SARTELL -- The Sartell-St. Stephen school district is hoping to bridge the gap that has divided the community in recent weeks, but cutting ties with a firm that provided an equity audit for the district.

The district has come under fire in recent weeks after families have alleged students were told to hide the equity survey from their parents.

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During a Special Board meeting Monday, Superintendent Jeff Ridlehoover presented an administrative recommendation to the board to terminate the district's contract with Equity Alliance MN.

This noise, as I call it, has distracted us from our most important work. Instead of focusing on our kids in our school, we've been caught in this quagmire that needs to end. I make an administrative recommendation to the board to part ways with Equity Alliance MN, so that we can focus on students and the next steps to bring healing to this community.

Ridlehoover says he's heard from many students, staff, and community members in recent weeks and understands the frustrations and concerns they are feeling.

He says he believes they have the resources, both at an internal and community level, to join together and make their schools a safe and supportive environment for all students.

We have the collective capacity to tackle our issues and turn them into opportunities of growth. We will work together to define equity, address mental health and create a student experience that demonstrates the value of each and every student that walks through our doors.

Ridlehoover, who was hired after the audit was conducted, says there are parts of the audit that are usable and can serve as a good starting point for this proposed community equity committee.

He says the district is also working on getting refunded for the services not provided in the contract with Equity Alliance MN.

Ridlehoover says they are working on an application process for anyone interested in joining this newly formed community equity committee.

Details at this time are limited but the district hopes to get something together in the very near future.

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