Edina Detachment Issue Looms over Hopkins School Board Election

Some parents fear property owners who want to leave the district are trying to join the Hopkins School Board. One candidate says the district should consider other options.

It’s been nearly a year since the Hopkins School Board unanimously rejected a request from some Edina property owners in the district who wanted to leave Hopkins for Edina Public Schools. Yet the detachment issue remains alive and is showing signs of haunting this year’s School Board elections.

An e-mail sent to a Hopkins PTO group warned that:

“There are 2 (and quite possibly 3) members of the Unite Edina group that are running for Hopkins School Board. I strongly believe the sole purpose for this is to infiltrate our school board so they can get their request for detachment from the Hopkins School district passed. I don't believe they have any interest in serving on our school board for the purpose of benefitting our students. In fact, I'm quite certain their children do not even attend our schools. If they get elected, it could have dire consequences for our school district and our children.”

The candidates referred to are Gang Gary Jing, Tobias McKenna and Heather Hansen. McKenna, of Edina, is no longer actively campaigning—although he made the decision after the official withdrawal. Hansen lives on Blake Road in Hopkins. She did not respond to a request for comment for this article, and her position is not known.

But Jing lives in the Unite Edina 273 area, which covers the Parkwood Knolls and Walnut Drive neighborhoods—although he said he does not represent the organization and is running on his own. His ninth grade son attends a private school, not a Hopkins school. Jing said there are other options besides detachment and that it’s the area’s last resort. But unlike the other candidates, he does not rule it out.

In an e-mail to Patch, Jing said the Edina homeowners who make up Unite Edina 273 have been “continuously ignored and mistreated by the district over years.”


‘Dismissive, Arrogant and Disrespectful’

The community used to be within the Harley Hopkins Independent School District until property owners voted to join Hopkins schools in 1952.

Related: Why Does the Hopkins School District Cover So Many Cities?

Jing said Hopkins’ closure of all the schools within the original Harley Hopkins district made it harder on homeowners. The highway further caused the community to draw away from the existing Hopkins school district and made Edina schools closer and safer.

He accuses the district of being “dismissive, arrogant and disrespectful” in response to the homeowners’ complaints. And like Unite Edina, he notes that 96 percent of the students in the detachment area are enrolled outside of Hopkins.

He also criticizes the district for increasing open enrollment out of the district in other neighborhoods. According to a Nov. 15 Hopkins Public Schools report, about 14 percent of students open enrolled outside the district in the 2011-12 school year. When charters, private schools and other options are included, about 22 percent of resident students chose not to attend school in the district. 

The same report showed that Hopkins had about 1.35 students open enroll into the district for every student that open enrolled out. But Jing said the numbers don't speak well for Hopkins.

“Hopkins only serves 4 percent of the students who are mandated and taxed to be served by Hopkins,” he said. “Yet throughout the detachment process, no single question was asked by the board or administration on why this is so, what the administration is doing about it, or what can be done to serve the educational needs of this community.  Something is wrong here.”


Support for Hopkins Schools

Hopkins is hardly facing a wave of anti-Hopkins candidates, though. At a candidate forum Tuesday, which Jing did not attend, all four candidates present said they opposed detachment. That included both incumbents Warren Goodroad and Betsy Scheurer Anderson, who voted against the detachment request in December—as well as challengers Katie Fulkerson and Michael Doobie Kurus, both of Minnetonka.

“I can empathize with the rationale and reasoning that’s being presented,” Kurus said, but added. “However, I agree with the legislators’ decision that we should not change the current boundaries. It would have huge ramifications on the rest of the districts throughout the state. I do feel that any parents who feel that their children would be better served elsewhere could utilize many of the options that are out there—for example, open enrollment.”

Goodroad said the issue comes down to finances and the burden it would put on remaining Hopkins property if the Edina neighborhood left. A district analysis estimated that detachment would cost Hopkins more than $550,000 in lost revenue. Hopkins property owners would see school taxes grow by about 1.5 percent, while Edina school tax bills would drop by about 2 percent.

Fulkerson, who agreed that Hopkins couldn’t afford to lose the tax base, said the district needs a plan in case Edina property owners ever do find a way to leave. Right now, property owners need to get the OK from their home district. But in the spring of 2012, Edina Rep. Keith Downey introduced a bill that would let the property owners change districts without Hopkins School Board approval. Fulkerson wants to put money aside to build a safety net in case something like that ever passes.

“I think that’s the responsible thing to do even if we never have to use it,” Fulkerson said.


Other Options

Jing argues that there are ways to please Edina homeowners short of detachment. He said Hopkins could reactivate closed schools or make arrangements with Edina so that Hopkins students have priority when open enrolling into Edina.

