HJ/EDHerald Journal, Feb. 20, 2006

Dorr admits to mailing brochure with errors for WISE committee

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Opinions were not in short supply at a public meeting organized by the We Insist In Sound Education (WISE) committee, and attended by about 40 people, at the Winsted Fire Hall Wednesday night.

Following presentations by hired political consultant Paul Dorr from Iowa, and WISE committee leader Victor Niska, the two were put in the hot seat by several audience members.

Several of the questions revolved around errors in a document Dorr presented, which focused on the reasons why people should vote against the upcoming Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school bond referendum for a new high school and improvements to the district’s existing facilities.

Michelle Heuer of Waverly, and member of the Building Unity in the Laker District (BUILD) committee called Dorr on misrepresented enrollment numbers in the document.

Dorr’s response: “Oh, you did catch a typo.”

The numbers Heuer was referring to claimed there were 465 students in grades 9 through 12 in part of the document, and in another, it stated there were only 310 students in those grades.

Dorr explained that the 465 number actually should read as representing grades 7 through 12, for the 2002-03 school year.

The enrollment numbers for this fall in the district’s grades 7 through 12 is 523 students.

Several other claims in the document were disputed by members of the audience, and can be read below.

After several inaccuracies in the document were pointed out, Dorr was asked point blank if he was still going to mail them.

“Are you knowingly going to put out false information?”

“We did not knowingly make any errors, but we will distribute these,” Dorr said.

Although Dorr admitted there were some errors in the document, he claimed he did not have enough time or funding to gather the proper information, or to change it.

During his presentation, Dorr drew on his past experiences to relate to the voters of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District.

“There are a lot of beleaguered taxpayers everywhere, and eventually, they can’t take it anymore,” Dorr said.

Dorr talked about school boards trying to manipulate open meetings to suppress opponents, a technique called the Delphi technique.

An audience member pointed out to Dorr that she had been at his last meeting, and she felt he had oppressed her.

“I wanted to hear what you had to say, but you did not want us to be there,” she said.

Dorr apologized and explained the last meeting was supposed to be an organizational meeting, not public.

“It would be like Victor coming to your BUILD meetings,” Dorr said.

“Victor has been to our meeting,” Heuer said.

“And we welcomed him,” another BUILD member added.

Another audience member, who was not part of BUILD, disagreed, saying, “My friends went to (some of the first meetings that took place to discuss the school proposal), and they didn’t want to hear any of it.”

Another audience member confronted Dorr on his apparent double standards.

“You emphasized the school board and local government not sharing the truth. What I’m concerned about is that you’ve been throwing out specifics, specifics, specifics, but I find your data questionable,” the audience member said.

“What we are seeing in these proposals is school boards getting wrapped up in this euphoria of something shiny and new,” Dorr said.

He complained that the proposal was not something the whole community worked towards.

Jim Moy, of Waverly, disagreed.

“The proposal before the community now came from the community. It didn’t come from the school board or the architect, it came from a group of people in the community who formed a committee, and anyone could join it,” Moy said.

School board member Al Doering also pointed out that the school board members were elected by the community to represent the community.

“Everyone on the board was voted in by a considerable margin,” Doering said. “And every single one supports this bond.”

One business owner did not feel his input was valued highly.

“No one ever came to me and said, ‘Hey, what do you think of this?’ It’s always, ‘get out your checkbook,’” he said.

Another suggested it was a problem of poor management of the facilities the school has.

“Think about why your neighbors voted ‘no,’” he said.

Why is Dorr here?

The obvious answer to this question is that Dorr was hired by the WISE committee to fight the bond referendum.

But that doesn’t sit well with many people.

“Why would you bring a guy like this (Dorr), who is openly against public schools, to divide our communities?” That was the question posed by a concerned audience member to Niska.

“The reason I brought Dorr in was to keep me out of jail. I don’t think he wants to divide the community. Coming back with a vote 70 days later divides the community,” Niska said.

When asked if Dorr had walked through the school buildings, he replied, “I’m not hired to do that.”

Dorr says . . .

• The district is allowed to levy 5 percent more than the payment amounts each year.

HLWW says . . .

• The district is allowed to levy for 5 percent more than the payment amounts each year, in order to cover delinquent taxes. The state regulates this, and will not allow the school to collect more money than it bonded for.

Dorr says . . .

• The school wants to build a 500-student high school, but there were only 465 students enrolled in the middle school and high school this year.

HLWW says . . .

• There were 599 students enrolled in the middle school and high school this year.

Dorr says . . .

• The school is not growing. In 1996-97, there were 478 students in 7th through 12th grade, in 2002-03 there were 465.

HLWW says . . .

• The school is growing. In 2001-02, there were a total number 930 students in the district. This year, there were 999. This year there were also 523 students in grades 7th through 12th.

Dorr says . . .

• The cost of the proposed high school is $54,470 per student (using the inaccurate number of 310 students). Buffalo built a high school in 1997 for an adjusted cost of $27,429.

HLWW says . . .

• Buffalo High School cost $27,020,000 in 1997, and was added on to in 2003 for $13,423,795, a total of $40,443,795, which equates to $51,421,221 in 2007 dollars. The current capacity is 1,700 students, so the cost is $30,248 per student. These costs did not include land acquisition.

The cost of the proposed 500-student high school, not including land acquisition, is $15,386,003. The comparable per student cost is $30,772 per student, or almost the same as Buffalo.

Dorr says . . .

• The space in the proposed new high school to be used for academic purposes, such as classrooms, labs, and library, is 24,832 square feet, or 21.7 percent of the total 111,623 square feet.

HLWW says . . .

• The proposed high school building’s net area is 86,140 square feet and the building gross area is 114,623 square feet. The 28,483 square foot difference is the area of the walls and corridors.

The net area of the classrooms, labs, and library is 43,502 square feet, or more than 50 percent of the total net area.

The remaining areas of the new school are the gym, locker rooms, administration, auditorium, commons, and other support spaces.

The larger area of the new school site will also provide an opportunity to create outdoor learning environments for agriculture, biology, physical education, and other programs that are not available now.

Illegal mail delivered to rural Winsted boxes

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Winsted post office carriers found themselves in a reversed role Tuesday morning, as they were dispatched to take mail out of boxes in rural Winsted routes.

Lisa Huhn, the officer in charge at the Winsted Post Office, sent her carriers out to collect illegally distributed pieces of mail that contained We Insist on Sound Education (WISE) information.

It is a federal offense to put something in a person’s mailbox.

“I contacted the head of the committee, and he said he didn’t know anything about it,” Huhn said.

The mail was apparently invitations to the WISE committee’s public meeting, which took place Wednesday at the Winsted Fire Hall.

The chairman of the WISE committee, Victor Niska of Waverly, believes the invitations were delivered by someone else, who didn’t realize it was illegal.

“All the ones we (WISE) have ever delivered have had proper postage put on them,” Niska said.

“I don’t know who did it, so I can’t do anything about it,” Huhn said.

The person or persons who delivered the mail would most likely be responsible to pay for the postage and told not to do it again.

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