is just the next 3-strikes-your-out in law enforcement.
is just the next 3-strikes-your-out in law enforcement.
An easy solution will often prove to be a very hard one.
The Duluth School District is getting closer to locking students in their high schools during the day. I expect a lot of kids to give more consideration to staying home and going to school on the Internet. Other iffier students will fall through the cracks as the District bends over backwards to prevent them from smoking on neighboring lawns.
I don’t blame the neighbors for wanting peace and quiet but this will not be a kid-friendly decision.
I couldn’t lambaste the Strib for inserting paid advertising as a news story because they published the story noted in the previous post in good faith. I can’t say the same about this blather from the Cook News-Herald which was sent to me a couple days ago. I didn’t see the paper but most of it appears to be glowing comments from Hermantown parents who toured JCI’s new schools in St. Louis County. According to my email corespondent it was on the Front page of the Cook News-Herald:
I’ll explain why this is so damnable immediately below.
New ISD 2142 South Ridge School draws ‘wows’ from Hermantown Delegation
ISD 2142, with its two brand new schools, North Woods and South Ridge, and its remodeled schools of Cherry, Northeast Range and Tower-Soudan, is drawing the attention of surrounding schools
On Friday, March 22, the South Ridge School had a large delegation from the Hermantown School District come to the school for a tour. Hermantown is in the beginning stages of working on a strategic plan for the future, so they wanted to see what the schools of the future are like. Johnson Controls, the firm that handled the construction for the new and remodeled schools, is working with Hermantown on their future facilities plan and set up the tour. Principal Kristi Berlin gave the tour to 30 board members, teachers, staff and citizens of the Hermantown School District who rode a school bus to the South Ridge School. Reports are they were noticeably impressed with the new South Ridge School. There were many “wows.” Is ISD 2142 becoming the leader in education for northern Minnesota? (more…)
Two readers of the Minneapolis Star Tribune were quick to send me this story from last week. It is as one of them said a “fairy tale.”
I was sufficiently jaundiced that I called its author, Don Jacobson, just now to find out whether any of the people associated with the Red Plan’s building had given him any compensation for submitting it to the Strib. Mr. Jacobson wondered, what the implication of my question was. It was, of course, that the Red Plan’s movers and shakers were trying to buy good press. It turns out they weren’t. They were just very lucky to find a freelance journalist who wanted to write about green buildings and needed to do so quickly in journalism’s new economic model which has created unsalaried Freelancers who need to generate income quickly without the time to go out and interview both sides of a controversial story.
Dr. Dixon got some very good press indeed.
“…there are lessons to be learned from Duluth’s $300 million effort to build four new schools, rehabilitate seven others and close seven more. Two key players in one of the most ambitious facilities upgrades in Minnesota public schools’ history told members of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Minneapolis on Tuesday that the public will support such renovations if they’re adequately explained.”
Had I been interviewed I would have pointed out some of the unfortunate costs of building the Red Plan’s green buildings, Among them:
1. Public furor that has made it impossible to pass subsequent operational levies.
2. A guarantee to rob the existing $5 million annual dollars from the school operations budget to pay banks for building bonds and the subsequent skyrocketing of class sizes from a little over 30 kids in high school classes to well over 40.
3. The reduction of class offerings.
4. The necessity to break past School Board promises not to increase local school levies most recently with a 12% increase last year.
5. The burgeoning cost of the Red Plan that rose by $60 million dollars from its first unveiling to the the present.
6. The exodus and continued absence of at least ten percent of the student population as the Red Plan Juggernaut proceeded.
7. The subsequent loss of hundreds of teachers and the undermining of the Teacher’s pension plan which must be financed by the labors of a shrinking pool of active teachers.
8. The absence of any audit to show whether the Red Plan schools have managed to save a cent’s worth of energy costs.
Among the story’s shortcomings
1. The false assertion (or assumption) that the Red Plan was only financed through laws for student safety and health.
2. That “polls showed most [residents of Duluth] supported the move.”
3. Dixon’s claim that Duluth ended up agreeing with the Red Plan because “…even the most conservative residents will agree that the costs are worth it if you can show them a return on investment over time.”
