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Duluth School Board members acting like … high school kids

Our tax dollars hard at work.

Duluth News Tribune: Tempers flare at Duluth School Board meeting as Johnston’s supporters strike back

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51 Comment(s)

  1. Here is the nearly four-hour video of the June 17 Duluth School Board meeting.

    The first 35 minutes are all part of the Art Johnston Show. At the 43-minute mark Paul King kicks off the public comment portion of the meeting with his showboating. If the School Board members are acting like high school kids, the citizens at the podium take it down to elementary level.

    Paul Lundgren | Jun 19, 2014 | New Comment
  2. Paul King is a Republican operative known for his professional “agitation” at other public meetings and events. Johnston is a bully and is reaping what he had sown.

    TimK | Jun 19, 2014 | New Comment
  3. …”assault”…(snicker)…I hope the victims survived their brutal attacks without too many stitches.

    Ramos | Jun 19, 2014 | New Comment
  4. As a recent former Duluthian and current resident of a culture-less coastal community in South Carolina, I offer the following:

    - Who elected these sado-masochistic buffoons? Such buffoonery.

    - The accents in Northern MN. They are amazing. (I’ve been in the SE for six months and desperately miss everything Midwestern, including the accents. I’d forgotten what they sounded like. I love them.)

    vicarious | Jun 19, 2014 | New Comment
  5. Actually, other than the first guy, I didn’t think the citizens who spoke were elementary-school level. They seemed to know who they were. They weren’t out of line.

    Ramos | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  6. I think the mysterious $19 million change order that Johnston unearthed is extremely important. Whether or not he’s a bully, a change order like that sailing by unknown to the school board or the public is an indication of some very serious flaws in the transparency of the system.

    Ramos | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  7. Ramos makes a point; the 19 million is worth investigating. But, there must be a reason school board/district actions never seem to go smoothly -- I’d love to know what the problem truly might be in almost everything they do.

    pats | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  8. There are no heroes here. What a fine example to set for our children. BTW, that Paul King guy is behind that Orwellian proposal last fall to support Duluth’s kids by voting against the school levy.

    What a dysfunctional group of people, all around. I hope everyone has read Bob Boone’s report in last week’s Reader? Most illuminating.

    Claire | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  9. Paul, how come you didn’t say what Ramos just said? 19 million dollars goes “missing” and you’re more worried about who comes off at what grade level? Jesus. No, I’m not complaining. As a taxpayer I’m just more worried about the 453, I mean 19 million Ill be paying back for all time.

    Indeed, I expect fourth grade reading levels and preschool antics to be inbred to these sectarian divisions of America. Maybe Art’s tragic flaw was he should’ve realized there was no way to unfuck Duluth’s financial bungling of rebuilding their schools. That it would be impossible to prevent the sticky fingers of Johnson Controls and everyone else they pay off in this city? The nerve of him to ask where 19 million vanished to. Maybe they just needed it to pay for that roof that was defective shortly after they built it because they didn’t design it to hold snow? Kind of like GM charging you five times what you payed originally to fix a car they designed to fail? Or like Iraq, where you accidentally dropped a ten into the outhouse because someone told you it could prevent pimples, so you decided it was best to dump a suitcase full of hundred dollar bills down there to make it worth going in.

    In case any of you missed it, it looks like Art’s opponents took his wife’s job as revenge for him trying to figure out where city leaders and corporate execs were hiding 19 million dollars which is why he was moved to point a finger, I mean, assault that balloon headed guy. Or something like that…

    Herzog | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  10. I’m not making light of the supposedly “missing” $19 million, but I’d be more inclined to take interest if someone would attempt to explain what this is all about.

    As far as I know, Johnston and his supporters are referring to a $19.3 million facilities-plan increase that was approved by the School Board in 2012. Am I confused or is there more I’m supposed to know? Waving a sign asking that the superintendent be fired because something from two years ago isn’t on the board’s agenda this week isn’t adding any clarity for me.

