Rep. Andrew Falk introduced bill to dissolve Hendricks School District

March 23, 2012

By Robert Wolfington

A Minnesota House Bill was in­troduced at the end of February that called for the dissolution of Independent School District No. 402.

The bill, H.F. No. 2594, co-au­thored by Rep. Andrew Falk, D-Murdock of District 20A, called for the Hendricks School District to be dissolved by July 1, 2012.

Kate Hensing, legislative assis­tant for Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, who currently serves as the chairwoman for the Edu­cation Reform Committee, said the bill would not be introduced on the floor for a vote.

The bill was first introduced in committee on Feb. 29, but Hen­dricks School Board Chairman Tom Olson said he didn’t hear about the bill until March 14.

“Speaking as the Board Chair, this is one of the most un­d e r h a n d e d , sneaky things that has ever happened,” said Olson. “What would hap­pen if we never knew about this? Luckily, we found out.”

In a letter sent to the Hen­dricks Pioneer, Falk said he had a number of concerns that led him to authoring the bill to close the district.

“The sparsity revenue previ­ously eligible to all students in Hendricks (ISD 402) and Ivanhoe (ISD 403) ceased to exist when Hendricks (ISD 402) opened their own high school (albeit an online one),” Falk said in the letter. “Because the Hendricks (ISD 402) high school is with­in 17 miles of the former site ofLincolnHigh Schooland the current site of the Ivanhoe (ISD 403) K-12 school, that spar­sity revenue is no longer eligible to either Hendricks (ISD 402) or Ivanhoe (ISD 403). It is off the table. Ivanhoe’s loss is not Hendricks’ gain; it is a net loss to both. Losing this funding makes abso­lutely no sense.”

Falk also said he had questions about the class­es being provided in the Hendricks School District and if they would meet the academic standards set by the state.

“Serious questions have been raised about whether or not the Hendricks (ISD 402) online high school constitutes a qualified high school education,” said Falk. “Serious concerns ex­ist about whether or not required hours of study are being met, the ability to garner enough credits to earn aMinnesotahigh school graduation diploma and, ultimately, if the stu­dents are being honestly prepared for post-second­ary education and civic life after high school.”

Falk also expressed con­cerns over interstate reci­procity agreements with South Dakota and how having both Hendricks and Ivanhoe operating K-12 districts impacts those agreements.

Hendricks Principal Shelly Jensen responded to Falk’s letter in an e-mail sent to the Pioneer, en­couraging Falk to visit the Hendricks school to see how the classes are work­ing first hand.

“If you have a chance, you should come and visit our high school,” said Jens­en. “You will discover that Hendricks Public School takes extra steps to ensure that students are techno­logically advanced and taught in a way to meet the individual learning needs of students.

“Some of our students are attending a hybrid classroom because they learn best face-to-face in some classes and online in other classes,” said Jensen. “Many of the online classes that students take are for dual credit which means they take college courses and get credit for both high school and college. This description does not constitute the definition of an online school.”

Hendricks Superinten­dent Bruce Houck said the bill came as a surprise to the district, which had no prior warning that it could happen.

“It was a very big sur­prise,” said Houck. “We had no information about it coming down at all.”

Houck said a number of members from the Hen­dricks community contact­ed the Education Reform Committee to express con­cerns over the bill after they learned about it last week.

“In the Hendricks com­munity there have been a number of e-mails that have gone to the Educa­tion Reform Committee because they would be the ones that would take ac­tion on it first.”

Houck criticized Falk for “pitting two communities against each other” with the bill.

In his letter, Falk said he wants to see the two districts work together to find a solution that will provide the most amount offinancial resources for the students of both the Hendricks and Ivanhoe areas.

“It is my hope that Hen­dricks (ISD 402) and Ivan­hoe (ISD 403) will be able to enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement (like the one that previ­ously existed) that brings the maximum amount of resources to the students,” said Falk in the letter. “That said, if current man­agement stands in the way of this cooperative effort, then it is dependent upon the school boards to either assert that management cooperate or find new management or a new way of operating.”