Part 3 Honeymoon’s End - 2001
Superintendent Dixon is just about where his predecessor, Julio Almanza, was in 2001 – three years into a honeymoon that was about to go sour. Julio managed to hang on for another three years after that date. Keith Dixon has recently been given a three year contract extension.
It would be tempting to blame the problems of 2001 on the
state legislature but that would be too easy. Every school board in the state
Pressured by the School Board Julio prepared a stingy budget in advance of 2001. It involved closing schools just in case the legislature didn’t bail us out. It was also very hush hush much to the annoyance of the Duluth News Tribune’s editors and reporters.
When the plan was finally made public the Trib splashed the
news in banner headlines across the front page. Five elementary schools (none of
them named) might be closed. Every elementary parent in
I, on the other hand, was probably the happiest person in
town. For years there had been talk about closing a high school in
Julio responded to the Trib by bottling up information from the District. He refused to name the vulnerable elementary schools. The Trib’s reporters began sitting in his office sullenly for hours on end waiting for him to release information. The Newspaper responded by printing more front page headlines. Julio claimed he endured a dozen days in a row of inflammatory, banner headlines. The first of three community meetings to discuss the closings began with a bang when a thousand angry parents showed up despite a heavy snowfall to raise Hell at Ordean Junior High. For two solid hours they lined up behind microphones and let the School Board have it.
The Administration shrewdly kept microphones away from the School board so we couldn’t argue with parents who told us were cheapskates who didn’t care about their children. I eventually borrowed a pencil and some paper from Laura Condon and hung a sign over our table for the folks at the microphones. “Where do we get $4 million?” it asked. Within weeks I was winning over disciples to my plan to close a high school. Ironically, a great many of my disciples would eventually vote against me in 2007 because I backed away from closing a high school. (I did because I thought closing a high school should save money not cost us $293 million!)
One of my most welcome and unexpected supporters was Mike
2001 became the year of the Long Range Plan. We weren’t planning to build new schools. We’d done a reasonably good job maintaining them after all. Instead, the Long Range Plan was all about consolidation. We held meeting after meeting but as we headed into the fall we were stalemated. There was no majority on the Board willing to close either elementary schools or a high school. We began catching grief because we wouldn’t make a decision. The public annoyance was beginning to threaten the renewal of the 1997 excess levy for classroom spending. I was gearing up to campaign for the levy big time.
And then one September morning as I cheerfully walked into
the Superintendent’s office our Internal Auditor, Connie, called out that a
plane had just crashed into the
Anyone wishing to
insure a public vote on a new building plan can visit letduluthvote.com or call:
390-7768 More Red Plan
Chronicles in two weeks.