    Paul Lundgren | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  11. Does anyone else appreciate the irony of angry dude’s sign? He wants Gronseth fired with no impartial investigation or due process because Gronseth supports an impartial investigation and due process before any disciplinary action against Johnston. Astonishing.

    Bret | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  12. Bret has nailed it.

    TimK | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  13. F. Scott Fitzgerald just told that Paul King’s idea of discourse and problem-solving is different than yours or mine.

    March 20, 2013, DNT

    The design of the open forum in Duluth with Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday was to give the public a chance to talk about his latest budget proposal. The reality at the forum with more than 130 people packed into the conference room at the main Duluth Police Station was far more wide-ranging.

    The 100-minute exchange between audience members and the governor was colored with comments from area political activists, business owners and health and education workers. They raised topics ranging from the environment to poverty, taxes and, in spurts, the specifics of the governor’s budget.

    The most pointed exchange came after Paul King asked about the governor’s proposal to tax the richest 2 percent in order to collect $1.1 billion in new tax revenue. King, a Tea Party activist from Duluth, complained about the onerous regulations that already stifle business development and was brusque at the idea Dayton laid out at the beginning of the meeting, that the rich must pay a fair share of their income in taxes equitable to the middle class.

    “Maybe we paid our fair share,” King told the governor. “The wealthy are doing all the work.”

    Dayton smiled and calmed a groaning audience and issued the first of many admonitions to respect the views of others even if you think they’re wrong.

    “If you ever had a real job, you’d understand,” King said to Dayton.

    The governor moved on, and the questions after that became just as passionate but more respectful.

    Oct. 24, 2013, DNT

    King said teachers should take a pay cut or a pay freeze to help the district’s finances. He also said college students should be brought in to help teachers.

    He also suggested that the district identify its best teachers and give them more students to shift class sizes.

    He said the district should seek alternative revenue streams, mentioning one district that made money by selling advertising on its buses.

    King in recent years has spoken at and helped organize rallies for the Northern Liberty Alliance, the Northland’s chapter of the Tea Party.

    spy1 | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  14. The speaker after Paul King’s rant was another well known provocateur … who lives in Superior, I’ve been told, but claims during his rant that he is a Duluth taxpayer. A lot of smoke & mirrors. Like I said, disgusted with everyone.

    Claire | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  15. …maybe we’ll stay at the ocean.

    vicarious | Jun 20, 2014 | New Comment
  16. Claire, maybe you should redirect your disgust toward the weather in Duluth. To put the missing 19 million dollars into perspective, that’s almost three times what the US government is spending trying to save the declining bee population that determines the success of our entire food chain, yet its only 1/1,000,000 of the amount spent on weapons we handed over to the thousands of terrorists we created in the Middle East since 2003!

    Herzog | Jun 21, 2014 | New Comment
  17. “Johnston is a bully and is reaping what he had sown.”

    TimK, for years I have been reading your comments here in regards to the Red Plan as you’ve sneered at anyone who dares to disagree with your assessment of the plan. For too long, those of us who’ve had intelligent, thoughtful opposition to the Red Plan have been reduced to inferiority by supporters of the Plan. I see this happening again right here and right now, with your snippy comment about Johnston.

    How does the Red Plan relate to this post? Bear with me just a moment or two. I promise I’ll get there.

    To reduce this whole story, this whole Board meeting, and this whole situation to Art Johnston being a bully, as you’ve just done, is utterly ridiculous and makes me wonder if you’ve ever actually met him or seen him in action? I mean, have you ever actually been in his presence at a meeting, or talked with him one-on-one — or have you just taken the media’s (and therefore school board’s) portrayal of him as a bully and run with it?

    I don’t know a darn thing about Paul King or others who protested at this meeting, speaking and holding up signs; I wasn’t there. But I do know that Art Johnston has been the sole Board protester of the Red Plan for years. He’s been demonized and ridiculed because our ISD 709 school board makes no room for dissent or discussion about problematic issues.

