Wrenshall removes ‘roadblock’ to consolidation

Wrenshall School Board removed language Friday requiring unanimous support from the Carlton board and superintendent.

The Wrenshall School Board voted Friday, Feb. 21, to remove language from an earlier resolution the required full support for a two-site consolidation plan from the Carlton School Board. (Pine Journal file photo)

The Wrenshall School Board scrambled late in the week to remove language from a resolution that would prevent consolidation with the Carlton School District from moving forward.

During a meeting early on Friday, Feb. 21, the board voted to strip language from a resolution passed Monday, Feb. 17 that required unanimous support from the Carlton School board and Superintendent Gwen Carman to move forward.

Following the results of a community survey that showed broad support for consolidation and up to $38.4 million in renovations and expansions at Wrenshall School and South Terrace Elementary, both boards voted to move forward with an Aug. 11 referendum and pursue a legislative change to make school consolidations eligible for enhanced debt equalization from the state.

RELATED: Carlton, Wrenshall move forward with consolidation

RELATED: Survey shows broad support for consolidation in Carlton, Wrenshall


However, the Wrenshall board added a stipulation to their resolution requiring the “full support of the Carlton Board and Superintendent.”

Carman recommended the Carlton board approve the resolution, but Carlton board member Tim Hagenah voted against the resolution during the meeting Tuesday, Feb. 18. Hagenah said a one-site option for the consolidation district was a better, more cost-effective plan that could bring even broader support from the communities. He also said he would support the two-site option going forward if the Carlton board approved the resolution.

Hagenah’s vote caused the Wrenshall board to quickly organize a meeting to strip the language from their resolution so consolidation could move forward.

“We basically made a resolution to take that off and proceed forward with what was originally put forth,” Wrenshall Vice Chair Jack Eudy said. “Basically, it was causing a big roadblock and so we got rid of it so we could move forward with our committees.”

Removing the language means that committees for facilities planning, referendum planning and legislative support can start their work.

Eudy said the committee with the most immediate task is the legislative support committee. Members will make several trips to St. Paul over the next few months to lobby legislators to change a 2014 law to make school consolidations eligible for enhanced debt equalization.

Enhanced debt equalization would require the consolidated district to take out the full bond amount, but the state would pay up to 46% of the annual bond payment for the district. Currently, schools can only use the mechanism if there is a natural disaster. Officials in Moose Lake took advantage of the legislation after the old building was damaged in the 2012 flood.

State Sen. Jason Rarick, R-Brook Park, and Rep. Mike Sundin, DFL-Esko, both introduced draft bills making the change to the Minnesota Senate and House education finance committees this week.


The boards have agreed they do not want to move forward with consolidation without the change.

Members of the joint legislative support committee include Eudy, Janaki Fisher-Merritt and Superintendent Kim Belcastro from Wrenshall and LaRae Lehto, Jennifer Chmielewski and Carman from Carlton.

“I’m tickled to death to tell you the truth,” Eudy said. “Because once this all starts, we’ve got so much work to do it’s unbelievable, but I feel pretty positive about it.”

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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