Board votes down annexation and for city of Middle River to acquire school building

Middle River School site
At its March 19 meeting in Middle River, the Greenbush-Middle River School Board voted down the following motion 5-2: allow district land in Marshall County to be annexed out of the GMR School District, and to allow the City of Middle River to have the ability to acquire the Middle River school site.

Greenbush-Middle River district resident David Thompson gave two “solutions” during his presentation titled “Value of a Vote” at a listening session. Board member Laurie Stromsodt made a motion to pass these two solutions: allow district land in Marshall County to be annexed out of the Greenbush-Middle River School District, and to allow the City of Middle River to have the ability to acquire the Middle River school site.
The motion failed by a 5-2 vote, with board members Stromsodt and Joe Melby voting in favor of it, and board members Kurt Stenberg, Brandon Kuznia, Jeff Nelson, Shane Kilen, and Carrie Jo Howard voting it down at the board’s March 19 meeting in Middle River.
“I’m not prepared to make any kind of decision on something like this with 20 minutes notice,” board member Howard said. “I thought that was the reason why we were asked to have no changes made to the agenda, so that board members had an opportunity to study what’s on the agenda.”
Board member Kuznia agreed with Howard, and he added that the district needs to look into it more.
Board member Joe Melby then asked, “What would you be afraid of? What would be the downside?”
Howard then asked, “Have you had time to study it Joe?”
“No,” Melby said, “but the writing’s been on the wall for a few years now.”
Howard asked Melby if he heard about this proposal coming to the board tonight, and Melby said he heard about it through “whispers.”
“Well, then you’ve had an opportunity to think about it and visit about it,” Howard said.
Melby then asked, “You haven’t thought about this? This is the first time that this has ever entered your mind?”
Howard said that yes it was the first time.
Stromsodt said that this proposal was brought up at the community meeting at The Wheel in Middle River. Board member Brandon Kuznia, one of the three board members at these recent community meetings, responded to Stromsodt.
“It was brought up that sometimes the best option is a divorce,” Kuznia said. “That’s about as far as it went that night.”
Melby said this proposal would be a divorce and Kuznia agreed.
Not advocating for or against this proposal, GMR Superintendent Tom Jerome said he received an email on March 13 urging him that the agenda for this month’s meeting be ready earlier than the Friday prior to the meeting. This individual, who Stromsodt confirmed was herself, also emailed Jerome that, as a board, it needed time to look things over, and requested that no changes be made at the last minute without the board having time to review it. As Jerome said, he wants to ensure the board has the info it needs from the Department of Education regarding the required steps towards annexation.
“I haven’t been asked to do any research on this at all, nor can I give any of you that right now to technically let you know how it would play out,” Jerome said. “I thought and I believe, just because somebody brought this up actually quite some time ago, a long time ago… And I did a little research a long time ago too and I thought it takes two boards to act on it, two school boards, but I’m not technically sure on that either.”
Jerome said he was fine with the request of getting the board agenda out earlier, but said this email was contrary to asking “seven board members to vote on annexing part of the district out.” Jerome added that he could, at board direction, come back to the board at its next meeting with information from the state, regarding the steps of annexation.
Stromsodt then asked, “Why is it that at the last board meeting that we went right away and voted to close Middle River (building) or the process of closing Middle River, when that was not on the agenda and I didn’t have time to look at it?”
Jerome said this was fair to ask, and added that he didn’t bring up the process of closing the Middle River building at the last meeting. He then clarified that the motion passed at the prior meeting didn’t close a building.
“No, it did not close any building, but it put heart, it put a lot pain,” Stromsodt said. “And it wasn’t even on the agenda, so the people from Middle River didn’t even have a chance to be there in Greenbush to even speak prior (to the meeting).”
To see the full board story, read the March 21 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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