Local View: No school district could afford Duluth’s red plan
Duluth’s Lars Fladmark couldn’t believe the new license plates issued for his truck: “709 BAD.” He swears he didn’t request the number-letter combination, but the more he learns about his Independent School District 709’s long-range building plan, the more he’s convinced his plates are dead-on accurate.
Last year I received a surprise when I renewed the license plates on my truck. My new plate number was “709 BAD.” Under oath, I swear I did not request those numbers! However, the longer I have listened to the debate over Independent School District 709’s so-called red plan, the more I have come to believe my plates were prophetic â€” or maybe someone at the license bureau was sending a message.
From 1985 to 1993, I served as CEO of Beckley-Cardy, a national school supply firm based then in Duluth. Our sales force of 110 called on every public and private school in the U.S. Since we sold everything from chalk to school furniture, our sales staff followed carefully the career paths of superintendents. We called them “builders.”
There were superintendents who specialized in moving from district to district, always promoting the construction of new schools. Since new schools were always our best sales opportunity, our sales staff followed these superintendents carefully, particularly since they generally moved to new horizons once new schools were in place.
I understand Duluth Schools Superintendent Keith Dixon has at least one new school behind him, so I would guess he probably won’t be retiring from District 709.
I think a great injustice is being perpetrated on the Duluth district. In my entire career, I never saw or heard of any school facilities plan of the magnitude of Duluth’s red plan approved without a voter referendum. Never ever, coast to coast or border to border.
Add a school board and a superintendent seemingly taking pride in hijacking former Rep. Mike Jaros’ bill allowing construction without voter approval in the name of desegregation. The Duluth district used a highly questionable loophole opinion not vested in any specific legislative act or judicial ruling.
That’s riding a bit roughshod over legislative intent, I would say.
Many dollars have been committed to the project without any true legal approval. I’d call that an injustice any time.
Anyone who believes in democracy can’t possibly endorse this process.
What led to the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution?
We in Duluth did not elect a school board to become a supra taxing authority. Any claims to the contrary only reflect the elitist attitude that the common man can’t be trusted to make the “right” decision.
That is democracy defiled. My license plates tell the truth.
Also, the immense costs of the red plan are ridiculous. During the 1970s and 1980s, my company purchased and remodeled 11 different buildings, rebuilding them into totally up-to-date office buildings still in use today. Eight of them are concentrated on First Street in downtown Duluth. We tuckpointed, installed new windows, reinsulated, put on new roofs, built skywalks to connect them, added elevators and air conditioning and did whatever else was needed. We wound up with a cost-per-square-foot averaging less than $3. We proved it’s less expensive to remodel if buildings are structurally sound.
It’s rather clear, I think, that Central, East and Denfeld high schools are much more than just structurally sound. I’d wager a good bet a reliable contractor could bring them well up to date for less than $30 million.
No, that won’t give the 35 or so clear acres our benighted State Board of Education says is required. Only Northland Country Club could accommodate that – and hey, with no houses to knock down or people to move.
I’d just like to know on what planet our School Board members are living. No metro area in the U.S. can afford what’s being attempted here. Duluth has good physical plants that are properly located.
What’s important in education is the teaching staff and that the physical equipment and its maintenance are kept up to date. Just fix up our existing schools. Please.
Lars Fladmark lives in Duluth.