A real school board mtg.

I got home late tonight after spending some time with my two grandsons and turned on the TV a little after Ten. I could hardly believe it when at 10:15 a little channel surfing led me to the Duluth School Board which was still in session. I watched till 11PM when they took a brief recess. The new board members were told that the meeting would have to end when they ran out of video tape to record the meeting at 11:30. I decided to stop by and watch the conclusion of the meeting.

Good old Art Johnston was explaining how he’d like a contract for the Denfeld Sr. High which guaranteed energy savings since the project was being touted as “green.” Dr. Dixon was absent but his substitute the finance director, Bill Hanson, explained that any reductions for energy would have nothing to do with energy efficiencies but result from a reduction of District building space by 25% so that there would be less space needing heating and cooling. Art explained that under the Red Plan the District would only see a 13% reduction in space so that the promised savings would never come through. Its gratifying to have an engineer on the school board.

When I arrived I hunkered down in the back of the Board Room with a couple friendly LDVers who looked shocked and delighted to see me come out from hiding. I asked for a little history of the meeting and one of my friends pointed to Chair Grover’s wife who was busy typing away at a computer. My friend was sure Ms. Grover was writing Ralph Doty’s next column for the Budgeteer.

I wanted to take a note to one of the new Board member suggesting that when the tape ended they move to continue the meeting at a later date. I didn’t need to. Art moved to adjourn the meeting for a week rather than to have it go unrecorded. He lost that vote 4-3, of course so the meeting continued on until midnight. Coverage of the debate on the Plan B referendum will be limited to this blog since the Trib’s reporter had long since departed to turn in a story before adjournment. That’s too bad because the old board’s arrogance was on full display. Of course, that kind of stuff rarely makes the paper even when the Trib’s reporter has witnessed it.

Tom Kasper noted that after bragging about how much the Homecroft site had come in under budget the District had decided to spend an additional $800,000 on Homecroft in change orders for prettier wainscoting.

Tom argued that in our tough times it would be nice to pass the savings from low bids back to the taxpayers. The Administration argued against saving the money. No surprise there. JCI and the building community know how much money is available and aren’t about to let low bids deprive them of one cent of the full $293 million – taxpayers be damned. The only thing a little disappointing about Tom’s comments was his apologetic tone for raising the subject such was his deference to Duluth’s rabid Civility Police.

After voting to OK $800,000 for cosmetic construction the old Board members fought the idea of spending a measly $90,000 to fund the long delayed referendum on Plan B. Ann Wasson who was happy to install wainscoting complained about spending precious operating money to let people vote.

During the discussion Kasper raised the subject of holding an operating levy referendum too. (money for the classroom) He reminded the Board that Dr. Dixon had said the only way to pass an operational levy was with a united Board and hinted that Ann Wasson’s attempt to postpone a Plan B vote for another nine months was a poor way to unite a School Board.

Chair Grover chided Kasper and said he thought it was inexcusable for any school board member to imperil classroom spending just because he was ticked off about voters being treated like cow manure.

I rolled my eyes at this. Tim Grover did the same damn thing Tom hinted about when the two of us served on the School Board together. He even held me up to public ridicule for voting to spend an authorized operations levy in the classroom. (Tim wanted me to give it back to the taxpayers and put be on the spot because he had previously extorted a promise from me not to spend the money in the classroom. Had I not made the promise to him Tim would have opposed offering a levy just as Tom Kasper was hinting he might.) We were buddies back in 1998 so, although I was chagrined that Tim would do this to me I took his guff with good humor even when former Board member Brad Bennett took to the radio airwaves to call me ACDC Welty. (ACDC is shorthand for a bisexual. Brad meant that I was a guy who claimed to be a fiscal conservative on the one hand while being a big spender on the other.)

I didn’t need to stick around and hear Tim hyperventilate when he had a 4-3 majority to do whatever he wanted. I walked out of the nearly vacant Board Room and after entering the hallway called out “hypocrite” in a very loud voice.

Come and get me Civility Police.

About the author