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Lincoln lives! (05/29/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

The school district administration should take a math class at the high school. They have apparently forgotten the rule that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

After the school board ran like a pack to lemmings to the sea to close Central Elementary School, the distance to their next move took a circuitious and wasteful route. Central is a perfectly good building within an attendance area that sees many of its students go to private or charter schools, some because of the persistent rumors that the school would be closed. Parents want continuity for their children, not constant threats. Then a group of citizens proposed that Central be made into a magnet school, one that all district parents could choose to apply to. But rather than using the building for that purpose, the board opted to use part of Jefferson Elementary for a STEM program, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Central was officially put on the chopping block by the board. Students were to be moved to W-K or Madison. At the end of February the board met. ďSix roofs are six roofs to take care of,Ē board chair Greg Fellman said at that meeting when endorsing the district consolidation of elementary students into other district buildings. According to a news account of the meeting, ďThe board said having so many buildings was placing a financial drain on the district, and that Central Elementary is prime real estate that needs to be sold.Ē The administration had claimed that using Central as an elementary school cost the district $260,000 a year.

Then, as though they were serious about finding another use for Central, they appointed a committee of fourteen, the Central Reuse Task Force, to explore uses for the building. When the board first envisioned the task force, it was to be a small working group, but then they did an about face on advice from administration, and accepted all applicants, almost ensuring that the group would have a difficult time actually getting anything done. Requests for proposals (RFP) went out in which it was noted that the building has a 10-year-old roof and an 8-year-old boiler.

But as it turns out, the group didnít really have a function other than to serve as a screen for the districtís plan, which became clear when the RFPs came back to the group. The school board had recently informed the task force that they didnít want them rating the RFPs, the board would take care of that. There were seven RFPs, among which were some intriguing ones, such as a language immersion school, but none of the proposals were to purchase the building. Even the Winona Senior Friendship Center, which submitted an RFP to move their program to Central from the Masonic Building, thought theyíd be able to do so for free.

Clearly the winning proposal was from (drum roll) Interim Supertendent Scott Hannon. To do what? Raise the now-a-parking-lot Lincoln District Office Building from the ashes to live in glory once again. Move various district offices from elsewhere in the district into Central! What a way to save money! Why didnít they think of that before? Move out students, move in adults, and let the taxpayers foot the bill. Wasnít it just a few years ago they were telling us that selling Lincoln and relocating those offices into other district buildings would save us money? Donít we still have oodles of room in the Winona Middle School?

So, unless the journey from Point A (close an elementary school) to Point B (reestablish an entire building for district offices) isnít quite over, I guess six roofs arenít really six roofs one of them covers district bureaucrats. Apparently it is only the presence of students that makes a building a financial drain. That should give parents considering where to send their children to school a good idea of how eager Winona Area Public Schools are to actually educate their students. I know it gives this taxpayer a big pain in the pocketbook! And taxpayers can take a lesson in how serious WAPS really is about living within its means.

Book club

The Redbreast, by Jo NesbÝ was given to me by my friend Cynthia. When I first picked it up, I didnít get into it, but on second try, it is wonderful crime fiction about an intrigue involving WWII Norwegian soldiers who fought for the Germans and who suddenly resurface in 1999. Good!


Thank you to my brother, father, mother and uncles who served our country in the armed services during war time. Thanks also to friends and readers who also sacrificed for our freedoms, including Freedom of the Press.



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