Column: Learning from our past while investing in our schools’ futureMy love for Duluth is enhanced by my increasing awareness of our community’s remarkable, colorful history. Understanding our shared history enables us to better understand the shared challenges we currently face in Duluth.
By: David Ross, For the Budgeteer News
My love for Duluth is enhanced by my increasing awareness of our community’s remarkable, colorful history. Understanding our shared history enables us to better understand the shared challenges we currently face in Duluth.
With this as a motivation, I read as many books as I can find pertaining to Duluth’s history. This inspires me to make routine pilgrimages to the Duluth Public Library. It is time to confess: I am a library nerd.
My most recent visit to the library was particularly productive. I was able to procure the recently published book, “DJC Remembered — The Life of Duluth Junior College.” It is authored by Margaret Bateman Thomas. She and her book are community treasures.
Her book illustrates how the early 1900s was a transformational time in Duluth. Forward-looking Duluthians, along with members of their Board of Education, provided an astonishing number of new schools for their families and their community. Between 1900 and 1927, 25 new schools were erected: 20 elementary, four junior high, and Denfeld High School. This was in addition to the Central High School, which they had built in 1892.
The funding for these 25 schools, in a 27-year span, was made possible by our gracious and optimistic ancestors. They typically had fewer personal resources than do we. Yet, they gave proportionally far more towards the education of their youth. I am delighted they did.
We are beholden to them.
The closest our community has ever come to matching this commitment to — and investment in — our public schools was between 2008 and today. Just as 1900 to 1927 was a transformative time in Duluth, the past five years have been equally transformative. Community members funded the construction of four new schools and the comprehensive revitalization of our remaining nine schools.
The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce’s leadership is pleased and proud that we made this investment in our public schools. The Duluth Public School District’s 13 new or like-new schools are magnificent. We understand that Duluth competes on a national scale to recruit and retain businesses and talent. Business owners, employees and their families consider and value the quality of our public school system. Consequently, the strength of our schools is paramount to the success of our community.
Eighty-one years passed between the end of the 1900-1927 transformation and the beginning of the 2008-2013 transformation. The intervening generations largely got a pass, drawing from the investment made in the early 1900s. It was too long to do so.
The Chamber’s leadership hopes and trusts that our community will not allow another 81 years to pass before another forward-looking, gracious and optimistic generation reinvests in our beloved community’s public schools.
David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at 740-3751 or firstname.lastname@example.org.