Open Forum for week of April 3

EDITOR’S NOTE: Letters will be accepted for the Open Forum for publication in the next available issue after receipt. Letters may be sent to Forest Lake Times, 880 SW 15th St., Forest Lake, or by e-mail to [email protected] Letters should not exceed 250 words and must be signed with the writer’s name, address and telephone number. Deadline is noon Monday. The newspaper reserves the right to edit letters and assure that rules of libel and good taste are not violated.


Making the Grade

The announcement in February of Mrs. Sandra Valleen’s retirement from teaching seems to make this an appropriate time to publicly express my immeasurable gratitude for her service and inspiration.

Here’s just a sample of what fifth grade meant for me in Mrs. Valleen’s class: whipping apples; making homemade bread, applesauce, ice cream and candles; using the town cemetery for history; calligraphy; adopting a pregnant cat; a field trip to the vet to watch the cat get spayed after the kittens were born; putting on a Memorial Day program for the community.

Learning was exciting and genuine, something ingrained into everyday life, something unable to be assessed by a two-hour bubble test. She boldly and confidently took risks in the name of awakening the learner in each of her students. The traditional routine was supplemented with activities to make what we were learning jump into reality.

Mrs. Valleen exemplifies the very essence of teaching, and she inspires me to be the teacher I am now. As an educator looking back, I am in awe of how much time and energy she dedicated to us without any hesitation. The same exhilaration I felt as a student in her class drives me to do the same for my students now.

Teaching is often a thankless job since the teacher is rarely able to see the end result. For all you have directly given every student in the past 40 years and indirectly through each of us whom you inspired, thank you.

Teresa Milligan


More on Bullying

My letter to the editor several weeks ago encouraging people to read HF826 (Safe and Supportive MN Schools Act), the “anti-bullying” bill, brought an interesting response from one gentleman.

Let’s get one thing straight: People who do not agree with HF826 are not in favor of bullying. They are not insensitive ogres who do not care about children. Nor are they out of touch with the many issues facing children such as cyberbullying.

They are compassionate people who simply feel there is a better way to approach this problem.

An alternative bill, SF2411, was introduced by Senator Nelson. This bill is modeled after North Dakota legislation. This legislation was endorsed by DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson back in 2011. SF2411 would not create a whole new level of state bureaucracy, but it would strengthen bullying policies while still allowing school districts to have more say over their policies. Our teachers, principals and administrators know more accurately what is going on in our schools than someone in St. Paul.

The Owehus anti-bullying program that we use in our school district provides feedback from students in such a way that teachers and school administrators are able to evaluate and tweak the program and make improvements where necessary. Our Forest Lake high school students even spearheaded local initiatives through a group called Acts of Kindness. With Owehus, bullying has truly decreased throughout our district.

Take time to read HF826 at, and then let your legislator know what you think at 651-296-0504.

Mary Stolz
Forest Lake


A Tip for Veterans

To all military veterans: I may very well be the last person to have learned this, but just in case I am not, I felt I should try to get the word out. As I understand it, since last November, the VA has included Minnesota as one of 10 states trying out a pilot program for dental insurance.

If you go to the VA’s website (, and in the search box (upper right) you key in VADIP, and then click on the top article (Health Benefits: VA Dental Insurance Programs (VADIP)), you will see that the VA is offering several different levels of dental insurance plans through Delta Dental and MetLife.

This may not be new, or even of interest, to everyone, but it is welcome news to a retired senior and vet like me who no longer has dental insurance.

The programs apply only to the actual veteran and those who qualify under CHAMPVA, but you can check out what the different programs cover and what they cost to see if they would be useful to you.

Steve Cunningham
Forest Lake