Considering that Dixon had to flea Duluth as the Red Plan went sour its ironic that the reporter should pass on an architect’s assertions that “its important to show skeptics that improved student performance and energy; cost savings are linked.” This never took place and no proof has yet been offered that the Red Plan will show such a result.
It remains to be seen whether student performance will be enhanced. The most recent test results show not positive connection to the the Red Plan. If anything they seem to hint at a regression.
…that the made a rational spending decision!
To spend only a quarter of a million dollars clean up dollars on Congdon Elementary.
“Choosing everything on the list would have cost the district up to $850,000. The most expensive choices, a $200,000 retaining wall, $330,000 worth of exterior masonry repair and a $100,000 sand field, were nixed.”
I’d like to think its because its begun to dawn on them that at this point every cent they put into the Red Plan is a cent taken away from the classroom.
A friend keeps writing every time the Trib writes a positive story about things happening in the Duluth Schools or every time calamity seems to strike. Every story seems to her to be a plea from the Tribune for voters to pass a levy referendum next fall. I have few illusions that a levy will pass although I will vote for anything the District will offer.
I read stories like the one today and I’m torn between outrage and despair. Outrage that the District killed our golden goose and despair at the difficulties of bringing it back to life.
I once wrote that we didn’t know just how good we had it in our schools. I was on the Board after the Chamber of Commerce failed to support a levy referendum in 2001 and the Board was forced to make the seventh hour an optional seventh period called the “zero hour” that kids had to find their own way too. Now the Red Plan is about to bring an end even to what little remains of the zero hour.
I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t make the same connection that this reader did when she read the recent Headline “No say, Just pay”.
“I found the front-page headline, “No say, just pay,” for a story about how the Duluth school district pays special-education costs for students enrolled elsewhere, to be very humorous, ironic and hypocritical. Wasn’t that exactly what Independent School District 709 said to every taxpayer of the district with the Red Plan?
I am one of the many who voted with my feet; I now live in Hermantown. And I am not at all sad to be done with the Duluth school district.”
They are at a public shaming of Duluth school board members.
I’m far and away the City of Duluth’s top shamer of the Duluth School Board and have been for seven years. As the top shamer I’m not very impressed with the Tribune editors day-late, dollar-short shaming today. Its almost as though finding a little fault with the current crop of Board members is the editors attempt to rejoin the community of Red Plan grumps. In so doing they are not unlike some cowardly kids in the circle around a playground fight telling the combatants to beat the crud out of the other kid. Its a safe thing to do.
The problem is that the crime the Trib called out was pretty minor. School Board members not showing up at a particular school’s public meeting.
There were two such crimes listed. First non attendance at a Rockridge School meeting where one City Councilor took umbrage at their absence..
Well here’s the exculpatory reply to the complaint. The building is no longer a school. Sure its school property and the School Board will have the ultimate say on its disposal but keep this in mind. The City has covered for the school district time and time again where the Red Plan is concerned. For once it makes sense that the City take the lead on a school district property. The city will have to deal with the zoning issues that are no longer a concern to the District other than to grease its ability to get rid of yet one more unwanted piece of property.
The City Councilor who made the complaint was not on the City Council when the Red Plan got under way so she could perhaps be forgiven for being irked at the School Board’s unanimous absence from the meeting. But then again, past City Councilors let previous School Board’s off for far more serious zoning and construction issues. The School Board has simply learned to ignore the City Council because of the Council’s insistence on the separation of turf.
Secondly the Editors complained that only three School Board members were present at the Congdon School meeting. To start with one of my email buddies noted with some sarcasm that it seemed the Trib has given a lot more attention to the loss of a hockey rink at Congdon than it did the impact of the Red Plan on many other schools. But that’s not really the point. The point is that three Board members did attend, almost half the Board. That ain’t nothing. They were almost all representatives of the Eastern portion of the City. That makes sense. I see no reason why all seven board members should be expected to attend every locally held school meeting.
