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Willmar School Board member Sandi Unger, shown above on YouTube, says she hopes voters in the district will watch the videos and learn more about the board members' views. YouTube

Willmar School Board members have videos on website

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WILLMAR -- Willmar School Board members have joined the world of YouTube to talk about the district's upcoming operating levy referendum.

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Videos from four board members -- Sandi Unger, Brad Schmidt, Dion Warne and Mike Reynolds -- were posted this week. Videos from other board members will be posted later.

In each one, a board member looks into the camera to explain why he or she supports the operating levy.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard suggested the videos last month. "We're trying to communicate with all the different segments of our population," he said Friday.

Kjergaard said the videos are not scripted. Board members had some topics they wanted to cover, but the videos are all in their own words.

The videos were produced by high school media services specialist Joel Brenckman.

Board members were a little reluctant to do the videos at first, Unger said.

"If it will help us pass the referendum, we're willing to give it a try," she said. "It wasn't too painful to do; Joel was easy to work with."

Unger said she hopes voters in the district will watch the videos and learn more about the board members' views.

If the levy doesn't pass, she said, "things will look drastically different."

The district is asking voters to revoke an existing $498.49 per-pupil levy and replace it with an $898.49 levy. The existing levy will expire in another year. The new levy would be in effect for 10 years. Voters approved a $201.51 levy two years ago.

If the new levy is approved, the district's total operating levy would increase from $700 to $1,100 per pupil. The levy applies to residential and business property and to a house, garage and one acre on agricultural property. The levy does not apply to seasonal recreational property.

In their videos, board members talk about the budget cuts already made, about $10 million in the past decade. They also mention programs that have been lost and their concerns about cuts that may have to be made in the future.

Reynolds and Schmidt are Willmar graduates. All four have children currently attending Willmar's schools.

Reynolds speaks about the state of the theater at Willmar Senior High. "Many nights I have spent in this theater watching some of the best dramatic productions," he says. Without the levy, "programs such as this could go away."

Unger and Schmidt bring up the loss of the French and German programs due to budget cuts and talk about the difficulty of cutting back in extracurricular and fine arts programs.

Warne speaks of the importance of school social workers, which have also been cut back in recent years. Social workers were important to his two adopted daughters when they were adjusting to a new family, he said.

Links to the videos are available at www.willmar.k12.mn.us, the district's website. Scroll down to News Articles and click on "WPS School Board Members Speak About the Operating Levy." A video from board member Wayne Lenzmeier is posted there along with links to YouTube.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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