Guest Commentary: Plan will be foughtShortly after the overwhelming results of the recent Lake Superior School District 381 referendum vote were official, the school board met to choose an alternate course of action.
By: Mark Broin, Larsmont, Lake County News Chronicle
Shortly after the overwhelming results of the recent Lake Superior School District 381 referendum vote were official, the school board met to choose an alternate course of action. Instead of looking at this as an opportunity to rebuild its credibility with the public by operating within their means and maintaining a five-day week, the board responded by authorizing a proposal for approval of a four-day week.
Although this action was disappointing for a number of reasons, it is important for everyone to understand this proposal is not guaranteed to be approved by the Department of Education and must meet very stringent requirements of Minnesota law and rule.
The board chose to pursue an option which will place an unfair personal and financial burden on families who are the key stakeholders in the educational programs of the district.
The board also chose a path which relegates the treatment of many of the district employees to secondary citizen status by cutting their compensation up to 20 percent — all the while leaving a select group of contract employees completely unaffected.
The board may have also acted in a manner which disenfranchised the rights of directly affected groups and the general public to provide documented input on their preferences and directions for school board action. The board is required, by law, in their proposal, to certify to the Minnesota Department of Education they have “negotiated with all school staff covered under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act…with parents of the pupils who would be affected by the change…and with the community at large.”
The clear intent of the applicable Minnesota statutes is that prior to submission of its proposal to the state, the district is to have had a minimum of three properly noticed meetings to explain and discuss the requirements of the law, the rights of the affected parties under the law when a four-day week is proposed, the justification for the proposal, and to document in writing the feedback of the persons attending the meetings.
We also believe Rule 3500.1000 requires the district to substantiate in any proposal its claim there are no other reasonable options except a four-day week to “increase cost effectiveness.”
There are numerous other requirements in Minnesota law regarding the certification and submission of a proposal and attendant documentation for a school district to go to a four-day week. The public can read this information and make their own determination if the board has been in compliance with the intent and spirit of the law by going to www.vote381.com and following the links under the “Four-Day Week” tab.
As we solicit information from the district to determine its compliance with the intent of the law, we intend to submit a brief on behalf of the public to the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education urging denial of any proposal to move District 381 to a four-day week. We will be seeking input from affected parties to include with this recommendation. Our progress will be updated regularly at www.vote381.com.
We encourage the public’s continued participation in this process and assure them our efforts on their behalf to bring open dialog, program accountability, and fiscal transparency to operations will continue.
Broin has been a frequent voice of opposition to the recent levy increase vote and began a web site citing his views at www.vote381.com.