The sharks keep nibbling at Duluth

From an email I received a little before midnight:

In my car driving tonight I heard a radio ad for Wrenshall schools. They advertised Wrenshall as a “small, neighborhood school” not so far away. And then listed off a bunch of their offerings such as college in the schools.

I recall Wrenshall doing an ad last year, and from what I recall, there was some controversy with the Duluth Schools contacting them with complaints about them “marketing” to take Duluth’s students.

But this radio ad made it clear to me that Wrenshall School is doing something ISD 709 isn’t doing….paying attention to the public’s concerns and adapting by offering what parents are really looking for – not fancy new buildings, but small neighborhood schools with all the special individual attention that tends to come with them

Thank goodness for television reporting

My wife called me to the television as I was putting folded clothing away during the ten PM news. WDIO’s Katie Nordeen was reporting the story I’ve been egging the Trib’s educational reporter to write for months – Duluth’s students are leaving in droves. I think this story on their website is actually abridged from the evening news story.

Open enrollment caused a net loss of 417 to district’s outside Duluth this year more than double the number the year Dixon first served. And the numbers open enrolling into Duluth are also half of what they once were. I’ve called around and know that this figure will jump by around a hundred again next year. Ms. Nordeen explained that this wasn’t the only loss of students for the District because students leaving for private schools, charters and home school aren’t counted. I’d estimate that this loss would come close to doubling the figure so that perhaps in the last five years close to 800 students have left ISD 709.

Edison Charter pulled in about 80 students last year and will pull in another 80 next year. Chuck Frederick, the Trib’s Editorial Page reporter wrote a story defending the principal at one of the four Duluth Catholic schools in the face of her ouster. From the enrollment figures at her single school it sounds like the Duluth Public Schools lost almost 70 children to just this one parochial school in recent years. How many the other three picked up has not been reported. I know Marshall School has expanded its elementary school grades. Hemorrhaging is not too strong a word for what’s happening.

Just a couple days ago KBJR’s Tiffany Tarrolly reported on the imminent demolition of Ordean another story missed by the Trib.

It used to be that the television stations pretty reliably followed the Trib for news leads. Not so much these days. All the old pros in local print media are getting canned.

Safety Last

The District’s has undertaken a great many projects early to get them done before a new school board can stop them and also to be able to argue that so much money has been spent a security bond must be imposed on anyone challenging the plan in court.

Plans to speed up the demolition of Ordean are underway and the District has just decided to begin the construction of Denfeld’s new additions and foundation work this summer and work all through the next school year while the students are in class.

When one reporter checked in with the District’s PR person she was testily told that the District wouldn’t do anything to endanger the safety of students.

I can’t think of a nuisance more attractive to high school boys than a construction site. A full year of big machines, excavation and goodness knows what else going on and the District thinks the kids will ignore it. It also reminds me of the kind of unavoidable mistakes that happen near such sites.

When I was attending Mankato State I went the student union one evening and parked near an excavation that was not properly roped off. I found myself in a eight foot deep hole a hundred feet from the front door. My head just missed a piece of pipe that stuck out from the sides of the hole.

That single hole was only there for a week or less. We told the adjuster for the construction company that my only loss was a torn shirt. Someone had to fork over $36 bucks or so to make it good. It could have been worse.

Disapearing $ and other stuff

In the comment section on the Merrit Story in the Trib my old buddy Bevan commiserates with me for the terrible abuse I’m taking. In four days only 17 comments were generated in total. Some were friendly. Not a big deal, but thanks Bevan.

I’ve taken a closer look at Vote Yes’s finance reports. On Oct 23 they reported that the Duluth Teachers Union had contributed $3,000. (The DFT pointedly stiffed the campaigns for operational levies before Dr. Dixon) Perplexingly the Report for the end of the year shows the DFT having only contributed $2,000.

