In the Dark

We had a reasonably calm school board meeting tonight but it left me with many questions.

It was nice to see David Kirby at a Board meeting two weeks before the election. Its the first time I recall seeing him here. He sat with Nora Samstad who made it through her first full meeting. It was a pretty short one, only an hour and a half long.

Art made a motion to add a policy item to our agenda. He had brought it up to our Board and Chair Seliga-Punyko six weeks ago but the Chair refused to let it be discussed. This is a problem because our rules require a unanimous vote to get anything on the agenda on the day of a meeting. Not surprisingly it was two votes to five to deny Art and me a chance to explain the proposed policy’s merits. It simply said that important information would be shared with the School Board in the future.

Then, at the end of the meeting, Art mentioned the recent loss of another 200 plus students. He showed a chart with all the losses and gains in students since 2005 to the present. There was a spirited discussion which was split. One side felt the discussion hurt our reputation with families. The other, minority, side felt that we needed better information to figure out how to stop the continuing loss of students.

I mentioned that I’d like to conduct exit interviews. To my astonishment one of the majority members said we’d discussed exit interviews three times in the last year. I was too dumbstruck to ask what we learned from them having no recollection of any such discussions.

I learned another fascinating imponderable today. Apparently only 40 percent of the families who appealed a decision to preventing their children from attending schools in different attendance areas got their wish. Last year it was 90 percent. I was shocked to hear this because I was appointed to serve on the Transfer Appeals Committee which makes these decisions. I was never notified of its having met all spring.

This information was shared with folks at the meeting called by Rep. Simonson to discuss the Edison schools and its impact on the ISD 709 Schools. Supt. Gronseth offered up this information much as he suggested that ISD 709 will only lose about 200 students to the new 600 student Edison High School. Maybe we should be doing some pre-exit interviews to make sure.

Annie Harala was the insider Board member who attended the meeting with the Superintendent. When the discussion of the new Edison High School came up Annie asked the Edison folks if they would put an end to the project for the good of everyone. She was informed that the project was too far along to stop. This is one time that “better late than never” doesn’t apply.