My brief impression of Pati Rolf

Pati Rolf, UMD’s women’s’ volleyball coach, started showing up at meetings a year before the 97 school board election. She made a pitch before the State Board of Education when they met in Duluth to give her views about a proposed change to the Desegregation law. She spoke passionately about giving Native American kids a fair break but, as near as I could tell, was only vaguely aware what the precise issue being discussed was.

Pati is passionate in the way you might expect a coach to be. The issue which has most animated her is making sure that parents can get what their children need in the Duluth Schools. She took her own child out of Chester Park, the neighborhood school my children attended, when he did not get the attention she felt he needed. She sent him to a "deseg" magnate school instead where according to Pati he thrived.

Even though she did the same thing Pati has opposed the "for profit" Edison schools. Her reason, because children exiting neighborhood schools to attend Edison "take resources" away from their original schools. This position has not endeared Pati to the Edison parents.

Of the four new Board members Pati worked the hardest to be a bridge between the two factions of the School Board. We had some long talks about the importance of cooperation while we attended the national school board conference shortly after she was elected. As the new chairman I was grateful and I thanked her. She complained about the "crazies" outside of the School Board who were pushing our two factions in opposite directions. Her efforts to be a bridge began to diminish as the 1999 elections drew near and Pati retreated back into her faction.

Pati was the only member of her faction who could get along with George Balach. Their personalities are similar. They are both jocks. When I told Pati that my daughter was attending Concordia College in Moorhead Pati laughed. She told me how when she attended NDSU in Fargo across the Red River, she and her teammates would overrun the sheltered Concordia campus. They would steal the bright yellow beanies right off of the heads of the freshmen who were forced by Concordia tradition to wear them. According to my daughter the NDSU Bisons still do this. How could Pati not like George Balach? She tolerated George’s testosterone the way a coach would tolerate an athlete’s aggression. She was quick to point out his excesses but, at least at first, found it more humorous than offensive.

Pati did often rub the old board members the wrong way. She tended exhort the school board as though they were a bunch of sloppy volleyball players. People who get elected to a School Board don’t much like being coached.

I expect that Pati will continue to look for the common ground in the new school board. I’m counting on her skills as an international and Olympic referee to treat the minority fairly.