Its also interesting to note that as the campaign neared the election they had raised only $6,199.29. That’s when the four corporations kicked in just in time to cover $16,000 in spending. If you subtract out the $2,000 or $3,000 raised from the DFT they raised less than a tenth what regular citizens have contributed to Let Duluth Vote.

It’s likely that Move Forward Duluth’s 300 email addresses all came from parents who contributed to the operational Levy Campaign. Let Duluth Vote has received donations from 2,000 people.

Until the corporations gave last minute donations Vote Yes had very little campaign to speak of. They were lucky no one organized to oppose their levy.

My smiling picture

Yesterday, as I was rushing to put on my tux and blue jeans for the Symphony Ball, Move Forward Duluth’s spokeman emailed me. Her message suggested that I had defamed the corporations who are generously building Duluth’s wonderful new schools. I told her to check the laws on corporate giving. I didn’t bother to check on themselves but just did it to give her something to stew about.

I woke up at 5AM this Saturday morning to read them over myself. Corporate giving to legislators is pretty strictly forbidden but since I’ve been dabbling in local elections the laws get changed every two years mostly to insulate legislators from serious legal problems. The campaign finance laws are pretty toothless where the rich are concerned meteing out the occasional wrist slap fine say a couple thousand grand. For any of the Vote Yes contractor contributors that’s less than piffle compared to the profits they stand to earn.

Well, Geez, I hate to admit that Mimi may be right again. Sure the laws are designed to protect voters by exposing the pecuniary interests of people contributing to campaigns so once again the spirit of the law is on my side but the lousy letter of the law seems to side with the scoflaws.

The dwindling MFD folks just want to do to Let Duluth Vote what the Chamber did to Carinda Horton. Shut us up.

After an hour of reading through the statutes I got this sympathetic email.

Here is a page that mentions the Chamber “hired” UMD for the study, but the price tag is missing. Odd how some storied get buried so quickly yet your smiling picture and the dropped lawsuit is still on the Education website.

And here’s the smiling picture the Trib has had on its news page for the past four days which helpfully reveals that in one attorney’s opinion I’m just a publicity seeker.

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/media/full/jpg/2009/05/18/welty.jpg

“[Welty] is an irresponsible publicity seeker and he should check his facts before he does his usual grand standing,” Merrit said. “We spent considerable time on this case for which we were never paid.”

I know ink is expensive and the Trib can’t afford to waste it exposing the District’s and JCI’s shennanigans, or even put the Merritt story in context like I have, but honestly its too bad the days of salty old reporters rooting out the truth is as out of fashion as Deep Throat. At least they can honor their long lost memory like the Trib’s encomium today to “Scoop” Pomeroy.

Kaboom II (with a correction)

The Ordean Demolition package being bid on will commence demo work on June 6th and be finished 30 days later.

Its being offered by Bossardt Corporation.

I just reviewed the finance reports for Move Forward Duluth’s sister group Vote Yes for Schools which campaigned to pass last fall’s operational levy. Bossardt contributed $2,500. It was corporate money and strictly forbidden and Bossardt knows it.

Its not the only corporation that made illegal contributions to Vote Yes.

NOTE: This entry is in error. It turns out that corporate donations are forbidden to legislative candidates not to school levy referendum campaigns even when the corporations have a huge financial interest in the outcome. Well, I guess I can begin soliciting corporate donations myself from Commercial and Industrial property owners who have been gouged deeply by Duluth Taxes in recent years. Last year’s 56% increase in school taxes is about to get some more Red Plan taxation when another $70 million in bonds is offered this summer.
Cool.

Revel, its the economy stupid

According to the Today’s Trib Editorial Duluth needs to “revel” in unbiased information about the Red Plan’s economic impact since some people have spread so much misinformation about it. I wonder who the editorial board could be referring to; me or the folks who even now, two years later, refuse to release important public data about the Red Plan its costs, justifications and origins? Someone’s got to report the news. Might as well be me.

