My reply to an anonymous email

From: “Minkdevil”
To: “Harry Welty”
Sent: 16-Dec-2016 02:37:28 +0000
Subject: School Sales

At least someone can sell a damn school!

Sent from ProtonMail, encrypted email based in Switzerland.

To which I replied:

Howdy Minkdevil,

I prefer to correspond with folks by name rather than pseudonym. My name is out there and I wish more people were confident enough to step out from anonymity. At least your email is pretty straight forward and I’m happy to comment on this story you sent me.

The implication in your lone sentence is that we need people with business acumen to sell schools. Your comment implies that School Boards are lousy business people. Yup. Yup. Yup. I’m an ex-history teacher not a salesman. I tried selling insurance years ago and hated it. I remember persuading people that they needed insurance only to have them buy it from [my competitors]. I ain’t no Donny Trump.

The fact is schools are built to be schools. When you refuse to let buyers keep them as schools they have to dig deep to re-purpose the buildings. That’s risky. Old Schools are white elephants and spending millions to demolish the buildings is the quickest way to get rid of them. As it is we are spending a quarter million a year to heat our remaining schools in the winter and monitor them for vandalism for the rest of the year.

Selling them on the cheap to a real wheeler-deeler like Sherman makes the most sense. The problem is that when our Board designed the financing for the Red Plan they built an unreasonable expectation that they could sell a half dozen old buildings for $20 plus million dollars. It will never happen and because of it we are transferring money from our classrooms to pay off the bonds we used to pay for the Red Plan construction.

I think Sherman still owns the old Lincoln School which he bought for one dollar. In the meantime he has sold a couple of old schools some of which he did not buy from the School District. For instance Jefferson School was sold long before the School Board put a covenant on the sale forbidding the building to be used as a school. Guess who uses Jefferson’s first floor? Its Many Rivers Montessori.

You sent this story to one of the three school board members who is willing to sell Central to the Edison Schools. Ditto a sale to Many Rivers.

But even Sherman has his limits. He toyed with buying the Nettleton School for a couple years that we had to pay $35,000 a year to heat the building while he considered his options. He recently backed out of the sale. As the story notes he has a much bigger fish to fry in Duluth the fixing up of the Northshore Theater. I don’t fault him. He’s a businessmen and we have a firesale he didn’t want to get burned in.

The part time School Board isn’t designed to make money. Its elected to oversee the administrators of the local schools. About the best we can do is try not to let empty schools end up being a drain on the system. We are handicapped by the decisions of previous Boards which spent too much and gambled that leaving a half dozen old schools on the market during a period of financial straights [would pay off]. Those Boards left future Boards holding the bag.

Please send the story to the Board members who want to hang on to the old schools.

All the best
Harry Welty

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