The duplicity of the local Johnson Controlers is highlighted in two recent publications. The first is the news story in the Timberjay which backs the editorial I posted a short time ago. A friend sent me an email of the articles highlights (read lowlights):
Today’s Timberjay ..July 27, 2012..
Lots of GOOD Stuff ..
P. 1 – ISD #2142-
Operation Costs for the New Schools : The District will NOT achieve the operational cost savings reported by JCI… In fact,
school officials recently reported that the school district’s operation costs were up 34% over projected in the just completed nine month school year …. AND we had an extra mild winter .
when …JCI said “restructuring” would save up to $5.6 MILLION the first year.
At the same time, consolidation of the schools has increased the district’s transportation costs by as much as $300,000 annually.
The heating costs at the new South school was DOUBLE ($105,000) that of the of the individual heating costs of the old Albrook ($31,000)and Cotton schools(28,000)… AND we had a MILD winter…. and DOUBLE what JCI officials projected .
Zelda says ..”It’s disappointing and frankly embarrassing because we sold these new schools on the savings they would produce.”
Options for recovery?:
When JCI’s promised energy savings failed to materialize at the city of Duluth’s steam plant two years ago, the city of Duluth ssuccessfully sued JCI for the difference…. but Duluth had a performance contract with JCI, that guaranteed savings.
Zelda said ” she doesn’t think there is anything in the school district’s contract with JCI that requires them to produce the savings they estimated.
Change Orders :
JCI, in an effort to keep construction costs in check, substituted less energy-efficient windows and lighting than had originally been planned.
JCI approved more than 100 change orders early in the construction at South Ridge.
Chet Larson didn’t think JCI ever adjusted its estimate for the operational budget for South Ridge.
Chet Larson said there’s an option of adding wood pellets for supplemental heating. BUT that would require the addition of a different boiler OR conversion of an existing boiler ….
AND he said it wouldn’t make up the difference if the operating costs are DOUBLE the estimate .
Statutory Operating Debt :
Zelda noted that JCI’s restructuring plan was supposed to improve the district’s finances and AVOID STATUTORY OPERATING DEBT.
Ironically, Bruns said, “that’s exactly where the District appears to be headed.
The district’s finances have only worsened since the restructuring was implemented.”
While the recent alternative tabloid the Zenith who’s Richard Thomas is the only local journalist with the freedom to honestly write about Duluth’s ISD 709 has a reality check called “The Truth behind the Red Plan.”
Richard provides numerous examples of quotes from District Administrators which demonstrate the District’s own duplicity. The one that struck me as the most egregious came from the PR person Katie Kaufman who flatly denied that the District and JCI sold the Red Plan by saying it would save the School District a couple million in energy costs once it was built. “Savings were projected based on operating five fewer schools not on any energy savings that might be realized in new buildings.” This is at best a half truth. From the beginning, from when I was on the school board and advocated closing one high school there was no doubt that maintaining unnecessary building space, including energy costs, would save the District money. In fact closing excess, unneeded space became a mantra for Red Plan supporters like the Chamber of Commerce’s CEO David Ross. The funny thing is the current Red Plan may contain almost as much space as the buildings it replaced thereby eviscerating that argument. Further reducing energy costs for transportation and heating were always part of the sales pitch. You can see from the Timberjay article that JCI sold the St. Louis County Schools with the same promise since broken.
What I find most annoying about Ms. Kaufman’s historical revision is that it seems motivated to protect the reputation of the Superintendent who gave her a boost in salary and job protection. There is no need anymore to protect Dr. Dixon’s reputation in Duluth. It is in tatters. Willfully bending the truth to protect Dixon only serves to blind the people of Duluth who need to evaluate their schools with the unblinking honesty that the Duluth News Tribune’s editorialists can’t bring themselves to provide.
A month ago a news story suggested that about 25% of the students in Duluth were dropping out of school. These figures are notoriously difficult to track but for years Minnesota as a whole had about a 10 percent drop out rate which was about what Duluth probably had. If these figures can be born out then the modest successes which today’s DNT story about student testing have been built on the backs of an additional 15% of struggling students who just gave up as our Red Plan stressed classrooms grew in size. They are no longer tested and thus can not bring the overall testing averages down. As far as the Duluth School District is concerned those lost kids can just go and line up outside the Last Place on Earth.