    I didn’t vote for Art when he ran nor do I even live in his district. HOWEVER…there are really shameful things going on in our district recently in regards to inequalities between the east and west side schools. The problems are directly the result of the Red Plan’s redistricting and how it divided the city into east and west schools. Here’s how I’ve gotten to know Art Johnston in the past month:

    At Denfeld HS, where I have a couple of kids, starting next year my kids are not able to take--in the example of one son--four of the classes he has already signed up and registered for. These classes were recently cut at the end of the year and they include classes like language, advanced music, and AP classes. If he were at East HS, however, he could still take those classes. What kind of equity do we have in our school district when, depending on which side of the dividing line you live on, you can either take advanced academic classes…or you can’t? My son could take Chamber Orchestra, German 5, AP World History, and other classes IF he went to East. But for now, he has glaring holes in next year’s schedule and will have to fill those periods with something challenging like, say, study hall.

    The reason these classes aren’t available at Denfeld is because, according to the School Board, there is an “enrollment” issue, and they simply can’t offer them. The enrollment issue they refer to is not having enough kids to offer the classes for smarter kids. Because there are less and less smarter kids at Denfeld. Denfeld’s own principal publicly referred to these high-achieving kids as a “niche” audience.

    Don’t you wonder why there aren’t enough kids at Denfeld when both refurbished Duluth high schools were designed to hold the same number of students, and the Red Plan redistricting was implemented to create equal student enrollment at both schools? Doesn’t this enrollment disparity seem a problem worthy of discussion?

    Next year, there will be 900 kids at Denfeld and almost 1600 at East. During the Red Plan implementation years ago when our kids were shifted all over the city as schools closed and merged, we were told that “whatever was offered at Ordean/East would be offered at Morgan Park/Denfeld.

    There are now three kids at East for every two at Denfeld. And every year the numbers increase. Many of us parents feel the culture of excellence is disappearing at Denfeld as the advanced classes for the high-achieving students disappear. I mean, who wouldn’t rather have available the entire high school curriculum for their kids rather than just some of the classes?

    This “enrollment” problem was directly created by the Red Plan’s redistricting. The parents at Denfeld have been saying, Hey Board — you created the enrollment divide and problem, now you should fix it….we have concerns about our kids’ education.

    Which (finally) brings me back to Art Johnston and your comment about him.

    A few weeks ago in May, many parents and students showed up at a School Board meeting to express our concerns about losing language, music and advanced classes at Denfeld, even while they are all still being offered at East. We wrote letters to Board members, spoke at this meeting, and invited their conversation. No one — not a single board member — seemed to give a crap about our concerns except Art Johnston. He personally called us parents, emailed us, discussed the problem, and is right now working to pull together a parent group to meet and continue discussing the issue and try to come up with solutions.
    We received no phone calls or return emails expressing concern about this issue from anyone else on the board except Art. No one.

    This was my first experience with Art Johnston and I was really impressed at his intelligence, his commitment and extra hours he spent with the parents, and his understanding of how important advanced language and music classes are to a school district and especially to the personal growth of a student.

    I would say he was mild mannered, soft spoken, listened well, and was reasonable. He was not a bully in any sense of the word. I have never seen him act like a bully. On the contrary, I have appreciated his willingness to stick his neck out and repeatedly and intelligently question ISD 709′s practices and policies. If anyone were bullied during the past few years, I would say it was Art being bullied by the School Board.

    I wouldn’t call Art Johnston the problem in our District; that’s a misleading path to letting our Board off the hook.

    Please don’t misinterpret my ramblings to be a criticism of Denfeld or its teachers. My kids have some great teachers at the school and there’s a great vibe there in many ways. But for our District to not offer the same curriculum at Denfeld that is offered at East is just plain wrong. At least Art Johnston gets that.

