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Another Stillwater school board member resigns, citing political divisions in community

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Another Stillwater school board member resigns, citing political divisions in community

Citing the current political divide in the Stillwater community, Stillwater Area Board of Education Member Matt Onken announced Thursday that he is resigning from the school board.

Matt Onken

Onken, who was elected in November, wrote in a statement that the political divide in the district “is beginning to impact my physical and mental health, as well as my work and home life.” His resignation is effective Friday.

Onken is the fourth school board member to resign during the past 14 months. Liz Weisberg resigned at the end of July, citing an opportunity to train to become a reading tutor. Shelley Pearson and Mark Burns resigned in July 2020.

Onken, an educational coordinator for the Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District, said being on the school board has meant he has not been able to give his students 100 percent lately “as (his) mind is on other things.”

“I take no pride in this decision and may be considered cowardly for doing it, but it is the right decision for me right now,” he wrote. “When I campaigned for this position, I felt I could bring some calm to board meetings. I like to think of myself as a reasonable and rational person who is willing to listen and discuss viewpoints regardless of the final decision or vote. I am not a politician and never want to be. However, I find the current situation untenable. Our community is a microcosm of our national political scene where misinformation looms, trust comes at a premium, and people use whatever information they want to fit their narrative. It is unfortunate, but there is a very vocal minority that is no longer interested in the idea of ‘we’ and only interested in the idea of ‘me.’”

Onken said he has almost walked out of school board meetings and finds himself struggling to maintain his composure.

“I am very confident in the votes that I have made and do not regret any of them, but I often spend hours after meetings rethinking my choices, as I am a pleaser and want to meet everyone’s needs,” he wrote.

Although he is resigning, Onken said he would continue to support two upcoming 10-year tax levy proposals that are on the November ballot.

In addition to a $390-per-pupil increase to its operating levy, the board will ask voters to approve a new $4.7 million capital project levy to upgrade the district’s classroom technology, beef up its network security and ensure every student and teacher has their own electronic device.

“I will do everything I can to support our upcoming levy in the next few weeks, as I do believe in the importance of public education and I believe in Stillwater Area Schools,” he wrote.

School board chairwoman Bev Petrie said the school board is expected to accept Onken’s resignation next week. His replacement on the board will be appointed until the 2022 election; the appointment process is expected to take about six weeks, she said.

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Unsettled weekend weather with severe storms possible Sunday

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Unsettled weekend weather with severe storms possible Sunday

ST. LOUIS – Unsettled weekend weather with multiple rounds of rain and storms forecast to impact the area, including a threat for severe weather for St. Louis on Sunday.

Saturday morning into the afternoon expect scattered rain and a few rumbles of thunder mainly south of I-70 to continue spreading eastward. This activity gradually tapers off through the afternoon.

Later Saturday evening into tonight showers and storms develop across central and east central Missouri and lift north ahead of a warm front as we head into early Sunday morning. These storms could produce some hail along with heavy rain. The front stalls across northern Missouri and west central Illinois where heavy rain and storms will continue for much of the day on Sunday. Our far northern counties could be impacted by multiple waves of heavy rain through the day with amounts to around 2”.

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Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise awareness and funds for research

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Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise awareness and funds for research

ST. LOUIS – The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is back this year. The goal is not just to raise awareness about the disease but to also to raise funds for research.

The walk is happening at the Enterprise Center beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

So far, the Alzheimer’s Association has raised more than $800,000, not too far away from reaching its goal of $1.3 million.

This progressive disease affects millions of Americans. In fact, the CDC says in 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease.

The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. That number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.

During the walk you’ll see people carrying flowers of different colors, each color representing the person’s connection to the disease.

A purple flower is for those who have lost a someone to the disease. A yellow flower represents someone who is currently supporting or caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s.

Registration for the walk is at 7:30 a.m. There will be a ceremony at 9:15 and the walk begins at 9:30 a.m.

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

ST. LOUIS – Art historians are calling it the holy grail of a find, a rare work of art found in a St. Louis front yard. What looked like a lawn ornament is now headed to a museum in New York.   

It’s a sculpture of two sisters that sat in the front yard of a St. Louis home that’s been on quite a journey. First rediscovered in 2019 by a gentleman named John Foster, an art historian.     

For years the sculpture entitled “Martha and Mary” sat on a bench in the city of St. Louis before an art historian saw it while out on a stroll. 

“That didn’t look like the commonly seen concrete lawn ornament that we are used to seeing,” said Valerie Rousseau, senior curator American Folk Art Museum & Exhibition chair. 

Sally Bliss had inherited this Martha and Mary sculpture, and it sat outside her home in New York when she was a ballet dancer. Years later after her first husband died, she moved to St. Louis when she met her second husband, Jim Connette. 

“I had it and put it out in my garden in Long Island, which was our main house, and brought it with me and put it on the bench,” Bliss said.

“I knew it was valuable. But I knew that nobody would steal it because it looked like it was part of the bench and would be really difficult to pick up that bench and steal the whole thing.” 

This lawn sculpture was originally made by artist William Edmondson, the famed black sculptor from Nashville, Tennessee.

The ‘two sisters’ sculpture had been featured at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937 in New York and later Paris, France. 

Today, William Edmondson is considered a preeminent black sculptor, although he didn’t start sculpting until 1934 when he was 60 years old, and only made 300 sculptures over the course of 15 years. 

Using limestone from demolished buildings.  

“Like most museums, we have to have supporters to acquire such artwork,” Rousseau said. “Prices for Edmundson sculptures can be $350,000 to $800,000.”   

And after some conversations and a cleaning, Martha and Mary are headed back to New York. This time, the sculpture will be the centerpiece of the American Museum of Folk Art. Debuting this January on the celebration of the museum’s 60th year. 

Thanks to the generosity of a man named Brian Donnelly, this sculpture and its wild ride of a story will reside in the Big Apple.  

“I was sad,” Bliss said. “But I knew that this was the right place for it to go and especially to New York and so many people will see it and he will get his due and to me, that’s more important than me having to be sad because I’m losing that work of art.” 

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