School Board candidates air differences
Candidates for the Duluth School Board divided themselves into two separate camps when answering questions at a forum tonight: those who support the school district's long-range facilities plan and the leadership of the current School Board and s...
Candidates for the Duluth School Board divided themselves into two separate camps when answering questions at a forum tonight: those who support the school district's long-range facilities plan and the leadership of the current School Board and superintendent, and those who do not.
Roughly 30 people showed up to listen to the candidates' views at the two-hour forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Duluth Parent Teacher Student Association council at the Secondary Technical Center on Central High School's campus.
Judy Seliga-Punyko, running against Harry Welty for the District 2 seat on the board, and Bevan Schraw, opposing Gary Glass for an at-large seat, made up the supportive camp. The opposition comprised Welty, Glass and Deb Anderson, running against incumbent Tim Grover in District 3. Grover wore both hats; he expressed his opposition to the district's long-range plan, reiterating that he was the lone board member that voted against it in June, but said he supported the direction the board and superintendent took to involve the community in the process.
Anderson said the process was driven by what she called a ''hand-picked committee'' that excluded the input of the rest of the community.
"The board divorcing itself from the process and putting it in the hands of an out-of-town corporation [Johnson Controls] and a superintendent ... was a mistake," she said. "It was a shutout."
Seliga-Punyko and Schraw disagreed.
"I had a chance to hear things every step of the way and ask questions," Seliga-Punyko said. "It has been a great process."
Seliga-Punyko and Schraw said the facilities plan, known as the "red plan" will allow children to go to school in well-equipped buildings and gives parents the reassurance they need to invest in a stable district. They also said it will help the district renew its operating levy, which is set to expire at the end of the 2008-09 school year.
"We have a much better chance at success on a levy if we do this than if we just keep the status quo and wait another five years before we do anything substantial," he said.
"We need to stop the red plan before we foster a tax revolt" he said. He explained keeping voters away from polls on the red plan could lead many to take out their frustration on the operating levy.
Schraw and Seliga-Punyko are the only candidates that support forgoing a referendum on the plan, but Schraw said the public is sort of getting one anyway.
"The public is having a vote indirectly in this election," he said.
Welty, Glass Anderson and Grover cited many reasons for their opposition to the red plan. All agree it's too expensive and should be downsized, and Grover and Anderson expressed concern over leaving the center of the city with an educational void if the red plan is implemented. The candidates also said it would upset the district's desegregation efforts and could have a negative effect on programming.
Glass said consolidation under the red plan would rid students of 1,000 opportunities to participate in extra and co-curricular opportunities.
"We need to increase extra-curricular programs, not decrease them," he said.
Seliga-Punyko said the plan will increase opportunities by allowing the district to reinvest into programs with money that now goes toward operating too many buildings.