Guest Views: Wrenshall students write on issues


March 8, 2024

Wrenshall High School English teacher Ted Conover said students in his College in the Schools composition course were eager to add to local discourse. So they revised and shortened their long-form problem-solution essays on local issues into print-length editorials, and shared those with the Pine Knot News. Topics range from addressing issues in local schools, arts, athletics, all the way up to state funding and the Legislature — and we are sharing them with you. Enjoy these writings. The first batch appeared in last week’s Pine Knot

The fight to bring back high school numbers

By Tyler Mills

Football has always been a big part of my life, so these last few years have been a struggle. Recently, football programs in our area have been collapsing or having to only field a junior varsity. As a former football player myself, I feel like it’s my responsibility to help bring back those numbers and help programs around our area succeed.

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Injuries are one of the main ways that keep kids from playing football. Most injuries on a football field can be prevented as long as the players are taught the right technique and know how to protect themselves. As coaches, they should be teaching kids how to tackle without using their heads and how to run under control. New technology is another way coaches should be addressing injuries. The Q-collar has been shown to help lower concussions by lowering the amount of brain movement inside the skull. These new technologies are a way to keep players safe on the field.

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Recruiting is another way to help bring up numbers. Coaches can recruit in the hallways or through other methods. One of the methods is hosting youth camps. The head coach from Ogilvie, Dave Harison, says, “Having a strong youth program is one of the ways they can get kids interested in football early.” Teams can host a youth camp in the spring and have current players help the coaches. This can help build pride within the players and it can help get the youth interested in playing football. Other than creating interest in football, this also gives coaches a chance to work with the younger generation on technique. The coaches can show them good habits they can bring to their future as football players.

High school football creates pride in the school. Players can find family in their team and develop a brotherhood among their friends. To see so many programs have to fall to a junior varsity or not even have a team deeply saddens me. As past players, it should be our job to help our programs succeed and pass the torch to players to come.

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Tyler Mills is a senior at Wrenshall High School. He has two dogs, one old and one new. He plays multiple sports including football and track. He will be attending NDSU after high school to study electrical engineering.

Small schools: A funding problem

By Jack Riley

Despite their many positives, small schools have a problem: funding. Minnesota’s school district funding model should be changed to ensure every student has a fair shot. There is a mantra often heard at the state capitol: It shouldn’t matter your zip code; every student should have equal access.

Wrenshall superintendent Jeff Pesta points to two factors as the main reasons small rural districts are struggling. First, in the 1970s Minnesota changed its funding model in an attempt to make it more fair, but since then the state has not kept pace with inflation, resulting in effectively lower funding. Second, districts may seek voter-approved levies, which are more likely to pass in districts with larger, wealthier tax bases. These districts are able to provide more opportunities, resulting in a perpetuation of inequality.

Most school funding comes from the state, distributed mostly on a per-student basis. On the surface this seems fair, but smaller districts are inherently less efficient, therefore requiring more funds. Most of the remaining funding comes from local property taxes. With lower property values and fewer property owners, the tax burden is spread more thinly in rural areas, making it difficult for small districts to obtain an adequate level of funding. According to Minnesota Sen. Jason Rarick of Pine City, districts with large industry generate particularly high property tax levels, which is why certain suburban Twin Cities districts are so well-funded.

Proposals to lessen this gap have been circulating in the legislature. The most popular, equalization, would distribute more funding to districts with lower property wealth, covering funds they are unable to attain. Both Sen. Rarick and Superintendent Pesta are in favor of this plan.

Smaller schools aren’t necessarily worse off. Sen. Rarick points to many areas where small schools are outperforming, including graduation rates. Where our small schools are lacking is the range of opportunities they can provide. There is no perfect solution to this complex issue. But the legislature needs to do something. Access to well-funded schools is critical. It shouldn’t matter your zip code. Every student should have equal access.

Jack Riley is a senior at Wrenshall.

Theater, who needs it?

By Alexis Swanson

I’ve been in the Wrenshall theater program since I was roped in by an upperclassmen in seventh grade. Last winter, I attended Cloquet’s performance of “The Wizard of Oz.” I was astounded by the set, costumes, and value production as a whole. The upcoming spring performance I was inspired to step up our production, but Wrenshall’s dinky stage, miniscule theater budget, and lack of green room quickly caused problems. I find there is a lack of urgency and enthusiasm around improving the space and program that I see in other extracurricular activities like sports.

Our budget for this upcoming year is $700. Half of that will be used on scripts and rights to a play, and with the remaining few hundred dollars we have to decide if we will use it on set or costumes. Not only do we run into a problem with the budget, we also have problems with the stage in general. The stage is located in the gym. For performances, this is not ideal as the acoustics are horrendous. For rehearsals, we have to share the gym with the basketball and track teams, an annoying distraction that greatly hinders our productivity. We have zero space to store sets, costumes, or props because there is no green room, so each year we have to buy them new.

I’m not saying there’s a bunch of money just lying around that the school isn’t using to improve the space and budget, but there are things that can be done. Last year the school had to raise $36,000 for new shot clocks and score boards for the upcoming Raptors basketball season. Raising this money was a whole community effort, considering the whole myriad of fundraisers involved, demonstrating just how much this community does care about the school, and about sports. A large-scale fundraiser driven by school and community members for the theater would be incredible to see and beneficial to the school and students.

If we can factor sports into Wrenshall’s vision, we can certainly make theater a larger priority to our school. All around the country, state, and county schools put sports over the arts, but Cloquet is a shining, leading example of how a school should be considerate of all their students’ interests, not just the athletes. I believe more schools could follow in their footsteps with enough drive and vision, starting with Wrenshall.

Lexi Swanson is top of her senior class at Wrenshall. She has a cat. Two cats, actually. She likes going on walks in Jay Cooke, but pretending she’s in Middle Earth.


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