Q&A Largest Referendum in State History



Ten audience members participate in discussion with Marvin.

Senate District 47 Republicans Meeting

from May 24th, 2022

Guest Speaker, City Council Member Marvin Taylor


CLICK HERE for PART 1 – “Largest Referendum in State History

Marvin Taylor has lived in Newport nine years and was elected to City Council in 2020. I first met him last summer on the soccer field while our kids were training. I had just started my campaign for school board, and he told me all about their elementary school in Newport and the districts multiple attempts to close it over the years. We discussed how valuable to the city a Newport resident on the school board could be. Fast forward 10 months to today, as the district seeks to close Newport Elementary yet again, and the irony of our conversation I think underscored the importance of district-wide representation at our leadership levels.

A Short Bio

Since the announcement of Newport’s closure a couple months ago, Marvin has advocated for his community by compiling data and comparing the district’s numbers against many other sources of information. HIs past experience and training in the field of demography makes him more than qualified to talk on this subject. His work can best be seen on the City Council Facebook page where he posts regularly (see golden banner for address).

I asked Marvin what drew him to Newport and if he would give us a little background into his life, his profession and his passion.

“Prior to moving to Newport, we lived in Minneapolis. We were drawn to Newport by the opportunity to live on the Mississippi River. I grew up on a dairy farm just outside of Lanesboro, leaving the farm when I graduated high school.”

“I started as a carpenter nine years ago working for a small Newport company. Having previously been in a PhD program in geography, this was an abrupt shift that I didn’t necessarily expect to develop into a career. However, as I worked my way into framing single family homes and now multi-family apartments, I have fully embraced carpentry as my profession.”

“I decided to run for the council in 2020 after serving on the Newport’s planning commission for 6 years. At times, serving on the planning commission was a frustrating experience and I considered stepping down on a couple of occasions. By running for council, I knew I would have more opportunity, if elected, to improve our city’s governance and engagement. These general aims, more a specific issue, were what pushed me to run.”

“In addition to being on the city council, I have also served on the Newport Fire Department for the past 5 years. I have 3 boys, ages 13, 11, and 6. The activity I enjoy the most with my boys is playing soccer. We also do a range of outdoor activities, including fishing, hiking, and canoeing”

Marvin Taylor

QUESTION ANSWER & COMMENT after Marvin’s Speech

with Conversation Notes to follow two videos

These are simple notes to provide the framework of the discussion in summary form. Please watch the video because it is so much more rich in content.

Video One of Q&A :

Q&A video 1 of 2

Marvin Taylor (0.0)

The vote is part of the August 9th Primary, which is typically a low turnout. That’s also what the District wants, which is why messaging and talking about it is so important. Early voting starts June 24th.

Linda Stanton (0:21)

“I talked to Eric Tessmer, and we had invited him to come tonight, but he wasn’t able to make it. I made copies of the notes I took while talking to Eric.” (See notes here.)

“There is a lot to this. It’s a lot of moving parts.” (Stanton)

Marvin : I just want to say that Eric was the one vote that voted no. I was able to talk with him. Really appreciate his concerns for Newport Elementary as well.

Kelly Fenton (1:05)

Kelly is running for District 47B House this November 2022. Find out more about her plan for our district at https://fentonforhouse.com/

When gas hits $6.50 a gallon this summer, and they (school board) see the potential that people will not have extra money to spare and potentially lean toward voting against … Can they pull it, or is it going to be on the (ballot)?” (Fenton)

Marvin : They’re not going to pull this. It’ll be on the ballot. I’ve even talked about the macro economic messaging at this point, but that’s going to weigh heavy on this referendum.

Jenna Dicks (2:12)

“I just remember last year when we had these wonderful candidates running for school board how the union backed the other side, (and) was sending information everywhere. The teachers were all voting like crazy. Are there groups, people like yourself getting the message out there, but how are we doing that on a bigger scale like the union does?” (Dicks)

Marvin : If there’s people that want to reach out to me and get involved in that … we’re going to try to keep it grass roots though. We’re not going to outspend. Passion is going to drive this thing … We’re a broad coalition of views, progressive to conservative and everybody in between in Newport is working on this. It gives it a different flavor.

(3:36) Check out “Marvin Taylor – Newport City Council” Facebook page for all the detailed charts he has thoroughly researched and compiled.


Marge Lindberg (4:39)

“Have you heard from people? What have they been saying?” (Lindberg)

Marvin : There are so many people doing different things out there, like charter schools, private schools, homeschooling … even people at Pine Hill which is one of the new schools, and I was talking to a parent there and you can see that even he’s not totally on board with it. I think there is a lot of resistance to it … But a lot of people aren’t going to know about this when they show up.

“What is the history of Woodbury voters is when voting on these kinds of things?” (Lindberg)

Marvin : “In 2015, 52% voted on Oltman ‘Yes’, 50.6% on the Elementary and High School question. On the Western side of the district (it’s) much more 50/50. As you got toward more affluent areas they tended to go higher.” The message for the Western side, is these schools being left behind.

Marge : “This is not a one and done vote referendum, because if we don’t pass it in August they will again set it out in February.” (Lindberg)

Joel Burns (7:49)

“Has the ballot question already been determined or can it be appealed?” (Burns)

Marvin : They submitted that to the State so that is final.

