Board approves longer leave for Bakken-Dryden

    Following in the Crookston City Council's footsteps, the Crookston School Board this week approved a request for a five-year tax abatement for Keith Danks and Monte Lund, the developers who own the Anytime Fitness-anchored strip mall on Crookston's north end and now want to build a similar structure immediately to the south.   

    Board members agreed that retail centers like strip malls have brought new businesses to Crookston, increased the tax base, and in some cases have brought new families to Crookston. Keith Bakken voted against.   

    CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth told his board of directors at a meeting Thursday that he expects the Polk County Board of Commissioners to approve the abatement request as well.   

    Construction could begin as early as this fall, Hoiseth said, adding that no tenants in the new strip mall have been publicly identified as of yet. "It's mostly speculative in nature at this point, as far as specific tenants coming forward," he said.

Bakken-Dryden leave extended   

    Northern Lights Academy teacher Tom Bakken-Dryden, who taught at the Red River Juvenile Center, was granted a one-year leave of absence earlier this year so he could pursue an opportunity in California. This week, the board approved his request to extend the leave of absence to four years.   

    Superintendent Chris Bates said he was fine with the request, but added that if he would have known earlier that the leave would be as long, he would have hired a permanent replacement. As it stands, a temporary arrangement to get by for the coming school year has been put into place. Hiring a permanent replacement at this late date probably isn't the best route, he said, adding that a permanent replacement would be eligible to achieve tenure after three years and, thus, earn the right to "bump" non-tenured teachers in a budget reduction scenario that results in staff cuts.   

    After the four years, Bakken-Dryden would not necessarily get his exact job back, but he'd be guaranteed a similar job in the area in which he's licensed.   

    Board member Dave Davidson wished him the best. "Tom is an old friend who has served this district a long time," he said. "I hope everything he is striving to do in California comes to pass, and I hope he returns to Crookston in four years."