Its ironic that on the front page the same Tribune there’s a story about a tax revolt by businesses in town over the cost of property taxes. Who does the Chamber speak for?

Skeptics of this economic development ought to call the Chamber and buy a ticket for Red Plan love fest and ask the tough questions that the Trib won’t ask or report. By the way one of the presenters Drew Digby sits on the planning commission that will decide whether an Environmental Impact Statement will be required for the hideous Ordean site. I wonder if the economic goodies out weigh the educational, safety and environmental negatives of the site. I hope he will be able to remain unbiased.

Out of town

I left town early this morning to visit my Mother in the Twin Cities so didn’t get a chance to post much today. Even with just three new posts (not counting this one) I got over 200 visitors today.

For those who are new to this blog if there is a particular subject you are interested in relative to the Red Plan I recommend you type it into the search function to see what turns up. You might be surprised. I’ve probably got a thousand Red Plan related posts by now.

The exodus numbers are grim

The District finally, reluctantly, released the latest losses to open enrollment from Duluth resident students fleeing to outlying school districts.

From the Let Duluth Vote website:

http://www.letduluthvote.com/images/open_enroll-08-09.jpg

Ten years ago about 150 students from outside Duluth open enrolled into our schools. Each student brought state revenues with them and their own school district’s local levy to help pay for their education in Duluth. The 07-08 figures for Duluth suggested that there was a net outflow of about 343 students from Duluth to other public school districts. “Open enrollment” does not include enrollment into private or parochial or charter schools within ISD 709 or home schooling all of which have been growing alarmingly. According to this summary for the 08-09 school year 417 students have open enrolled out of our District.
In Duluth about 70% of the funding per child comes from state revenues. If we use a figure of about $7,000 per child of state revenue (a very rough guess) that would mean the District lost $3 million dollars to other districts in “state aid.” But about 25% of the money spent to educate these Duluth resident students comes from Duluth school district taxpayers. 417 open enrolled students means that a million dollars raised in Duluth is being spent in other communities. Ten years ago other communities were paying Duluth to educate their children. When the District blames the state for cutting funding they are on very thin ice.

If you put open enrollment in the search box you will find numerous posts over the last school year which have exposed this devastating out migration often accompanied by taunting comments about how I’ve tried but failed to get the Trib to report these student losses. I’ll keep taunting. At least 800 people this month will find out what’s going on in their public schools by reading this blog. The Trib’s subscribers will continue to live in ignorance.

November

The Carinda Horton story in today’s Trib had a little something extra over their earlier version online. Apparently Carinda hasn’t ruled out running for either the City Council or the School Board. I’ve been talking to potential school board candidates and given Carinda’s leadership on the issue of the Red Plan I think she would be a shoo-in along with several other contenders who could sweep out the old Board in November.

I just hope after Dr. Dixon’s demolition they can put the pieces back together.

Plan B referendum

I was extremely suspicious about the Architectural firm ATS&R when it won a much reduced bid package to put together a review and comment for the Minnesota Dept of Education. They put in a bid of over $200,000 and accepted one for $70,000 (about the same as the consultants who came in to tell Gary Glass that if he misbehaved the other School Board members could remove him from office) As I’ve written earlier it only took a half day to dispel my suspicions of these architects.

I accompanied them on tours of almost all our buildings. I’ve attended parts of two late into the evening meetings with them as their experts analyzed the complicated funding formulas for the Red Plan and applied them to the language of the Plan B petition. Two or three times these folks have driven back to the Twin Cities after staying up past midnight working with our experts, especially Art Johnson. They have steered us in the right direction and I think to the amazement and consternation of the School Administration will put together a Review and Comment that could be a slam dunk in St. Paul.

Unlike JCI I could heartily recommend them to any school district in the state of Minnesota and beyond.

