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Nevis may ask voters for operating referendum

Nevis School will likely be asking residents to approve an operating referendum this fall, the district currently levying $126 per student.

Superintendent Steve Rassier told board members a decision must be made in the next couple of months, putting the process in motion and developing strategies to gain public approval before the November elections.

A recent survey showed 60 percent of voters are in favor of the existing levy, which is far less than the state average of $847 per pupil unit. Some districts are as high as $1,500, he said.

"We're property rich," Rassier noted, "but with poor families." High property values preclude access to state aid, he said.

Ninety percent of Minnesota school districts now receive referendum revenue, additional general education money approved by local voters.

The ballot would specify dollars per pupil unit for a specific number of years, 10 the max.

In other action, the board:

n Heard from Bill Toft, who expressed strong concern regarding girls basketball coach Kent Hjelseth's actions toward players.

"I come with a heavy heart," Toft told the board. He cited incidences of verbal anger expressed at games. "He lashes out at our daughters," he said, stating Hjelseth has called team members "quitters," and has "diminished and embarrassed" the students.

Sports, he said, is a means to build character, learn skills. "He's not doing that."

"It's a privilege, not a right, to coach," Toft told board members.

But athletic director Bryan Wormley said the issue is not a concern for the majority of parents. Every coach, he said, faces similar criticism.

Students arriving for the meeting supported Hjelseth (who was not present).

"He didn't call us quitters," a player said. "He wants us to do better."

"Kent encourages us," another said. "He gets excited; it's not just criticism."

"Blowing up is part of being a coach," Bob Mack said. "I think Kent's done a wonderful job."

The board took no action on the issue.

n Accepted a request from high school math teacher Keith Minkel to reduce his contract to 60 percent time.

Jodi Sandmeyer said the school will hire an additional teacher for at least four classes, including an enrichment class for eighth and ninth graders who struggle with math.