5-30-13 CCN Letters to the Editor

Former band member disappointed in school board decision

To the editor:

Several years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor outlining my pride and applauding Watertown’s support of our magnificent band program.  I said things like, “supportive administration,” “dedicated and creative band directors,” and “Watertown has something special.  Don’t let it go.”

Well it seems that Watertown is letting go of that something special; they are letting go of one of those dedicated and creative band directors, Mrs. Elizabeth McCann.

I am a proud graduate of the Watertown-Mayer band program, having learned from the likes of our own “legends” Ms. Ellen Kniebel, Mr. Corey Desens, and Mr. Peter Jacobson.  Between my brothers and I, we have spanned the Watertown-Mayer band program for sixteen years.

I have worked with many good and bad teachers around the state.  I can say without reservation that Mrs. McCann is as good as they come.

In the spring of 2011, I brought my band to Watertown-Mayer, eager to have Mrs. McCann work with my students.  She was not only accommodating and organized, being completely prepared for our arrival, but she was kind and encouraging, and my students improved a great deal in the short amount of time we had with her.

Several parents commented on her professionalism and warmth, as well as her skills with the students, noting the improvement of my students under her leadership.

It seems that the WM administrators have somehow missed these qualities.  When challenged, the administrators claim they seek only the most qualified teachers, claiming they want only the best for our students.

Shouldn’t then we be grateful that we have a kind, organized, talented, and devoted professional leading our students in their creative endeavors?

Should we ignore the student compositions we heard last year at the spring concert?

Should we forget the amazing opportunity that [insert big sister plug] a certain Zach had in composing and conducting an original piece for not just the concert, but for graduation as well?

What about the commissioned piece for beloved band member Aaron Kelzer?

Does someone who coordinates, inspires, and fulfills all of the above sound like someone we should be “letting go?”

I am curious to see what the administrators and school board are looking for in a candidate.  Because I cannot imagine a better one than the one we have now.

The decision completely baffles me.

I myself am a band director, so I understand more than the average joe about how things like this work – student enrollment, staffing requirements, teacher performance, and the like.

It is my understanding that several rumors have been floating around Watertown, “low band enrollments” taking the cake in most my conversations.  However, it was made clear in previous discussions and public reports that students were forced to choose between band and other college-preparatory courses due to the short-lived six-period schedule.

Mr. Hennen himself stated in a news article that the six-period schedule reduced student choices in electives.  If Mrs. McCann were a lesser teacher, enrollment would be near zero.  It is a testament to Mrs. McCann that she has any students at all.

Clearly the “low enrollment” excuse is the community’s way of explaining all this to themselves.  But Superintendent Marlette assured me that “low enrollment” was not a factor.

Then what was?

I have heard many other speculations – if you haven’t, just ask the person in front of you in the checkout line at the grocery store.  I’m sure they’ll have heard something.

Unfortunately, we’ll never hear the real reason(s) for this lapse in judgment.  Laws protect teachers by preventing administrators from disclosing the truth behind their non-renewal.

It makes me wonder who those laws really protect, though.

Mrs. McCann is a woman of integrity. It is my sincere hope that the administration and school board come to realize the mistake they have made in not renewing Mrs. McCann’s contract.  Her next place of employment will benefit greatly from Watertown-Mayer’s ill-informed decision, and the Watertown band program will suffer in its wake.

I once made known to friends and family that Watertown-Mayer’s band program would be my dream job.  It is with the utmost sincerity that I rescind my former sentiments.  I cannot imagine working in a place that is so blind to the talents before them.

Whatever the reason (or lack thereof), whatever the outcome, whatever…just whatever, Watertown had something special.

And I am certainly not the only one upset to see it let go.

With extreme disappointment,


Cara Sandquist

St. Cloud

WMHS Class of 2004


Ortman also deserves credit for work on behalf of Carver County

 To the editor:

In last week’s (5/23/) paper, there is a “Guest Opinion” from Tom Workman praising most of the delegation to the Minnesota legislature. It is unfortunate that Commissioner Workman left Senator Julianne Ortman out of his letter, and I want to respond to that.

Senator Ortman is our most senior elected official in St. Paul from Carver County, and has been a tireless champion for our rights and has fought against usury taxation during her tenure, and certainly this past session has been no exception to that fact.

Julianne fought for our 2nd amendment right by preventing a very bad gun bill from becoming reality. She worked to slow the DFL on their sprint to tax anything that moves (or doesn’t move). She has kept Gov. Dayton on his toes by continually pointing out the dangers of his proposed budget, the transportation tax, and its impact on Carver County business owners and residents. She fought against the Childcare Unionization Bill, and the “Dream Act”. And, on the very last night of the session, she pointed out passionately and eloquently 15 “Fact or Fiction” components of the onerous tax bill that unfortunately was passed.

No other legislator has had the impact this year that Senator Julianne Ortman has and she deserves this credit.

I’m sure that Commissioner Workman would agree that Julianne is a great Senator and works tirelessly for the people of Carver County, and all hard working Minnesotan’s. He should join me and others in congratulating her on her fantastic work and work ethic.


Don Osmundson