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The ISD742 School Board is trying to ram a $143,000,000 bonding referendum down its residents’ throats because they started with a predetermined destination, then put together a plan to reach that destination. In the Board’s arrogance, they’ve decided they didn’t need to listen to their constituents. That decision was the worst decision they’ve collectively ever made.

The Board decided they wanted to build a new Tech HS without first determining what the students’ and the district’s needs were. They made that decision without first determining whether the district was shrinking or growing. (It’s shrinking.) The plan that they’re promoting would equip St. Cloud with 2 high school buildings, each with a capacity of 1,800 students. The last full school year, high school enrollment for ISD742 was approximately 2,700 students.

The first question that must be asked by taxpayers is this: why the Board would overbuild the district’s needs. Claire VanderEyk, a Tech graduate who took an interest in last year’s referendum, wrote this post on her blog of Feb. 17, 2016. At the time, Claire wrote “I haven’t seen stats on this – but according to many people I’ve spoken with, District 742 is losing students. One cause of this, I’m told, is the quality of high schools in the neighboring districts of Sartell and Sauk Rapids. This is frustrating, I agree. It is difficult to maintain proper school facilities and high quality staff when the tax base that supports your district is dwindling.”

Claire stated that she thinks renovation is possible when she wrote “But, as I’ve said before, I have not been provided evidence that these issues cannot be overcome and would make the feasibility of retaining Tech High School as an educational facility for another 100 years impossible.” The truth is that there are parts of Tech that are quite usable.

The truth is that the Board hasn’t considered any option other than building a $100,000,000 brand new Tech HS that’s too big for the district’s needs.

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Based on this article, it’s clear that Officer Jason Falconer is a hero’s hero. It’s apparent that he didn’t let the rampage turn deadly. For that, everyone in Crossroads Mall should thank Officer Falconer for his quick thinking and his high-quality decision-making.

According to the article, “Five minutes after authorities received the first 911 call, Jason Falconer, a part-time officer in the city of Avon, shot and killed the attacker. Anderson said Falconer fired as the attacker was lunging at him with the knife, and continued to engage him as the attacker got up three times.”

One of the first things that I think might happen is that people will question whether Officer Falconer should’ve used deadly force. Based on the fact that the attacker kept lunging at Officer Falconer after he’d gotten shot, I think that point is settled. Officer Falconer used the right amount of force while preventing the loss of life.

If Officer Falconer is a hero, which he is, SCSU Interim President Ashish Vaidya isn’t a hero after issuing this statement:

This statement is beyond laughable:

No known St. Cloud State students, faculty or staff were injured, however we understand that many from our campus community work at and frequent Crossroads Center and may have been directly impacted.

That doesn’t mesh with this information:

A spokesman for St. Cloud State University confirmed that Adan was a student there, but has not been enrolled since the spring semester. Spokesman Adam Hammer said Adan’s intended major was information systems, which is a computer-related field.

No SCSU students were injured but the terrorist was a former SCSU student. Talk about spinning.

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When the ACC decided to move 7 athletic championships out of North Carolina, their statement said “As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination. Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites. We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year. All locations will be announced in the future from the conference office.”

Franklin Graham’s letter to the ACC highlighted the ACC’s situational commitment to their “collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination.” A different way of putting that would be to say Franklin Graham highlighted the ACC’s hypocrisy. Here’s an example of how Rev. Graham highlighted their hypocrisy:

For example, the football championship game your conference voted to move from Charlotte in December is called the “Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship.” Dr. Pepper and its parent company, Cadbury Schweppes and Carlyle Group, proudly sell their products in countries where homosexuality is illegal. Will the ACC drop its title sponsor? And why isn’t the LGBT community demanding you sever ties with such a “bigoted” corporate sponsor?

This doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s religious beliefs. It’s about highlighting the ACC’s consistent commitment to making money. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money. It’s just that I’d appreciate them not pretending like they’re people of integrity.

