Planning for the new school yearIn mid-July, probably the last thing anyone thinks about is the coming school year. Except a superintendent and staff, of course. There’s rarely “down time” a district this size, but with school out, the pace is not quite so hectic.
By: Bill Gronseth, Duluth Budgeteer News
In mid-July, probably the last thing anyone thinks about is the coming school year. Except a superintendent and staff, of course. There’s rarely “down time” a district this size, but with school out, the pace is not quite so hectic.
It’s been a good time for me, personally, to think about the past six months – basically the duration of my tenure as superintendent.
Working with staff, parents and community leaders, we’ve made progress. The budget is balanced for the coming year, the two middle schools are ready to open, the review-and-comment process for the last two school projects is complete and construction is underway. During the recent floods our schools sustained little damage, so we were in a good position to provide assistance with the relief effort by providing space for emergency shelter and response coordination. My heart goes out to those in our community who are struggling to recover from this devastation.
The past six months have included a great deal of time visiting with families, community leaders and groups, teachers and staff. Topics of discussion include curriculum, policies, budgets and the school construction
Most recently I had coffee with a Central High School alumnus. We both graduated from Duluth schools around the same time and we shared some great memories and stories about being students. He told me how his parents, like my own, had graduated from Duluth schools. He talked about his own kids
and what their experiences had been in ISD 709.
He shared with me that he has been a longtime supporter of the schools, but during the last levy vote he didn’t feel he could vote “yes.” I asked him why. He explained that it was a loss of confidence — he didn’t really understand what the money was for and was confused about the facilities plan and how that might be tied to money for programs. He wanted answers. He wanted a voice in the process. He wanted to believe in our schools again.
His comments echo what I’ve heard from others in our community. In short, while there continue to be feelings of support there are also feelings of hurt, confusion and in some cases a lack of trust. The people I’ve talked to recognize this situation is not beneficial to our children and community. Whether they support the schools or not, whether they were for the school closings or against them, they agree that something must be done to bridge the gap, pull people together and build support around our schools.
They also agree there is no easy fix; such an effort must be long-term, not just for a couple weeks or months. It must include an open sharing of educational and fiscal information, and generate two-way discussion regarding student achievement and finances. It also requires willingness on the part of educational leaders and community leaders to form strong partnerships and work cooperatively for the betterment of all.
As the new school year approaches, I look forward to working with people inside and outside our schools to begin the long-term planning and discussions related to this important effort.
Bill Gronseth is the superintendent of
Duluth Public Schools. Contact him at (218)336-8752 or email william.gronseth@ duluth.k12.mn.us.