    Chloe | Jun 21, 2014 | New Comment
  18. I have met Art and he is a good man. If he doesn’t have a moral compass to beat Jesus I don’t know who does. What Tim thinks about him amounts to a hill of used beans and I applaud you Chloe for calling him out on it.
    Art plays with electronics too, but is also an expert in many other things including greening up outdated buildings, high tower rescue, and he’s a highly respected engineer who gets called all over the world to consult against bad construction. Nobody gave him a ribbon for speaking out against the corrupt empire of Johnson Controls who have a proven track record of masquerading as “green and friendly” while actually stealing money from tax payers, yet not helping kids. The fact that Duluth already sued them and won should be a red flag for folks like Tim, but nothing can penetrate the foil hat. This thread buds for you Art and I hope your partner sues the district and wins.

    Herzog | Jun 21, 2014 | New Comment
  19. +1 Chloe.

    -1 TimK.

    Ramos | Jun 21, 2014 | New Comment
  20. I think people are still opposing levies that fund needed projects for our schools as a proxy for their opposition to the Red Plan. The Red Plan is old hat and water under the bridge, and the people responsible for it are for the most part not on the school board anymore. I wish we could move past it.

    It is true that Johnson Controls did some very bad things and wasted tax money, and most everyone agrees on that. It is true that Art Johnston, plus many others, had complained bitterly and early about it. But Art Johnston often complains bitterly about tax spending, whether it is good spending or bad. So I don’t think Johnston deserves a medal for this one, since it is more like “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”

    If you complain about tax spending all the time, you are bound to be right sometimes. Johnston is right about Johnson Controls, but it is one of the few instances where lots of other people agree with him. When he complains bitterly about tax spending and few agree with him (other than his followers like Paul King), then he is just complaining about tax spending for ideological reasons.

    I also concur with Paul Lundgren’s comment above. Johnston and King are indeed referring to a $19.3 million facilities-plan increase that was legally approved by the School Board in 2012. The suggestion by Johnston and King that there has been a procedural violation in not letting the current board “re-approve” that measure is just plain crazy.

    It is nonsense like this that undermines Johnston’s credibility despite the good things he may have done as a school board member. Just because Johnston may have done good things in the past does not mean we should give him a pass for this kind of crazy nonsense.

    The DNT says, “Since being elected to office in 2009, Johnston, who represents the West Duluth neighborhoods of District 4, has often stood alone as a vocal, combative critic of the district’s decisions across a variety of issues. Johnston’s focus most often has involved the $315 million long-range facilities plan approved in 2007 and completed last year, along with claims of district dishonesty and financial mismanagement.” Johnston is constantly claiming “district dishonesty and financial mismanagement,” so he is bound to be right when there actually *is* financial mismanagement, as was the case for Johnson Controls. But Johnston often “stands alone” (as the DNT notes) and makes these claims, and this undermines Jonhston’s credibility as well. When ideologues “stand alone,” it is hard to believe their claims.

    Also, even if you believe Johnston’s story about how he merely angrily yelled at two board members at the East graduation ceremony, it still makes Johnston look very, very immature.

    “I didn’t threaten him physically or use profanity,” Johnston said. “I have a loud voice, and when I get upset people usually know it.” This does not make him look good as someone who is supposed to effectively represent the interests of school children.

    Duluth School Board member defends his actions in partner’s work dispute

    Sam | Jun 22, 2014 | New Comment
  21. It’s the “moving on” part that bothers me. According to proponents of massive projects in Duluth, there is never a legitimate time for anyone to criticize the projects. If you criticize the projects before they’re built, you’re accused of being a naysayer and an obstructionist, a closed-minded person who won’t give things a chance. But when a project fails or ends up costing a million times more than expected, critics are still not allowed to say anything, because now we’re stuck with it and it’s time to “move on.”

    Thus does the status quo advance in Duluth: no matter what happens, no criticism of the status quo is legitimate. If Johnson Controls gets an extra $9 million in its pocket that nobody knows about (and nobody did know about it, until Art Johnston discovered it), well, that was two years ago. It’s time to move on. Stop being so cranky.

    That $9 million is a big, big thing. If everybody now realizes, as Sam claims, that Johnson Controls is “very bad,” then why is Johnson Controls in charge of implementing Spirit Mountain’s master plan?

    This town never learns anything.

