Giving the Duluth School District short shrift

I presume that one hallmark of my eight loyal readers is their interest in following my observations about the Duluth School District. That’s understandable. I’ve been an integral part of the District for 12 years as a School Board member and many more as a curious and opinionated observer watching the District as an outsider. Well the past summer I’ve almost stopped posting about anything other than details related President Trump and my challenge of his new best buddy, Pete Stauber, and his congressional campaign. Well, that will change. Now I’m into France and back to my obligation to pontificate about the Duluth Schools.

To that end I commend the latest column by Loren Martell in the Reader. Loren’s most valuable gift to Duluth is taking down the actual recorded quotes of our elected representatives during the mostly unwatched Duluth School Board meetings. Its a dreadful responsibility that he’s taken on.

I will share one telling quote from the last meeting taken down by Loren with a few sharp observations but first you should know that I expect to diverge from Loren’s take on the biggest issue facing the District this November. That is the referendum for increasing local taxes to prop up the badly hobbled, Red Plan plagued District.

I will support all three levels of increased support that the District is asking for. I know, I know! Property taxes are the most “regressive” taxes. They lean heavily on the poor both homeowners and renters and landlords giving the rich Red Plan crazed enthusiasts a pass. I know, I know! Passing the levy will allow a Superintendent I have little confidence in a victory that may saddle the District with his presence far into the future. I know, I know! The residents of Duluth have been taken for a costly ride on the Red Plan with no stop at Go to collect $200.00. I’m sorry. Our kids are worth it.

Now, about that quote from Jill Lofald. When I first heard that Jill was planning to run for the school board I was enthusiastic. I thought she might run against Annie Harala and me. Then I discovered she was running against Art Johnston. My suspicion was that she had been recruited to become another cheerleader for Supt. Gronseth. I think I was right. Also, Jill struck me as yet another district insider, like her predecessors Mike Miernicki and Bill Westholm, who would never have the courage to make anyone mad by (gasp) taking a hard necessary stand. Loren makes it clear that that fear of mine has legitimate:

Here’s Jill’s quote related to the unwillingness of the Superintendent to pass on the financial details concerning the District to the elected members of the School Board:

During the 8 years of his tenure, former Board member Art Johnston cracked the whip relentlessly on this same issue–the school board kept in the dark about specific cuts and other budget details. During this meeting, the individual who ousted Mr. Johnston from his 4th district seat showed everyone why the supreme leader of our school district, Captain Gronseth, prayed daily she would win in the last election.

“I think (this) is just the way our job rolls.” Member Lofald began her put-down of member O’s complaint. “We are going to be blamed for things that have made decisions in specific buildings. But what we can share with our constituents is that, we, as a Board, give direction to our leadership, and they know best where the best cuts have to be made…And so, our response to constituents is that we are trusting our leadership to make cuts that aren’t impacting instruction or students’ learning, as best they can.”

Member L. continued her lecture: “If we’re going to come into a Board meeting and then get nit-picky…then all of our personal baggage comes into the conversation in here, which I don’t think that is going to move us forward. And so, I do believe the budget — it is a big part of our vote — (but) it seems like, even in our campaigning — you, know — we were supposed to be the best financial Board members that we can be, and sometimes I think we all hang our hat on trying to understand the budget, when I think there’s so much more we can be visioning…”

Lofald went on about how the Board should let “our leadership” go “where it needs to go.”

We’ve obviously had exemplary leadership in ISD 709 for several years now, and it’s probably pointless to repeat that the Board is responsible for fiscal control. How can you claim to be performing due diligence towards this primary responsibility if all you’re doing is sitting there, repeating over and over, “We trust Administration!” It’s like a ship’s navigator being unable to read navigational charts.

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