After reading this article, I’m almost mad enough to throw the entire ISD742 school board through a brick wall. They’ve proven beyond all doubt that they aren’t trustworthy. That means they shouldn’t be given the authority to handle large-scale financial matters.

Last winter and spring, I frequently said that the School Board’s Advisory Board was a PR scheme. This article proves that I was right. I’ll return to that theme in a little bit. First, here’s what touched off the firestorm. According Ms. Berg’s reporting, “Several high-profile leaders are urging St. Cloud school board to reconsider a plan to purchase the former Minnesota School of Business building for the district offices and welcome center. The leaders were part of an advisory group created by Superintendent Willie Jett charged with finding solutions for the fate of Technical High School if a referendum to build a new high school passed last November.”

Jett’s plan all along was to win over a higher percentage of voters who live within walking distance of Tech HS. Those living near Tech HS raised serious objections to abandoning the neighborhood. The easiest way to get past that sticking point was to appoint an advisory council that could be ignored once the votes were counted. That’s what appears to have happened:

Kleis said Tuesday the plan to purchase the Waite Park building instead of repurpose Tech surprised him. “All the discussion from the neighborhood and the district was that the administration would be in that historic Tech building,” he said. “Having that commitment was something I knew was positively received by the neighborhood and I think influenced the outcome of the referendum.” Kleis said the advisory committee was formed after a referendum failed in 2015, and members spent hours at listening sessions trying to gather input and find solutions.

Check out the School Board’s double-talk:

Jerry Von Korff, school board vice chair, responded to the letter by stating the plan to move administration to Tech proved “unworkable” because the rehabilitation cost estimates are out of line with the district’s means and no one else has stepped forward with a viable plan to develop the rest of the building or land. Meanwhile, the district could purchase the former Minnesota School of Business building at about half the cost of moving to Tech, he stated.

“We sit on the board as fiduciaries to fulfill the constitutional obligation to educate the children of our respective communities. As much as we respect your recommendation to make the move to Tech work, it has become clear that the plan is unworkable,” Von Korff stated. “We’re not looking at the (Minnesota School of Business) alternative because we don’t care about you, the (mayor), or the neighborhood, or the (city). The plan to move into Tech is unworkable, and if we were to spend more than ($12 million) to execute this plan, we would be justly crucified for wasting education.

Von Korff is the school board’s vice chair. Here’s what Al Dahlgren, the school board’s chair, said:

Board Chair Al Dahlgren said the superintendent and school board never promised the district would move into a repurposed Tech. “The recommendation of the committee was taken under advisement and was presented as one possible option,” he stated in a response to the advisory group’s letter. “No action was ever taken by the board and no person has the authority to make decisions or promises on behalf of the board. It would take an action by the majority of the board to do so. That did not occur here and if there is any misunderstanding within the committee, it is certainly that — a misunderstanding.”

Let’s be clear about something. While there wasn’t a formal contract signing, the people on that advisory committee considered that a formality. To hear von Korff and Dahlgren say that repurposing Tech wouldn’t work or that they never committed to it is the epitome of slipperiness.

It’s time to throw these bums out. That’s what’s supposed to happen to people you can’t trust.

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One Response to “Throw the bums out”

  • Crimson Trace says:

    Waite Park, huh? Talk about utter betrayal to the core neighborhood residents in St. Cloud. Maybe Sauk Rapids will build their administrative headquarters in St. Cloud. Not.

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