WAPS provides a bitter drink


(7/25/2018)

From: Gabe Dybing

Superintendent Dahman and his School Board argue that we had to sell the schools because we couldn’t afford the deferred maintenance. Deferred maintenance appears to me to be, simply put, neglect through lack of priorities. Hard choices were made, Dahman will say, just like the hard choices we make now. But to me it looks like incompetence and mismanagement. It hurts to have your public money misused and frittered away.

And one figure I never saw was just how much it would cost to provide the necessary maintenance and keep the schools open. That seems reasonable enough. Oh, I suppose we were told, but not in any way that made sense to anyone. Board member Allison Quam repeatedly asked (and keeps asking) for complete and comprehensible data on this question. Routinely it is inaccurate, sometimes incomplete, and most often unavailable.

This is an example of the obfuscation Dahman uses to get what he wants. Other methods are aggression and intimidation. When the referendum was roundly and rightly rejected by the community as a product of incompetence, WAPS leaders did not say, “Come, let us reason together.” Instead they vilified and alienated Save Our Schools. They created an us/them dichotomy, small schools/consolidation.

Quam is the only board member who consistently brings a creative perspective to the table, asking questions that seek to uncover what it really takes to provide everything that we want for our students.

The rest of the board is in lock-step with Dahman. Under the watch of many of these members, the schools were eroded to the point that Dahman was able to convince the board that they were justified in giving away $6 million worth of real estate for the price of a few Winona homes. Next, after throwing away our birthright, they are asking for a $10-million referendum. They’re probably going to use one of their typical scare tactics, saying that the money is for security when they could have provided this all along. Watch how they manipulate the issue (if you can, if they have posted it to the website by now — another tactic: keeping us uninformed). At the July 19 board meeting, during the LTFM funds item, Quam moves to use some of that money for security for our most vulnerable schools. Watch the uncomfortable moment of silence. Watch the confusion. Then watch Jay Kohner second her motion because the motion is so startling that he actually wants to talk about it.

And then watch them give it all over to Dahman. Watch him explain that LTFM funds are not the best resources for this purpose, that other general funds are. Then watch Quam amend her motion to reflect this, Kohner sullenly accept it, and then watch it utterly evaporate, with only Quam voting “yes,” as Ben Baratto explains that the next line item — the facilities master plan — is the true place for this sort of motion.

But is it? The facilities master plan essentially amounts to the referendum, managed and owned by the Wold architectural firm. Moreover, Dahman hopes to make use of state grant money so overwhelmed by applicants that it’s parceled out through lottery. Dahman is subjecting the safety of our children to a lottery! Quam didn’t even bother to try another motion, but instead was reduced to appealing to Dahman to at least lock all the doors of the schools. In fairness, Dahman did agree to bring some possibilities to the table at the next meeting.

Meanwhile the schools are sold, administrators make extraordinary salaries, one open position is rapidly filled (without Dahman remotely considering a freeze due to current financial setbacks), courses are cut mercilessly when they don’t meet minimum enrollments, therefore teachers are cut or they outright quit after refusing to work in intolerable conditions such as the basements of schools that we are told are way under capacity.

It is terrible to be a parent in this community, having his or her child held hostage both through a sense of blackmail through promised security and through a choice, when the referendum comes, of rewarding incompetence or continuing to let this school system deteriorate. Dahman and his board seem incapable of recognizing that parents don’t want their children packed into warehouses. This has to be a reason why the charter and private schools are the competition that Kohner once told me is a major obstacle for WAPS. So compete, WAPS! If you mean to be an attractive educational option, you have been heading in the wrong direction for quite some time now.

I already have removed my last student from the WAPS system. I know other parents don’t have this luxury. Perhaps the coming referendum will make it better for your children, perhaps not. We all know that it is hard to reward incompetence. It is a bitter drink; I pour it out.

 

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