Roughly 60 people gathered at the Pequot Lakes American Legion on Thursday, April 22, to discuss the video narrated by Pequot Lakes Superintendent Chris Lindholm and other perceived issues regarding equity and diversity in the school district.

The gathering was organized via the "Parents for Pequot United" Facebook group, created by Mariah Hines.

Pequot Lakes' superintendent’s equity video prompts outcry, support

The nearly three-hour meeting began with speakers Greg Smith and Ron Brantsner, of Little Falls, outlining what they said were their findings on Sourcewell and its agenda in working with Minnesota schools.

Following their presentation, members of the public were allowed to share their concerns and past experiences of perceived issues within the school district. Issues alleged included a resident being asked to participate in the Teacher of the Year selection process before being told the process would be restricted to staff members, residents discovering teachers who traveled to other states for SEED Program training received a stipend after they were told the teachers were not paid for the training, and several others.

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Pequot Lakes School Board discusses superintendent’s video, diversity issues

They also took umbrage with the SEED Program in general, considering it was founded by Peggy McIntosh, author of a paper titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” which the group sees as “pushing critical race theory,” according to Hines.

Hines said the group invited three members of the Pequot Lakes School Board to the gathering, with board member Curt Johnson attending and making a statement. Johnson informed the group that he cannot make a statement on the issue at hand - saying he does not want his words to be perceived as being on behalf of the board - but that he was happy the gathering was taking place.

Pequot Lakes School District: Listening session about inclusivity video will now be electronic

“I am here to listen to you, but one thing I want to make perfectly clear is that there are seven of us on the board,” Johnson said. “We speak as a unified entity. We will have deliberations and debates. We will have our work sessions and our public meetings, so the best thing you can do is vote. Every two years, there is a school board election. Vote. Express your concerns.”

Johnson also told the group that he was a part of the hiring process when Lindholm was selected, and that the district has had many successes during his tenure.

“We hired him to have a vision over the horizon on how to teach our kids to be prepared for the workforce and the future,” Johnson said. “That, I can tell you, was the No. 1 objective. Have we strayed from that? You guys have to tell us.”

The gathering was held after the school board announced that a previously scheduled listening session to gather public input on the video and diversity issues would be canceled, instead opting to take public comments electronically.

The public may submit comments via the school website until 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, and the board will review comments on Monday, May 10.

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.