    Ramos | Jun 22, 2014 | New Comment
  22. By “moving on” I don’t mean not remembering and learning from past mistakes.

    There are people, however, whose anger over the Red Plan drives them to oppose most any school levy. We need to “move on” from this wholesale opposition to school spending, while remembering past mistakes.

    There is no big project, beit a private or public project, that does not come with major problems that arise over time. Sometime I think people don’t realize that this is a problem for both government and corporate enterprises. A typical Dilbert cartoon tells us as much. These are human institutions with human foibles and failures.

    This is not a problem in particular with government, and frankly Duluth government runs better than most. Hang out in the corporate world for a while and the Red Plan will start looking really, really good (and Dilbert will start looking like it isn’t nearly tough enough on corporate inefficiency and irrationality)!

    It is worth noting, however, that all the viable plans other than the Red Plan came with huge disadvantages. Any plan would have been open to serious criticism. I’m not saying that in hindsight the Red Plan was the best plan. I am saying that the Red Plan wasn’t the worst plan, and any other plan would have come with serious problems as well.

    The enemy of a decent plan is the dream of a perfect plan.

    I think there are many ideologues who think that minimizing public spending will lead to an ideal utopia, but this is not so. Beware of utopian dreams.

    Sam | Jun 22, 2014 | New Comment
  23. I don’t think it’s a utopian dream to ask that $9 million expenditures get reported to the public.

    Ramos | Jun 22, 2014 | New Comment
  24. Most everyone thinks transparency in government is good. Not everyone agrees with what Johnston and King are doing, however.

    Sam | Jun 22, 2014 | New Comment
  25. Hardly anyone does. That’s why I’m on Johnston’s side. Any guy who turns up an unauthorized $9 million transfer of tax money into Johnson Controls’ pocket is somebody I’ll pay attention to. That’s our levy we’re talking about. I can’t believe that people are just cool with that--but, since it’s Duluth, and since it’s the status quo, I guess I’m not surprised at all.

    I don’t think about King at all. His involvement has no bearing on my opinion of Johnston.

    Ramos | Jun 22, 2014 | New Comment
  26. Surf’s up!

    Literally. The waves are unusually large tonight.

    vicarious | Jun 22, 2014 | New Comment
  27. Don’t get me started on the disparity between East and West Duluth.

    the218boss | Jun 22, 2014 | New Comment
  28. Art would’ve been the guy in the death camps who was trying to warn everybody about what was going on, maybe try to plan an escape, but they told him to pipe down or he would get them all killed.

    I’ve noticed in this town it’s best just to be quiet and nice, that’s how Duluthians like it. We don’t want any trouble here. Just sit there and behave and nobody will get hurt. This 9 million dollar transfer will only take a few seconds if you’re good!

    Herzog | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  29. The metaphor I was thinking of is “The Boy Who Cries Wolf.”

    If a boy cries “Wolf!” all the time, and then finally there is a wolf, we should not hail the boy as a hero for warning us about the wolf. We should say, rather, that the boy cries wolf whether or not there is a wolf.

    If Art Johnston cries cries “Financial Mismanagement!” all the time, and then finally there is financial mismanagement, we should not hail him as a hero for warning us about the financial mismanagement. We should say, rather, that Art Johnston cries financial mismanagement whether or not there is any.

    Sam | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  30. Because Art Johnston believes there is financial mismanagement, he digs for information. He didn’t just happen to luckily hit on the $9 million because he cries financial mismanagement about everything. He hit on it because he dug for it, like an investigator. To me, that’s not a case of crying wolf.

    Ramos | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  31. The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf in Duluth

    One day, a little boy came running into Duluth. “Wolf! Wolf!” he cried.

    “Don’t be silly,” said the people. “There’s no wolf!”

    “Yes, there is,” cried the boy. “Wolf! Wolf!”

    “Don’t be foolish,” said the people. “Go home.”

    “WOLF! WOLF!” screamed the boy.

    “Don’t point your finger at us,” said the people.

