There was a thought provoking story in the Sunday Trib about counseling for high school kids. Students at East High, including the very thoughtful Jude Goosens who sits next to me at Board meetings are pressing for more resources for kid’s mental health. This was prompted by the recent suicide of a well liked member of the remarkable East Robotics team.

This is nothing new. In the nineties there was a spate of suicides in Duluth and students called for similar help. Just two years ago an East student who had endured the chaos at Woodland when whole student bodies were moved en mass to accommodate expedited Red Plan construction took his life in his first year at East.

Our Administration never acknowledged that the atmosphere at our schools had anything to do with the death despite the family’s claim to the contrary. When the family’s minister met with the Superintendent he asked if a meeting could be arranged with him and the family. The family was given to understand that this was possible but to wait until after the 2013 election. There was a school finance referendum on the ballot.

Yesterday my Buddy challenged my contention that moving kids around “higgledy piggledy” would harm their education:



Moving children about higgledy piggledy as construction took precedence over teaching and surreptitiously bleeding resources from the classroom to pay for it led to plummeting student achievement.
But did it? Coincidence, per se, is not proof of causation.

Further, what is achievement? Having been taught to perform well on tests? Did the children who were higgledy piggledy moved about, learn nothing from the experience?

I have been moving about, outside of educational institutions, for more than 50 years, but I am disinclined to suppose that my learning has plummeted during that time.

[Your Buddy]

I replied:


That’s a very rational question and the answer is far from an obvious yes or no. It depends on the child. One of my favorite movies was about the glorious childhood of an English kid during the bombing of London and how much fun it was for him to scamper over bombed out buildings. I think it was called Hope and Glory.

That said, there was a lot of chaos in our schools and chaos is just that, chaotic. Add to that the siphoning off of classroom money and you have taken some steps backward. Then, there were the advantaged families who pulled their children out to attend competing school districts – something you would favor- and a growing number of more free and reduced kids in our classes (which is not the fault of ISD 709). It all adds up to more stress. Even larger classes aren’t necessarily bad unless you have kids in them who are not well equipped to be ignored. These are all after effects of the Red Plan and its implementation.

I’ve described this transition in more detail in the past so this time I just described it in shorthand to concentrate on the real gist of the story – the abandonment of science and social studies to teach only math and reading and writing. I can even live with that as an experiment and it helped our test scores shoot up. However, if I had a bright kid who had to suffer all year doing the stuff that all the other poor testers did and miss the enrichment of a varied curriculum I’d be angry too.

The district, as is its want, made life hell for the complaining parent because she worked in the District. I kinda like whistle blowers and I kinda despise control freaks who dissemble about their strong arm tactics.


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