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2020 School Board Election Profile: Frank Fee

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?

    I have lived for 50 years in Crookston, all working at KROX RADIO, until I retired about six years ago, although I do  'a little' work yet at the radio station. I sold the radio station to my oldest son Chris. My other sons are: Andy who is the Assistant Vice President  at Northern Sky Bank in Crookston and Jake who is the Secretary of the Eagles Lodge in Crookston and also a Crookston City Alderman. My  daughter, Sarah, is a Special Education teacher at the Pequot Lakes High School. My wife, Jeanette and I just celebrated our 44th year of marriage. Jeanette works as receptionist/secretary at KROX RADIO. We have 10 grandchildren, three of them at the Crookston High School and two at Highland Middle School. Two others have graduated from CHS and are in college. All three of my sisters are/were teachers. I've been fortunate enough to be elected three times to the school board and will be finishing up my 12th year on the board and the last eight years as chairman of the board. I'm a member of the Crookston High School Hall of Fame, the University of Minnesota Crookston Hall of Fame and also was honored to be inducted into the Minnesota State Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010! I have been a member of the Crookston Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and was President of the Chamber for one year.

    I have been and I am still on a number of organizations and committees!

You’ve been on the school board for a while now and you’re obviously seeking another term. What spurs you to continue wanting to  serve?

    Fee -  I was contemplating not to run this time around and let some of the younger school district residents step in. But after a lot of thought and my wife told me she will be working for another two/three years and after much encouragement from area school district residents and friends,  I decided to put my hat in the ring for another four year term. The long and short of it, I didn't think with all that has been going on with the pandemic, it would help to have some experience at this time we live in. Plus, it's been my pleasure to work with Superintendent Olson the last two years and hope to work with him in the future.

If you had to grade the response and Crookston Public Schools’ overall performance and actions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, what grade would you give? Please explain.

    Fee -  I'd say a B.

    I want to preface this as what I have seen and been witness to in some instances, our entire school district, from administration, staff, throughout the district have been the 'heroes'! Not to knock the other Superintendent's we've had during my time on the school board, but when we selected Dr. Olson to be our Superintendent over two years ago, little did we know what would be happening in 2020!  Like Herb Brooks pep talk to the 1980 Olympic Gold Medal Men's Hockey team, "You were born to be hockey players—every one of you, and you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It's over." I really feel that could apply to Dr. Olson and our entire staff in the school district. They were meant to be here at this time for the good of the children and families of #593. God Bless them!!!

    The B grade is because, there is always 'something' that you hadn't planned for or you just can't physically do some things, so there is always room for improvement.

Can you list what you think are the three best things Crookston Public Schools has going for it at this particular moment in time, and reasons why you chose these three things?

    1. Dr. Jeremy Olson, our Superintendent of Schools  (see question above for reason)

    2. Staff - They have never been challenged like this in their careers. NEVER! From everything I've seen and witnessed, they have met it head on with vigor and you've never seen such a constant theme of  'Doing it for the kids'!!

    3. Community/Parents - Why should we be surprised at how the community/parents react to the last part of last school year and the start of this one? They've continually step up to the plate, helping in all the ways they can. 50 some years ago, I came to Crookston for that one year of experience and then I was on my way! 50 years later, I'm still here, because of that community!

On the flip side, what trio of challenges facing Crookston Public Schools are the most daunting, in your view? What can/should/needs to be done to tackle these challenges?

    Fee - Like all the public schools in Minnesota, Crookston is dependent on the State of Minnesota funding the schools. Right now, we are in good shape financially with a lot of help with the CARES act, which supplied #593 adequately to help with dealing with Co-Vid. Plus, we are in the last year of the two year budget and are receiving 2% from the state. BUT, the State is predicting that the next two year budget, an almost five BILLION dollar shortfall!! That is what is going to be daunting for the entire state, including school districts, during that two year period.

Where do you see Pirate athletics in five years? Do you see the same amount of sports offerings, or less? What do you envision in five years when it comes to Pirate football and track and field facilities?

    Fee -  I believe we offer too many sports activities with the current student enrollment we have! After the last three years or so of trying to get a new football and track facility, I've heard from a number of people, we have to reduce the number of sports, so we can get back being competitive. I also heard, which sports would you cut and the answer is always the same, not the ones my kids are in. Does eliminating soccer mean that football and volleyball will be stronger at Crookston? I don't think we can eliminate football, volleyball, both hockey and both basketball teams. That would/could open up the open enrollment OUT of Crookston schools. So yes, I believe we have to get the committee that was originally put together to discuss this and make some recommendations or put together another one to do the leg work.

    As far as the football/.track facility, I think we have to be starting right away to get a design, costs and then see if it's feasible to try and bring this before the public again. We are running out of time on the football field at the University of Minnesota Crookston, which we have about three years or so to use that and then what do we do if we don't have a facility? Should we drop track as a sports offering at Crookston because right now we have NO TRACK! The last couple years we have had our 'home' track meets at the new East Grand Forks track and thanks to their school district for allowing us to do that! If we would drop track, we would be dropping one of the highest sports in participation, which wouldn't be a good idea.

    So, this 'should' be a top priority for the school board and administration to try and get it done, or if not, take the appropriate actions.

Please finish this sentence, and try not to simply recite a mission statement: Crookston Public Schools is…

    Fee - a community that allows students to thrive in a positive environment with innovative curriculum that is delivered by highly qualified teachers. A community that cares for all their children and staff, using a collaboration with the students, their parents, teachers and the entire school district community. We at #593 continue to provide opportunities for our children  to learn and become productive members of society.

Can you list two people in your life that have particularly inspired you, or two people that you especially admire and try to emulate? Please explain your choices.

    Fee -  I have a number of people that I admire both deceased and alive.

Frank Fee