    “But there’s a wolf!” cried the boy.

    At that moment the wolf came strolling into town and started eating children.

    “Well, if you say it all the time,” sniffed the people, “you’re bound to be right once in a while.”

    Ramos | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  32. I think it would be nice if we stopped dignifying with a response any insults directed at or by Art Johnston or any Duluth School Board members and tried to zero in on what the issue is here.

    I know, there are many issues — the investigation into Art Johnston’s alleged racist comments and threatening behavior, general long-range facilities plan objections, overcrowded classrooms, disparity between course offerings at East and Denfeld, etc.

    But what do we want to get to the bottom of here in this thread? I thought it was the “missing” $19.3 million. If that is the case, then what is it about the $19.3 million that is so upsetting?

    Here is what we think we know:

    * Two years ago the Duluth School Board approved a $19.3 million facilities-plan increase.

    * Art Johnston contends that $8.7 million went to Johnson Controls, the company that is managing the facilities plan. He feels that amount is excessive.

    * No one really seems to have any hard numbers on this, so it’s hard to tell how justified Johnston’s objections are.

    * The majority of the board, along with the administration, don’t seem to want to talk about it.

    Those seem to be the facts and allegations as we know them. I’d like to focus and expand on that, because I’m small minded and have attention span issues. Whether Paul King and/or Art Johnston are nice guys or not is of little interest to me. I’m vaguely familiar with both and can assure the world they have many admirable qualities … in addition to the ones the drive people nuts.

    Paul Lundgren | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  33. “…$8.7 million went to Johnson Controls without the knowledge of the board.”

    Change orders are used when projects encounter unexpected costs of construction that couldn’t have been anticipated. When the school board approved the $19.3 million Red Plan change order in 2012, nobody had any idea that $8.7 million of that was earmarked for the unexpected, impossible-to-predict cost of Johnson Controls’ new fee.

    To me, everything about that sounds wrong. The fact that the board won’t talk about it pisses me off. Especially since Johnson Controls continues to do projects for the city.

    Ramos | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  34. The board’s unwillingness to talk about it indeed seems annoying, but I can’t say I’ve asked anyone on the board about it, so I don’t really know how unwilling they are to talk about it. All that seems apparent is that they don’t want to talk to Art Johnston about it in a public or probably even a private forum. Are they hiding something or are they sick of Johnston still wanting to crab about it after two years?

    Did $8.7 million really go to Johnson Controls without the knowledge of the board? Whatever happened seems to have happened without the knowledge of Art Johnston, but we don’t know that it happened without the knowledge of other board members.

    Paul Lundgren | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  35. “Here is what we think we know….”; “no one really seems to have any hard numbers on this….”


    This is a matter of public taxpayer dollars, so where is the contract, what does it say about payment to Johnson Controls, and will or will not a Board member apart from Johnston go on record about this? Why is it alleged that the payment to Johnson was without Board knowledge? What does the contract say? What does the County attorney, or whoever negotiated the contract, say about it?

    Just askin. $8.7 million is a lot of money to be floating about in a mystery of speculation.

    p.s. Good call, Vicarious. The surf’s up at Stony Point too, but the weather is beyond bad.

    emmadogs | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  36. I have a good idea. While the Minneapolis law firm is busy investigating Art Johnston, let’s get another group together to start investigating the Red Plan contracts. I would be happy to be on that group.

    Ramos | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  37. I think what makes the pursuit of this information seem futile to me is that once we get it there will be few people who aren’t in the construction business who will understand it, yet plenty of people will still be upset about it and insist there was a cover up — not only that there was a cover up, but that there remains a cover up, even after it’s all been broken down.

    Like Ramos, I too claim to be a witness of the past and a predictor of the future. But I don’t pretend these things only happen in Duluth.

    Paul Lundgren | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  38. I am a little busy right now, since Spirit Mountain’s trying to get out of showing me their water line contracts, so my Red Plan task force will have to wait. If anybody wants to see a fun time, show up at Spirit Mountain today at 4:30.

