What would possess a school district superintendent to "request" that the district's school board not respond to their constituent's inquiries about an issue?
As has been previously reported on this blog, Crosswinds is a 6th-10th grade Arts and Sciences middle school run by the East Metro Integration District, which is comprised of about ten different metro school districts. Late last year, EMID opted to let go of Crosswinds, and to give Perpich Center for the Arts the opportunity to acquire the school, but Perpich has to go through the State Legislature to do so. If the Perpich bills fail in the State Legislature, then Crosswinds would go to South Washington County School District 833, since it is located within 833's boundaries. Unlike Perpich, which plans to continue Crosswinds' current programming, District 833 has released only one plan: to move neighborhood children out of Woodbury Elementary into the Crosswinds building and move the Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion school into Woodbury Elementary.
This plan obviously has the non-Spanish-Immersion community parents (comprising 98% of the district's population) quite upset, most especially the parents with children attending Woodbury Elementary. Parents have responded to this plan by emailing, calling and attending school board meetings to question the Board and Superintendent about the Crosswinds and budget issues. Many of these questions have gone unanswered. Which brings us to the latest tricks this district's administration has pulled.
The following is an excerpt from an email that Mr. Gelbmann has sent to his constituents over the last week, explaining his position on the Crosswinds issue and the silence of the other board members:
Thanks for sharing your well-articulated concerns regarding the ill-conceived proposal to relocate WE to the Crosswinds building. As noted in the Woodbury Bulletin yesterday, I do not support the proposal to relocate WE to the Crosswinds building. Dr. Jacobus had requested that Board members not respond to parents on this issue. I agreed, noting that at some point I reserved my right to inform my constituents where I stand on this issue. Since my position was made public in the Bulletin yesterday, I decided I should feel comfortable responding to parents and citizens on this issue...I believe the District has repeatedly erred in dealing with this Crosswinds opportunity...
I hope this helps provide some insight into my thinking on this situation.My best regards.Sincerely,Jim
Furthermore, does Dr. Jacobus also not understand the Code of Ethics for Adminstrators as outlined by the District 833 Administrator Code of Ethics:
- Listen to the opinions and views of others (including, but not limited to, other School Board members, administration, staff, students and community members).
- Vote my conscience after informed discussion, unless I abstain because a conflict of interest exists.
- Consider myself a trustee of public education and do my best to protect, conserve, and advance its progress.
- Insist that business transactions of the school district be ethical and open.
- Strive to uphold my responsibilities and accountability to the taxpayers in my school district.
- Makes the well-being of students the fundamental value of all decision making and actions.
- Fulfills professional responsibilities with honesty and integrity.
- Adheres to the code of ethics for administrators in Minnesota law. Legal References: Minn. Stat. § 122A.14, Subd. 4 (Code of Ethics); Minn. Rules Part 3512.5200 (Code of Ethics for School Administrators)
A few weeks ago, Dr. Jacobus submitted a "Viewpoint" op-ed to the local newspaper titled, "Transparency and the Art of Decision-Making" in which he claimed, "While the work was being done (on the possible Crosswinds acquisition), it was not secretive. It was simply what we needed to do to be prepared to answer questions; to conduct research and prepare properly prior to entering into the discussion..."
"Not Secretive"? Many contradictions to that statement have come to light in recent months, including representatives from Woodbury Elementary not being invited to the initial meetings with "the parent and staff groups who would be most affected by the proposed changes." The excuse for those Woodbury Elementary parents/staff not being invited? The administration wanted to keep "emotions" down, so they didn't run into the same troubles they had a few years ago when Spanish Immersion attempted a neighborhood school grab at that time. Gee, how did they expect parents to react when their kids are being shuffled into a school that is not properly designed for elementary students in order to benefit an elitist choice program that serves 2% of the district population? Did they expect them to pack Woodbury Elementary up themselves and give Nuevas Fronteras a "Welcome to Your New School" Party on their way out?
Ironically, District 833 recently eliminated 22 FTE teaching positions and cut back middle/high school busing services to save $2M. Their proposed Crosswinds plan will cost minimally $1million/year; they're estimating the modifications to Crosswinds at $375K, but have yet to seek bids from contractors to find the true costs to modifying a 6th-10th grade school into a school suitable for elementary students. The District is expecting an increase in State funding over the next two years (totaling an approximate increase of $300/student) as well as proposing an increased levy referendum to the community this fall. In my opinion, it doesn't take a math wizard to figure out that the amount the district is "cutting" is about the same amount they're estimating they'll need to fulfill their Crosswinds/Spanish Immersion/Woodbury Elementary plans. So, while over 800 middle/high school students freeze walking up to two miles (one way) to school every day, the elite Spanish Immersion students, who receive free busing from all over the district, will be warm and snug in their very own (stolen) neighborhood school.
Remember that South Washington County District 833 is the same Minnesota school district that determined that a presentation honoring the violent, socialist militant group The Black Panthers was acceptable to do over a high school P.A. system because it was done during Black History month and "student led." So acceptable, in fact, that the Superintendent, Dr. Keith Jacobus, contradicted his own board members in announcing during a board meeting that he had spoken with the East Ridge High School Principal, Aaron Harper, and based upon that discussion, there would be no investigation into the matter as the school board had indicated to the concerned parents attending the meeting. Then, a few weeks later, Dr. Jacobus announced that the Black Panther matter was closed, "the blog" was threatening and our children are watching. Dr. Jacobus should take his own advice regarding "observant children" given his recent actions surrounding the district's attempt to acquire Crosswinds school or somebody may hold him up to the kids as an example of how not to behave.
A related article (the comments are interesting) http://woodbury.patch.com/blog_posts/superintendent-requests-that-school-board-not-respond-to-parents-on-crosswinds-issue-37508909
~Updated 1:29pm, April 4, 2013~