The headline indicates a fiasco:  District owes more money to get bus out of storage than what it was sold for.   This article appears in this week’s Morrison County Record and all I can say is, how do supposedly intelligent people get themselves into such idiotic situations?

Here’s a summary of the situation for those who don’t want to click through to read the story.  The Little Falls School District had a bus sitting by the Central Office Building five years ago.  The space where the bus was sitting was needed for the Arts & Crafts Fair, so the bus was put into storage at Auto Max.  It was only supposed to be there for a few days, but no one from the district made arrangements to get it out of storage.  Duane Doble, owner of Auto Max, tried to contact transportation people with the district in order to have the bus picked up, but no one from the district acted on his calls.  As the time stretched from a few days to five years, Doble felt guilty about charging the district $10 a day for storage, so he dropped his fee to $1 per day.  Instead of charging the district $18,250 (my basic math estimate) for storage, Doble was willing to settle for $1,500.  Pretty good deal, wouldn’t you say?

When the district finally got its act together, it opened bids to sell the bus.  It got the high bid of $300 from Dave Kalpakoff, but decided not to sell him the bus because it wouldn’t cover the entire cost of the storage bill.  Instead, the district decided to give Duane Doble the bus in lieu of the bill.  He’s going to scrap it.

Could somebody please tell me the logic of this?  If the high bid is $300 and that’s all you can hope to get out of this old bus, why would you not accept the offer (thus, living up to a promise) and then pay the balance of your much-reduced storage bill (thus, living up to an obligation)?

To top this all off, the district’s Business Manager, Nancy Henderson, concludes by saying, “I don’t think the district will be doing business with Auto Max in the future.”  How incredibly snide!  As though it’s the fault of Auto Max that no one from the district came to retrieve the bus.  Frankly, Doble has shown that he is a thoughtful and kind-hearted businessman through all of this and he deserves the district’s future business.  However, I wouldn’t be so unkind as to saddle him with the district’s inept behavior.  Honestly!

I do hope Doble got enough out of that scrapped bus to recover what was owed him.

My school of fish isn’t gonna ride this bus,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Addendum (7/27/2007):  In today’s edition of the Morrison County Record an apology letter from Nancy Henderson appears.  Way to go, Nancy, for making amends for last week’s comment.  (Sorry, I can’t find an online version, otherwise I’d provide a link.) – P.F.A.P.


 Article Submitted by Olive Rockfish

Following the largest beef recall in U.S. history the USDA Agriculture Marketing Services (AMS) has formally rescinded Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co’s Supplier of the Year Award for the 2004-2005 school year, they’ve even requested the physcial return of the plaque.  Ouch!

 On a less farcical note, Hallmark CEO Steven Mendell has been subpoenaed to appear before a House committee next week to explain the facilities processing of “downer cows”. Since 2000, AMS has not allowed non-ambulatory cattle to be processed due to the risk of Mad Cow disease.

Mendell may very well be crucified by a House committee more culpable for their failure to protect consumers than any single CEO could ever be. Here is a letter from the House of Representative, Committee on Government Reform describing the very same issues…the only problem is that the letter was written almost 4 years ago.

So, while parents worry that their school children will develop symptoms of the fatal disease in the next 10 years* we can all rest easy knowing that the USDA got its plaque back.

*Experts are unclear as to the incubation period for Mad Cow disease, some say 8 years but the more recent consensus indicates that the incubation period can be as long as 30 years. First symptoms are said to be psychiatric problems.

Here’s the frightning truth,  our school kids can eat tainted beef now and not go clinical for a decade or longer,  but once you go clinical  it’s 100% fatal.  At the 4th Annual Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) Foundation Family Conference attendee’s honored the 52 people who died from the disease.

Brooke Trout

The Morrison County Record reported that Little Falls school district has continued its restructuring, this time Dr. Linda Maron was put on unrequested leave of absence without pay or fringe benefits. This story came on the heels of the Records report that Dr. Mary Jo Morgan was also put on administrative leave. While no details have been given for their dismissal the report does quote Superintendent Tryggestad as saying, “It is important to identify students early who need help.”

To Superintendent Tryggestad and Little Falls School Board I offer a heartfelt, well done. 

I hope these changes usher in a committment to students suffering from chronic illness and/or living with disabilities.

Cheers to effective administration, 504 implementation, legitimate grievance procedures and well placed staff changes. All that and you even saved money…who knew?