    Ramos | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  39. Got ‘em.

    Ramos | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  40. “It’s all right
    Tell ‘em how it is
    Even though it don’t make you popular
    ‘Cause sometimes
    You gotta be a dick
    You don’t have to roll over.”

    Ramos | Jun 23, 2014 | New Comment
  41. Paul, do you think that trend toward feelings of ‘cover up conspiracy’ might have resulted from Johnson Controls using their lawyers to find a loophole in the law to prevent the taxpayers from voting on the Red Plan?

    I understand as you’ve explained before that something had to be done about the schools and nobody was deciding anything, which appears to be where Johnson stepped in like Mr. Potter/Superman. But who’s to say if the kids, who still don’t have new textbooks in what sounds like more than a few cases, who’s to say we wouldn’t have found a $200 million cheaper solution that resulted in new textbooks and not involved this fucky company?

    Because at the end of day, sounds like kids around here ended up with way more school than they needed and not enough support of teachers, books, and supplies with the city not factoring in the decline of student population due to various factors like charter schools. I guess the pudding proof what matters here, is finding the actual paper trail, which appears to be the quest only one school board member has championed so far. I don’t really know the details, but as Ramos pointed out before, Duluth probably didn’t need to tunnel into that mountain for the monstrosity it ended up with times five. And I personally would like to know if that 9 million bucks had to do with “The Roof That Wouldn’t Hold Snow.”

    Solid tune Ramos. Thanks for sharing.

    Herzog | Jun 24, 2014 | New Comment
  42. Okay, now I’m starting to get pissed off. There are 41 comments on this post and zero from officials, unless they are hiding behind gravatars.

    We know PDD readers include: the Mayor; DNT reporters; and, I am guessing, various school board/county board members. Would any of the individuals who are supposed to be responsibly managing our tax dollars care to respond to the questions in this thread?

    And I am quite possibly clueless/ignorant on the following, but has the DNT done an in-depth series on this? I don’t mean just repeating what others are or are not saying, but delving into this?

    emmadogs | Jun 24, 2014 | New Comment
  43. Hi, Emmadogs. DNT response, here. I’ve done stories that respond to a lot of what’s been bandied about here, allegation-wise. Especially some of the older stuff. As for the additional $8.7 million of Red Plan funds going to JCI, approved in 2012 via change order; I have an answer to that and it’s long and complicated. I have been working on a story that will try to answer it in a way that’s not so complicated, to be published soon. This isn’t really the place for it, coming from me. We ran a column from Art Johnston with his allegations in May.

    Jana Hollingsworth | Jun 24, 2014 | New Comment
  44. Johnston is a robot and not worth the votes that got him onto the board. His automatic no votes to a plan he can’t stop, that has already neared completion and that cannot be changed are not productive and are a disservice to the people who elected him.

    mannyL | Jun 24, 2014 | New Comment
  45. No one at public meetings. No one reading. Everyone online. JCI is indeed a racket taking advantage of boards not able to handle construction management. They basically take over and run over public bodies. The internet is littered with examples. If you think this is some sort of Duluth Public Schools specific problem, you haven’t done your homework.

    spy1 | Jun 24, 2014 | New Comment
  46. If the DNT is covering this, I hope they’re looking at the actual contracts in question, instead of just asking people about stuff.

    Ramos | Jun 24, 2014 | New Comment
  47. Hi Jana, I really look forward to reading your article, thanks for the heads up.

    emmadogs | Jun 25, 2014 | New Comment
  48. I thought the DNT article about the back story to the East High graduation incident really filled in some blanks. I don’t know the truth behind the $9 million that is unaccounted for and I would hope that we find out what the hell that is about. But A Johnston should have stayed out of his partner’s issues re her employment status at East. That was an obvious to me conflict of interest. Mr Claire is on City Council and if I were a city employee I would tell him to stay out of anything having to do with my job. He should not have opened himself to that when he has such enemies on the board and at ISD 709.

