Archive for November, 2008

Letter: Schools Still Fall Short

November 28, 2008

To the MN Sun-Post:

As Robbinsdale Area Schools lobbied for votes for the referendum, I decided to meet with a number of school principals and dialogue with the district office. Since I am single with no children, my own research was needed.

Both of my parents were teachers and my father eventually became a college professor. While I am not against funding education, which is the foundation of our economy, I want a greater return on my education investment from the public school system. What I learned still disappoints.

Robbinsdale’s graduation rate is below the state average (Minnesota Department of Education’s website), the district has failed to reach AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) the last two years, only 27 percent of Minnesota ninth-graders will receive a post-high school degree and our students don’t even state the Pledge of Allegiance on a daily basis.

I’m sorry, but my father did not risk his life during World War II so our future leaders and defenders of freedom can make a “pledge to the earth.” How much does it cost to teach respect, honor, accountability and responsibility?

A remarkable group of people trained in the fine art of utilizing a slide rule put a man on the moon. What’s happened? Countries like Slovenia produce higher quality and better achieving students than we do. Sadly, there are systemic problems and it’s time to re-engineer education.

No more excuses. If ISD 281 does not meet AYP by June 2010, then every school board member and every principal needs to immediately resign.

Todd M.
Plymouth

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Referendum Ballot Errors Caught in Plymouth, Complaint Filed

November 27, 2008

The MN Sun-Post reports that a Plymouth resident has filed a complaint that they were not given the ballot for their district’s referendum. The ballot errors were reported in Plymouth precincts. FreedomDogs blog asks: “Incompetence? Malfeasance? Corruption?”

Buried on Page 23A of today’s Crystal/Robbinsdale Sun-Gross is a story not just hinting but telling us our recent local referendum may have been fraudulent, rigged or illegal. (Question:  Had the referendum been lost, which page of this paper do you think a hint of wrongdoing would appear).

I quote the source:

“With several school districts represented in those precincts, there were different ballots for each district.  In all, reflecting Plymouth city, Hennepin County and state races as well as two school district referendums (Osseo and Robbinsdale), there were 35 different ballot styles in Plymouth, according to Plymouth City Clerk Sandy Engdahl.”

Is there a lawyer in the house?  I mean it.  I’m not suggesting that the vote would have turned out different, but according to the story, the screw-ups were across the breadth of the northwest metro.

How the story broke:  Some voters objected on election day that their local referendum was not on their ballot.  That was the start of this sequence of ‘anomalies.’  The situation, we are told, was corrected for the complaining voters.  But, how many voters didn’t catch these screw ups and just voted, cruised on through and went home thinking maybe they were wrong about a referendum on this year’s ballot? The tone of the Post story seems to suggest the mis-allocated ballots were isolated and insignificant.  The paper quoted the Plymouth City Clerk, but didn’t go across the northwest metro to get quotes from other local election officials in the other communities.  (Hard to believe this stellar news-gathering organization could be so shallow, isn’t it?)

We DO know there were wrongful referendum ballots at various polling places across the whole northwest metro – including specific eyewitness reports of missing referendum questions in Osseo School District and in Robbinsdale District 281 – but we have no meaningful information telling us the scope of the “oversight.” The only other quote we have in this story is from Jeff Dehler, communications director for District 281 (we know he has no horse in the race), who said “the problem seems isolated.”

Excuse me?  Ballots without a referendum question?  Or the wrong referendum question?  How do we know some, part, or all of it was isolated, Mr. Communications-director-with-a-triple-digit-salary on the line?  Al Franken would have a galaxy of attorneys poking and probing each chad and dimple, performing legal gymnastics trying to divine ‘voter intent’ for those of us too stupid to understand how ballots work.

The Sun-Gross article went on to quote their only “expert,” the aforementioned Sandy Engdahl, the Plymouth City Clerk as saying “The election judges did a good job – they did the best they could.”

