Public letter thanks School Board for recent work

Forty-two community members signed a letter read aloud to the School Board Monday, May 9, 2022.

Washington Educational Services Building
Washington Educational Services Building in Brainerd.
Dispatch file photo

BRAINERD — After hefty doses of public criticism relating to COVID-19, critical race theory and other issues, Brainerd School Board members heard words of encouragement Monday, May 9.

During the board’s first public comment period since March, community member Marty Halvorson read a letter signed by himself and 41 others, thanking the board for all the work they’ve done in recent years.

“Over the past several years the responsibilities of the School Board and administration have become more difficult. The most visible example has been the construction and upgrading, to varying extents, of all our facilities. We are proud of your accomplishments in the oversight of these enormous new and renewal projects, including creation of the Gichi-ziibi Arts Center and the new Baxter Elementary School. You seldom hear all the compliments, but we want to share them with you today.

“Your work is extensive and includes administering the education of 6,500 students, empowering the public service staff of over 1,000 people while maintaining open communication with the taxpayers and families of District 181. Job well done!

“An unexpected challenge to your work has been dealing with a pandemic that threatened the very lives of staff and students, and visitors to all facilities, alike. The science surrounding the complex issue has not always been clear. But in your deliberations on the issue, you have always sought to manage it with the goal of protecting our children, the public and District employees from unnecessary risk. Amidst significant differences of opinion, you have consistently listened, reflected and provided thoughtful guidance.


“Although negative voices often get the most attention you have not allowed them to diminish your effectiveness. As members of the community, we offer our heartfelt thanks for how you have fulfilled your important public service missions. At significant sacrifice to you in terms of time and energy you have remained faithful to the educational goals of our School District.

“You are appreciated, respected and valued, and we thank you.”

In other business May 9, the School Board:

Approved new hires: Eric Bjorklund, special education math teacher at Brainerd High School; Christopher Hunter, summer school teacher at Riverside Elementary; Ava Koep, summer teacher at Warrior Early Learning Center; Jill O’Grady, summer school teacher at Riverside Elementary; Stacy Podell Erdal, summer school teacher at Riverside Elementary; Alisha Smith, summer school teacher at Riverside Elementary; Sandra Tautges, physical education teacher at Baxter Elementary; Rhonda Trafas, long-term substitute teacher at Nisswa Elementary; Hannah True, summer school teacher at Riverside Elementary; Shani Wolf, administrative assistant at Nisswa Elementary; Stephany Burnham, Fun ‘N’ Friends program assistant; Debra Celany-Clepper, Fun ‘N’ Friends program assistant; Jordan Erickson, districtwide enrichment coach; Gary Hirsch, districtwide enrichment coach; and Ally Lively, Fun ‘N’ Friends program assistant.

Accepted grants to the district: $2 loyalty donation to Brainerd High School from Casey’s General Store; $200 from Costco for the district’s Angel Fund; Friends of Old Crow Wing book from Paul Roth for the Riverside Elementary library.

Approved a quote for storm sewer repairs at the new Lincoln Education Center, not to exceed $62,027.78. The district is still within budget for the project.

Approved an order for furniture, fixtures and equipment for Brainerd High School north campus at a cost of $263,514.

Approved the addition of terrazzo flooring in Lowell Elementary School at a cost not to exceed $100,000.


Approved principal and assistant principal contracts for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. Salaries for a high school principal range from $129,225-$147,531 for 2022-23 and $131,809-$150,481 for 2023-24, depending on performance and experience. Salaries for an elementary principal range from $113,809-$129,586 for 2023-24 and $116,086-$132,178.

Scheduled a special board meeting for 1 p.m. May 25.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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