Today, the Morrison County Record reported that Dr. Mary Jo Morgan was allegedly dismissed from her position at Little Falls school district, her last day on the job was Monday February 11, 2008.

Dr. Morgan’s contract with the school district is set to expire June 30th, 2008 but she has reportedly been placed on administrative leave. According to the Record Morgan will be paid according to her contract but will not be returning to Little Falls school district.

I wish I could say that I felt bad but the report left me a few scales short of singing Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead.

Details of our families adventures with Dr. Morgan are outlined in a previous Fish Wrap post title: High School Online: Get Wired!

Poppies, Poppies…sleep, sleep,

Olive Rockfish

Don Heinzman, what can I say. It seems like every other week he’s given some chunk of blank space in the Morrison County Record where, for the past several weeks he publishes articles on school issues; like the one where he and the ECM editorial board advocated for denying the community the right to vote on whether or not to approve a school tax levy. So, every other week I read his ultra-conservative right-wing education opinion and think of the little bunny who covers his ears while chanting…make the stupid people shut up. Yep, that sums up my feelings. As Heinzman has gotten increasingly comfortable in his position on the ECM Editorial Board his messages on education have moved further and further to the right, so far right that his knuckles have to be dragging.  As last weeks guest columnist Heinzman penned the exception when he over shot the right-wing  inlcuding the majority of right-wing conservative politicians and  planted himself firmly among the warm, hard bunny pellets of fascism. 

In that article Don Heinzman jumped on the tiny, precarious bandwagon with Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota President, Phil Krinkie.According to the article, Krinkie claimed that school staff are babysitting children with special needs in the Minnesota public school system. What Heinzman didn’t include in the Viewpoint letter was that Krinkie’s views on education were so extreme that during the same speech he also advocated for high school classes with as many as 200 students, he rationalized this statement by saying that some University of Minnesota lectures have that many students, so why can’t our high schools. After a remark like that who in their right mind would think it was prudent to jump in and march in Phil Krinkie’s greed-monger parade? Apparently, Don Heinzman and naturally the Morrison County Record saw fit to print it.

While there is no debate that the American system of education took its cues from the industrial revolution, Krinkie’s recommendation would catapult students from the current industrial model of education to a model gleaned straight from a textbook factory farm. Save money by boxing students in from wall to wall while injecting them with antibiotics to deter disease in the overcrowded cesspool of an environment. Not only does Krinkie throw all special needs students under the short bus but Krinkie closes his speech by tossing all high school students in after them.

Stating that school staff are babysitting says nothing about special need students and everything about Krinkie and Heinzmans gross and utter ignorance on the subject. Heinzman also insinuates that special needs students require a vast amount of staff support which is also a stereotype and a blatantly false statement. The article goes on to attack individual education plans (IEP) as being a burden to our public schools.

It is important to point out that only a small fraction of special needs students require the aid of a staff person, this is an exception not a rule and IEP’s more often than not contain simple provisions and accommodations. Some common examples of provisions extended in an IEP would be being given additional time to complete assignments and/or modified grading. When the article discusses an Individual Education Plan (IEP) it makes it sound as though these students are given their very own curriculum and their own instructor when in truth the accommodations are usually simple adjustments that serve to level the playing field for the student. That having been said, I should also point out that we are in fact discussing services provided by PUBLIC schools that were established and funded to accommodate, well…the public, not just the Heinzman/Krinkie Aryan race.

What Heinzman and Krinkie are suggesting smacks of a  good’ol,  Jim Crow mentality. While the Jim Crow system rationalized that whites were superior to Blacks in all important ways, including but not limited to intelligence, morality, and civilized behavior, Heinzman’s and Krinkies remarks bare a frightening resemblance when they suggests that special needs students require babysitting, a statement that blatantly implies that special needs students require closer supervision and are therefore less civilized. There elaboration also suggests that special needs students cannot benefit from public education in the same meaningful way mainstream student can therefore they clearly must be less intelligent.

I have to wonder what mathematician and Nobel Prize Laureate (Economics) , John Forbes Nash would say.  Or better yet, British theoretical physicist and Lucasion Professor of Mathamatics at Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking, whose key scientific works to date include Roger Penrose, theorems regarding singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation, known as Hawking Radiation. Too bad Hawking has Lou Gehrig’s Disease and is almost completely paralyzed, that means that according to Phil Krinkie and Don Heinzman, Stephen Hawking needs a babysitter.

