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Our View: End lingering Red Plan resentment

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opinion Duluth,Minnesota 55802 http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/sites/all/themes/duluthnewstribune_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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Our View: End lingering Red Plan resentment
Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

Maybe if the report had demanded that former Superintendent Keith Dixon be hauled back to town, publicly flogged and tossed permanently into the cellar of old Central. Maybe if it had called for the current superintendent’s immediate ouster. Or the kangaroo court-style convictions of select current and former School Board members.

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Maybe then the anti-Red Plan hangers-on would have been happy.

But it didn’t. A review of the spending for the district’s massive school-building overhaul, the Red Plan, by the Office of the State Auditor produced no red flags, no declarations of questionable expenditures and no findings of unaccounted-for funds. The report, presented Tuesday to the School Board, encapsulated a thorough, year-long review of several points of concern raised by former School Board candidate Loren Martell and some 2,000 signers of a petition he circulated calling for the review.

But of course, with no damning results or recommendations, the review was inadequate to Martell and current School Board members Harry Welty and Art Johnston, the leaders of lingering Red Plan resentment.

Martell was disappointed, he said, that a more-complete audit wasn’t done. But the “petition engagement” that was done was well within the auditor’s purview to assure acting in “the public interest,” to quote from the document. The review that was done shouldn’t have come as any surprise to Martell or his fellow petitioners. Before getting started, the state auditor’s office discussed with “petitioner representatives” their main goals, objectives and points of concern. Those proved the focus of the probe.

For the vast majority of district residents, this report from the state auditor offers more reassurance that the Red Plan — even if we weren’t crazy about its $315 million price tag, its closing of Central High School, its adoption without a public vote, or others of its details — was carried out responsibly and with accountability.

Residents already had some reassurance after the Red Plan was picked and pursued following numerous public meetings and a herculean effort to engage the community in the

decision-making. Also, nothing in the Red Plan was taken on or done without a thorough review and approval from the Minnesota Department of Education. We can recall, too, that an alternative plan devised by Red Plan opponents in 2010, the so-called “Plan B,” would have cost more and accomplished less.

So with this most recent reassurance the district finally can move on, putting the hard feelings of the past squarely and permanently in the past. An end can be declared on any more Red Plan rehashing. Martell, Johnston, Welty and others finally can let go of their anger and their long-stated goal of wreaking havoc, creating confusion and riling up anyone they can.

That can all happen. Construction is done, after all, and the district has other issues now on which it must focus with respect and common purpose: still-tight budgets, always-difficult spending decisions, crowded classrooms, an imbalance in student populations and opportunities between western and eastern schools, and unacceptable graduation rates, to name a few.

That all needs to happen. Please. Even if some didn’t get the public floggings they may have been hoping for.

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