I just mowed the lawn I’ve got a funeral memorial in a little over and hour and then Claudia and I are taking our grandson’s to the Wisconsin Dells to splash in a water park. The load of verbiage I’m carrying would take weeks to dispense and frankly, even if I was up to it I don’t have the time. Thus I will once again disappoint the 2,000 plus of you who have peeked at my blog over June.
I’ve been telling some folks recently that our Board members have been thinking with all the clarity of soldiers returning to home with PTSD. I got a couple years to recover from mine when I retired from the active fight against the Red Plan in 2010 as Art Johnston took up his lonely crusade for clarity.
At first he had Gary Glass with him but they were no match for a board majority that was still in musk oxen mode having formed a circle to keep the wolves out. For six years now the majority of the Board refused to ask questions almost as aggressively as they have asserted that their brilliant administrators were working miracles in the Duluth Public Schools. Perhaps its the PTSD that blinds them to classes of the high thirties in elementary schools and 40’s in our secondary schools.
A newly elected School Board has renewed the old practice of question asking but one are remains off limits, the Red Plan. This seems silly to me. The main perpetrators of the Red Plan are gone, Dixon, Wasson, Hustad, Grover etc. Furthermore, it is likely impossible to understand our crowded classes and lost music program without understanding the financing of the Red Plan. Finances have been particularly difficult subject to breach. We have one Board member who insisted for years that we were not taking any money from classroom operations to pay off Red Plan debt. And yet four straight years on her watch we transferred $6 million annually from operations to debt service.
Apparently the Finance Office never wanted to correct her fiscal myopia because she has never recanted her financial ignorance. Art and Harry Welty are a threat to a clearer understanding of our district’s iffy finances. For months I’ve moaned about the document shown to me briefly last January that projected a $13.7 million deficit when I run for reelection in 2017. At no point has the Finance Dept. attempted to assure me that this will be averted.
David Bolgrien who ran against Art Johnston last year (perhaps at the urging of one of our assistant principals) met with me over coffee at a point when I despaired of ever getting along with Art. I was at that point officially neutral about who the western fourth District should elect. David disparaged the days of the “Harry, Gary and Art show.” I suspect that is how the entire Move Forward Duluth crowd talked for years. There is a great desire to get over the Red Plan but to my way of thinking that is leading folks to ignore the elephant in the room. Why is Denfeld in ferment? If you can’t examine the history of the Red Plan it will remain a mystery. If you can’t get honest, practical explanations for the current finances of the District it will remain a mystery. However, the real mystery to me is how the majority of the current school board has come to the conclusion that it must remove one of the question askers and on such pathetic grounds.
I think its worth understanding how a $19 million change order that renegotiates Johnson Controls earning from 14% to 25% can be authorized without a vote of the entire school board. But asking such a question, even after receiving a warning from the State Auditor that such an action is unwarranted, is apparently verboten.
As long as Art Johnston wants to ask the same questions that I have I will be his ally no matter how sullen he gets when he is denied the information he requests. As long as there are 40 kids in our high school classrooms I’ll keep asking why? That’s why I’m quite confident that if the current school board refuses to ask those questions it will be replaced in the 2015 election with a Board that is every bit as curious about the answer as me. I expect that to be the case even if this Board dim wittedly wastes tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers to find some pathetic justifican to remove Art Johnston.
I confidently predict that only death will prevent Art Johnston from serving out a third four-year term on the Duluth School Board.
As always I have a lot more to add. Ah, but I’ve got grandkids to vacation with. Ta ta.