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By Wes Mader Oct. 19, 2021

NEXUS, the School District’s consultant of choice has now been paid a total of $24.96 million as of January this year. Those are dollars for consulting, not dollars for material or labor for the projects that NEXUS recommends, and then collects a percentage of the total project cost. With the School Board asking for another 35 million, it seemed appropriate that taxpayers should know where their tax dollars go before dipping into their wallets again. For that purpose, Wes Mader who has been a columnist for the Prior Lake American for several years, submitted a column on Monday, October 18, that included verifiable facts regarding the District’s spending. The editor rejected the column.

Since we still believe that taxpayers should know how their tax dollars are being used, we have included the column that the Prior Lake American rejected. We bet you’ve never seen anything in the District’s newsletters or the American about how much NEXUS or other District consultants have been paid, but it is supposed to be public information. To bad the American won’t do some digging to find out and report, instead of censoring those who do.
By Wes Mader Oct. 19, 2021

By Wes Mader Oct. 19, 2021

Four years ago, voters approved a facilities bond referendum well in excess of $100 million, plus a 37% increase in the cost/student operating levy (dollars useable for teacher salaries). How soon we forget! What was supposed to be more than enough to meet future District needs, quickly became not enough and some teachers were terminated.

What taxpayers should know but haven’t been told, is that Nexus, the District’s consultant that planned and oversaw the referendum facility projects, has been paid $24.96 million since initially hired. This seems outrageous, considering that the $24.96 million did not pay for materials, labor or maintenance for a single square foot of facility space. What it did pay for was “technical services”, like the $426,511 authorized by the District’s finance director, for Nexus to consult on the purchase of AstroTurf for athletic fields. Numerous other examples are equally disturbing.

Tax payers are being asked for another $35 million for a stand-alone restricted technology fund. One stated purpose is to divert technology dollars historically included in the general fund, to other uses. How’s that for strategic planning? If $35 million is more than needed, the excess dollars can be used for anything “techie” like the latest and greatest iPads, but can’t be used to hire or pay teachers. Technology is absolutely vital to our Schools, but arbitrary spending is not.

Voters can vote YES or NO to the School Board’s request at a special election in just a week and a half, November 2. Based upon what I’ve heard in public, many residents, particularly those without school-age children, are totally unaware of the upcoming referendum. District Board members know that by scheduling the referendum in this off-election year instead of next year during general elections, voter turn-out will be minimum. This says something about the Board’s respect for District taxpayers.

Based on what I hear from parents who are engaged with School District staff, teachers are frustrated by increasing class size and demands, while needed support is being diminished. It seems that millions spent since the 2017 authorized major spending increases, accomplished nothing in terms of helping teachers going forward. Teachers are front-line workers in a fight to educate kids during very challenging times. They deserve community support (and the School Board’s), instead of a tangential and distracting effort to squeeze more dollars out of taxpayers.

Hopefully all agree the purpose of our public schools is to assure children are getting an education that prepares them for a lifetime in an ever-changing world (including skills to earn a living), and hopefully all agree that it can and should be done cost effectively. If yes, can’t we agree that success should be measured by results versus cost, like in the real world of business. However, School records regarding student performance versus cost are disappointing.

While proficiency in reading, math and science are critical for student development, tested proficiency levels of PLSAS students in these subjects for all grades over the past five years, shows continuous decline. While lack of in-school learning is partially responsible for last year’s performance drop, be reminded there was continuous decline before the pandemic. According to the latest available data from student testing this past spring, 41% were non-proficient in reading, 44% were non-proficient in math and 46% were non-proficient in science. While I have no basis to offer opinion on the validity of testing, the results shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

Spending data over the past five years is equally disturbing. Audits show District expenditures grew from $85.3 million in 2017 to $108.2 million in 2021, a 27% increase while student enrollment (reported in “pupil units”) increased by only 5%. For perspective, don’t forget that the past justification for $100+ million (2017 bond referendum), was to accommodate student population growth, that has turned out to be only 5 percent over 4 years. Also don’t miss the fact that dollars spent per pupil went from $9,285 in 2017 to $11,290 in 2021, an increase of 22% in 4 years while cumulative inflation was only 10.9%.

Readers can draw their own conclusions from the above data, but in my past business world, progress was measured by what was accomplished for dollars spent. Too often it seems that when tax dollars provide funding, those responsible for spending like to measure progress by how much money can be thrown at a project, instead of by results. Costs climbing while student performance is declining–this does not indicate positive progress.

By Rep. Billy Long

September 23, 2021 – 12:00 AM

Imagine this: You’re taking your weekly trip to the grocery store. As the grocery store clerk tells you the total for groceries, your first thought is, “They must have made a mistake; it can’t be that much.” You pay and push your cart off to the side and recheck the total, item by item. Then sticker shock sets in. The clerk has made no errors. Welcome to America, Biden/Harris style.