Here’s another example:

The NCAA Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation states, “Any transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatment related to gender transition may participate in sex-separated sports activities in accordance with his or her assigned birth gender.” This is precisely what supporters of HB2 have been requesting—that people use public restrooms in accordance with their assigned birth gender.

Apparently, the ACC’s leadership and the NCAA’s leadership believe in situational core beliefs. Add that to their core belief in making lots of money.

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According to Zach Dorholt’s latest mailer, which is actually paid for by Dorholt’s campaign, “Zach shares our priorities.” It isn’t surprising that he’s making this claim. It’s surprising what he thinks are “our priorities.”

Listed first on Dorholt’s priorities is that he’ll “invest in our schools in Central Minnesota from pre-K to college and bring back the tuition freeze at SCSU.” Next on Dorholt’s list of priorities is to work “with both sides of the aisle to deliver on transportation funding for highways, roads and the Northstar Line.” Last but not least, Dorholt promises to “stand up to special interests in both parties trying to buy our elections by putting a stop to secret campaign contributions from lobbyists and corporations.”

Let’s look at Dorholt’s priorities. The tuition freeze might sound appealing but it’s a PR game. Tuition is frozen but the taxpayers pay for the increased cost of college. If you want to stabilize the cost of college, you have to question the expenses. The first thing that should disappear to make college less costly are things like Senior-to-Sophomore, which gives high school students college credits for classes taught frequently by high school teachers.

That’s terrible for multiple reasons. First, high school teachers aren’t qualified to teach college-level classes in STEM-related subjects. The students get cheated because they’re essentially told that they’re prepared for college after they’ve taken glorified high school classes. Next, S2S classes steal tuition revenue from universities. Top that off with universities with additional expenses but a tuition ‘freeze’.

Tell me how that math works budget-wise for the universities. Tell me how S2S helps prepare high school students for college-level classes.

Next on Dorholt’s priorities is to raise the gas tax. That isn’t what DFL legislators do. It’s who DFL legislators are. Dorholt would also vote to raise the Metro sales tax to pay for Southwest Light Rail. Mr. Dorholt, how will raising the Metro sales tax fix a single pothole in St. Cloud? Why should we raise the gas tax when Republicans already have a plan that will fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges that doesn’t require raising anyone’s taxes?

Finally, Dorholt insists that he’ll fight the evil special interests that are trying to buy our elections. The bad news for Mr. Dorholt is that he’s got a record he’ll have to defend. He’s already voted against in-home child care providers and in favor of the public employee unions, which are bigtime allies of the DFL. When it came time to choose between the people and the special interests that time, Mr. Dorholt chose the special interests.

When the Tax Bill was being debated, local businesses lobbied against the DFL’s tax increases. Mr. Dorholt voted with the DFL and against his constituents. Then he returned home and got read the riot act by his constituents. In 2014, Dorholt voted to repeal part of the tax increases he voted to create in 2013.

If you’re getting the impression that Dorholt isn’t who his mailers say he is, don’t fight that feeling. This is the only candidate in that race who does what his constituents want:

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This St. Cloud Times editorial shows how out of touch the Times is with St. Cloud voters. The editorial opens by saying “Driven by residents’ input after last fall’s defeat of the bond referendum to build a new Technical High School, St. Cloud schools Superintendent Willie Jett is welcoming a reasonable potential solution to one of the biggest concerns residents have raised: What happens to the current Tech campus?”

That’s nothing but hot air. I’m betting that few people asked about what would happen to the “Tech campus” if the referendum passes this fall. (It won’t.) I’m betting that even fewer people care that “the district is willing to keep a school district presence there.” That’s a peripheral issue at best. Most people want to know if building a new school is necessary They’re questioning that because spending money on a new Tech HS will cause their property taxes to skyrocket.

