It will be fascinating to see how the Duluth District fares over the next few years. I’ve characterized the School Board’s role as one not just of Keystone Cops like action but of despoliation. For the last year I’ve dreaded the decision that was recently adopted by the Duluth Northstar Academy – to go ahead with a new highschool.

That put me in a funk for most of the weekend as I built flower pot holders for the sundeck. I’ve bemoaned the potential loss of another 600 to 700 high school students from ISD 709 to Edison at roughly $10,000 per student per year or $6 to 7.5 million annually. At $90,000 a teacher that would be a potential net loss to the teaching ranks for the District of 70 more teachers.

This may have been entirely unnecessary. Had the District taken my advice we would have approached Edison and asked their board what we could do to keep families in 709 after Edison’s middle school years. It might not have made a difference. The Edison families were hell bent on having their own high school but because of our drawn out soap opera on the Board there was no oxygen left in the room to forestall what to even the optimistic eyes must seem like certain calamity.

Our Superintendent however did not see this coming. When I suggested this alarming possibility he said that it wouldn’t be so problematic because 60% of Edison’s students go on to attend either Marshall School or the Harbor View Charter. I do not know where the Superintendent got his figures but I find it comical to think that the minuscule Harbor View has room for these kind of numbers or that typical Edison families are prepared to pay five figure tuition payments annually for each child to have them transfer to Marshall. I’ll stick to my prediction that we will be the net losers of most of the soon to transfer Edison students which will include in due course my own grandsons.

This decision is not without risk to Edison. I worry that they will have to transfer resources from the current school to the new highschool thereby hurting the attractiveness of the early grades while falling far short of what the ISD 709 schools will be able to offer. We could have at least talked with Edison if our Board wasn’t so inclined to invite Steve Lindstrom’s pen and our Superintendent so dismissive of our potential future losses.

Loren Martell has once again done a superb job chronicling our Board’s dysfunction in the Reader Weekly. Loren records our meetings and so can put in print what goes on. He has quoted Paul Goosens who addressed us after witnessing the special (I love that word) meeting to censure Art Johnston:

“I wasn’t going to speak tonight, but I changed my mind. After witnessing the recent episode (the just-completed, absurdly dysfunctional censure meeting), it just really compelled me to share with the Board some observations and feedback. I periodically do leave Duluth and visit with people around the State–relatives and friends–some of whom serve on school boards.”
Mr. Goosens went on to relay a conversation he’d had just the previous weekend. “(This person) gets the Minnesota School Board Association news, and here’s (his) characterization: You guys are a case study in poor leadership and governance. (This is someone) with no horse in the race. Doesn’t care about sides. Doesn’t care about Art (Johnston); doesn’t care about anyone else. That’s harsh: “A case study in poor governance and leadership!’ Poor conflict management. Poor governance. Poor management of majority power. Intolerance of disagreement and disagreeable people. Poor meeting management. (Other school board members) watch your YouTube videos. Seriously, other Board members are studying you people. It’s fascinating. My less mature side finds it just funny–humorous. I wanted to bring popcorn tonight, but I was running late. But then it settles into a level of disappointment and absolute embarrassment. It’s embarrassing. It’s all about (getting) the last word, “this is what you’re modeling?” (Chair Seliga-Punyko gives a lecture about modeling behavior at every meeting.) I suspect most of the what–9000 students? (in the schools) function better than this. And it was really disappointing to see this tonight, because it appears that it’s likely to continue”

I’ve been meeting with Mr. Goosens off and one for a year to talk about how we might have our Districts work cooperatively. I can hardly blame him for his characterization of our school leadership. I just hope our respective schools don’t end up like our school board as scorpions in a bottle.

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