Its as though the Editors are belatedly jumping on the bandwagon to bad mouth an unpopular Public Body. I sure won’t blame the Trib when it has good reason to gripe about this school board. I just want the complaint, when it comes, to be about something truly egregious and not just some piffle like this.
North Dakota’s GOP has taken the lead on fighting abortion having made it illegal from six weeks after conception.
That’s one part of their recent legislative action.
The law that really cranked my chain was the one the forbade the abortion of any fetus because of a disability. Its supposed to be a high minded Godly law, proof that the GOP cares about children. Tosh. The GOP doesn’t give a shit about children or their parents. The story I was sent about the state of Minnesota doing its best not to fund special education proves my point.
North Dakota Women carrying disabled babies must now give birth to them but can expect no help from taxpayers to help them raise or educate their disabled children. That’s the GOP today. Its a party of no-nothings, hypocrites and assholes. They’ll spend tax money like Indiana to give well-heeled parents a way to avoid public schools that are stuck teaching the disabled children that Republicans are unwilling to levy taxes to educate. Or like in Nebraska they will refuse to fund neo-natal care if there is the smallest chance some wet back from Mexico might have her fetus examined at public expense.
Don’t worry I haven’t offended by Buddy. He told me he stopped reading my blog because I was so unfair to Republicans.
If I do go to the next GOP precinct caucuses I’ll have a couple questions.
BTW. If I do run for the School Board I hope someone throws my line about no-nothings, hypocrites and assholes at me. Its just the kind of thing I would expect from an asshole.
Oh, and how can I resist mentioning the efforts of the GOP to protect children from their Gay parents. The GOP may no longer want to be tagged with that public stand but there is little doubt the protesters against gay marriage out in front of the Supreme Court today are all Republicans, Senator Portman be damned.
I don’t know if this USA Today story on voucher payments in Indiana has all the details in the story I first read but one thing about it makes me cringe. It plays into the hands of the worst elements of the Republican Party which took over Indiana in a landslide two years ago. Every blue or purple state where they got such a Tea Party landslide has been using that muscle to enforce all the GOP Dogmas in the book.
I’ve had a lot to say about vouchers on Lincoln Democrat over the years. I’m for them when public schools are cesspools. I’m not interested in them when a state has allowed its funding mechanism to shortchange poor neighborhoods. Sadly my search function no longer seems to go back far enough to find any of my old posts on the subject.
The Dixiecrat GOP has brought among its many perverted legacies like voter suppression, and allowing the poor to be strip mined by usurious pay day loans. Now its added to this the abandonment of public schools with lots of poor and black students.
While it is as yet unclear to me whether this will happen in Indiana I suspect it will happen. In Minnesota it would be like giving money to the many well to do folks who send their children to Breck, Blake or Marshall School.
Its intended as one more nail in the coffin of unions, in this case teacher’s unions. My posts have been none too charitible where the Duluth teacher’s Union leadership is concerned. In my case its not a zero sum game of union destruction. Its contempt for the union leaders acting in concert with previous administrations to stifle dissent.
…notwithstanding my pooh poohing the idea in the last post.
A reader sent me a well reported story from Minnesota Public Radio about the state’s dealings with Special Education since about 2004 when I left the Duluth School Board. As I said, things were always bad. They’ve gotten much worse.
This does not in anyway excuse the spending decisions of the Duluth School District to hush up teachers for its squandering of operational funds to pay for Red Plan Bonds. What it means is that the District was put behind yet one more eight ball. Put another way it means that having crawled out to the end of a flimsy branch another hefty problem joined them on the branch taking them to the Earth.
Here’s the story on “cross subsidies.” Its long but, if you care about public education in Minnesota, you need to read it to make sense of the subject.
I had just read about Indiana (Next post) before getting the story and it had already resoured me on the Republican Party. I’ve had several more episodes of GOP souring since.
The Trib has run a series of stories on the costs of special education for the Duluth School District. This is an old story. The Federal Government mandates full funding of special education before I was on the Board and then reneged on promises to provide close to full federal funding for the mandates. Minnesota School Boards were complaining about this loudly a decade ago.