The great irony may be that by the time the Minnesota Dept. of Education OK’s a refendum Ordean may have been gutted. That would make any non-binding vote less than useless except as a demonstration of the fury of Duluth over the assault by JCI and our School Board on our rights and pocketbooks.

A good day

I’ve been so busy the last couple days so that I’m forgetting blog ideas before I have a chance to post them. I’ve got a backlog.

Despite a measly 6 or so posts I’ve broken another record today. Before Midnight I reached 250 visitors a great new daily visit record. My visits have been modest but grown steadily. In January I averaged 102 daily visits. Feb – 105; March -124; April – 131 This month it should end up over 175 daily visits.

Perhaps the most amazing statistic shows that my visitors average over six minutes a visit and 4% of them stay on my page for over an hour. That’s longer than I spend on my stripped down Tribune these days but close to the time I used to spend reading it.

Till death do us part

Finally, I should add that Charlotte Boyd, who was under threat of eminent domain along with the eagles roosting in her back yard, faced down FI Salter and the District.

The District told the Dept. of Education back in 2007 that it would have to acquire a number of homes but withheld that information from the General Public in Duluth and voters through the 2007 School Board election.

In January of the following year the Boyd’s discovered a letter from the District telling them that their home would be needed for Ordean High.

Robert Boyd was a beloved Boy Scout leader in Duluth, an attorney, and ironically a former Duluth School Board member. He was also gravely ill and bed ridden. Charlotte Boyd gave him care full time. He died recently. She blames the stress from the District for hastening his death. Charlotte Boyd will never sell her home willingly to ISD 709.

Another Happy Customer

Here are three emails sent to me by a Lester Park homeowner who was eventually forced out of her home: I can’t find an earlier email sent me about the homeowner who Natalie Hoff pressured to ask her elderly neighbor to sell her home.

Harry, Just thought I’d send you this little tidbit. The home on 53rd and Glenwood that is by the creek where those home owners couldn’t build a garage because the city said it would disturb the creek but the school district could build a parking lot. That home was purchased by the school distict. Thats where they were going to raze that home to make extra parking space. Well now that home is no longer going to be needed so the school district is going to rent that home. In other words they made that home owner move for nothing. I was told this by one of the school districts renters ( she was our neighbor) on Oneida and 53rd who got her letter recently that she would have to move by the end of the school year and was offered the home on Glenwood to live in. I wish that the previous home owners could sue the district for doing this to them but it wont happen as they are happy in their new home. I wonder if this had anything to do with the EAW?

Harry I wrote to Sara Horner after the article in the paper about ten homes and how Natalie Hoff stated every one is happy. Well Sara emailed me back and said sounds like we should meet. So I gave her a time she emailed me back and wanted to know if next week which was last week would work I again gave her several different times invited her to my home she could pick a time or place. I told her she needs to hear from and actual home owner who is going through this but obviously she is on the districts side or they have told her not to talk to us. I have not heard back from her. I do feel that the public should hear what the district is doing to us and how we are being treated. Im willing to talk.

Hello Harry its been awhile but we’ve been dealing with the school district in purchasing a new home and its been hell I’m writing to see if this is legal on the part of the school district. My neighbor who hasn’t had a job in a year can’t get a mortgage and the district is forcing her out of her home is it legal for them to make her pay a mortgage to the school district.??? She cant get a mortgage through the banks so they have told her she could do a mortgage through them. IS THIS LEGAL ??? She won’t be renting but will be paying them a mortgage payment. She can’t afford an attorney they are also fighting her on paying her moving expenses. They are screwing us so bad and then telling the public how happy we all are. Any how have a happy holiday I’m keeping up on all the emails and news from the meetings once we get settled hope to attend more meetings and fight. I just don’t have it in me any more right now. Thank you for all your hard work.

Now its July

KBJR’s Tiffany Tarrolly just put my allegation of the June demolition on the news. The District told he I was being “premature.” The demolition is slated for July. That’s not what JCI told the demo bidders.