Duluth School Board Member Gets Chance to Show Levy Facts are Wrong

By KBJR News 1

November 4, 2011 Updated Nov 5, 2011 at 10:34 AM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Duluth School Board Member Art Johnston made a controversial presentation to his fellow board members today.

The presentation outlined why he believes the district has been misleading the public in fact sheets involving the upcoming levy referendum.

For Johnston, the special meeting to discuss what he calls "the facts" was something he had asked to do many times.

"I've asked for this to be on the meeting agenda for the last two meetings, that was denied and that's why I've asked to have the discussion," said Johnston.

"I'm not interested in a debate." said superintendent Dr. I.V. Foster. "It's just an opportunity to share both sides."

Three school board members agreed to call the meeting:Art Johnston, Gary Glass and Mary Cameron.

"In hopes that this could be laid to rest and you said you would open and listen and compare you data to theirs," said Cameron, explaining her reasoning for calling for the meeting.

Johnston's presentation came after public comment on proposed levy.

"It feels like financial blackmail," said Loren Martell, a candidate for school board.

"Our children will be paying for the next 20 years," said another resident.

"Please do not engage in petty disputes to unravel educational progress," said a resident.

"Let's all support it. Let's stop arguing," said another.

"I urge you to help that yes, yes, yes occur, and I hope you can unify the leadership," said a speaker.

Johnston then set out to show the District's fact sheets were tainted, but he used numbers that weren't always comparing apples to apples with the district's numbers.

He did, however, point out where changes were made between the District's earlier and later versions of the facts.

In the end, Johnston was unable to sway any board members.

"I will continue as I have been," said board member Tom Kasper, who supports the levy and trusts the district's numbers put out on the fact sheet.

"I have not seen or heard or read anything that would shake my conviction," said Tim Grover, another board member.

Final comments were directed to Johnston.

"If you support teaching and learning, if you support lower class sizes, I'm asking, that you support the levy," said Cameron, getting an applause.

The board voted against a motion to have the district's fact sheet audited as requested by members Gary Glass and Art Johnston.

More information on Johnston's arguments and the district's defense check out our story from last week on the numbers

To check out board member Art Johnston's Web site go to:

To visit the school Web site for their levy-related numbers visit:

Posted to Web by Jena Pike