At this year’s Minnesota School Board Association conference I noted with interest that during the annual awards ceremony the entire seven member school board for the St. Louis County Schools was called up for special attention. They had managed a singular accomplishment. All seven had completed the many little seminars available to all Minnesota School Boards by the Association for the year.
I did this myself in my earlier years on the Duluth Board but back then none of my fellow Board members did much of this stuff so I was all by my lonesome during the award.
What makes this all the more notable is the vast size of the St. Louis County System. It includes all the sparsely settled portions of St. Louis County and the members who are far from St. Paul are also far from each other. I’ll bet some of them drive fifty miles to get to school board meetings. Maybe a lot farther.
And yet, Like Duluth, they marched to Johnson Controls tune to build a massive new facilities plan which has riven the District ever since. The biggest difference was that their voters who just barely passed a referendum got to vote on it whereas (to use my favorite word of the week) didn’t get to.
To sell it the school administrators did all sorts of things like lie about the District’s finances to voters. This has been the epic investigation that led to the tiny little Timberjay Newspaper receiving accolades from the state’s newspaper association. I have a couple folks who send me all the latest on the ongoing controversy which has gotten the St. Louis County Schools repeated hand slaps by various courts. I really don’t have time to read it all but the latest 26 page ruling by an administrative court is interesting. It explains the role Decision Resources had in telling voters how foolish it would be not to build all new schools. This is run by Bill Morris the fellow who did the same for the Red Plan at its inception and who I listened to with interest at the MSBA Conference when he explained that families leaving ISD 709 could no longer be counted on to support our local referendums.
The Law judges outline among other interesting things the many charges a local Duluth consultant charged JCI for work related to selling the building bond to local voters. This firm worked for them in Duluth and judging by what it earned on the relatively small St. Louis County Schools it must have done much better on its billing for the Red Plan. These costs would all be considered “soft costs” that added up to $84 million in the case of the Red Plan…..all of which the Duluth School Board has refused to make public. By the way, I’ve suspected for four years that this firm was paying someone to assassinate my character. The someone almost talked the Duluth Tribune’s editors into printing a story that I threatened his children. If this is the sort of expense we would find in the soft costs no wonder the district is so intent on keeping all of them (84 million taxpayer dollar’s worth) hushed up.
By the way one other notable thing about these award winners. Last year they racked up an astonishing legal bill of about $700,000 on a case they lost and should never have pursued in Court.