Best they could?  Is this a new election standard – and when was it adopted? (If it is, I don’t have to ask which party adopted it).  Someone needs to dig deeper.  Since we know our local rag won’t, I’m hoping our Dogs of Diligence will put their ear to the ground and use this blog to A) ratchet up any information floating in the halls of academia and, B) report any anecdotal evidences they have concerning the real, full story of what happened.

There’s a stench in the air.  I don’t care if it was an “oversight.”  Somebody or some bodies screwed up.  If it was an accident, I want to know the scope.  If it was intentional, I want to know who’s going to be charged.

Follow-up: Did Patsy Green violate school board code of ethics?

November 14, 2008

Last month, we reported on an improper invite from Keith Ellison’s campaign using Patsy Green’s school board title and mentioning the 281 referendum. We asked the school board if Robbinsdale Schools officially endorsed Ellison, Franken and Obama. Only one response was given by Barb Van Heel:

Robbinsdale Area Schools does not endorse any candidate for office.

However, individual board members do not give up their constitutional rights as citizens to endorse candidates of their choosing, just as other elected officials are allowed to endorse candidates.

Thank you for your question.

Barb Van Heel
School Board Vice-Chair

We acquired the RAS bylaws, highlighting numbers 10-12 of board member duties and ethics:

ras_bylaws10-12

We feel Patsy Green used her position (by listing her School Board title)  in a partisan way and did not abide by these conduct rules. An Ellison campaign staffer said Green proofed the post card before it went to print. She took advantage of her position to promote a partisan campaign – violating #10, 11 and 12 of the code of ethics.

Contact the school board and ask how they handle ethic violations by school board members.

Everyone benefits… especially unions

November 12, 2008

A very good read about the real special interests behind the 281 referendum was found at Fraters Libertas blog. The writer discusses the funding behind the Yes & No groups. Below is an excerpt (emphasis ours):

But as the Vote Yes for Robbinsdale Area Schools site reminds us, “Everyone Benefits.” Not equally of course and as is usually the case when you’re trying to figure who stands to gain the most, it helps to follow the money.

This week’s New Hope-Golden Valley Sun reported on the campaign finance reports filed by District 281 referendum groups:

Campaign financial reports have been filed with Robbinsdale District 281 by the 281 C.A.R.E. Committee, which opposed the Nov. 4 referendum, and the Robbinsdale Area Schools “Vote Yes” committee, which supported it.

Ron Stoffel of Crystal, treasurer of the C.A.R.E. committee, reported $375 in contributions to that group between Jan. 1 and Oct. 26 this year.

The committee listed no donor names in its report.

It listed expenditures of $758 for advertising, $38 for postage and $10.69 for fundraising, for a total of about $806.

The group took in four hundo and spent eight. Truly a grassroots, shoe-string, citizen-lead operation.

Meanwhile:

The “Vote Yes” Committee’s report, filed by John Heinrich of New Hope, reported total income of $22,613 between May 13 and Oct. 20 this year.

That’s over SIXTY times as much as the group that opposed the referendum. And they put that money to good use: (more…)

Letter: Former 281 teachers appalled at administration’s spending on consultants

November 7, 2008

Two former educators scold Robbinsdale administration for wasteful spending in this letter to the MN Sun-Post editor:

We are two former District 281 educators who have always been extremely supportive of our schools and public education in general. We have a referendum sign in our yard. Our grandchildren go to District 281 schools. You don’t find more supportive people than us.

After reading [the Oct. 16] story about another two consulting firms that are being hired to do yet another study at a cost that would have more than paid for all of the fifth-grade choirs in the district for a year or some other valuable program that was cut, we are appalled.

Our district has many qualified people leading it. We have a knowledgeable board, a well-paid administration, principals and staff that are good resources for planning. It doesn’t matter where the money comes from to pay for these consultants, it is still taxpayer money. We don’t mind paying our taxes for teachers and supplies, but we have had enough studies and planning sessions at great expense.

We need to use the people hired by the district. It seems that everyone is afraid to make a decision. Threats are made to close schools if a referendum doesn’t pass and when it doesn’t, no school is closed. We need our hired district people to make decisions and stick to them. It is impossible to please all of the people on any one issue.

