Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you

As I was about to head early to yesterday’s school board meeting I thumbed through my notes I discovered to my great annoyance that I had overlooked a 5 O’clock meeting to discuss negotiations “parameters” behind closed doors. We had called the same meeting the week before and two Board members weren’t in attendance so we postponed it and I failed to note the change to today. Practicing my most inelegant vocabulary inside the safety of my Toyota I got to the meeting over an hour late with eight minutes to spare. I shared my thoughts with great economy and was relieved to discover that the Board members who were going around the table seemed to share my thinking. Had I not been charging my cell phone I might have heard the urgent text message that the Superintendent sent me when I failed to show up.

The official 6:30 meeting followed and with an hour and a half of public comment we didn’t adjourn until 10PM. We gave the go-ahead to the administration to proceed with a budget that will require making $2.3 million in cuts after adding three-quarter-of-a-million to the expense side. Before voting for it I asked a question that had already been answered – would all the initial elements of this budget still be in play until we finally adopt a budget in June. The answer was “yes” so it was easy enough for me to vote “yea” knowing that I had two more do-overs.

The Trib gave a good reading the meeting. My biggest concern will be how we deal with the spending recommendations of the Denfeld community which has some powerful arguments for the District’s financial attention next year.

For me the most interesting thing that took place last night followed the meeting. I sit by the Superintendent during meetings and we write each other the occasional note. Bill (I’m beginning to call him by his name in informal settings to remove the distance that referring to him as “Superintendent” imposes) drew a picture of a mug of beer with a frothy head on it on his note pad and I replied by jotting down the question, “IPA or root.” He laughed and wrote “IPA.”

I only knew that the acronym stood for something having to do with beer. Its not what I thought but it definitely means beer. After the meeting I asked if he was suggesting hoisting a brew and he assented. I asked if he wanted to invite more school board members along and he did not object. Three of the board members had already beaten a hasty retreat but Art, Alanna and I coaxed Chair Kirby into joining us and we met down at Canal Park where we chatted and noshed.

For me this was a return to the past. When I first joined the Board in 1996 Board members and administrators adjourned to Grandma’s or the Green Mill to unwind. We didn’t talk shop. That’s forbidden under the open meeting laws. Instead we kibbutz-ed and got to know one another. We are on the honor system whenever a potentially fatal quorum forms. The closes we got to such a flirtation was when Art quipped that he wasn’t the longest winded Board member at the previous official meeting.

David and I talked medicine, children (our own), and classic movies. Alanna and the Superintendent talked about Western Duluth and the old days with Art. It was fun and I hope its repeated with even more board members after future meetings. It was a small but welcome step away from the Civil War I was plunged into in my first two years back on the school board.