Open Letter To The IKM-Manning Community

THE IKM-Manning School Board recently voted 6 to 1 to pursue a bond vote for facility improvements. President Heller voted "nay" but immediately indicated he supported the Board vote. By state law, the bond vote must be held on March 3rd or September 8th. Since March wasn't feasible, it is scheduled for September.

Bond money will be used to build a facility to replace the Irwin building and to upgrade the Manning building. The consultants identified two options: a single site solution and a dual site solution - with the single site option being the optimal financial solution.

Construction costs for dual locations are estimated to be between $2M and $5M higher than a single location. You may not totally agree with the numbers but does anyone think construction costs for two sites are less than one? Does anyone have professional knowledge that refutes the consultants' conclusion?

Operating cost differences between two sites is conservatively estimated to be $200,000 per year. That's equivalent to the salary and benefits of three teachers.....even more if you assume the lower salary of early career teachers. In addition, eight teachers currently travel between buildings. That is a loss of 8 periods - another full teacher lost. At a minimum, two locations result in a loss of 4 teachers every year for the lifetime of the new construction (50 to 70 years). That difference, for a small school like ours, can determine the difference between a mediocre school and an exemplary school.

That difference over 70 years ($14 million and 280+ teacher years) cannot be defined other than to say it will be significant! You may not totally agree with the numbers but does anyone think operational costs of two sites are less than one? Does anyone have professional expertise to indicate otherwise?

I managed an IBM software support center across two locations: $200k would not come close to covering the cost difference of operating one site vs two. In addition, that number doesn't factor the cost related to the loss of work efficiency, i.e. the lack of ability to cover responsibilities when employees are sick, on vacation, etc. The cost delta could easily be double $200k. And you lose flexibility to adjust the curriculum of individual students. If one or more students are performing above their grade level in a subject, they lose the ability to take the higher level course if that course is taught at a different site. The district loses the ability to utilize high school students to mentor or assist with elementary students.

Comparing one site to two, think about the challenges of hiring and maintaining extra personnel, full-time or part-time...extra bus drivers, cooks, nurses, lunchroom personnel, maintenance personnel, administrative staff, etc. Can the district hire enough for two sites? Not only for the first year of operation but 20 years from now? 50 years from now? Good news/bad news: the district will spend less time hiring teachers because it can't afford them....

The Board had two reasons to vote for an option that is not optimum: fear of failure or bowing to special interests.

Fear of failure, i.e., fear of a difficult bond vote: fear of failure is not justification to vote for a solution that is less than optimum. Do you let fear of failure drive your personal life or business life? Is it better to aim low - aim low and succeed at a solution that is less than optimal? Or is it better to aim for the optimum? Bowing to special interests: When discussing politics at the national level, we think of special interests...those people, corporations, and entities who influence votes because they have another agenda to protect their own assets. We are encountering special interests in this school bond vote. They are trying to influence this vote to advance their personal agenda. People with special interests - people who have agendas other than what is best for the school district need to be identified and resisted.

School Board obligations are to the students, staff and taxpayers. How is anything other than a single site the best solution for students, staff and taxpayers? Some community members don't like the one site solution. They fear their special interests will be harmed.

Some don't like the two site solution. I will not vote for a two site solution. It is a misuse of my tax dollars, not only during construction but more importantly, wasting general fund dollars for the next 50 to 70 years. Convince me and other taxpayers why we should vote for a bond that wastes our dollars for 70 years?! Convince us why we should vote for a bond that is NOT in the best interest of students and staff'? One that costs us 4 or more teachers per year?! A solution that sentences us to mediocrity? The financial impact of two sites is targeting mediocrity rather than leadership.

The School Board took an oath: "faithfully and impartially to the best of your ability discharge the duties of the office of President, Vice-President, Director of the IKM-Manning School District as now and hereafter required by law". Required by law.... They did not swear an oath to the Irwin, Kirkman, Manilla nor Manning communities. The oath was to the school district. It is not the role of the school board to address economic development in any of its communities. The school board courageously pushed special interests aside and prioritized students, staff and taxpayers.

Excellence in education yields two outcomes. It develops great young adults that stay and thrive or return and thrive in our communities. It encourages families to move here. A key decision for incoming or mobile families is their choice of school district. Our school district sits between four county seats - four places of employment. If our school district is considered to be high quality, families will choose to live in Irwin, Kirkman, Manilla and Manning. Our student numbers will increase.