I just did a quick check on this subject and found this old post which mentions the following story about a time when it looked like the Federal Government might step up to the plate:
“One of the most intriguing things I heard before I departed the School Board was at a meeting Senator Paul Wellstone called us too [sic] in the Board Room. I asked him about Special Ed money and he told us he was sure it would be fully funded in the comming [sic] year because of some assurances he seemed to have gotten from the new President George W Bush. Well, whatever Wellstone knew it all went down in flames when he was killed in the crash of a small plane as he campaigned for reelection and in in 9-11 when the Bush Administration focused on terrorism rather than education after leaving the nation its NCLB legacy. (all whips and no carrots)”
Yesterday’s Special Ed Story went where I’m sure the current Administration wanted it to go blaming others for its own self inflicted financial wounds.
The fact is that ten years ago this was also in the news. The Feds made our district pay for the lion’s share of special ed costs. They did channel money into special ed at the expense of other classes. Despite this we still had one of the best student/teacher ratios in the State because we had made that a priority for better than a decade.
As my wife said upon reading the story its just the latest excuse for our District’s crowded classrooms. First it was the failure to sell old school buildings, then it was the failure of the referendums, then it was the state’s borrowing of Education money, and now its special education mandates. Never have our problems stemmed from the Red Plan’s guarantee to banks to use general fund levies to back its bonds or excessively generous teacher contracts to keep teachers quiet.
On the subject of our teacher’s union leaders, who kept mum on all the Red Plan projects, I sense the heavy hand of self interest. They also had a large say in the management and decisions of the DFTRA, the teacher’s pension, which kept boosting pension benefits even as their assets withered. The Pension payments are based on the final five earning years. The more teachers are paid at the end of their career the more they are guaranteed in pension payments. As the contract boosted the final salaries of these older teachers their pension benefits rose. They would get higher pensions and leave the younger teachers with 40 kids to a class. Now that’s what I call fraternity!
Add the devastating student out-migration caused by the Red Plan and you are left with a shrinking rump of younger teachers who must dig deeper into their pockets to pay for the boosted benefits of retirees.
That seems to pretty much be the issue at one of the last two Red Plan schools. A few days ago in a story I didn’t comment on or post a link to a Congdon Mother expressed wonder that the School District would consider abandoning an elevator which would take disabled children to the gym while pouring money into hockey rinks. I thought she made a good point.
The latest from the DNT.
In addition to spending another $250,000 to $350,000 for a third hockey rink, oops “retaining wall,” at Congdon Elementary the Duluth School District is taking almost a quarter million dollar loss on two houses it originally bought for the Congdon plans:
“also approved the sale of two properties behind Congdon Park Elementary, both of which no longer are needed for the project because of changed plans. The board unanimously approved offers for 3132 and 3144 Greysolon Place.
The district purchased 3132 Greysolon for $337,500 in 2011, and the district had it on the market most recently for $175,000.
The district purchased 3144 Greysolon for $213,000 in 2008, and the house was listed for $159,900.
Sale prices aren’t disclosed until closing. One district-owned house on that block remains on the market.”
If the District chose to hire teachers with this money instead of bolstering the hockey program it could return at least half of this money to its operating budget.
More teachers, Duluth eastern hockey. More teachers, Duluth eastern hockey. Tough decision that one.
I found this Sully post interesting.
Its about whether people or machines are to blame for accidents ie. Fukashima, car crashes, etc. The scientist who has been investigating the question wants to blame machines noting that laying the blame on human falibility tends to end up in either covering up the problem (obscuring the need for correction) or morose self blame (which doesn’t solve it either).
For years I’ve thought that one of the social institutions exaggerating this have been schools. So much of education in our public schools revolves around ranking results. The best students are lionized (and paradoxically ridiculed by lower ranking students) which then take pride in failing. Before this kicks in however, children learn not to raise their hands because they don’t want to look like idiots by making mistakes.
There is an old truism that we learn by our mistakes. Is it just possible that we encourage stupidity and or ignorance by making children resist making mistakes to avoid humiliation? I think so.
One of my regular old Red Plan allies emailed me a few days ago imploring me to attend the Chamber’s Red Plan program with the new Superintendent. I told my friend I had no intention of wasting my time.