L&N Hammer
Golden Valley

We are appalled, too. Read the article on the $63,100 facilities study here.  Now that more of our tax dollars will pour in, expect a lot more wasteful spending by incompent administrators. Thanks to this vigilant couple who know of what they speak, and for their teaching service.

Referendum gets a pass, Administration does not

November 6, 2008

Referendum Question 1 passed by 5,593 votes, Referendum Question 2 by 2,639. While those numbers seem a wide margin for a yes victory, 24,490 voted no against 30,083. The community is still divided and concerned about the spending waste as well as the incompetence of some of our school board administration.

While we all want Robbinsdale Schools to be great and to do right by our kids, public schools are failing them in general. 13 out of 16 Robbinsdale schools failed AYP this past year. Gang problems are increasing and student safety is at more risk. Enrollment is shrinking but funding is increasing. Throwing more money at this failing system is not the answer. But concerned and involved parents and citizens can help.

If you care and can commit time to helping, get involved. Ask questions. Demand accountability. Attend school board meetings. RUN for school board (4 openings are coming up in 2009). Prepare, study and help Robbinsdale schools excel again.

The unions are strong and they tell you it’s for the kids: but their special interests, leftist indoctrination, and concern for employee wages/retirement pensions/health insurance prevails over our students’ welfare. Watch closely where your tax dollars are being spent in our district. It deserves to go to our students, not union coffers.

We’ve added a blog to our links, Give2Attain. Though they supported the referendum, we did not (on principle). But we both agree that a lot needs to change in 281 leadership. Check out our other blogroll links for data that ISD 281 may not choose to share with the public.

That our blog’s readership numbers are so high, it tells us that the public is seeking information and other opinions. You deserve access to all of the facts, and 281 Exposed will be here to make sure that happens. If you have a story or issue that needs to be shared with the public, contact us.

Stan Mack: Pay no attention to those pesky opposition facts.

November 3, 2008

I received this email today from Robbinsdale Schools, addressed from Stan Mack. We took the liberty of linking to factual data from his words…

Election Day is tomorrow!  I appreciate that you have taken the time to understand our refrendum issues and that you share your views with other members of the community.

There has been a huge amount of information about the referendum.  I hope you will remember just a few things and share with those you know:

Investing in the quality of local public schools is essential if we are to maintain a safe, thriving, vibrant community. (more…)

The one chart Yes 281 doesn’t want you to see

November 2, 2008

Chart: Enrollment and Revenue (RSD 281)

Total enrollment (blue line) & General Fund Revenue (green line).

281 CARE posted this from the Coalition for Minnesota Businesses. More data is available there, and the numbers show that 281 doesn’t need more money but more fiscal responsibility.

Join citizens, business owners and concerned parents by voting NO to the ISD 281 Referendum.

A quote to remember when you cast your referendum vote

November 1, 2008

Going back to the well over and over and over again to water the desert is only going to lead to a dry well.

MN Sun-Post: The 281 Referendum Cheerleaders

November 1, 2008

If you haven’t seen the latest issue of the MN Sun-Post, you will have saved yourself the most biased edition ever for passing the referendum, and oddest placement of the Robbinsdale Schools’ declining enrollment and Stam Mack’s departure stories.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed two important stories buried in the middle of the paper. FreedomDogs highlights the story and another “adults behaving badly” quote from our departing Superintendent:

In the October 30 issue of our local Sun-Post a story about a Metro Transit re-route and a inconsequential story about a Section 1 Crystal City Council candidate were the Page One stories.

On pages 12 and 13 there were two stories a stinky cynic might view as slightly misplaced, given the tenor of the upcoming referendum.  On page 12, the local paper did a thorough analysis of District 281’s declining enrollment – with no mention, whatsoever, of the irony of a steadily declining enrollment needing more and more money.  On page 13, the very consequential story of Stan Mack’s resignation as Superintendent was covered with some juicy quotes in the middle. (more…)