Hello, inflation. After cooking a high-priced breakfast the next morning, you head into work and notice the gas gauge is either broken or you’re near empty. Gas is up 74% since Jan. 20, and now you realize that filling up is no longer an option. You tell the gas station cashier, “Yes, sir, I’d like $15 on pump 12.” Now with your gas gauge registering just over a quarter of a tank, you hear on the radio that Americans are stranded at the mercy of terrorists in the Middle East, and now the world’s greatest superpower has been rendered feckless. Like many Americans, you’re thinking, What in the world is happening to America, and how did it decline so severely in eight short months?

I remember Jimmy Carter’s presidency well, and as Yogi Berra would often say, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Those of us who lived through Carter’s presidency felt positive that he would always be considered the worst president in our lifetimes. Unfortunately, he has lost that title to our current president, Joe Biden. Today, inflation is hurting middle-class families, excessive government spending is crippling our economy, a disastrous foreign policy is leaving Americans stranded, and China and Russia will soon be able to reverse engineer $85 billion of our military hardware we left to the Taliban.

Biden campaigned on “building back better.” The reality is, nothing has been better since he and Vice President Kamala Harris took office. In fact, they and their team of Obama administration holdovers are actively working against the interests of the country. For their dereliction of duty in the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, their total capitulation to China and other adversaries, their calamitous open border policies, their disastrous fiscal policies, their servitude to the radical woke left, and their utter failure to lead the nation, Biden and Harris should resign.

Biden is not up to the job of being the president. It is a 24/7 job, and he has neither the mental acuity nor physical stamina to do it. When presented with options from intelligence officials and from those in Congress with knowledge of the situation in Afghanistan, Biden either failed to understand or completely ignored their concerns and advice. Instead, he executed a knee-jerk, politically motivated, botched operation.

From commanding officers, people in the country, his intelligence community, the Pentagon, the CIA, the State Department, and the intelligence committees on both sides of the Capitol, he was warned that the only way to get our embassy personnel, each American that wanted to leave, and our Afghan interpreters out safely would be by using Bagram Air Base. When we vacated Bagram, it was a fatal error, as had been predicted.

To add insult to injury, Biden’s State Department gave the Taliban all the leverage in the world to take advantage of the delicate situation. Most people realize that you can’t negotiate with terrorists. Biden handed them the entire country of Afghanistan and our state-of-the-art military equipment on a silver platter. As a result, several Americans are stranded in Afghanistan, the Taliban now has U.S. weaponry, and 13 American service members paid the ultimate price. All of this could have been prevented. To make matters worse, Harris claims she was the last person in the room when the decision was made to withdraw from Afghanistan to meet a photo-op arbitrary deadline. If that is the case, she bears responsibility as well.

In addition, the president and vice president have abdicated their duty to secure our southern border. Record numbers of migrants are pouring into the country. The drug and human trafficking businesses are booming. All the administration had to do with respect to border policies was nothing. President Donald Trump was building the wall, and the “Remain in Mexico” policy was deterring illegal crossings. We saw dramatic improvements. Because they were Trump policies, and the Biden administration hates everything Trump did, no matter what, we are back to the dangerous, open-border days. This administration’s incompetence and craven political nature are making people less safe.

Meanwhile, Communist China is on the rise, forming an open alliance with the Taliban. Russia is getting an oil pipeline while American jobs are being destroyed along with the Keystone Pipeline. The Biden administration has already passed over $1 trillion of deficit spending with another $3.5 trillion proposed. It is bankrupting our country with a progressive wish list.

Furthermore, in an attempt to continue to politicize the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration now wants to mandate that all federal employees, workers at entities that receive federal funding, and workers at any private businesses with over 100 employees take the vaccine. Biden even said verbatim that this was no longer about freedom or personal choice. His administration wants to control your life and impose government regulations on your personal freedoms. This is a notion straight out of the communist handbook. I have always encouraged people to seriously consider talking to their doctor as to whether to take the vaccine or not. Receiving the vaccine should always remain a personal choice.

When Republicans take back the House and Senate, we will hold this entire administration accountable. In the meantime, someone must be held responsible for the disastrous state of our government. If the Democrats can impeach Trump for a phone call, Biden and Harris must be removed for their total and complete dereliction of duty. If the Democrats in Congress won’t do their jobs and remove them, the president and vice president should do the right thing for the country, for once, and resign immediately.

Rep. Billy Long represents Missouri’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a candidate for U.S. Senate.

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By Wes Mader Community Columnist

The spectacle in Kabul, Afghanistan is painful to watch from either side of the political aisle. In spite of President Biden’s effort to shift some responsibility to former President Trump, and Trump’s pronouncement that it wouldn’t have happened if he were still president, the simple fact is that those in uniform often pay with their lives for the mistakes of their leaders.

