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A tractor is causing a lot of problems at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.
Some of the facts surrounding the tractor are indisputable.
On April 28, a raffle was held for an antique 1950 John Deere Model B tractor.
400 tickets were sold at the cost of $10 each with the money to benefit the SJO FFA.
The raffle was held at the FFA banquet at the high school.
Two tickets were drawn by FFA advisor Kevin Larsen.
The first ticket drawn was purchased by St. Joseph-Ogden music teacher Chris Strong.
The second ticket drawn was purchased by St. Joseph resident Raymond Reitmeier.
And then things start to get murky.
Who's the winner?
Reitmeier and his family claim that they were told that Strong declined the tractor and it was rightfully Reitmeier's.
"Mr. Larsen declared me the winner and then it got turned around," Reitmeier told the school board during their May meeting.
The meeting was attended by 30 people.
Reitmeier's wife, Andrea, claims that Mr. Larsen spoke to her nephew, in front of witnesses, after the drawing and asked if he knew Raymond Reitmeier.
She said that Larsen then said, " Tell your uncle that he won the tractor. I'll call him in the morning."
The school district said that Strong never declined the tractor and was therefore the rightful winner.
Andrea Reitmeier said if it was true that Strong did not decline the tractor then Larsen should be "in big trouble" for claiming he did.
Raymond Reitmeier said he wanted the school board to explain why a back-up ticket was drawn.
He also said he had spoken to board member Paul Duitsman and Superintendent Jim Acklin in private and they had agreed that the raffle was not handled properly.
"You agreed with me but evidently you don't have enough backbone to do anything about it," he said.
Neither Acklin nor Duitsman responded to Reitmeier's claim.
Roy Nigg, a friend of Reitmeier's, said he heard Larsen say Raymond Reitmeier had won a tractor. He said that was all he witnessed. He did not witness, or claim to witness Strong turning down the tractor.
"That being said, I have a son who belongs to the FFA. I don't want the FFA broken or the kids suffering from this," he said.
Strong told the Leader that he never declined the tractor.
Andrea Reitmeier said that she felt the district was calling the people who claimed to have been told Reitmeier was the winner of the tractor liars.
"It looks like you are calling all these people, to their faces and behind their backs, liars," she said.
Others in attendance voiced displeasure that a faculty member was allowed to purchase tickets for the raffle. Another member of the audience said that if the tractor did not go to Reitmeier then the "school would be hurting at the bank." Members of the audience also urged the board to show "leadership" and set an example for the students.
Brandon Loschen, a 2009 SJO graduate and former FFA member also attended the meeting.
"It needs to be settled somehow," he said. "I worked very hard all four years so the kids in the AG program would have a better experience than I did."
Larsen was at the meeting and did not comment during the discussion.
The board's response
The Board of Education did not answer any questions about the tractor during the meeting. However, Superintendent Jim Acklin did read a written statement.
The statement states: The St. Joseph-Ogden School District would like to take this opportunity to address the situation regarding the FFA tractor raffle that was held on Thursday, April 28.
The following statement was prepared after the school administration conducted several interviews over a number of days in order the establish the facts and was prepared in consultation with the district's legal counsel.
The facts surrounding this situation are clear: 1. Chris Strong had his ticket drawn first—a gymnasium full of people witnessed this and heard Mr. Strong's name announced. 2. Mr. Larsen drew a second, back-up ticket incase Mr. Strong declined the tractor—that ticket belonged to Raymond Reitmeier. 3. No contact was made at any time from anyone associated with the school to Mr. Reitmeier indicating that Mr. Reitmeier had won the tractor. 4. Mr. Strong never declined the tractor. Mr. Larsen did not talk to Mr. Strong until the afternoon of Friday, April 29—at that time, Mr. Strong indicated he would accept the tractor, and would end up selling it. 5. Mr. Larsen called Mr. Reitmeier on the morning of May 2 to tell him that Mr. Strong had accepted the tractor.
Although it is unfortunate that Mr. Reitmeier is upset because he feels he should have been awarded the tractor, it is clear, when considering the facts of the situation, that the rightful winner of the tractor raffle is Chris Strong.
After the meeting, Acklin said he expects there to be changes in the district's protocol for raffles in the future.
What happens now
Strong, who is leaving SJO to attend graduate school, has sold the tractor.
Strong plans to donate part of the proceeds to the SJO music department, use some of the funds for graduate school and donate a part of the money to a local charity.