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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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Before you decide, take a closer look at district’s magnet numbers (02/09/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

I have always told new reporters and readers who wonder why I question government decisions — “just look at the numbers.” Whoever controls the input controls the output, and whoever controls what the numbers say can make the numbers say anything. It takes close and careful work to take apart a budget, say, or a projection, to see if it is a real, honest package, or if the person putting the numbers together started from the end and worked backwards.

A look at Dist. 861’s projection of the “cost” of housing a magnet school at Central Elementary is a good example of starting with a desired outcome and getting the numbers to work for that outcome.

At the board meeting last Monday to discuss the numbers and the future of the district without a Central School, it was asked why the district factored in an additional 4 students in a magnet at Central, when a recent study suggest twice that many. People also asked why the district didn’t factor in the students it might lose if it closes a school, as recent and past history of school closings has borne out.

It was asked why the district was projecting the need for $91,000 in special services for an additional 14 special ed students for a Central magnet when the cost for those services at Goodview would be $63,400, and at W-K $32,240. It was asked why the cost of transportation for a magnet school at Central would be $89,600, but closing Central would not add transportation costs to any other school. (This last one was answered by Board Chair Greg Fellman, who said that Central’s population could walk to either W-K or Madison. I can tell you that from my house at Washington and Mill, neither of those schools is within walking distance.)

In short, the district’s projections for the cost of a magnet school at Central are highly inflated. The current administration and the majority on the board — Fellman, Schild, Barratto and Shurson — simply do not want to keep Central School open, even though it operates in the black. They are unable to logically defend their numbers, and they are unwilling to discuss their plans for the future of the school district if they get rid of Central School — what will the class size picture look like at other schools? The others already do not do as well on state tests as Central does. What would happen if the school population grows from its present low number? Do we not anticipate population growth from immigration, or from new businesses at the Wilson exchange?

So just remember my adage when you read about Central closing and a magnet school being cobbled together at another school — whoever controls the input, controls the output. And so far, that’s the Dist. 861 administration and majority on the school board.

Fran’s Book Club!

Micki Ball gave me a copy of Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan. It’s a post WWII novel set in the deep South, and is very much a picture of the struggle of Blacks who served in the war coming home to find that nothing has changed, and they have little or no prospects. Jordan deals also with the subtle ways in which life will never be the same for Southern whites, either. I liked it even more than I liked The Help, by Katherine Stockett, on a similar theme.

My sister Susan, who is the smarty pants in the family, recommended The Infinities, by John Banville. I have not yet read the book, but the reviews make it sound interesting. Certainly not your run-of-the-mill mystery, of which I am very fond, too.

Ruby is 93! Send her a card!

Our old Washington and Mill neighbor, Ruby Teegarden, will be 93 years old tomorrow. She now lives in a Twin Cities suburb, to be closer to her daughter, Lois. But like everyone else who ever lived in the old ‘hood, she remembers it fondly and would love to hear from friends and neighbors. Pictures would be welcome, too.

Ruby and I shared a love of fresh raspberries. I never could get them to stay fresh very long before spoiling, so it made sense for us to share a pint when we could get our hands on them.

John had a special connection to Ruby, too. He has a knack for unwittingly naming dogs after neighbors. Our first Lab he named Arnie, for his uncle, who raised dogs. But it was also the name of next door neighbor Arnie Albrecht. So naturally, when he named his favorite hunter of all time Ruby, Ruby Teegarden may have heard him yelling every now and then, “Ruby, get back here!” and some other less gentle things.

We miss Ruby a lot, and her husband, Bill, who died a few years back. But Happy Birthday, Ruby! We’re thinking about you.

If you’d like to send Ruby a card, she is at The Gables

13575 58th St. N., Oak Park Heights, MN 55083 


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