Correction on last post

In the previous post I mentioned that Rep. Erik Simonson was flying in to St. Louis with Denfeld principal Sconniers to root for the Denfeld Robotic’s Team. Wrong! It’s the Activities Director, Tom Pearson, who is flying in with the Principal. That makes more sense.

I don’t always wait in the blog to pass on information I find interesting. This is one of the drawbacks to instant communication. Rather than erase the traces of my mistakes I prefer to highlight them to keep me humble. That way I don’t have to gush too much about my human frailty.

Perhaps the opposite of my tact is the one employed by veteran School Board commentator Loren Martell who anguishes about his mistakes when he makes them in the Duluth Reader. BTW. I like that about Loren.

In a column a couple weeks ago he wrote that Board Chair Annie Harala was a teacher employed by the Duluth Schools. I was the one to tell him it wasn’t so and he damn near withered away on me he was so distraught.

Here is his apology in the subsequent column. Its a doozey:

Striving for accuracy and eating crow

I suspect those not fond of my reporting are more unhappy with me than usual, and rightly so. I mistakenly wrote in my last Reader article that school board Chair Annie Harala is a district employee. She works as the regional coordinator for a multi-county health Board. Because I’d heard (and I believe accurately) that she’d been involved in assuring healthy food choices in district schools, I’d mistakenly assumed she was an employee. I found out Ms. Harala was not a district employee 13 hours too late to change what I’d written. That’s the downside of print, versus the electronic world. Once print is off to the printer, it’s as good as concrete.

This error was unquestionably a regrettable one, and I sincerely apologize to the Chair for it. Looking over the published article, I also discovered a technical slipup. The potential enrollment loss from ISD 709 I identified (eighty students) was based on the current percentage draw into the public school system from Edison’s last eighth grade graduation of 119. Not every student is anticipated to leave ISD 709, however. Edison estimates an 80% matriculation rate of its own students into its new school, which would drop 80 to 64. Another part of the equation–the differential between the number of students Edison hopes to keep within its own system and the full capacity of its high school–I made an editorial decision to exclude because of space consideration and worries about a number overload. (For more insight into this potential problem, reread this paragraph.)

In regard to one other error, I declare my innocence. The highlighted statement that “Edison doesn’t take kids into its system beyond kindergarten” was lifted from an earlier draft of my article by the Reader’s staff. After cross-checking information with the Chair of Edison’s Board, I determined this statement to be inaccurate and had subsequently removed it. In an email to me, Chair Crystal Palmer stated: “As a free public charter school, all students, if residents of Minnesota, are eligible to enroll at (Edison.)” The statement that the school only takes kindergarteners had been removed, and should have stayed OUT, so please hold your stones.

Of course, these technical details pale in comparison to the mistake I did make about the Chair’s employment. I felt awful when I realized, too late, that I’d dropped the ball. I literally felt physically ill when I realized that the Chair would have to live for a whole week with a charge I was responsible for and powerless to do anything about it. I strive very hard for accuracy. I rewrote the article six times and thought I’d nailed down every last detail.

I did correctly report that the Chair’s mom is a district teacher, which undoubtedly means she’s a very nice person, likely even a saint. It also means the question I asked about the Chair’s ability to exercise complete independence from the teachers’ union is still valid. The teachers’ union exerted a lot of pressure on the Board to stop the sale of Central to Edison, and moms can be some of the most influential lobbyists on the planet.

However: if the Chair says “mum” was the word from mom, I’ll believe her.

Finally let me extend my apology to my readers. The reason I hate making a mistake isn’t just because I have to eat crow and suffer a bruised ego, but because I know any mistake undermines my credibility on the many myriad points I made in my article that were painstakingly verified and–as far as I can humanly proclaim–spot-on accurate.