ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Dick Palmer: School board at critical crossroads

Setting aside individual personalities, a talented nine-member Duluth School Board is at the crossroads. There just isn't enough money to fund the upcoming budget year, and prospects for the immediate future and beyond are cloudy at best.

Setting aside individual personalities, a talented nine-member Duluth School Board is at the crossroads. There just isn't enough money to fund the upcoming budget year, and prospects for the immediate future and beyond are cloudy at best.
The fact is these are critical times for the educational process, not only in Duluth but also throughout the state. As basic educational expenses continue to rise, add increasing heating and gasoline costs, wrestle with a rigid budget proposal by Gov. Jesse Ventura and those deep pockets of the past have disappeared.
These are not happy times for educators, parents, school board members and the kids who have little choice in the matters currently on the table.
Emotions ran high when some administrators recommended closing five elementary schools. It took a few days for the shock to wear off, and then the campaigns began to save our neighborhood schools. Now, I have been advised, Superintendent Julio Almanza is recommending that school closings be put on hold, at least for the moment. Unfortunately, the idea may calm the nerves a bit, but it will definitely not solve the problem. Spending money maintaining near empty buildings is, in actuality, taking food off the table limiting the menu for sound educational advancement. The old adage that you can't have your cake and eat it too is more than symbolism. It is a fact of life in this case.
In fairness to members of the Duluth School Board, there are no simple solutions, but one thing is absolutely certain, vague philosophical differences between members of the board need to be checked at the door as the process of solving Duluth's fiscal issues begins in earnest. The good old days are gone; innovation, compromise and a realistic long-range plan must accept reality as the basis of discussion. Going to the Legislature begging for more tax revenues every other year needs more than a simple request form. It requires a lesson plan backed up with facts and not false projections.
Duluth schools are faced with declining enrollments. Blaming charter schools and private schools is not the answer. In fact, competition is the one ingredient in our society that forces survivors to sharpen up; something public institutions generally don't worry about. What is really at stake is an effort to provide an educational base that is keeping up with our changing world. To do this, we have to meet these challenges with an open mind while balancing the checkbook without bankrupting the money suppliers, who are the homeowners.
The subject of local school district consolidations or partnerships continues to intrigue this writer. This subject will not disappear and could eventually be a viable solution that everyone can live with.
I appreciate your comments and suggestions. You can reach me at: rpalmer@duluth.com

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He ma be reached at 729-6470 or by e-mail at rpalmer@duluth.com .

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.