The people that’ve contacted me or that’ve spoken out on this want to know if this is the best option going forward. Simply put, they aren’t certain it is. That’s why they defeated it last fall. The School Board has spent the past year making the same unpersuasive arguments that it made before. People want answers to specific important questions. They don’t care about answers to peripheral questions. This is their problem:

District leaders are open to the recommendation from a very high-powered panel that the district move its administrative offices and Welcome Center into the portions of Tech built in 1917 and 1938.

This “high-powered panel is just as out-of-touch with voters as the School Board. It’s a case of the blind leading the blind. This high-powered panel has spent years not listening to people. Now they’re expected to hear what people find most important? This high-powered panel couldn’t find the American mainstream if they had a GPS and a year’s supply of gasoline.

The plan came from a panel made up of outgoing school board member Dennis Whipple; St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis; Mike Gohman, president of W. Gohman Construction; Patti Gartland, president of Greater St. Cloud Development Corp.; Teresa Bohnen, president of St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce; and Henry Gruber, a longtime St. Cloud business owner.

I know these people. Of this panel, I’d only trust Mike Gohman and Henry Gruber. The rest, I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them if I had 2 broken arms and a bad back.

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In one of the biggest understatements in St. Cloud School Board history, Superintendent Willie Jett said that “We know we have more listening to do as part of this referendum.”

Actually, they need to start listening. I’m not proposing doing nothing. What I’ve consistently said was that the School Board consistently planned to overbuild. The original plan called for twin schools that each held 1,800 students. Student enrollment as of a year ago was 2,800. I’m not a rocket scientist, just like I’m not a demographer. Still, it doesn’t require a rocket scientist or a demographer to figure out that an aging school that’s getting surrounded by growing schools won’t grow 25-30% in enrollment over the next 25-30 years.

It’s far more likely that Sartell and Sauk Rapids will see significant enrollment growth over the next quarter-century than it is to expect significant enrollment growth for Apollo and Tech HS. The truth is that Jett and the School Board haven’t done any significant listening thus far. They’ve listened to people that they’ve wanted to hear from but they haven’t listened to the average voter. They’ve avoided those voters. Without them, the referendum fails.

If Jett and the School Board don’t learn from last year’s defeat, which appears like they haven’t, they’ll wind up with a defeated referendum and major turnover on the Board. The board needs a shakeup. They’ve become arrogant, which means they’ve stopped listening. It’s time for them to go.

Barbara Banaian’s monthly column highlights the arrogance of the St. Cloud School Board while highlighting the fact that the school board hasn’t examined all of the different options available with regard to Tech High School.

If I sound like a broken record on the subject, it’s because the School Board hasn’t changed its plan much. They haven’t explained why a new Tech High School needs to be built. Based on some of the comments by a school board member, it’s apparent that they don’t think they need to justify their actions.

Mrs. Banaian nails the crux of the problem when she wrote “We can all agree they can’t make do with Tech in its current condition. But should we pay to build a new high school? The proposed new Tech is slightly smaller and slightly less expensive than the one rejected in the 2015 vote. The school board and interested parties have invested time and money in a detailed design for a new building. But what have they given for the option to renovate Tech?”

Then Mrs. Banaian drops the hammer:

A scant “cost opinion” based on what contractor R.A. Morton said was “limited information.” “A complete facility assessment would be required to accurately assess the mechanical, electrical and structural conditions of the existing building. An educational assessment would be required to assess the flow, function and viability of educational programming of any renovations completed,” Morton wrote to the board June 2.

When the contractor indicates that they couldn’t do a legitimate estimate because of “limited information”, that’s proof that the School Board isn’t interested in finding out how much a Tech renovation would cost. When the Board cites a “cost opinion”, it should be rejected as worthless.

This is the same problem that Claire VanderEyk and Sarah Murphy ran into when they looked into the situation.

