Supporters rallyWORTHINGTON — A crowd of well more than 100 people — ranging in age from babies who are future students to nonagerian Hardy Rickbeil — gathered Monday in front of Worthington High School for a rally in support of the District 518 school referendum.
By: Ryan McGaughey, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — A crowd of well more than 100 people — ranging in age from babies who are future students to nonagerian Hardy Rickbeil — gathered Monday in front of Worthington High School for a rally in support of the District 518 school referendum.
The event, organized by the “Vote Yes” Committee, was coordinated to officially launch a drive encouraging support for the eight-year, $1,000 per-pupil-unit operating levy referendum that will be offered to voters in November. Committee members have been meeting since June to prepare for the effort and have adopted the theme, “Strong Schools = Strong Communities; Invest in Our Future.”
Gordon Moore, one of the steering committee’s members, stressed during his opening remarks that an affirmative vote in November not only benefits children in District 518 schools, but also their communities.
“The Greek historian Diogenes said, ‘The foundation of every state is the education of its youth,’” Moore said. “The good news is we get to do something about that.”
Youths on hand for the rally included the Worthington High School volleyball and football teams, which began practice Monday for their coming fall sports seasons. Also on hand was Rickbeil, a graduate of the WHS Class of 1926.
Lawn signs were distributed to people in attendance, who were reminded by more than a half-dozen speakers of the referendum’s importance.
“District 518’s (current) operating levy will expire at the end of the current year,” said Bob Jirele, chair of the district’s school board. “This referendum would generate $2.6 million for the coming year — 48 percent would come from local taxpayers and 52 percent would come from the state.
“Eighty-eight percent of school districts have a levy referendum in place. … If this fails, District 518 will be the only district in the area without an operating referendum,” Jirele added.
Worthington isn’t the only community with a stake in the District 518 referendum, committee member Greg Raymo stressed.
“This school district involves Bigelow, Rushmore, Reading and Wilmont, along with Worthington as well,” Raymo said. “This referendum is not just about the kids. This is about our communities; this is about our future.”
Raymo also read a letter from Ron Wood, president of Minnesota West Community and Technical College as well as Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp.
“If we fail to educate our children today, we cannot be expected to build on a foundation that has taken over a century to create,” wrote Wood, who quoted Benjamin Franklin — “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
“Our ability to attract business to this community has a lot to do with the strength of our schools,” Raymo added. “The future is about this referendum passing, and we need everybody’s help in this process.”
Worthington High School students Quentin Dudley and Heather Johnson offered remarks, as did Junior Achievement’s Joyce Jacobs.
“Nobody likes to pay taxes, but I think the question Worthington voters face today is not can I afford to vote yes, but can I afford to vote no?” Jacobs said.
Bruce Viessman, a Worthington High School graduate who is now employed at Worthington Regional Hospital, thanked his past teachers and coaches for helping him get where he is today.
“One of the first things the physicians (the hospital recruits) do when they visit our town is check out our schools,” Viessman said. “It’s very important for us that we have the school system in place to recruit those people.”
A five-year, $900 per-pupil-unit operating levy referendum presented to voters in 2005 failed. This year’s referendum vote will take place on Election Day, Nov. 7.
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