Today she wrote back after reading the Editorial in the Duluth News Tribune and told me its just as well I didn’t go because it would obviously have been “a waste of time.”
This is what I wrote back to my friend:
I have much to say on this subject. In short I woke up yesterday and had changed my mind. I decided I ought to go to the Chamber’s meeting with the Superintendent. If I hadn’t spent so much time shoveling the new fallen snow I would have gone.
After reading the DNT editorial I’m very glad I didn’t go. I would have felt like a chump. Guess who else feels that way today? The Trib and the Chamber of Commerce.
Gronseth and company did learn from Dixon – all the wrong lessons. Primarily that if you call a meeting and do all the talking then leave ten minutes for questions you can escape without any accountability. The problem for Gronseth is that Dixon’s old sycophants are now on to the tactic. They ignored it when it was Red Plan critics getting the razzle dazzle. Now, however, the District has screwed up our public schools and Dixon’s old pals know it. They also know the City knows they were Dixon’s enablers and the fruits of his labor are the fruits of their support for Dixon. They don’t want to be left holding Dixon’s dirty bag. They are handing it back to Gronseth now with a big “no thank you.”
They want to know how Gronseth will fix the problem. He doesn’t have a clue so he pulled a Dixon special dog and pony show with lots of Post-it notes “for input” to avoid having to answer questions. Finally this tired tactic isn’t good enough for the DNT and the Chamber of Commerce who cut the District so much slack for so long.
I was thinking about how desperate the District’s situation is. Its worse than dire. Up to now the public had given them the base excess levy they’ve requested which they’ve had since before the Red Plan but nothing more. They need a helluva lot more money than this to keep their nose above water. If they don’t even get the base levy approved by voters they’ll be sucked down the drain with our children in the undertow. If they don’t get it……well you ain’t seen nothing yet. The accompanying letter to the editor under their editorial said it all. A kid with four classes with 40 kids in them. In years past the editors would have salted that page with a letter that offered counter arguments to their editorial. Instead they put a letter under their editorial which reinforced its message that “happy talk” isn’t good enough anymore. Sadly, all the superintendent has is hapless talk.
He still doesn’t seem to have a clue how much of what used to be operational money for the District has been siphoned off to pay for Judy Seliga’s swimming pools and the East Stadium that was never part of the Red Plan to begin with.
If I wasn’t so irritated at the Trib and the Chamber I’d say “better late than never.” But I’m so annoyed that even “I told you so,” doesn’t address my contempt for the Trib’s and the Chamber’s complicity in this educational abortion.
It is about time the Trib and the Chamber begin to realize just what they helped to deliver into Keith Dixon’s hands…..the fate of Duluth. Notwithstanding Mayor’ Ness’s unqualified optimism about the reemergence of his City of the First Class, Duluth will never make it with third class schools.
Panic won’t help anything and its a couple years overdue.
PS. I also told her that I would have to be a fool to run for the School Board this fall.
PPS. I cleaned up this email with a few edits so that its not exactly what I originally emailed out. I’d guess its still about 98% original.
…Then he created School Boards.” Mark Twain
First – From the Timberjay:
District risks much, saves little, by using Alango Road
The St. Louis County School Board is violating a commitment it made, and is risking a multi-million dollar lawsuit and potentially disastrous media coverage, all to save a paltry $12,000 a year on its transportation costs.
It’s one of the most troubling decisions this school district has made in years.
Here’s the rub. In deciding to run at least four buses daily up and down Alango Road, the school district is openly disregarding hazards that the district itself identified in the environmental assessment worksheet it prepared as part of the permitting for the North Woods School. Here’s how the school district described the dangers: “Alango Road has segments with insufficient sight distance and a narrow bridge, both circumstances that would require correction before Alango Road could support significantly more traffic.”
As local residents can attest, traffic on the road has increased significantly (most likely by a factor of several times). As they could also attest—and as we have verified— St. Louis County public works has not addressed any of the hazards identified in the EAW.