There’s a two-step solution to this situation. The first step is in voting no against the Tech referendum. The other step is in electing members to the school board that will actually address citizens’ questions. The School Board, as currently configured, is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the ‘education community’. We need citizen leadership, not vested special interests. This group should be voted out of office ASAP:

Eliminating the Board’s institutional arrogance is the only way to fix this problem.

I hope I get to meet Dr. Darrell Downs someday, hopefully soon. Dr. Downs’ op-ed is the most thoughtful, yet provocative, op-eds I’ve ever read. Having written more than a few LTEs and op-eds myself, I know what goes into writing something of this length and quality.

First, I’d like to thank Dr. Downs for his avoidance of using euphemisms and sugarcoating. It was refreshing to read Dr. Downs say “Minnesota State College and University (MnSCU) or ‘Minnesota State,’ as it has recently renamed itself, is in need of real change. It does not need re-branding gimmicks, new statewide strategic planning, or re-alignments that ignore campus input. As Minnesota State’s June report on financial sustainability said, ‘Houston: the system has a problem’ – I would agree except I would clarify that the system ‘is’ the problem. It’s time to face the reality that the broad authority granted to it by the legislature in 1991 has left the Minnesota State trustees with little formal allegiance and no accountability to the campuses they were appointed to govern.”

This identifies MnSCU’s bad habits quickly. The structure was flawed from the start. It established a bureaucracy without establishing who was responsible for ensuring accountability to the taxpayers. That’s likely because accountability wasn’t that high of a priority. Then Dr. Downs cuts to the heart of the matter of what’s broken:

Minnesota State is led by 15 trustees appointed by the Governor and is run by a central bureaucracy comparable in size to the largest of our state universities. The trustees possess overall governing authority, as well as the authority to set academic policy. Bit by bit, this authority has imposed uniformity on how the campuses are managed and increasingly on how the courses are taught, with rare, if ever, meaningful input from campus communities.

Let’s examine this a bit. Let’s think of this from the standpoint that different communities and different regions of the state have different workforce requirements. Top-down bureaucracies don’t specialize in customization. They specialize (if that’s the right word) in one-size-fits-all ‘solutions’ that are frequently counterproductive.

Next, let’s examine this situation:

Minnesota State’s June report reflects the same tin ear to the value of campuses. It even takes aim on labor agreements so it can more easily create “dedicated administrative structures.” Campuses and their instructional spending are apparently viewed as the key cost drivers while the administrative side of the house is somehow in need of protection. Pardon me for complaining that a system devoted to education now views administration as a fixed cost, while spending on instruction is viewed as a variable cost. This is the same wrong-headedness that led to the MnSCU faculty rejecting the Chancellor’s Charting the Future plan in 2015, and the state university faculty’s votes of no confidence in his leadership.

Think about this. Colleges and universities are where students go to learn, at least theoretically. Based on MnSCU’s ‘business model’, it sounds like the Trustees’ highest priority is to provide administration without providing a great educational product. That’s as foolish as I’ve ever heard.

If you don’t take anything else from this post, highlight this:

It noted that while administrative spending per student was presented by MnSCU to be low compared to other states, the audit found that it depends on how you count administrative spending, and if all administrative supports are counted, MnSCU ranks well above other states in spending per student. So who among the trustees is charged with protecting the instructional priorities on the campuses?

Like I said earlier, there is a bureaucracy established. Its priorities, however, aren’t established, or, more to the point, their priorities aren’t the right priorities.

Dr. Downs is right. It’s time to kick down the doors. It’s time for real change within MnSCU. This isn’t just a warning to the bureaucrats. It’s putting legislators on notice that we aren’t satisfied with the product MnSCU has been producing and we’re not going to take it anymore.

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According to this article, Jim Nobles, Minnesota’s legislative auditor, thinks the Board of Teaching is dysfunctional. He’s published this report, complete with findings of facts and recommendations.