Does the learning environment have an impact? SPARK and F!RE curriculums have received state recognition and grants. F!RE student enrollment jumped from 6 to 13 this spring semester. All but one student returned and she plans to return next fall. Eight new students enrolled!! The STEM FTC program grew YTY from 25 to 39 students. That is success measured by 1) outside recognition 2) state grants and 3) student enrollment!

The Governor recognized the school district's leadership in STEM. Do we want to continue our STEM success? Our STEM leadership? How do we do that if we are forced to operate in an inefficient manner- both space and staff?

Kudos to the community leaders who are leading the initiative to build a much needed childcare center in Manilla! With enthusiasm, I have followed the progress! I hope for the same enthusiasm towards our IKM-Manning students!

I ask the good Lord to provide district voters the courage and conviction to do what is best - to do what is right for the district's students. Talk to any student - they identify as a Wolf, not a Hawk, Hawkeye or Bulldog. Maybe, just maybe, we might follow their example.....

Former School Board Member
Ron Reischl

Note: the information below has been featured on my web page for about 2 weeks and is not part of Ron Reischl's Letter to the Editor - the information and comments below are mine and mine alone.
I include it with Ron's message because it provides some past history for school bond issues in Manning.

William F. Ohde 1934
As I continue to scan the Ohde collection, I ran into a 1970 Manning ironic that there were 3 items of major interest in this issue that pertain to today.
One was the construction of the new high school, and now the IKM-Manning District will vote on another school bond issue this fall.
This aspect led me back into the 1918 Pandemic and now the current coronavirus situation...
The other item of interest were the 4 grocery stores Manning we have NONE!!!

December 3, 1970

Jaycee awards

floor plan

Manning Food Market 324 Main Street

SavMor Super Stores 303 Center Street

Thrifty Food Market 813 Fourth Street
Uptown Food Market 319 Main Street (previously known as Council Oak)

The Manning community has faced many major events, challenges, and changes in the past which will continue into the future...whether or not we are able to hang on to our community will depend on its citizens - just like it did in the past.

The 2020 school bond issue will be a major challenge for the whole school district this fall, but in 1970 a nearly $1 Million bond issue was also a challenge and contentious for the Manning School District.
I remember some of the naysayers arguing that the crack that opened up over night on the west wall of the old high school was there for decades...the widening of this crack was the catalyst to get the new school drive going.

September 1970 crack in the west inside wall

I have a story about this crack. While the building was completely razed around 1975 the footings remained.
In 1988, construction of the indoor pool began. John Ohde ran the Cat to dig out the hole and we ran into the old 1918 high school footings.
I don't have any pictures of the specific footings under the west wall but John and I were surprised at how shallow the footings were, not much more than a foot and a half thick, and very small base when we started digging and hauling the soil away.
We IMEDIATELY started talking about the crack and this is one of the reasons why that wall eventually failed...the footing was definitely not the best design for a 2 1/2 story brick building.

Since soil tests were done for the pool construction in 1988, we found out there was a sandy subsoil called glacial outwash, so this was another reason why that wall eventually shifted and settled.

After the high school was torn down Amos "Skip" Lohmeier laid the outside brick wall on the gym below.
Basically only 3 walls were built for the gym in 1937.
The west side of the gym was built against the outside wall of the high school.
So the east wall of the 1918 school is still there.
April 17, 1988 - This image is way after the initial point where we ran into the west wall footings but you can see some footings over by the racquetball court.
You can see the shallow footings just on the west side of the racquetball court.

April 28

To avoid any support problems for the footings, ground had to be removed to get below the sandy areas.
Here you see William F. Ohde telling John who was using a transit that 1 foot more had to be removed.

April 29 - South footing base of the pool.

Razing of the old high school circa 1975
John and Julie Bachman - (Linda Ohde's children) with backs to camera.

Woodrow Reinholdt 1934

You can see the west wall of the old high school in the background.
Also notice all of the hitching rails that once lined the street.
Today we still have just one section of the hitching rail by the park.
I have always been reminding people that we need to preseve it.

I wonder where we would be going to school today if the school bond issue had failed in 1970...would the Manning School District now be going to Carroll?
For decades, there have been arguments by state and federal officials for having only county school districts...maybe it will be inevitable but I think we should try to maintain the small schools we still have.

Saving the businesses we still have will probably be just as big a challenge and getting a grocery store back in Manning is just one of the major challenges.
That we had 4 grocery stores in 1970, and now the citizens won't/can't support even one, is troubling and a danger to the future of the rest of our local businesses.