While I found the entire article to be a statement of ignorance and blatantly discriminatory, nothing offended me more than Heinzman saying that funds in a schools general budget are being used to subsidize the special needs students. In fact a schools general fund covers a huge array of expenses, and is intended for ALL learners not just the Krinkie/Heinzman Aryan race.  Singling out special needs students as though money in the general fund isn’t equally theirs is in itself an attitude of discrimination and an endorsement for a hostile learning environment. The money in the general fund doesn’t belong to any subset of students as Heinzman suggests but is intended for all learners. Portions of special education funding has always come from a schools general fund and all districts are expected to budget and allocate those funds accordingly.

Since Heinzman has taken the latitude to suggest that the education of special needs students is being subsidized at the expense of the mainstream student population then it fair interject my own assessment:  special needs students in the Little Falls school district have been subsidizing the financial mismanagement of past school boards, which includes their profound ineptitude when it comes to administrative contract negotiations.

Placing a lack of priority on education has become the American way, similarly when resources are tight it is equally American to blame our countries most vulnerable citizens. If it isn’t the poor kids driving down our test scores, it’s those special needs kids sucking up resources we could be spending on normal kids.  America’s primary issue isn’t financial, the primary issue is that our values suck. We’ve become so bought into capitalism that we can’t assign a value to anything that doesn’t produce buckets of money. So how do we respond? We pour money into defense spending so our elected officials can earn dividends on their stock options.

Section 504 has been an unfunded mandate on the books since 1973, yet when we moved to Little Falls the school district had never even implemented that section of education law and all students who qualified we unserved. Little Falls school board didn’t adopt 504 language until 2004/2005 which accounts for 32 years of unmet education needs effecting the chronically ill and disabled students within the school area. What this says is that it didn’t matter how much funding the state and federal government provided. I must also point out that even after 32 years of shafting that segment of special education, the school district still plummeted into statutory operating debt.

While I agree that the federal government has fallen down on its responsibilities to provide funding for special education it is apparent that funding is only one issue that special needs students face. If a vehicle to properly utilize improved funding doesn’t exist then the amount of funding provided is irrelevant. 

Heinzman also says, “No one likes to talk about inequity, because it involves programs for special needs kids. Parent of special needs children understandably fight fiercely for every benefit their children can get.”

In compiling his Viewpoint piece Heinzman obviously never bothered talking to students with special needs or to their parents for that matter. His statement makes it sound as though special needs students have so many advantages because their parents are such staunch advocates that these students are being handed whatever they want and need. This statement is a testament to Heinzman’s ignorance when it comes to special education.

Heinzman doesn’t know that when the parents of a special needs student requests an evaluation and accommodations they will find themselves facing off with a room full of district staff. While some districts truly work to meet the needs of the student other districts enact an exclusionary policy and their sole mission is to deny service to any and all extents possible. It is an uphill battle so arduous that disability advocacy organization like PACER mail out manuals to parents to try and aid them through a difficult process where they are clearly out numbered. Johnny’s education is not every schools priority. Yet Heinzman actually discusses this as though mainstream students are getting short changed when in fact this population is not only making the grade but they have a significantly lower drop out rate statewide.

Maybe Heinzman should talk to a parent who has been through one of those meetings in Little Falls, or spend time with a Little Falls student who drives to Peirz school district because they are more willing to accommodate special needs so they transfer out through open enrollment.  Until Heinzman has done his homework on the subject he is not qualified to pronounce an opinion as to equity because he has no basis withwhich to define equity.  His only information stems from a few dollar figures, outdated stereotypes and ignorant assumptions. Unless of course, Heinzman is suggesting that equity is measured in dollars spent rather than met education needs.

While it is true that we need to hold state and federal lawmakersaccountable, it is fundamental that our local school boards be held accountable for the exclusionary policies enacted by local school district employees.

Definition-fascist: a person who is dictatorial or has extreme right-wing views. (My special needs son pointed out that Don Heinzman’s advocacy for removing voters rights to decide on school tax levy issues also falls within the realm of fascism, and my special needs son is of course correct.)

Definition – Subsidy: A direct pecuniary aid furnished by a government to a private industrial undertaking, a charity organization, or the like.

Stephen Hawking on disabilities

Olive Rockfish