A CORRECTION AND AN APOLOGY TO MY READERS

First the apology:

I posted a letter to the editor written by a Bruce Johnson and proceeded to beat up another Bruce Johnson that has been a long time friend of mine. I will apologize to my Mr. Johnson shortly. This email today from an acquaintance of the letter’s real author made it clear I had jumped to a very wrong conclusion.

I have no defense. Before I wrote this original post (since deleted) I looked at the current telephone directory and saw a half a dozen Bruce Johnsons. I saw my Bruce Johnson listed among them. I could have dialed him up and asked simply: “Bruce, did you write that letter in today’s paper?” What a simple solution that would have been. He would have told me “I didn’t write it,” and that would have been the end of it. Instead I stuck with my unverified assumption and launched into a mean-spirited response.

Art Johnston also knew a Bruce Johnson, a different one, and was appalled at the letter. He did check with his Bruce Johnson. Art’s Bruce Johnson did not write it either. I’ve since removed the original post and am preparing to apologize to my Bruce Johnson. Whoever the real Bruce Johnson is these are a few criticisms of your letter.

Reader’s view: Patience needed in waiting for the right Central deal
By Bruce Johnson from Duluth on May 28, 2016 at 11:00 p.m.

I applaud the four Duluth School Board members who voted not to sell Central so it could be used by Edison.

There’s a reason for the district’s noncompete policy. Selling Central would have been a short-term fix but a potentially long-term disaster. The former Central High School is in the center of Duluth with plenty of parking and no access-road problem. The future potential draining of students from the public schools could force the district to close one of its two high schools. If I were School Board members Art Johnston, Alanna Oswald or Harry Welty, I would have been extremely concerned about what this sale could have done to Denfeld High’s future.

The noncompete policy springs from the NSBA (National School Board Association) which has long championed monopoly administration of public schools even as the nation has noted the many children who have been failed by their time in school. Bruce and I are both worried for Denfeld’s sake but ironically our Red Plan imposed on Duluth led to Denfeld’s losses as students have fled to surrounding high schools. Bruce would deny Edison parents from keeping their kids in the Edison system but he would do this while ISD 709 struggles with Red Plan imposed monster classes something Edison has managed to avoid.

Currently, our state representatives are working on making the sale of Central more attractive to commercial interests. Patience is needed.

Five year’s worth of patience has only served to put nearly a million dollars into the maintence of a white elephant sitting on property worth little more than six or seven million dollars. I think our board majority’s “patience” will be rewarded in a few more expensive years with a sale of six or seven million dollars. In the meantime our Administration has offered nothing but more cuts to our staffing. As I argued a sale would have netted us three million dollars a year for four years which we could have used to stave off a continuing exodus of our students. Bruce prefers our crumbling monopoly.

We aren’t on a level playing field. Most Duluth taxpayers don’t know that all special education services Edison provides always have been billed to the Duluth public schools. The district gets some state reimbursement, but last year the Duluth district still paid over 30 percent of these costs, or $1.6 million, money coming directly out of our Duluth classrooms for students we don’t even educate and for whom we get no state aid. As of this year, state legislation requires Edison to pay 10 percent of this unreimbursed expense.

Of all Bruce’s complaints this is the most annoying. I do think that we need to negotiate a more healthy relationship with Edison where Special Ed is concerned. I’m distressed that the Trib didn’t make Bruce research this claim. The Tribs editors have often made me research claims I have put into my letters to the editor. At the very least this special ed claim, trumpeted by ex-Chair Judy Seliga-Punyko, deserves a news story. Here’s my take on Bruce’s claim. $1.6 million of Federal money was transferred by ISD 709 to Edison because it not ISD 709 was educating the special ed students it was used for. Why should ISD 709 get to keep the money meant for Edison’s children when we were not educating them?

Edison’s working within the system. I would, however, support legislation to have Edison pay its own costs. Let it deal with the state and Duluth taxpayers.

School Board members need to look to the long-term success and survival of our quality public schools. That’s their job and why they were elected.

I disagree with member Welty when he states that not selling Central for Edison’s use puts the district at great risk. It’s just the opposite.

And I disagree with Bruce.