From: Rich Dahman
Winona Area Public Schools
Members of the Save Our Schools (SOS) group continue to distort facts about Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS), with the most recent case being a May 22 letter to the editor from Gretchen Michlitsch. For the SOS group, this fits a familiar pattern: filing a misguided court document against the school district, then resorting to distortion, mud-slinging, and playing the victim when it realizes that the facts aren’t on its side.
SOS’ claims that its committee consists of public-school supporters and advocates who care about the long-term educational and financial health of WAPS is contradicted by the months of diverting our district’s attention and resources away from sound educational practices and financial stability by bringing the lawsuit in the first place. Our students, families, schools, staff, and communities deserve better.
The facts of the matter are clear. Following an unsuccessful referendum in 2017, the WAPS Board surveyed the community regarding current and upcoming facility needs. In the survey, which was available to every resident of the school district, over 2,200 respondents made it clear that they overwhelmingly supported the need to consolidate schools. This was strongly supported by the many parents and school staff who responded to the survey.
The WAPS Board agreed with the community, and voted to move forward with the consolidation and sale of the Central, Madison, and Rollingstone school properties. Rather than accepting the will of the community and the elected officials, the SOS group has spent the past year fighting this decision, bringing an unsuccessful lawsuit against our district. This spring, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the SOS claims had no basis, and that the WAPS Board acted correctly when closing schools.
In addition to the unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the school closures, the SOS group also attempted to halt the sale of the school properties. The facts in this case were also on the side of the WAPS Board, with the court ruling that SOS had no legal right to halt the school sales.
SOS attempted to interfere with legal property sales by filing a notice of lis pendens against district property (while having no legal interest in the property). Despite being asked multiple times to remove the illegal lis pendens, the SOS group refused to allow WAPS to provide a clean title to the buyers, as is required by the sale contracts. In legal terms, what SOS has done is known as slander of title. By refusing to remove the lis pendens, SOS placed an illegal cloud on the property title, leaving WAPS with no option but to pursue this matter through the courts.
This case is making its way through the court system, with an initial hearing having taken place on May 15. WAPS feels that the facts of this case, like the others, are on our side, and we look forward to the court’s ruling.