It’s noteworthy to mention that while American sons and daughters were fighting in Kabul to protect American and Afghan civilians from terrorist attacks, members of Congress were home on recess. The vice president was touring Asia, which is a long way from the illegal immigration crisis on our southern border, which she was assigned to address by the president. The president, appearing to be somewhat alone and isolated, has offered comments about the situation that I presume were read from a teleprompter, while press secretary Jen Psaki offered accolades on the administration’s accomplishments.

While I won’t attempt to critique the motivation of our nation’s commander-in-chief, it seems to me that the decision to withdraw all support from Afghanistan’s military was received by the Taliban as an invitation from the U.S. government, for them to take over. We should not forget that it was America’s military that restored democracy to Afghanistan by removing the Taliban 20 years ago, and by their presence have maintained that democracy until our president’s recent decision that surrendered the country and its citizens, back to the Taliban.

Without question, the Afghan democracy was fragile at best, as any young democracy would be. However, its foundation for democracy was growing stronger as its younger generation was tasting freedom for the first time, and young women were becoming contributors to society instead of the possessions of radical Islamists. Reports last week of teenagers trying to escape the Taliban and falling from the landing gears of a U.S. evacuation aircraft, possibly provide a preview of what’s in the future for Afghans.

It is my hope that the recently unveiled mural in downtown Prior Lake (“Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima”) will serve as a daily reminder of the personal sacrifice made by our men and women in uniform, in the past and the present, as events in Afghanistan so starkly illustrate. It’s worth reminding ourselves that about 300,000 of America’s sons and daughters were sacrificed on the fields of battle to free Europe from becoming Hitler’s dream of a continent free of Jews and other ethnic minorities, and to stop the imperialistic leadership of Japan from gaining dominance over all of Asia.

There were 7,000 Americans killed and another 20,000 wounded on the tiny island of Iwo Jima during WWII, and it was America that stayed the course in Japan after WWII, helping to rebuild the country into a prosperous peace-loving nation. Our military is still there to help protect Japan from any would-be enemy that would take away their freedom.

As Prior Lake residents scan the mural, I hope they will be reminded that the whole island of Iwo Jima is only about half the size of our City of Prior Lake, that the number of U.S. casualties in that battle (wounded and killed) was about equal to today’s total Prior Lake population, and that there were almost 20,000 Japanese soldiers also killed. Can anyone even comprehend the human carnage that occurred there, or the courage of those who bore the brunt of the battle on both sides? I can’t.

The picture of the flag raising has always had special meaning for me, since navy Corpsman John Bradley (a friend of our family in my hometown) was reported by the U.S. military for about 70 years as being one of the flag raisers in the picture. More recently it was reported that Bradley was instead, one of those who raised the first flag on Mt. Surabachi (along with Charles Lindberg from Richfield), before the second flag raising was photographed. In any event, those who crawled and fought their way from the sands on the beaches to the heights of Surabachi to plant either flag, should never be forgotten.

For those who are “woke” and can only find injustice and discrimination in America, I would suggest they examine the goodness of America that has welcomed legal immigrants from throughout the world without regard to race or religion, probably making America the most diverse nation on the planet. That can’t be all bad.

Wes Mader is a former Prior Lake mayor. Following retirement after serving as president of Bowmar Aerospace and Defense in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Wes and his wife Char retired in Prior Lake.

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[About 7 minutes into the video Shannon Davis announces her resignation]

It was the kind of reaction that isn’t expected when someone announces their resignation at a school board meeting, but Shannon Davis who was a building nurse for the Prior Lake-Savage Area School district ‘walked off’ after resigning her position Monday night. Those in attendance celebrated Davis’ opinions shared to the school board, prompting the board to sit awkwardly while the cheers died down.

Davis’ resignation starts around the 6:45 marker of the video with her being called to the podium to speak. After Davis gives her address and position within the district an audible gasp is caught on a microphone after she stated to the board she was here to announce her resignation.

According to Davis, it was the “District’s mandates, regulations, and policies” that were in place throughout the 2020-2021 school year that prompted her to resign. Davis went on to say to the board that “We have failed the children and made them feel like they were the problem because of COVID.”

At the end of her time speaking Davis gave what I thought was the most honest assessment that one can give when she clearly looked deep into herself when she was writing this and then said “I will not harm the emotional, mental, or physical health and education of these children any longer. I hope you and the administration will forego the policies of this last school year and let the parents make the decisions that are best for their children.”

You can watch the entire resignation above in the video. Shannon Davis is still listed as a school district employee on the district’s website.

Looking at the district’s website, it appears that masks are being recommended but not required for those 2 years older and up at schools in the district. However, those using buses to come to school will be required to wear a mask when inside the bus. You can see the entire list of 2021-22 back-to-school plans here for the Prior Lake – Savage School District. 

Read More: “I Will Not Harm” Minnesota School Nurse Resigns During Meeting |

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