Mire 1 – Sweating the Details

WDIO’s coverage of the Many Rivers purchase offer:

http://www.wdio.com/news/many-rivers-montessori-duluth-school-board-sale/4276545/?cat=10335

These quotes from the story that caught my attention:

Annie Harala, board chair, did not tell the board about Many Rivers’ offers when they came in and stands by her decision. She said the board had already spoken.

“We have a policy in place in our district that states that we don’t sell to E12 institutions, and that was reaffirmed by our board earlier this summer in a very public discussion,” Harala said, referencing Duluth Edison’s offer to buy Central High School.

“We have a lot of decisions that come up month by month by month, and it’s important that we don’t get mired in that continuous detail,” Harala said.

There is a lot to unpack here but other than restating my conviction that keeping fellow board members in the dark about the opportunity to raise a million dollars or more when we are annually transferring $3.4 million a year from the classroom into Red Plan Bond repayments is 1. Either insane or 2. duplicitous. Beggers can’t be choosers and yesterday’s short letter to the editor perfectly described our plight:

I believe that if the Duluth school district was financially stable, deciding whether to sell closed buildings so they can be reused by others as schools would be a different situation. But the district isn’t (“Many Rivers wants to buy former school,” Sept. 21).

The public is the one hurting from the School Board’s decisions not to sell properties. We pay the taxes. How much money will it take to keep these empty buildings heated and up to par?

Sell these properties and let’s move on from this issue.

Rocco Schinigoi

But I’ll save my stongest thoughts for this slap in the face:

“…it’s important that we don’t get mired in that continuous detail.”

One million dollars not a small detail. We could try to remove five school board members with it at the Johnston Rate of $200,000 per board member. Its enought to hire eleven teachers for a year. Its enough to lower secondary class sizes for a year by a couple students per. Its enough to provoke an insurrection by School Board members who care about these sorts of things and resent being given an opportunity to do something about them.

“Mired…in detail.”

Since I got back on the Board I have been astonished by the George Bush-like lack of curiosity about what’s going on in our school district. Until I got back on the Board there apparently was no questioning at School Board meetings. I was grateful that Annie joined Art and me in asking questions about details. The other board members seemed to take for granted that they already knew all that there was to know and in many cases their chief contribution was to tell us all how things were done in the old days. I’ll be honest I do the same thing and I’ve been gently advised that this sort of pontification just makes other member’s eyes roll. Tough. I started working for this district in 1981 and I have some perspective.

But mosty I ask questions – a lot of them as does Art Johnston and Alanna Oswald. I would hazzard a guess that between ourselves we ask 80% of the questions of staff at our committee meetings and the other four members the other 20%. Until Julio Almanza left that’s how it always was. Last night at Bulldog’s Pizza I saw my predecessor on the Board who used to drive her board colleagues crazy with detail questions that sometimes lasted until 11PM. Its rare that we go much past 9:30 but apparently this is too much detail for some Board members who, like me, would enjoy getting home to watch ourselves on the news. Sorry Fox News with your 9PM start. You are out of luck and deadline range but I have to give you kudos for your Tuesday report on the Many Rivers’s purchase offer.

Three of us are trying to negotiate a relatively painless discussion which would allow all Board members including those Chair Harala believes settled school sales forever last spring. As the KDLH story makes clear we now have that right. That is both guaranteed by state statute and our recently changed policies. Policies are not carved in stone and can be changed – even a policy forbidding us to sell old empty schools to other school organizations.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."