Mark Lanthier, Duluth, Minnesota
What a hypocrite he is the one who did not want the children of Duluth to have safe schools. It is in the same yard that had sign that said no to safe school. Shame on you Harry!
I read your comments regarding my not caring about the safety of Duluth’s Children on a webpage with a picture of my recent snow sculpture. Your comment was bitter and unfair. What happened at Sandy Hook was a punch to my gut – all of our guts. Back when I served on the school board I visited dozens of kindergarten classes and brought my favorite books to read and a pair of gorilla slippers. I love little kids and I take my own kindergarten grandson to school every Wednesday. His picture would fit in perfectly with the twenty photos that the Duluth News Tribune recently put on its front page.
Your beef with me is over the Red Plan and my continuing complaint that Duluth didn’t get to vote on it and my well publicized suspicion that the Red Planners were repeatedly dishonest.
One of the many claims of the supporters of the Red Plan was that our schools were unsafe. To remedy this they intended to make it easier to monitor visitors. This was a worthy goal. However, it did not take 259 million dollars to install new doors and cameras to accomplish this.
One of the many requests of Red Plan critics was to scale back the plan and Dr. Dixon convinced the editors at the Duluth News Tribune that he had worked hard to make the critics happy. Not hardly. After feigning compromise the cost of Dixon’s Red Plan grew by an additional $56 million to 315 million.
Do you truly believe that our Red Plan schools are safer today than the old schools were ten years ago now that high school class sizes routinely hit 40 students? (It was a rare class that had 34 kids in it when I was on the School Board) How has the overcrowding affected safety?
I have a friend to teaches at one of our high schools and she is fearful and discouraged. With a much worse teacher to student ratio this is understandable. The loss of teachers is one legacy of the Red Plan although it was unintended. This should not have come as a surprise. Our District told the State we would finance the Red Plan in part by taking five million out of classroom spending to pay for the debt on the Red Plan. We told the state we could do this because the plan would save us money by, among other things, saving a million in energy spending each year (reduced square footage to heat and cool and clean) and two million in annual staff savings. They gambled and they lost. They have to pay off the bonds so teachers were cut to make the payments leaving us with 40 kids to a classroom. That has proven to be a safety concern.
This year we’ve had numerous stories in the Duluth News Tribune about hostilities between our two new high schools. They have also reported that Denfeld has witnessed a number of fights. The year before they often reported that there were fights at Woodland Middle School where the District moved kids in a willy nilly rush to accommodate a speeded up construction schedule.
Fathers and Mothers and children crave stability. The problems associated with the Red Plan have made families desperate to abandon the District. Student test results, to the extent that they mean anything, have gotten worse. Ah, but the schools are newer and shinier.
My top motivation was not fighting the Red Plan. It was fighting for our right to vote on it. I might have voted for it myself given the chance even though it was by far the biggest public school construction plan in the history of the State of Minnesota. My second motive was to insure that our taxes went first to people not bricks and mortar. As for safety, another high priority, that could have been accomplished at a fraction of the cost of the Red Plan.
I may not be through with the Duluth Schools, Mark, so I’d like you to take what I’ve written to heart before you repeat the accusation that I don’t care about our children’s safety.
Harry Welty, snow sculptor, teacher, grandfather