants? In a surprise letter timed to be received on the weekend before the February school board meeting, we leanred of the proposed cut of 10,000 hours. This amounts to approximately a 14 percent pay cut on average or a loss of up to $2,000 per employee. At this weeks board meeting I asked why if the school district was in such dire financial straits, did the teachers receive a wage increase?


And, if this was fiscally responsible?


Speaking for the board, Darin Balkin replied “this is how the district operates.”


He also intimated that when the Educational Assistant’s contract negotiations came up this summer, that we would be negotiating a wage increase.


In the past we have been lucky to see a one or two percent pay increase. So we take a 14 percent pay cut and then we’ll negotiate a one or two percent increase?


Why is there declining enrollment?


According to the school board, next year’s kindergarten enrollment is expected to be up. Perhaps a better question is why so many families who live in Montevideo are choosing to send their students to other school districts? What is being done to keep Montevideo students in the Montevideo school district?


No matter how the school district spins this, 10,000 hours are proposed to be taken from Educational Assistants, the very people who work with your children day in and day out. No amount of “creative scheduling” (as the school board calls it) can replace those hours nor will it reduce the number of students who need our help.


I urge all parents and students, taxpayers and concerned citizens to contact Dr. Heller and the school board members and let them know that this is unfair to the students and asssistants of the Montevideo School District.


—Mike Milbrandt


Union Steward

What a great community


We want to give a BIG shout out to Jeremy and Sarah Smiens, Lee and Sue Varpness, Custodian Dale and Ana Vaala.


After the Middle School band concert Tuesday night, motoring home, it was realized my purse was left at the Fine Arts Center.  We ventured back to town on the snowy night hoping to quickly retrieve the purse and return safely home.  The doors were locked.  We waited at the door. Custodian Dale came to the rescue who made a thorough search for the purse. He assured us that he’d give us a call if it was found.  He would check in the school office the next day.  We decided to check with Jeremy and Sarah Smiens who sat next to us at the concert. YES!  She had seen the purse and gave it to Lee Varpness, Music Director. After a fun trip, on a snowy night up a challenging hill, I called Lee Varpness.  He had safely secured the purse in the band room office.  Upon returning home, we had TWO phone messages from Sue Varpness to let us know where to retrieve it the next day. And finally, thanks to Ana for being our phone number finding gal!


We are thankful to live in this community where people have our backs.  Thanks goes to those involved in this good ending to what could’ve been a journey of frustration.  YOUR HONESTY AND HELP is received with gratitude.


Even if the purse fiasco would’ve taken a different journey, we still would’ve had good memories of the night.  Thank you, Lee Varpness, for investing in the students of our community.  GOOD JOB STUDENTS!


—David and Lynette Fjerkenstad