Board doing what
it's elected to do
As a former Duluth teacher, administrator and School Board
member, I take special interest in the financial dilemma of our district that
leads student, parent and community reaction to say: Not in my back yard, or
gore someone else's ox, and the sky is falling.
In reality, we elected the School Board to do exactly what
some want a coalition to do. Involvement and feedback are good, but everyone
can't have their way. Because we are losing students, total dollars for next
year may be less than this year, even though the governor proposed additional
aids per pupil unit. Not good.
School boards of the past should have been more astute,
examined enrollment trends and made long-range plans to prevent the problems we
face today. Ten years ago we anticipated a loss in students and made plans for
closing schools, which met the same reaction we see now. Eventually, someone
must bite the bullet.
Some parents suggest we pressure the governor and our
legislators to give us more aid to maintain what we've done in the past -- which
is poor use of facilities -- and allow the certified staff to student ratio to
continue. Duluth has a 12.3-student-to-1-certified-staff ratio, whereas school
districts about the same size as Duluth will have a 15.5-to-1 ratio. Adding one
student to the ratio would save more than $3 million. We may be proud of having
such a small ratio, but it's costly.
Ten years ago we looked at a two-high-school configuration.
Education columnist Joe Nathan, in a recent report, said that K-6, 7-9 and 10-12
was excellent, and schools with this configuration were doing as well as any
other. Even though our board adopted K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, this deserves another
look, especially when student projections will drop to about 800 per grade.
School districts cannot continually ask for funding in excess
of inflation. There never seems to be enough. Some say, "Now that the state
has extra money, use that to bail us out.'' That extra money does not belong to
the state, it belongs to the taxpayer.