One of Nobles’ finding of fact is that “the Board of Teaching (BoT) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)—share responsibility for licensing teachers. In general, BoT establishes requirements for teacher licensure, and MDE reviews license applications, makes licensure decisions, and issues teaching licenses.” His recommendation that “The Legislature should consolidate all teacher-licensure activities into one state entity” certainly makes sense. Sharing responsibilities doesn’t work. Both parties point fingers at the other.

When I wrote this post, I highlighted the fact that “Ramsey County Judge Shawn Bartsh ‘blasted the state’s Board of Teaching'” for “suddenly stopping a program that allowed experienced teachers, often from out of state, to get teaching licenses through an alternate method called ‘licensure via portfolio.’ The judge ordered the agency to resume the program, as required by law.”

It’s clear that the BoT and MDE aren’t solutions-oriented. The people working in those departments clearly haven’t communicated the need to simplify the licensure procedures. They’re still pointing fingers at each other instead of fixing the problem or obeying clearly written law. Further, it’s clear that they’ve let different institutions decide what out-of-state credentialed teachers must do to get licensed in Minnesota.

When the U of M requires a teacher who’s taught 12 years in another state and who has a Master’s degree to do student teaching again, that’s ridiculous. Further, when Minnesota State University, Mankato says the same teacher doesn’t need to do a semester of student teaching, something’s totally off kilter. It’s one thing for the U to require different courses than Mankato requires. It’s a different thing to require a credentialed teacher to do student teaching. That’s more than a significant difference.

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It’s impossible to go a day without finding another example of the DFL’s culture of corruption. This time, the Minnesota Board of Teaching got cited for contempt of court after Ramsey County Judge Shawn Bartsh “blasted the state’s Board of Teaching for suddenly stopping a program that allowed experienced teachers, often from out of state, to get teaching licenses through an alternate method called ‘licensure via portfolio.’ The judge ordered the agency to resume the program, as required by law.” Judge Bartsh ordered the program to resume on Dec. 31, 2015.

In his contempt order, Judge Bartsh said that “the board ‘had no excuse for not contacting’ one of the teachers attempting to get a license” adding that “the Court does not take the granting of sanctions lightly and would far have preferred [the board] to simply follow the law.”

After reading this article, it’s pretty clear that the Board isn’t interested in following the law:

Kirstin Rogers taught history and English in Utah for 12 years. She has a master’s degree and a handful of other certificates. Still, when she moved to Minnesota the state gave her only a temporary teacher’s license. She learned she’d have to do a lot of work to get a permanent one.

State law is supposed to allow experienced teachers like Rogers to submit a portfolio demonstrating their competence instead of doing coursework. But the Board of Teaching stopped accepting portfolios three years ago. The board reopened the process under a court order last month but has appealed the ruling.

Rogers contacted the University of Minnesota to see what she’d have to do to gain a permanent teacher’s license. The answer was daunting. “I would be required to student teach again,” Rogers said. “And then all these additional courses.”

Clearly, this teacher is qualified. The notion that she’d have to student teach again is silly. She taught for 12 years in Utah. What possible reason could the Board of Teaching have for not giving her a permanent teaching license? Rather than explaining their reason, they simply appealed the judge’s ruling. Instead, they stood behind political double-speak:

Board director Erin Doan won’t talk specifically about the case, but she said the state needs to be careful about whom it allows in the classroom. “We have one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation,” Doan said. “And we want to make sure every child in our state has a teacher in front of them that is able to be highly trained in their ability to look at reading difficulty, highly trained in their ability to diagnose math difficulties.”

Ms. Doan’s explanation is BS. Rather than accepting a qualified, experienced teacher, the Board cited Minnesota’s large achievement gaps, then saying that they “want to make sure every child in our state has a teacher in front of them that is able to be highly trained in their ability to look at reading difficulty, highly trained in their ability to diagnose math difficulties.”

Simply put, that’s politic-speak for saying that the Board was willing to defy a judge. Check back later today for more on this corruption.

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