More School Board (and News Tribune) Shaming

A recent letter to the editor from a friend made me wince a bit. It said that some school board members should stay away from high school graduations this year. It was published after I sent in my notice that I intended, as per my usual, to attend all of them. Did my friend have me in mind?

This friend’s concern seemed echoed by our School Board Chair who sent an email to Board members a couple days ago explaining that due to so many special dignitaries invited to hand out diplomas (a task once reserved mainly for school board members) today’s Board members would be limited to handing out diplomas at a single high school. The Chair, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp and Mike Miernicki would hand them out at East while the rest of us would be assigned Denfeld.

My initial reaction to this was: “Who made this decision and why?”

Well, upon reflection several other thoughts crossed my mind, among them, what rational parent would want any Duluth School Board member handing out diploma’s this year after the sorry spectacle we’ve made of ourselves?

Another letter in Sunday’s News Tribune was a little more specific in its criticism of the School Board. Kurt Kuehn wrote in full:

The pandering by this newspaper to Duluth’s powers and to advertisers is pathetic. The real reason the school district dropped its action against School Board member Art Johnston was because its arguments were exposed as mostly a matter of Johnston’s free-speech rights. There was no nobility in the district’s decision.

As far as “doing the right thing,” as the News Tribune’s May 14 “Our View” editorial (“No victory for Johnston”) mentioned, the district and the five defendants should take responsibility for the reckless legal road they took us all down. The School Board can vote to pay Johnston’s legal expenses and then move on in a professional and transparent manner.

As the editorial said, “Inappropriate and abusive behavior by an elected leader, someone in whom we place our confidence and trust and someone who can expect to be held to a high standard, remains unacceptable.” That can be applied also to the School Board majority and, especially, its unwisely chosen leader, Judy Seliga-Punyko. Like her predecessor, Mike Miernicki, she has proven to be completely out of her depth.

Bringing action against Johnston that couldn’t be won on the advice of one of the main players does not rise to this “higher standard.” Wasting at least $43,000 on a pointless investigation doesn’t rise to this “higher standard.” Wasting a year of the board’s time and keeping it from “focusing on the primary mission of our schools, which is the education and well-being of our students, as a School Board statement read, doesn’t rise to this “higher standard.” Quashing debate and dissent doesn’t rise to this “higher standard.”

Finally, there has been an unconscionable lack of leadership throughout this whole fiasco from Superintendent Bill Gronseth. When the going got tough, this superintendent got, his resume out there. If anyone should resign, it should be Gronseth.

Kurt Kuehn


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