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.
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
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.
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.”