    Claire | Jun 25, 2014 | New Comment
  49. In Ramos’ brilliant passage entitled “moving on,” a cold reminder of America’s handling of critique toward involvement in the middle east, he is unable to answer that time honored mystery of why “this town never learns anything.” Maybe it’s just because nobody likes a complainer JR.

    “If everyone realizes Johnson Controls is “very bad,” then why are they in charge of Spirit Mountain’s master plan?”

    Indeed, if Duluth already sued JC and won, then why are they still doing business with them? It’s like screwing your ex wife the night of the divorce isn’t it Mayor Ness?

    Herzog | Jun 25, 2014 | New Comment
  50. Since we are complaining I thought I would chime in. This behavior from the entire school board and Gronseth is embarrassing. This is a school system and our children we are talking about here. I agree that when the city ended up suing and winning against Johnson Controls it should have sent up a red flag. When additional funds for their mistake are just given without lawsuit it shows that the board is not up to the challenge of running such a large district and worried about money.

    This whole model of a school board is a joke and when they rode right over the people of Duluth and passed the Red Plan. (Really, name it after the color that represents communism?) They showed at that time they didn’t care what the people thought. It was not a good idea to go from three high schools to two when the middle part of the town moving into the West Side is where most of our minority population lives.

    I cannot believe that by closing schools and paying $400+ million that it helped the students. The big-fill was more like the big lay off and no new teachers would want a job in Duluth because it is all temporary employment now. The district is as poorly run as Minneapolis or Saint Paul’s districts are, but it leaks money like I have never seen. People get mad and don’t pass referendums, but then look at what the people of Duluth did last year by giving more for kids to have smaller class sizes.

    The private schools of Duluth benefited most from the Red Plan and they continue to thrive because of smaller class sizes. The Red Plan was stuffed down everyone’s throats and people are still mad that they feel left out of the entire process. Art seems to have tried to bring up new issues, but his partner who worked in the district learned how job security works in the Duluth Public Schools. Even the local colleges tell their graduates to steer clear of the Duluth schools because of constant layoffs and lack of job security. Art should know that, as he is on the board. If he is mad about how the school district is ran he needs to assault the man in the mirror.

    So enough about the Red Plan as Duluthians would say. Water under the bridge. The problem is now we are seeing a disparity in class offerings between the East and West ends of town (if I am reading right). Remember though, the best teachers are not going to go into the Duluth Public Schools knowing they won’t have a job the next year. The best students are not going to go to an AP English class knowing there will be 40+ kids in there and many more waiting. That all benefits the private schools of this area (which also want to buy and open Central High School now knowing there is a profit to be made and the school is in great shape).

    What I think is flawed is that this school board has way too much power. Our top-heavy society wants a handful of power-hungry people to decide our fate these days. Wouldn’t a teacher with 20 years of experience know what a school needs more than someone who runs for a school board and wins based on cute little signs and no teaching experience? I know if we wanted a great hospital that the doctors probably know what is better than someone off of the street. People are afraid of teachers today because they remember Mrs. Crabberry from 3rd grade who didn’t like them and they thought was a horrible teacher. I would rather that doctors ran hospitals and teachers and principals ran the schools. There needs to be oversight by a board, but the way this board runs things is not oversight -- it is overrun.

    Gronseth seems experienced and is paid a ton of money to run the schools. He is someone who worked his way up through the district, but Keith Dixon was a carpetbagger who rode rough-shot over Duluth. If he was decent he would have stayed to make sure the plan was implemented and ran smoothly.

    The problem is that this school board has way too much power. The teachers and staff of the schools know what the kids need and could do a much better job at making the local schools great. Yes we need community involvement and oversight, but the school board model is outdated in its current role. Big districts like this need a different model for how they are run. From the outside this all looks extremely dysfunctional.

    Endion | Jun 27, 2014 | New Comment
  51. So here it is, the much anticipated explanation from the Duluth News Tribune:

    Duluth school district: Cash OK’d for Johnson Controls was legal, and went to Red Plan projects

    Paul Lundgren | Jul 20, 2014 | New Comment

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