Kim Wilson (8:09)

Kim is a Woodbury City Council Member and was voted into office in 2020.

“Over 50% of your property taxes are already going to the school district if you are a Woodbury 833 resident. And, I believe that the last referendum, did they not also adjust for rate of inflation and automatically increase” (Wilson)

Marvin : The operating referendum that was approved in November, yes. On a $350,000 house about 175, it adjusted for index for inflation so you will see that. You also have school board approved levies on your taxes too. You’ll see that.

Marge Lindberg (9:23)

“All the time we’ve been going to meetings (motioning to me) there has never been mention of increased student achievement. at all. in the discussion. ever.” (Lindberg)

Will McCraw (9:39)

“The general consensus is because of covid, in every category has gone backwards, unless you were already homeschooling in which case parents are already on point and know what they are doing and are motivated.” (McCraw)

Marvin : Right now they have 1800 seats available at the elementary schools too. So there is capacity. Six schools are under 75, two more under 80%, so the idea that everything is bursting at the seams is not entirely (true).

Kelly Fenton (10:56)

“I’m just going to throw this number out there too … It sounds like it’s not even a real number but it is … Don’t forget that the Federal Government sent $80 billion (with a B!) into the State of Minnesota. So Education DID get some of that money : $80 BILLION.” (Fenton)

Please help spread the word about The Largest Referendum in Minnesota State History!

Video Two of Q&A :

Q&A video 2 of 2

Dwight Dorau (0:0)

Dwight is running for District 47 Senate this November 2022. Find out more about his plan for our district at https://dwightdorauformn.com/

“Johnson High School (Saint Paul) is laying off ten teachers next year. In that bargaining section there’s only about 47 total. Central and Washington, everybody’s laying them off. So we are living with the Covid rules that they made, and due to open enrollment kids are going elsewhere.” (Dorau)

Marvin : We actually have a net loss in Saint Paul.

Fern Natwick (1:02)

“I’ve heard rumors … that there were families just pulling out of the public schools during all this CRT and the masking and all the restrictions they were putting on kids.” (Natwick)

Marvin : I think kindergarten enrollment went down statewide like (?)% that year (2020), and 10% in the district, and you saw that in the district, about 10% drop in kindergarten, but then it rebounded about half way this past year. But the district didn’t rebound in those kindergarten numbers. And it’s at kindergarten that really determines … kindergarten is your most valuable asset for a school district. That’s my concern.

Marvin goes on to talk about Woodbury’s aging.

Marge Lindberg (3:13)

“About Newport, it is a special community. I was a teacher in the district for many years and it has a special flavor there. You can’t beat it, and it’s undeniable when you walk into that building. If they lose that school, that community is lost. It’ll survive because it’s tough … but that’s a big thing for a community to lose.”

“Back when Liberty Ridge was built, all those big schools, I can remember the district administration saying 700. That is going to be the limit. There is no way we can teach a school of elementary kids greater than 700. It’s wrong … And here we are setting up these … they are practically factories at this point, when you teach them. You can’t teach in that … You can (motions in a circle) … I don’t call it teaching at that point.” (Lindberg)

Marvin : There have been a couple of articles you can find on my Facebook page that interview some parents about what this school means to them. This place is a really special … walking the hallways with the principal there, seeing him know not just the names but the needs of every kid in the school, that’s special. And there are a lot of needs amongst these students and they are being met … and I think word is spreading … My hope is that this is good publicity for Newport Elementary, that some people SEE something good here, and not just in Newport but in other schools, especially on the Western side of the district, because this is the future. More diverse schools is the future.

The message is they are going to shut down two of the most diverse schools and bus them 4-5 miles away. What message does that send to your commitment to racial equity, progress and inclusivity … There is no consideration, despite the passing of a nice little recreational policy last year, there has been no consideration of that at all in the facility plan. The silence on learning, silence on equity … everything is about capacity and enrollment, numbers numbers numbers.

Jaime Kokaisel (6:53)

“How many times has the district tried to close Newport?” (Kokaisel)

Marvin : This is at least the fourth or fifth time. I’ve got the history of Newport. It goes back to the 60’s, 80’s … We’re small and our population will fluctuate. The last five years we’ve had our biggest building boom pretty much in decades. Again, over 200 single family houses, over a couple hundred apartment units as well. For our size of a town, I was doing the numbers comparing to Cottage Grove and Woodbury, and that’s actually a higher share of development.

You realize they weren’t really concerned about our numbers. It’s unfortunate. They haven’t really given us a real answer. They’ve given us some answers after the fact, but they haven’t really sat down and told us this is why we really need to close it. And that’s the frustrating thing too is … They say it’s inefficient …

You don’t compare us to other schools. You always put us on an island basically without talking about the trends that are going on at other schools because other schools are going through similar struggles right now too … We need to be there to support each other, different schools supporting each other along the way.

This video was recorded on May 24th, 2022 at the Senate District 47 Republicans meeting. http://www.mngop47.com/ I always enjoy attending these meetings because of the great guest speakers. I want to thank them, and I want to thank Marvin for accepting the invitation to speak this month. I hope he speaks to many more groups, because it’s a great way to communicate the issues in a relatable fashion!

By JAiME for SCHOOLS June 2nd, 2022

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