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Candidate's view: The expensive red plan for Duluth schools needs revision

Duluth has excellent schools. My goal if re-elected is to continue to work to provide students a world-class education and to realize the Duluth school district's potential to become the best in the state. I'll continue to support responsible fis...

Duluth has excellent schools. My goal if re-elected is to continue to work to provide students a world-class education and to realize the Duluth school district's potential to become the best in the state. I'll continue to support responsible fiscal planning and management, fairness and equity across the district, and enrichment opportunities (such as athletics and the arts) at all grade levels.

I voted "no" on the current long-range facilities plan -- the red plan -- because it is too costly and because it would leave the 3rd District with far fewer schools than the rest of the school district, and no high school at all. The 3rd District is a quarter of ISD 709; in the interest of fairness, equity and quality education for all students, the 3rd District must have schools that are accessible, just like every other district.

I support a three-high school plan; it is what we have now, and it works. Duluth's high schools do not need to consolidate and become larger. Most high schools in Minnesota are the size of -- or smaller than -- Duluth's current schools, and compared to the rest of the state our students perform very well.

I believe the red plan needs to be downsized and reworked. I believe Duluth does need to make substantial investments in the school district's infrastructure. Buildings need improvements, some consolidation and possibly some new construction.

I voted "yes" to having a referendum on the long-range plan. Voters should have the opportunity to decide about such a major, comprehensive, long-term financial commitment.

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Beyond the facilities plan, a particular interest of mine is academic and curricular enrichment. I have been active on the districtwide music committee, which has been working to provide music opportunities, particularly at the middle school level, at least equal to those of surrounding school districts. An exciting project that I have enthusiastically supported is the district's recently implemented program to buy many new band and orchestra instruments to replace those that are worn out.

A concern of mine is that the basic per-pupil state aid to school districts is not keeping up with the rate of inflation. Like most other Minnesota school districts, Duluth has had to increasingly rely on local, voter-approved operating levies to meet this need. Duluth's operating levy will be on the ballot for renewal in the fall of 2008. Things I will work to include in the renewed levy are music and other arts programs; additional enrichment activities, such as the return of sports to the middle schools; and reinstatement of the seven-period class day in the high schools.

I believe a long-range facilities plan is both necessary and wanted in Duluth. A substantial investment in school buildings, including improvements and possibly some new construction, is long overdue. However, the current plan needs significant revising and downsizing in order to become an affordable plan that will be approved by voters.

This can be done to the benefit of all of us who are stakeholders in Duluth public schools: parents, teachers, businesses, the many and varied neighborhoods and communities of the city, and most importantly, the students, whose education plays such an important role in all of our futures.

Tim Grover is the incumbent candidate for School Board in District 3.

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