Tempers flare at Duluth School Board meeting as Johnston’s supporters strike back
A speaker promoting civility was followed by a speaker who placed a “Fire! Gronseth” sign in front of Superintendent Bill Gronseth at Tuesday’s Duluth School Board meeting.
The first board meeting following the approval of an investigation into allegations made against member Art Johnston showed strained relationships among members and a crowd of more than 20 Johnston supporters, some wearing T-shirts bearing his name and some displaying anger and derision toward the board while at the lectern or in the crowd during the public comment period.
Paul King cited a word from the civility card handed out by Anita Stech, who runs the Duluth Civility Project.
“Apologize,” he said, during the public comment period. “We should all apologize to Mr. Johnston for your foolish position you took at that last meeting. Withdraw the investigation while you have the chance.”
King led last fall’s effort to defeat the district’s operating levy measures.
He accused the board Tuesday of being “the worst governmental body” in the state.
Johnston is accused of assault or otherwise improper conduct toward Gronseth and board chairman Mike Miernicki, racist or an otherwise improper comment toward a staff member, abuse of authority as a School Board member as it relates to a staff member or members, conflict of interest in relation to a staff member and violation of the board’s code of ethics. An Eden Prairie, Minn., law firm has been hired to conduct the investigation.
The allegations involving Gronseth and Miernicki stem from an incident at the June 4 Duluth East High School graduation, where Johnston confronted each separately about a personnel issue involving his partner, Jane Bushey, who works for the district as a paraprofessional.
Bushey spoke Tuesday, noting the allegations were a result of “lies, accusations and assumptions” against her.
“The only crime Art is guilty of is listening to me, and trusting me and defending my honor,” she said.
Denette Lynch suggested a mediator, or an otherwise less expensive way to solve the dispute.
“You three are having a personal dispute,” she said. “I resent that I and all the other taxpayers are going to have to write a blank check because you three cannot work this out like reasonable adults.”