Jump to Navigation

Duluth News Tribune, Sept. 2010

It is time for the Duluth Public School’s Superintendent and Chairperson of the School Board to resign.

This public sentiment has been repeated to me hundreds of times during my campaign for school board.  Having been on the school board for nine months, I’ve found things even worse than what I was being told.   There is a long list of grievances that indicate failure of leadership. 

 On July 20 the Board passed a $63 million teacher labor contract.  Teachers were given 3.1% pay raises, 13% medical benefit increases, and now have 100% of their health premiums paid, zero deductible, and most of their dental paid. This compares to a 0% increase for city workers for the last three years and high co-pays. Our teachers are the backbone of the school and deserve good pay, but this is an unsustainable increase considering the reality of declining government revenues in these sluggish economic times.   The stagnant economy is lowering Minnesota tax revenues and a $7 billion State deficit is expected for the next biennium. It is perplexing that this teacher contract was approved over one year before the old contract would expire and before the State budget will be set.  Furthermore, this contract was negotiated in the absence of any elected Board members, which violates school rules, but instead was negotiated solely by an administration that has a conflict of interest in that they will likely reap the same pay increases.  And worst of all, the public and the media were denied any prior access to the terms of this contract and its budget implications. To add insult to injury, the school Superintendent and the Board Chair ruled that there could be absolutely no public discussion of the terms of either the agreement or its total cost to the taxpayer.  So the school board rubber-stamped the contract with no disclosure nor debate.  Not only did this violate State guidelines and customary legal procedures, it is ethically shocking to citizens that expect government to follow rules and not deprive the citizens of their right to know.

The Duluth schools are not just schools “for the children”, they are also a large and important business.  Our $120 million annual budget (not counting the $300 million Red Plan) is almost twice as large as the City of Duluth’s budget.  Our 1500 employees are almost twice as many as employed by the City, and is as large as St. Louis County’s workforce.  You would think that such a large governing entity would have its public body be accountable and transparent.  But not so.  The Board’s own bylaws are flagrantly violated either through ignorance or apparently whenever it is convenient to eliminate debate or rubberstamp something through.  Rudimentary procedures like conducting votes and adjourning meetings are not followed. And even something as simple as taking accurate minutes of meetings seem impossible to accomplish.

Gallup polls show that two-thirds of Americans hold a less than favorable opinion of public schools and that number is steadily worsening.  Their approval rating is barely higher than prisons and television.  In Duluth, there is likely even a lower approval rating given the dysfunctional history here.

The Superintendent and the Board Chairperson are the ones that determine the tone and accountability of the Board, how it interacts with the public, its ability to retain students, how it transacts its business, how it assures that rules are followed, and that the will of the public is heard.  These all set the tone for the rest of the school operations.  Openness, transparency, integrity, and accountability are what should be leading the Duluth Schools, and the present leadership has failed to do that.


4th District School Board Member

Main menu 2

Dr. Radut Consulting