David's Blog

Thursday, October 08, 2009

School Board Candidate Contrasts

School Board Candidate Contrasts
The Chamber’s effort to get school board candidates to clearly state their positions got off to a lively start on Tuesday morning. At our School Board Candidate FORVM, a capacity crowd of citizens and news media attending our gathering in the Duluth Technology Village.

We were honored to be joined by three of the four incumbents – Mary Cameron, Laura Condon and Ann Wasson – and by three of the four challengers – Maureen Booth, Art Johnston and Tom Kasper. Board member Nancy Nilsen was out of the country and could not attend, and challenger Marcia Stromgren informed us she had a conflict. Yet, these two individuals also provided varying levels of email responses to the questions.

To ensure candidates would arrive well prepared, we provided the questions to them a week ahead of time. The purpose was to ensure that attendees would hear exactly where each candidate stands. In most cases, that worked well. However, it took two or three tries to get some of the non-incumbent candidates to commit to precise answers. Even then, some still chose to not answer at all.

Among the surprises at Tuesday’s FORVM were these:
  • Maureen Booth said she couldn’t comment on Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) specifics because she had not been allowed to view the plan. We encourage her, and anyone else seeking detailed information about the Long Range Facilities Plan, to visit the ChooseDuluthSchools.com website that has been live for several months.
  • Art Johnston said that while he supports Plan B, he is not a member of Let Duluth Vote. That’s apparently a change in his position, because he was the Let Duluth Vote spokesperson who presented Plan B to the School Board on June 23.

The two challengers who said they’d vote to keep more schools open – Johnston and Kasper – did not provide any ideas for how they’d pay for them.

Here is how the candidates responded to three key questions people are asking:

  • Which plan do you support? All four incumbents said they support the LRFP now underway. Johnston and Stromgren support Let Duluth Vote’s Plan B. Kasper said he supports aspects of the LRFP, but would keep Nettleton and Morgan Park schools open. Booth said she could not answer because she had not seen details of the LRFP.
  • If elected, would you stop all work on the facilities plan? – Booth, Kasper and Johnston said they would stop work on the plan. The four incumbents said they would not stop work on the plan. Stromgren chose to not answer this question.
  • Would you vote to keep more schools open than the LRFP currently includes? – Booth and the four incumbents said they would not vote to keep more schools open. Stromgren again chose to not answer at all.

Those who answered yes were asked if they would pay for the extra schools by seeking an operating levy, cutting teachers, freezing employee pay, cutting existing education programs, cutting extracurricular activities, or something else.

Johnston and Kasper said they would indeed keep more schools open. However, they would use steps other than the five options suggested. They did not provide specific ways to pay for the extra schools.

Johnston also said he’d like the community to have more discussion about Plan B, and we agree with him. We believe it’s vitally important for voters to realize the financial, educational, environmental and safety implications of Plan B versus the approved Long Range Facilities Plan.

This blog and Tuesday’s well-attended FORVM are tangible indications of the Chamber’s commitment to help voters go to the polls on November 3 with accurate information on which to base their important decisions.

In support,
David Ross

posted by David Ross at


Blogger Tom 218 said...

David, nice report. Actual details about what was unique about this forum, as opposed to a litany of the similarities with other forums that I read elsewhere ...

10:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great writeup of what was going on. I couldn't make it to the actual meeting, so it's been good for me to have this summary to refer to. I'll try to keep checking back here when I can't make it.


3:21 PM  

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