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Thumbs up to the Carlton School District and business manager Renee Eiffler for being awarded the Minnesota Department of Education’s 2016 School Finance Award for fiscal year 2015 financial reporting. It doesn’t sound very sexy, we know. But when you consider that the school district was in statutory operating debt to the tune of nearly a million dollars only five or six years ago — after a previous superintendent and business manager retired — it’s an impressive accomplishment. Eiffler deserves a lot of credit, as do the school board members who made tough decisions in the following years, and so does previous superintendent Peter Haapala, who arrived at his new job to discover the district’s financial woes outlined by the state in a pile of letters on his desk. The voters in Carlton must be applauded too, because their willingness to pass the highest operating levy in the county was a huge part of the district’s recovery. Bravo Carlton! (See press release and photo on page A9)

Thumbs down, on the other hand, to the makeup of the Carlton and Wrenshall ad hoc consolidation committee. Whether deliberate or not, having only two school board members from each school means the meetings are not obliged to be public meetings, because there isn’t a quorum. We hope that the school districts will both plan for numerous meetings and other ways to also gather public opinion on the consolidation options. After all, it was a grassroots group that got the whole process started again and they had plenty of signatures expressing support for a two-school option, which didn’t come up much in this week’s Pine Journal story.

Thumbs down to news that the Cloquet Armory is slated to close. Happily, it’s not until 2029 at the soonest, so that should give city and National Guard officials, among others, plenty of time to make a solid plan for the future. (See In the News on page A2)

Thumbs up to all the residents, elected officials and others who attended the public meeting on the future of the current Cloquet Middle School on Monday. We are all better off when there is public involvement in decisions made by elected officials that will impact the future of the community. It’s a shame that the majority of people who attend such meetings are angry about proposals, as supporters generally stay home feeling copasetic. It doesn’t always make for the most balanced feedback. Citizens should know they can always contact elected officials via email or phone to offer feedback, even if they missed the meeting. Phone numbers are listed on the school district and city websites, and are frequently printed on this page of the Pine Journal for you to cut out and tape to the fridge.

Thumbs down to the criminals who attacked the Cloquet School District’s computers and network servers over the past two weeks. They’re like the pirates of old, but anonymous and on the Internet instead of the high seas. It would be nice to hear more stories of how countries cooperate on an international scale to catch these cyber criminals. In the meantime, it’s a lesson to all of us to backup our digital information and do what we can to keep our computer systems and software up to date and protected against such attacks. And, most importantly, to use our brains when traveling the Internet or opening email attachments.

~ Jana Peterson