There are some things we can't control like changes in technology but we should be able to manage our own personal attitudes and habits and remember the importance of supporting our local businesses and community.

About a month ago I wrote about some possibilities for getting another grocery store going again by a committee...but I received negative feedback from one person and I didn't want to then also be accused of the reason why any of the prospective people of interest at that time would back out, so I removed my feature about updates and the work by that committee towards getting another grocery store.

Recently, I've heard of more rumors about individuals and a group continuing this work to get another grocery store, but if you are interested or want to know what is going on you'll have to ask around...

More pix from the Ohde collection

1934 view before the gymnasium was added to the east in 1937.
This high school was built in 1917-18

1917 school bond & construction

As we all should know, History Repeats itself - both good & bad
1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic - Manning School closings

Most people today probably don't know how the 1918 pandemic influenced their family history...most of you living today had a relative who either died or was sick with the Spanish Flu.
My grandfather, August Kusel's first wife (Maggie McGrail) died from that influenza...they had 2 children, Elsie (Kusel) Schroeder and Herman Kusel.
Afterwards August remarried to my grandmother, Ida Grau, and they had my dad, Amos, and my uncle, Melvin. So in a perverse way of looking at things - my dad and uncle (including all of their descendants) would not be here today if it had not been for the death of August's first wife from the Spanish Influenza.

Another thing to ponder is the world was at war during that 1918 pandemic - one of the reasons why that influenza spread all around the world so fast - with soldiers either going to or returning from the European battle field.

Today we have NO idea what the outcome will be with the coronavirus and sadly we have politicians and news media politicizing it.

But to me what is even worse is how our society has become so dependent on technology and has basically turned its backs on what built this country.
In 1918, Manning, along with most other small rural communities, we were self-sustaining - just like the US was. We had a creamery, grocery stores, dry goods, businesses that made clothing, blacksmith shops, harness shops, and so many more businesses including 3 railroads with service...most every farmer had chickens, milk cows, hogs, and gardens.
Today, we no longer have most of these types of businesses and the farming population has dwindled greatly and has no way to produce food locally like they did in 1918.

Maybe a lesson we should learn once the coronavirus situation ends is that we need to rethink where we have allowed society to take us and not turn on our backs on the past.
We also need to rethink the globalism that has caused the loss of businesses from our country and move to other countries who then send those products made by those American companies overseas and back to us - building those other country's economies and hurting ours...and even more alarming putting the US population in jeopardy where situations like most drugs/medicines being made in China...

possibly Arlene Graves or Phyllis Stahl, Bernice Dethlefs, Maxine Kuhl
West wall of the school in back where the crack opened up in 1970.

Gymnasium in the old high school - looking to the east end toward the stage.

If you remember a "sunken" room on the south side of the first floor of the old high school, where you had to walk down steps from the hallway - this was originally a gymnasium.
It was the science room when I went to school there in 1972-73.
Arlene Kuhl helped me identify most of the students in this picture but I forgot to ask her what the event was. I'm guessing it was a play.
Bill Ohde is the student with the cape in the front middle with Arlene Parish next to him.

Back: Everett Payne (assistant coach & Physics teacher), John Hass, Albert Boock, Henry Enenbach, Paul Curtis, Clayton Bingham, D. Ben Prather (head coach & Economics teacher)
Front: William F. Ohde, Keith Bingham, Harlyn Hinz, Don Owen, Merlin Struve, Max Detlefsen, Art Schrum

Myra Hamann - high school teacher 1944-1951


Back: Assistant Coach Everett Payne, Grant Eckholdt, 16 Merle West, 19 Lester Wyatt, 12 Kenneth Dethlefs, 29 Albert Boock, 25 Captain Don Owen, 17 Don Wyatt, Jimmy Albert, Coach D. Ben Prather, Clayton Bingham, Francis McEnany
Middle: Harold Rutz, Billy Enenbach, 23 Ernie Nissen, 10 Harlyn Hinz, 28 Ralph McGrath, 27 Woodrow Reinholdt, 22 Amos Sinn, Carl Musfeldt, Harold Oeser
Front: 11 John Hass, 21 Paul Curtis, 18 Willis Martens, 13 Henry Enenbach, 24 Max Detlefsen, 20 William F. Ohde, 26 Ray Neal, 15 Keith Bingham

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