“The board should actively search for a solution and find out what went wrong for the service this community is entitled to,” Jing said. “But so far the district and board appear to have zero interest to explore any of them, even with the commitment the superintendent made to the legislature and under the repeated requests from the community.”

Roy Nguyen September 28, 2013 at 12:14 PM
"He (Jing) said Hopkins could reactivate closed schools or make arrangements with Edina so that Hopkins students have priority when open enrolling into Edina." Really? Priority over who and which other students? Sounds like entitlement, does anyone disagree? "Jing said Hopkins’ closure of all the schools within the original Harley Hopkins district made it harder on homeowners. The highway further caused the community to draw away from the existing Hopkins school district and made Edina schools closer and safer." Safer? From what, crossing the highway? I didn't realize students had to walk across a highway to school. Maybe Jing meant safer from the city of Hopkins....
Grace Thru Love September 28, 2013 at 02:50 PM
Caveat emptor. If you buy a home in a school district, you are that district's priority. If the Edina district is what they absolutely must have, then a home in the Edina school district is what they should seek. It is another remarkable sign of "privilege" that these candidates (one whose ties are to a luxury home builder developer in Parkwood Knolls and two whose interest in Hopkins Schools coincides with the Unite movement) believe they deserve the election. Let the VOTERS beware.
Mike B. September 30, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Hopkins officials just can't seem to realize that we Edina residents don't want anything to do with Hopkins! I can understand Hopkins officials wanting to prop up their school system with Edina students, but this is unfair to Edina residents who want their children to attend school in a safe learning environment with high standards, which of course describes Edina schools. Hopkins schools have gang problems and a much lower socio-economic environment.
Eric Anondson September 30, 2013 at 03:43 PM
"Hopkins officials just can't seem to realize that we Edina residents don't want anything to do with Hopkins!" And yet you can't help yourself coming here to emotionally puke on Hopkins. Mmmm hmm.
Grace Thru Love September 30, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Mike B. Your reply is repugnant and laced with privilege. You obviously have no idea what the educational opportunities are in Hopkins, the high quality of the staff and administration that works each and every day to be sure that all students reach their potential --- no matter if they come from a family who has significant need or if they come from a family whose needs are met. You seem to believe that if a family buys a home, it doesn't matter what the defined school district boundaries are, if they have ample money and power (and the likely support of the real estate and home builders whose income depends on the sale of homes) they are able to change what they need to suit their agenda. Minnesota has school choice. It's the law. Boundaries exist, but if a parent wants to send their child to a neighboring district or one across town, it is their right to choose that. It is not their right (no where, not in Edina, not in Minnetonka, not in Ely or Rochester or Brainerd) to change the boundaries of the district. Unite Edina has influence and power, they have a lobbiest, they have money, they have convinced the homeowners in the area that "they have the right to be in Edina." No. They do not. If they want to choose Edina, the most efficient way to do that is to choose a home in the Edina district. Edina MUST serve those homes in the Edina School District. Changing the law sets a slippery slope precedent for other people with wealth, power and influence to gerrymander district boundaries. I simply do not understand why people don't see this reality.
Matthew McNeil September 30, 2013 at 05:04 PM
So you feel as if there has been a mighty injustice because you choose, YOU CHOOSE, to buy your house in the Hopkins School District. "Oh Boo Hoo! Poor us. Were victims!" Actually you guys are getting kind of pathetic. I had someone screaming in my face after the December school board meeting, "It's irrelevant where we buy our house." No, it's everything. Zillow has 127 houses listed right now for the Edina School District. MOVE! You don't want to be here, get out of here and stop acting like your entitled to something you are not entitled too. This is about personal gain. Oh and do you really want me to bring up the point you guys purposely left the town homes at 169 and Londonderry, the apartment complex at 169 and Lincoln and the lower income houses north of Interlachen off your 'Unite" map? Why are those lower income ares not worthy of 'uniting?'
Jonell Jones September 30, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Seriously Mike B? We just bought our house. I was quite sure when making the purchase what school district I was in. We moved here from Jersey and looked at many houses and I always asked what district. We should consider ourselves lucky that on a whole Minnesota has great schools, and this district or that district does not differ much. You have options, but starting to break apart a school district to benefit a very select few could have detrimental affects on others. Where do you start and stop such a process?
Mike B. October 01, 2013 at 06:19 PM
You'll find out quickly that certain school districts in the Minneapolis area are no better than those in the cities of Chicago and Detroit. The liberals have destroyed many school systems up here just as they have in other metro areas.
Carol Paschke October 28, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Mike B. I am a Mom with two kids in the Hopkins district, but I am a graduate of EHS. One of the main reasons we bought our house in the Hopkins district was to actually give our kids more than what we had...the Edina bubble was not what we wanted for them. Your words are a perfect example. There are so many good things in Edina and Hopkins. What you've posted makes me so ashamed of my Edina roots.


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