2nd District board candidates disagree on budget and cuts
Duluth School Board Member Harry Welty and political newcomer Pauline Nuhring will face
off in the 2nd District this fall with competing budget outlooks for the Duluth School
District and sharply different approaches to board leadership and style.
Known for his sometimes whimsical board meeting demeanor, Welty is clear that good humor
can bring a board seeped in controversy closer to agreement. Hes making that kind of
congeniality between board members, teachers and parents, which was mostly lacking, he
said, in the school districts teacher contract negotiations last year, his first
Anybody who does not see beyond that humor to my very serious passion and dedication
is obviously bedazzled by what I have to say, Welty said.
While Nuhring said having a light heart is no big deal, being professional and respectful
of colleagues is, she said, and she said she can provide more stability on the board than
In a professional setting of nine people discussing issues that have an impact on
thousands of kids, its not the place for voodoo dolls, said Nuhring, referring
to a doll Welty used when stepping down as board chairman to curse publicly, if
satirically, the animosity between board members and teacher union officials.
Financing the increased teacher costs is at the forefront of Welty and Nuhrings
budgeting disagreements. Paying teachers increased salaries requires the board to
take funds from its reserve monies, Welty said, and that means the budget will probably
have to be cut somewhere, he said.
We dont have the annual revenue to sustain the contract weve given
them, said Welty, who, like Nuhring, is a former teacher. If we keep taking a
bite out of our reserve, well lose interest on that reserve, and eventually that
money will be gone and well spiral downward. The natural consequence of not making
cuts is to make much deeper cuts than necessary when you come to the end of the
Opposed to Weltys financing outlook, Nuhring said dipping into the reserve fund is
better than making budget cuts, and said she would always vote not to cut programs as long
as the board still has reserves.
One thing Nuhring does want cut is the Edison Schools project, something Welty supports.
Nuhring said Edison students test results have not been as good as those of students
in the public schools, and said she would vote not to renew Edisons charter this
Im concerned about how charter schools drain resources from our district in
terms of students, finances and teachers, Nuhring said. Edison is muddying the
boundary between public and private schools.
Welty said those standardized tests dont show how well the Edison schools are doing,
and said the positive feedback from parents and students in those schools and a commitment
to the boards previous decision to support the project should keep it going.
Out of the Edison debate has come a more fundamental disagreement between the two
candidates about how students performance should be evaluated. Nuhring, whose
position on Edison stems largely from test score comparisons between Edison and public
schools, said standardized tests should be used by board members to determine where
curriculum and other changes should be made.
Welty, on the other hand, said those tests are imprecise and said members looking at those
scores could make nothing but a subjective guess as to which schools are better
Nuhring said she wants the board to discuss more long-term plans for the school district
to prevent problems like the dilapidated Public Schools Stadium both she and Welty
want the board to ask voters this fall to finance renovating that facility from
becoming urgent. She said the board needs to plan ahead for declining population and
school enrollment and wants the board to address neighborhood relations around East High.
An initiative Welty wants prioritized is working social services into the schools.
Our school personnel dont always know when a child is having stress at home,
and county officials dont know when a child is having trouble in school, Welty
said. A child needs more than a social studies teacher. Meshing these two things
could help a lot of kids.
The district runs from 60th Ave. East to 40th Ave. East and includes about half of the
Woodland neighborhood and a portion of the Duluth Heights. area.