Today’s Trib story about the School Board candidates speaking at the Chamber of Commerce Forum was covered by two reporters. Normally Jana Hollingsworth covers all the Educational news but this election has posed a problem for the Tribune. Jana’s Aunt, Jill Lofald, is a candidate and the Trib and Jana insist that this creates a conflict of interest so that Jana has written nothing about that race. For today’s story on the candidates for the 1st and 4th District candidates reporter Tom Olson took over.
All school board candidates were asked about seven questions and given one minute to answer each. Its tempting to take up all the time although I challenged myself and generally cut my answers even shorter than that. On one of the questions asked me I did nudge up to the sixty second mark and concluded by saying we board members talked for endless hours on the subject and I was pleased to have been given a minute at the forum to address it. That got a little laugh from the audience. The endless hours of talking by Board members would have been true of most issues.
Tom Olson’s story mentions Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s absence. She missed the previous day’s big poverty themed question period too. Some of us suspect she has gotten nervous about public appearances but Mr. Olson reported that she had family business to attend to. She has managed to substitute nicely with a great many testimonial letters-to-the-editor from her supporters.
Olson captured the essence of the campaign in western Duluth – equity and the future of Denfeld. The differences between Jill Lofald and Art Johnston could be boiled down to a single issue. Is selling Central High School to Edison (which may no longer be possible) a threat to Denfeld? Jill says yes and asked the audience if it would make sense for a barber to sell part of his shop to a rival barber. Art is of the mind that we needed the money and that Denfeld’s biggest threat is too little resources.
If Edison no longer intends to build a high school that issue is moot. But when it was on the table I never saw a threat of closing Denfeld. The threat is and continues to be that the last ten years have been tough on Denfeld with school busses from Wrenshall and Proctor cruising through Duluth to poach western Duluth students. As long as Denfeld continues to be perceived as a lesser high school that will continue as well as the steady drift of western students to eastern schools.
Jana Hollingsworth did cover the At-Large candidate discussion and emphasized the discussion of school boundaries. Jana summed up each of the four at large candidates thoughts. Of mine she reported:
“The last thing we want to do is put a gun to a parent’s head,” he [Welty] said, and force them to change schools. At a previous forum, however, he suggested making one of the high schools for freshmen and sophomores and one for juniors and seniors.
My short term suggestion is to make the Western schools more desirable by pumping more into them especially the compensatory ed money which Duluth skews east. That is easier said than done. As I told the audience, previous school boards traded teachers for new schools.
Word is that if teacher Lofald is elected Jana Hollingsworth will be taken off the public school beat by her editors. I understand that no Tribune reporters are eager to replace Jana. I wonder why?