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The First Duluth News Tribune editorial telling its readers to "embrace" a one high school plan. 

The Second Duluth News Tribune editorial which repeated the first editorial's position (It was published just five days later)

Jim Heffernan column pooh poohing his own editorial board's position to close Denfeld

my reply to the one high School idea

Two High Schools are better than one

 

As the Duluth school board member who has lobbied longest and loudest to close one high school I respectfully disagree with your editorial calling for the closing of two high schools.

 

I appreciate the good intentions of the Tribune's editors as well as those of the Duluth school principals who believe that a single high school will bring harmony to Duluth . If I thought a 40 million dollar bond referendum to build it could pass I might even jump on the bandwagon but I just donít see it happening. Hereís why.

 

75 percent of Duluth households donít have children in school.  Most of these voters are on, or will soon be on, fixed incomes. They are a very conservative and skeptical voting block. They have not been very impressed with the School Board and this one-high-school plan is not likely to change their minds. Without their support the referendum can not pass. I donít even think that the remaining 25 percent of citizens, the ones who do have children in our schools, will support a single high school.  Why, for instance, would Denfeld or East parents vote for a referendum that would kill their schools?

 

The most obvious question your editorial fails to ask is this: Whatís wrong with two high schools?

 

Some people argue that two high schools will divide the city into rich and poor extremes. Thatís ridiculous, Neither Central or Denfeld, the non "cake-eater" schools, are anything like an inner city school.

 

I know that the visionaries who want a single high school are convinced that we can have a fantastic unified campus with several different schools within schools. It sounds wonderful but lets be honest. Two high schools would also be a great way to educate our kids. Most of us baby boomers went to schools the same size as Duluth ís two remaining schools would be.

 

I am personally chagrinned at the insistence of several school board members on keeping 6th grade students in our middle schools. This is the real reason we have been given the single high school plan. Anybody who has listened to our administrators has heard them say time and time again that we can give kids in a 7-9 school building a perfectly good education.

 

For two years I have been suggesting a simple, cost effective plan. Up to now no one has paid any attention to it. This is my plan. Retain East and Denfeld High Schools . Send Woodland students to Central and make it Central Junior High. Central Junior High students would go on to East and Denfeld high schools. The long standing friendships developed at Central Junior will keep the rivalry between the remaining two high schools friendly. Close Chester Park Elementary and turn Woodland Junior High into an elementary school. If need be close Grant Elementary. Keeping elementary students in Woodland will allow UMD to keep its lab school.

 

This plan does not require a forty million dollar bond referendum and it will save a million or more dollars annually. There are two other benefits to this plan. It is blessedly simple and it wonít cause pandemonium in western Duluth .

 

Our job as school board members requires us to disappoint someone, not because we want to, but because we have to. Forget the five year transition to a single high school. We can shrink our schools in one or two years with little fuss or muss. This will end a decade of travail in the Duluth Schools. All it requires is a School Board with the intestinal fortitude to do whatís right and the common sense to avoid the siren song of utopia.

 

Harry Welty

Second District, School Board