The Belmond-Klemme school board rejected a $100,000 donation to the activities account Sept. 19. The donation was offered by Dan Gabrielson, a 1993 B-K graduate, and came with qualifiers that angered most of the boardmembers.
The money was to be used to pay off deficits in the activities account over the next four years, including any costs associated with sharing athletics. However, Gabrielson’s attorney, Don Johnson, a fellow B-K graduate, said the money would be placed in a trust managed by Johnson and the district would have to share wrestling, other athletic programs, and other activities with nearby school districts. “It is Dr. Gabrielson’s desire to enhance the athletics and other activities of the students by encouraging sharing arrangements with other school districts that reduce costs for the district and provide better opportunities for the students,” Johnson wrote in a letter to the school board.
Gabrielson, a four-time state qualifier in wrestling and 1993 state champion, is a wrestling coach at Clarion-Goldfield-Dows. Gabrielson was present at a May 2017 school board meeting advocating that the B-K share wrestling with C-D-G.
In a side note, Gabrielson filed nomination papers last week to run for the District 3 seat being vacated by Jackie Burk. He will be opposed by Jim Swenson, a Belmond native who has served on the school board previously.
Gabrielson’s offer sparked heated discussion between Jane Turner, who is Gabrielson’s aunt and a member of the B-K board, and several boardmembers.
“Kids want to be on a winning team,” Turner said. “They don’t want to lose all the time.”
Board President Rick McDaniel countered that B-K students are proud to represent their school. “Kids want to play, not just win,” he stated.
“You’re crazy,” Turner retorted.
There were six members of the wrestling team in the audience. Drew Humphries said, “We are a family, and that is what matters, not winning.” He added “The fans come to watch us and it would suck for them to not have a team in B-K colors.”
In previous talks, C-G-D officials have been adamant that B-K athletes would wear red and black and be considered Cowboys. “We would have to wear their colors and take their name,” wrestler Jaden Warren said.
“Most of us won’t go to Clarion,” Humphries said.
Jonah Christianson, the student representative to the school board, said no one he has talked to is in favor of sharing. “The student body doesn’t like the idea,” he stated.
Turner asked, “What is the fear of trying for a year?”
McDaniel said, “This feels like a bribe to me. This doesn’t feel moral. It feels like someone trying to buy his way in.”
Boardmember Marc Schlichting said, “The community has told me that they are opposed.”
Turner said she has heard from people who are in favor of sharing. “Dan doesn’t want to destroy B-K. He wants what is best for the kids,” she said.
Boardmember Gary Berkland said he has received many calls from those opposed to sharing and the donation. “We already said we are not interested in sharing. The addition of the money doesn’t change my mind.”
Although no formal action on the donation was taken, five of the seven boardmembers – Sharon Barkema, Berkland, McDaniel, Teresa Mosiman and Schlichting – stated their opposition to accepting the money.
The deficits in several activity funds caught the attention of the district’s auditor, and B-K will receive a citation. However, an anonymous donor stepped forward last week and wrote a $13,000 check to clear up the negative balances. “There were no strings attached to the donation,” Business Manager Theresa Greenfield said. “As of now, we don’t have those deficits.”
At the end of August, the following activity accounts were in the red:
Cross country -80.00
District band -175.55