Board doing what
it's elected to do

As a former Duluth teacher, administrator and School Board member, I take special interest in the financial dilemma of our district that leads student, parent and community reaction to say: Not in my back yard, or gore someone else's ox, and the sky is falling.

In reality, we elected the School Board to do exactly what some want a coalition to do. Involvement and feedback are good, but everyone can't have their way. Because we are losing students, total dollars for next year may be less than this year, even though the governor proposed additional aids per pupil unit. Not good.

School boards of the past should have been more astute, examined enrollment trends and made long-range plans to prevent the problems we face today. Ten years ago we anticipated a loss in students and made plans for closing schools, which met the same reaction we see now. Eventually, someone must bite the bullet.

Some parents suggest we pressure the governor and our legislators to give us more aid to maintain what we've done in the past -- which is poor use of facilities -- and allow the certified staff to student ratio to continue. Duluth has a 12.3-student-to-1-certified-staff ratio, whereas school districts about the same size as Duluth will have a 15.5-to-1 ratio. Adding one student to the ratio would save more than $3 million. We may be proud of having such a small ratio, but it's costly.

Ten years ago we looked at a two-high-school configuration. Education columnist Joe Nathan, in a recent report, said that K-6, 7-9 and 10-12 was excellent, and schools with this configuration were doing as well as any other. Even though our board adopted K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, this deserves another look, especially when student projections will drop to about 800 per grade.

School districts cannot continually ask for funding in excess of inflation. There never seems to be enough. Some say, "Now that the state has extra money, use that to bail us out.'' That extra money does not belong to the state, it belongs to the taxpayer.
Tony Stauber