My computer crashed and died a week ago so I have been out of touch. Because I can no longer wait to share some opinions, I am borrowing another's email,
so please don't reply to the sender's address or he'll be very confused (that's assuming you intend to reply at all :). My address appears below; I can check it later.
I have a few comments:
1) Yes, Anne Bretts' ideas are silly, silly, silly. I am also disappointed that the DNT gave her a forum. Will every goofy idea appear on the opinion page? At first I thought she was attempting satire or sarcasm, but evidently she was serious. What a nut. Now who's being abrasive?
2) The headline notwithstanding, Patty Edwards calls for a look at two highschools, not the decision for two high schools. I agree with her (and you) that we have to consider it - but we have to keep an open mind and not assume that it will work here. It may be the answer; it may not. I do not agree with holding up Edina, or Bloomington, or any other district our size
that has one or two high schools as proof we need only two schools here. That one statistic isn't enough upon which to base a decision. We have to consider all other factors - such as geography, tax base, staffing ratio, physical size of the district, etc., as well as enrollment. Lots of pieces have to fit together. I wouldn't be comfortable supporting any proposal
without full knowledge and disclosure of all supporting (or non-supportive) information. We can't decide something this big on emotion, intuition, or "I
think" - we need factual proof. I don't like the "close it and we will succeed" thinking that I keep hearing (that means you!). Show me the documentation. (That goes for all closing suggestions.)
3) Another idea I think we have to consider is closing the CAB and selling it to a housing developer (or for some other use that puts it back on the tax roles). Think of the beautiful apartments or offices, with views, that could be marketed. The City Council talked the other night about the high level of interest in downtown housing. Take advantage of that. What about selling DEDA the building? DEDA pays top dollar for downtown buildings. This is not an anti-administration suggestion, but closing CAB should be just as viable an option as closing any district schools. Study it to see if it's possible. It may be the answer; it may not. Plus, it wouldn't break my heart to see the administration scramble for new "homes" instead of the kids and teachers. Will the Board ask the administration to look at selling CAB and relocating administration as an option, too?
4) People keep talking about preserving neighborhood schools, but I submit that they already don't exist for many neighborhoods. I grew up in Woodland and now live in Hunter's Park, so I am most familiar with the eastern neighborhoods of Duluth. (Sometimes I feel like I have to apologize for living in the East district.) If I still lived on West Wabasha Street in Woodland, where's my neighborhood school? (It's way over in Homecroft.) Where is the neighborhood school in the Morley Heights neighborhood, in the Everett Street-Jean Duluth Road neighborhood (which has a huge kid population)? (It's down the hill in Congdon.) Where's the neighborhood school for my kids in Hunter's Park? (Again, down the hill in Congdon.)
Where's the neighborhood school in the Glen Avon-old Washburn neighborhood? (All the way down to Chester Park.) My point is, these neighborhoods are still desireable - it's pretty easy to sell homes at very good prices in these areas, but they don't have what I would consider "neighborhood" schools. I submit that Lester & Chester parks still would be desirable neighborhoods if they had to do without those schools. (Grant-Nettleton need their schools more than Lester-Chester do.)
5) Next to last comment. When studying the two high school idea, consider this: Central High School was built on prime property. It was a mistake to
take such a beautiful site and use it for a school. Instead, if Duluth is to be a two-school town, convert Central to tax-paying uses. It has one of the best views in the city - don't "waste" it on kids who don't appreciate things like that. (Re your comment to cut more windows in it as one of Duluth's two high schools - I don't want my kids staring at the lake; I want them concentrating on their work!) It's a better site for homes or businesses than as a public school.
6) Last comment. I really dislike the idea of reconfiguring to a K-6, 7-9, 10-12 district. I think it's going backwards, regardless of what Joe Nathan
says. Yes, we used to do it that way, but times have changed. I think the middle school years are crucial for kid development and would like to see the Morgan Park pilot succeed so all middle schools could adopt it. If the two high schools are inevitable, wait until enrollment supports the K-5, 6-8, 9-12 configuration. And no, kids don't get tired of high school by going four years instead of three.
7) I guess I lied. Here's the last comment: I support your colleagues' decision not to approve a 6-period day. No, I don't know where another $1.2 million can be cut, but I'm voting for an excess levy referendum in November. It would have been premature to cut the number of class periods without looking first at all other options. I just don't believe that has been done. It was too band-aidy of an approach.

OK, I'm done. Hope to talk to you again soon, but I'm now out of online touch again. :(

My Reply

Hi C,

Thanks for the mail. I hope this reply is not too old when you get back online.

I'll be brief because I still have twenty-five other emails like yours (although yours is a tad longer) to answer.

I agree that just because all the suburban school districts got rid of a high school when their population shrank that this is not a good reason for us to do the same. On the other hand, all the things you wanted us to evaluate before we decided what to close....They all point to two high schools. I believe when the administration runs its figures they will demonstrate we could save a million by closing a high school. Since the Board seems unwilling to make any other cuts this option is becoming increasingly attractive.

If we don't make any cuts now that are planned for but wait until we are so far in debt that our creditors and the state force us to take a machete to the Budget it will be calamitous. 

Regarding a referendum.....I want it to pass too but even if it passes and I stress IF, it won't give us any revenue next year. When it does kick in it will only provide 1.2 million. That's peanuts. All the experts tell school districts not to run referendums during times of crisis. We could offer it this year and end up like Grand Rapids and Two Harbors, Proctor and all the other area districts that keep losing bonds only to offer them up repeatedly.

As for neighborhood schools. Sure the neighborhoods are bigger than when you and I were kids but people still think of our schools as being neighborhood schools. We've been threatened with a massive exodus of children if we close schools. In the past this would have been an empty threat. You made a good point about how these neighborhoods have changed but if we don't have a Grant or a Chester Park that means that from fourth street all the way up Woodland Ave there will be no ISD 709 elementary school. That distance stretches all the way from Nettleton to Homecroft - the most heavily populated part of Duluth! 

To all intents and purposes the Board has already conceded that the prosperous neighborhoods will get their way....Congon, Piedmont, Rockridge. Plan A is toast. Plan B just picks on the poor kids. Two high schools sets things to rights that have been ignored for a decade.

We face a 4.8 million debt Cathy. Hoping it will go away will just cause misery for everybody. We have historical precedent available to picture what that misery will be like. Its not pretty.

You wrote about administration and other points but I'm going to conclude here. I've been putting my opinions on these and other topics on my website. You can read them there. I hope you get on line soon.

All the best,