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Community Members Upset Over District's Decision to Install Field Lights

Tell us what you think about this issue by taking the poll below and sharing your thoughts in the comments section.

Wth word spreading throughout the city of the , community members are piping up on Patch.

The light installation is part of the district's plans to revamp the field. In late 2011, . Earlier in the year the board felt it didn't have sufficient funds to include lights in the project, however, after discovering rents for the new turf field would be nearly double than expected, a majority (4-2) voted in favor of using those rents to fund the lights. The pricetag for the lights is roughly $200,000.

However, the $200,000 is not coming from the district's capital fund, which is used for improvement projects. The rents generated are considered operating, or general fund, dollars. While operating dollars can be used for anything, with the district in a well-known financial pickle and struggling with an achievement, many argue that these funds should be used in the classrooms.

Scott Stone commented:

"Don't baseball games start at 4:15? Don't several Richfield parks have lighted baseball fields that could be used? Couldn't $200K be used on computers for the schools instead? or Arts programs? Or a few paid teachers assistants? With Richfield schools getting a failing report card, sports should be the last thing we spend money on."

While many may feel the lights are unnecessary, a lone reader came to the defense of the school board, citing multiple reasons to go ahead with the lights.

Steve Klopp countered:

"I would like to thank David Lamberger, Sandy Belkengren, Deb Etienne and John Ashmead for having a Vision for Richfield High School that includes a new baseball field with lights. To have one of the best 'on campus' ball fields in the State is a feather in the cap for Richfield. ... The ball field improvement project was started with a grant from the Hennepin Youth Sports Program for $275,000. In addition, Bob Slotterback and Todd Olson have forged a strong relationship with Richfield/Bloomington Credit Union who is donating $40,000 for a scoreboard."

Rumors of a possible special session to reconsider the lights are circulating, however, nothing has been announced by the district.

That said, where do you stand on this issue? Should the district be spending the cash in the classroom? Or is this a great investment in our schools?

Take our poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Kellie Scales June 26, 2012 at 05:38 PM
While the money for the lights may not have been "earmarked" as money for students (i.e. money that is "taken away" from students), it certainly could be used to purchase and sustain BASIC needs of the classroom. In a district that is cutting money from the basic operating budget (i.e. cuts to the classroom, cuts in staffing, cuts in the Media Centers, cuts in the paraprofessional budgets, cuts in curriculum, etc.) based on a failed levy last fall, it is irresponsible of the board to purchase an item that is not a "need", but a "want". Look around - only four metro districts have a baseball field with lights - Monticello, Chanhassen, Minnetonka and St. Francis - all districts that also have better test scores than Richfield. Academics should be the priority of the school board. I believe that a commitment to academics and the classroom will have more families moving into Richfield (as well as staying in Richfield schools). When there's enough money to sustain the proposed student/teacher ratio of 22.5 (Deb Etienne's proposal), when there's enough money to fill the RDLS library with books, when there's enough money to buy the necessary amount of paper at STEM for the school year, when there's enough money to keep all of the teachers in classrooms (no layoffs), when there's enough money to fund the necessary number of paraprofessionals to manage recess at elementary schools, etc., etc., then we should look at the "wants" of the district. Kellie Scales
Kevin Maleck June 26, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Dan, To characterize what is being circulated as misinformation is incorrect. I believe the vast majority of opponents are fully aware that the excess revenue was not earmarked or included in budgets for teachers, or any other general operating expenses. The fact of the matter is that the funds are just unexpected income in excess of budget. The crux of the matter is that we now (and not guaranteed for the next seven years) have extra money in the coffers and a decision to be made on what to do with it. It is money in the bank. That is not a mystery. What opponents are upset about is that the decision was to spend it on a luxury instead of a need and we do not believe that is prudent in these economic times and facing levy referenda. I guarantee that if the referendum fails this fall, it sure would be nice to not have that $37k committed to attracting moths. Then we have the comparison and gloating over the turf decision. I was involved in actively trying to sell the referendum last fall and the turf topic was a considerable headwind. There was outrage that the district would spend that kind of money and then ask for more, even though those funds came from the capital improvement bankroll from the sale of Lincoln Hills. At least we had the fact that those funds could only be spent on facilities to come back with. Additionally, that project had the benefit of an actual business plan and support from the administration. The lights project has neither.
Caitlin Burgess June 26, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Hello all. A special session has been called. Here are the details: http://patch.com/A-v6xT
Julie Opitz June 27, 2012 at 04:02 AM
I did NOT say that this is “not a good forum,” I said that this was not the best forum. The best forum is at the school board, in an established public process with those who know the facts and make the decisions. I have been able to find board agendas on the district website. Under the “General” dropdown, select “School Board.” At the left there is a link to board agendas. I have had children in Richfield baseball or softball every year for the last 19 years, so I'm very familiar with the city facilities. My husband coached for most of those 19 years. There have certainly been instances of limited availability over the years, and another lighted field would only expand the opportunities, not only for our own children but possibly also to generate revenue, as has been done so well with the turf. I am no stranger to Richfield classrooms; since 1994 I have spent many hours in Richfield classrooms as a reading tutor, computer lab & publishing center volunteer, Art Masterpiece presenter and class parent/chaperone. I do know that help in the classroom can make a difference. I seriously doubt, though, that $37,000 a year will have significant impact on overall test scores. Lights provide opportunity—for expanded playing time, for potential revenue for our schools, for pride in quality facilities and for Richfield’s image as a quality place. Lights or no lights, it is unfortunate that the objections and debate are happening AFTER the board's decision!
Malcolm Moore June 27, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I agree the money should not be used irresponsibly. I would like to know how the funds could be applied to the many students who are not proficient in reading and math. Additional staff is certainly helpful as long as they are dedicated to the children who really need the help. It is time to get the achievement gap issue addressed in a meaningful way that gets measurable results in the short and long term. We cannot keep accepting modest improvement.

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