It wasn’t only Brenda Casselius and the Minnesota Dept. of Education that got wind of Duluth’s shortcuts. The story was reported in the Duluth News Tribune in a banner headline “Duluth School District Called Out on Curriculum Standards” on March 14. Although the paper would later report the missing subject matter, which the MDE’s report confirmed, it appeared that the MDE decided to focus attention on a less embarrassing problem than not teaching mandatory subjects. Instead, the MDE focused on its discovery that the District had failed to keep its curriculum current for up to ten years. The eduspeak for this is “alignment.”
This was a project that required much summer work by a great many teachers. The School Board had to pony up a couple hundred thousand dollars to get it started. Like the MDE the School Board was more interested in talking about alignment rather than not teaching science but we started the conversation four days after the headlines when we met on March 18th.
One critic told me that our Clerk, Judy Seliga-Punyko, said at that meeting “So what, that MacArthur had to teach only 2 subjects for a year to catch up?” That’s not what Judy said but it is clear that she didn’t dispute that some subjects had been de-emphasized. We talked about this for 23 minutes between starting at minute 49.43 and continuing on until Hour 1:12:20. You will find it here on youtube.
The discussion was dominated by Art, Judy, Mike and me. We were still functioning as a pretty good school board. It would be another three months before the Board majority decided to oust Art. Art was often accused of being uncivil but what I did not realize until the ouster was that Art’s partner had been harassed from the beginning of the school year. Under the circumstances he was remarkably restrained.
Art complains in this video that he had not been given the information about the MDE’s investigation into this delicate subject. I agreed about our being kept out of the loop although I had been having difficulties getting into our email system at the time. Even the superintendent acknowledges the loop when he says, “I spoke with Board leadership,” meaning Chair Miernicki and Clerk Seliga-Punyko. Perhaps the Supt. felt it was up to “the leadership” to inform the rest of the School Board.
Whoever was responsible for keeping the Board in the loop it was a mighty small one. If Art Johnston and I have become outspoken it is largely for this reason.