The notion that Crookston, as the county seat of Polk County, attracts certain types of people and families that other towns do not because so many agencies that provide services to the income-challenged are conveniently located right here in town is certainly nothing new.

    The notion that Crookston, as the county seat of Polk County, attracts certain types of people and families that other towns do not because so many agencies that provide services to the income-challenged are conveniently located right here in town is certainly nothing new. In fact, it’s ancient. One doesn’t have to live in Crookston long before hearing someone invariably bring up the fact that Crookston is the county seat, and that impacts the type of people who come here and maybe stay a while, or maybe move on to somewhere else after a bit.

    Possibly and even likely as a result of that, the Crookston School District has a student mobility rate – the rate that students come and go from the schools throughout the school year – that’s significantly above what’s considered average. But that’s old news, too; as long as enrollment dips have been a problem in Crookston Public Schools, district leaders have said high student mobility is a big contributing factor.

    Without a doubt, it’s not easy being Crookston Public Schools. Smaller school districts nearby are seen as places where kids are safe and secure at all times, everyone gets along and respects each other, and academic success is off the charts. The obvious reality, though, is that those districts have problems galore just like everyone else.

    But those districts, if they have a town newspaper at all, it’s probably a weekly publication that lacks the resources to report a whole lot beyond the positive stories and photos their schools send to them. But here in Crookston, the local daily newspaper, and radio station, stand at the ready each and every day to report news about the public schools...lots of positive things, obviously, but the coverage is far short of entirely positive.

    But, that said, to continue in the wake of another drop in enrollment in Crookston Public Schools with the same refrains about student mobility, low-income families coming and going but mostly going, and the lack of any common denominators emerging when families who open enroll their kids to neighboring districts are questioned as to their reasons why...well, that approach has yet to turn the tide in the local schools’ favor, so why would it this time around?

    Certainly, there are great programs and great teachers and staff doing great things in Crookston Public Schools, and the school district of late has implemented worthy initiatives before and after school to make Crookston Public Schools a more attractive and convenient destination for busy, stressed families to send their kids to every day. Absolutely, some of these steps are nothing less than bold, and district leaders should be commended for not just talking the talk but walking the walk and making them a reality.

    But, clearly, it’s no magic elixir. There is no cure-all here.

    But, still, maybe this time, bypass student mobility and poverty, and instead assume most families are choosing to educate their kids elsewhere because they have personal experience with negative things in the local public schools, or they simply perceive, with varying degrees of accuracy, that there are negative things going on in the local public schools that they don’t want their kids exposed to, with the rate of negative things increasing as the kids get older.

    Assume kids are leaving because they’re being bullied. Assume kids are leaving because they’re afraid of being bullied. Assume kids are leaving because they and their parents are worried about negative behaviors and discipline, or a lack of the latter. Assume kids are leaving because their parents think their kids are educated by a TV screen too much in class, or because they think their kids have substitute teachers too often, or because they think there’s grade inflation, or because they think teachers aren’t being held accountable for substandard performance, either by the teachers themselves or their students. Assume kids have certain needs or other unique circumstances that their parents feel aren’t being properly identified and appropriately responded to. Assume they’re leaving because they feel that in Crookston Public Schools, it’s not what you know but who you know, or what your last name is, or isn’t.

    Perception may not necessarily be reality, but in this day and age with technology, social media, and overly-dramatic, knee-jerk reacting parents so quick to share their experiences and opinions with everyone – often in ALL CAPS and followed by !!!!! – to cite mobility and poverty in one breath and in the next breath say the teachers and programs in Crookston Public Schools are second to none and it’s therefore impossible to fathom why all these kids are leaving...it’s simply not going to suffice.