It’s no surprise that traffic on the road has jumped significantly since the opening of the school last fall. The road provides a four-mile shortcut for anyone coming to the school from the west, which was a point made by township officials and local residents at the time of the controversial school permitting process. A four-mile shortcut, each way, adds up at a time of high fuel prices, which is the reason that the district’s superintendent and transportation director decided to run district buses on the road as well.
But saving money is a poor justification for putting students in harm’s way. (more…)
Kudos to the DNT’s Jana Hollingsworth. After one of my posts about pension funds and my experience with the DFTRA I got the impression that she thought it was time she did a little research. Her story in today’s DNT did a very good job explaining how stupidly the pension fund for our Duluth public school teachers has been run at a time when conservative prudence was called for.
Its hard for me to be very sympathetic to the man in charge of the fund. He once wrote a letter to the editor saying it was high time I left the school board because I swore during a Board meeting. (It was because I wanted a levy referendum for more classroom spending placed on the ballot when one prominent Board member was bad mouthing it)
All the time I was busy fighting to have the Red Plan placed on the ballot for fear it would decimate our schools Mr. Stoffel oversaw increased pension outlays to growing numbers of retirees. Now he wants the taxpayers to offset his pension funds losses which can’t be made up because the Red Plan has thinned out ISD 709′s teachers who are DFTRA’s contributors. He’ll be lobbying to have the taxpayers make up for his tardy actions to shore up the fund. Perhaps the state should go into the business of insuring all pension funds both public and private. I’m sure a lot of private pension fund managers would love that kind of insurance.
The poor working teachers in Duluth with 40 kids in their classrooms are carrying a heavy burden and one of their rewards will be a much reduced pension.
From the Timberjay re: one more JCI’s mistep:
FIELD TOWNSHIP – Township residents, alarmed by several accidents involving young drivers on Alango Road, question the St. Louis County School District’s decision to have school buses take the road as a shortcut to the North Woods School.
“We were told there would be no bus traffic on the road,” said Jim Eisner. “But the district is using it big time with at least four buses on that road twice every day.”
District officials say they received assurances from St. Louis County that the road had been upgraded. In addition, the district’s Transportation Director Ed Dorman determined the road was safe.
But officials acknowledge part of their motivation for using the route is to save money. Dorman told school board member Nancy Wall Glowaski that he is under pressure to keep transportation expenses in line, and Superintendent Teresa Knife Chief said using the route for four buses saves the district $12,222 a year.
Safety concerns (more…)
A friend emailed me a link to this bit of back patting from David Ross of Duluth’s Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Ross is in a defensive crouch because he has not condemned a tax increase from Governor Dayton and some of his members are not happy about this. Ross points to his opposition to a great many local tax increase proposals. My friend notes that despite all this swaggering the Chamber’s CEO doesn’t make a peep about the biggest local tax increase of them all – the nearly 12% tax increase by the Duluth School Board. She wonders why Mr. Ross is so silent about this.
Maybe its because commenting on it might remind people how shamelessly and vigorously he supported the Red Plan that has had such disastrous consequences for our local public schools.
In late 2012, Mayor Ness and his leadership team announced they planned to raise Duluth’s property taxes by 2.9 percent in 2013. The Chamber was the one organization that publicly opposed the tax increase. We publicly challenged the Mayor to reduce the tax increase. Many of our members appreciated the Chamber’s advocacy.
The Chamber was applauded.
Similarly, one month ago, the City of Duluth announced it intended to raise the City’s Comfort Systems rate for natural gas by 5 percent. Again, the Chamber was the one organization that publicly opposed the rate increase. We publicly challenged the Duluth Public Utilities Commission to delay any rate increase until more citizen feedback could be provided. Many of our members appreciated the Chamber’s advocacy.
The Chamber was congratulated.
Likewise, a few weeks ago, the Duluth City Council was poised to pass into law the City’s new and more restrictive sign ordinance. Once more, the Chamber was the one organization that publicly challenged the City to delay implementing the ordinance until more business community input could be provided. The City agreed to delay implementing the ordinance. Many of our members appreciated the Chamber’s advocacy. The Chamber was affirmed.