3-30-2001 Letter to the Editor

Duluth teachers
deserve thanks

Former Duluth School Board member Brad Bennett's recent "Point of View'' article on your editorial page is misleading and unjustified. He suggests that our current School Board must close an exorbitantly expensive high school. The reason for the exorbitant

cost is attributed to having too many teachers and to the fact that he feels they are overpaid.

Duluth has three very nice high schools with comfortable enrollments. This is the type of school structure that comparable communities can only wish for. Each school has a strong academic program, a strong support staff to assist emotional and non-academic needs, and an extensive extra-curricular program. This recipe promotes well-rounded kids and nourishes community support.

We probably do have more "professional staff'' than comparable districts. That is because our students are permitted to carry extra classes and our school day is longer than state guidelines demand. The actual number of students in each classroom is as big as ever, but more classes require more teachers.

We also have a large number of special-needs teachers (one third of total) because we provide strong support programs for all levels of handicapped and special-needs students in our district and nearby districts.

Bennett has made a career out of bashing teachers in Duluth. The fact is that teachers in our district earn $5,000 to $15,000 less per year than comparable districts in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Duluth really does have a school system that is loaded with extra opportunities for our students. We can do this because we pay our professional staff a bit less than comparable districts.

Our teachers should be thanked, not criticized. The crazy arrangement of schools and boundaries is the result of bungled planning in the early 1990s when Bennett, as a School Board member, was unable to make the same decisions he is asking our current School Board to make.
James Melander