Crisis of the moment – a friend sends me an email

From a friend:

Hi Harry!

I’m sorry to have to come to you with a concern, but I hope you can help!

It has come to my attention that the school board intends to vote on Superintendent Gronseth’s budget at your next meeting. Gronseth has proposed cutting the principal at Homecroft Elementary to a .6 position. I do not support this proposal.

It has also come to my attention that Gronseth intends to move Principal Worden from Homecroft Elementary School and I am writing in protest of this decision.

I’m sure you are already aware that Homecroft has endured many changes in leadership in the few short years my child has been attending. If we start with a new principal this fall we will have had 6 principals in the last 12 years. If that’s not bad enough, we will have had 4 in the last 6! This lack of consistency needs to stop. Homecroft deserves a chance to build a long range vision with someone that can lead the charge and be supportive to staff in order to have positive lasting affects on our students.

Principal Worden has already set the ground work for a hopeful future at Homecroft Elementary. She has worked hard to build communication with parents, not just about happenings at school, but also regarding interactions parents can initiate to bolster our children’s education. It’s clear that Principal Worden is working for our kids and it could be very devastating to lose her leadership. I fear it could have a large, lasting affect on this wonderful community school.

I have expressed my concerns with Superintendent Gronseth and he has replied with a form letter that I’m sure several others have received already. I really don’t appreciate the language he’s used to make it sound like the position will be staffed at all times. .6 = 24 hours/week. If we subtract from that the time spent out of the building for regular principal commitments, we aren’t left with much time at all.

I do not support the budget proposal to cut our principal from full time and I strongly support that we keep the principal we have.

Thank you for giving this careful consideration,

XXXXXXXXXXX

And my TMI reply:

XXXXXXXXXXX

You and the children at Homecroft deserve a full time principal. Because we know each other through xxxxxxx I feel an extra responsibility to reply to your message quickly but I am doing so before having all the information at hand to be satisfied with my reply to you.

Remember my first sentence to you as I prattle on and know that I mean it.

Art Johnston, who Supt Gronseth seems to want everyone to hate, explained our financial dilemma in the Trib today. It was an excellent and thoughtful letter. Please read it. We will squander another $80 million of classroom money on building debt before the Red Plan is paid off in 16 years. Compare that to the Red Planner’s promises that building the Red Plan would save us $122 million over the lifetime of its financing.

Fury about this is fruitless. Being sober is required. Happy solutions are hard to make out in the fog that previous administrators have placed the school board in.

I have heard rumors that all our schools will lose their smart boards next year. If this is true and it has been embedded in the same budget that leaves Homecroft with a .6 principal nobody nobody has informed me. As I often tell people “I am only a school board member. Nobody tells me anything.”

I am in a minority. I may not survive this Fall’s election. It is apparent to me that the current Board majority is working overtime to remove the three board members who voted against offering the Superintendent a three-year contract. That would be Art, me and, in two years, Alanna Oswald.

Maybe that would be best for our schools. We could have a lot of Kumbaya and positivity. But it will only change our dire finances if it leads our voters conclude that the positivity should be rewarded with a major self imposed (voter approved) tax hike resulting in a multi-million dollar per year tax hike.

Even if such a referendum passes it will pale compared to the $3.4 million we are stealing from the classroom to pay for Red plan debt every year. That’s 36 teachers lost every year. If we didn’t have to fork that over to bond holders every year it would be easy to find another .4 FTE to fund a full time Homecroft principal.

There is little appetite by the current Board majority to challenge the administration’s budget. At times it seems there is little appetite by the administration to share the details of the budget with the school board. And, to be honest, I am being euphemistic when I say “administration.” When I say that word I am really referring to one person. Perhaps you saw that one person at the DFL convention where the four members of the school board majority had such success in winning endorsements for more of the same. I hate to sound like that idiot Trump but I was sure given a lousy microphone. Paranoia is infectious.

I have explained to other Homecroft parents that I can’t guarantee that I will vote for a full FTE* Homecroft principal because of the sorry state of our current finances. But I will approach our final budget talks with that first sentence very much in mind.

* NOTE TO READERS: “FTE” is jargon for “Full Time Equivalent.” It means a full time employee as compared to a part time employee who could be described as a fraction eg.: .2 (“point two” or two tenths) or .5 (“point five” or half time) etc.