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For district's good, Carlton School Board must step down

During Watergate, it was discovered that Harry Heltzer, CEO of 3M and the inventor of reflective signs, wrongfully contributed approximately $30,000 to the Nixon campaign.

During Watergate, it was discovered that Harry Heltzer, CEO of 3M and the inventor of reflective signs, wrongfully contributed approximately $30,000 to the Nixon campaign.

Before becoming CEO, Heltzer had been instrumental in the success of 3M. He was trusted, loved and respected by his employees. When the news broke, Heltzer knew he had made bad decisions. He wanted to stay with the company. But he knew employees and the company for whom he cared so deeply no longer trusted him. To keep the integrity of 3M and to salvage 3M's reputation, he knew he had to admit he was wrong and resign. So he did.

I was at the Carlton school district's "emergency" meeting Thursday regarding teacher cuts and the district's deficit ("Carlton school district backs away from staff cuts," June 5). Despite their love for the school and district, Carlton School Board members have been making bad decisions. And because of the bad decisions, some board members and the incoming superintendent have destroyed trust bestowed on them by students, the community, educators, at least one fellow board member and the principal.

It is unclear when the superintendent's contract actually begins. Yet he is as culpable for the most recent bad decisions as those members of the board. He wasn't at Thursday's meeting, but when contacted by cell phone during the meeting he told the board to hold tough and to pass resolutions to make cuts. According to Principal Dave Battaglia and School Board member Ryan Schmidt, who heard the cell phone conversation, he said to disregard the constituency that showed up to voice the injustice of bad and poorly orchestrated decisions.

The "meeting" held on Memorial Day that resulted in the resolutions to remove teachers was, in my opinion, a violation of the state Open Meeting Law. Even if the violation was not technical, the motive was to avoid a violation of the law and the result was the same. Members of the board and the new superintendent were responsible.

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I believe the actions taken by the incoming superintendent prior to the commencement of his contract should be of no effect. He simply did not have the authority to make decisions or to take actions before his contract began.

Because it will not be possible to repair the damage to the trust required for this school district to move forward productively, I ask the Carlton school district to come together and demand board members do the right thing -- not because they do not love this district but because they do. I ask the board, with the exception of member Ryan Schmidt, to take two final actions: to vote to terminate the employment of the new superintendent and to resign. It is not enough to just not run for re-election. Resignations must be tendered.

Regardless of reasons or good intentions, on Wednesday, after their poor decisions were discovered, board members refused to show up for graduation. They claimed they believed they would not be warmly received. A person of integrity would have shown up and said, "I understand many people are unhappy with recent decisions. They can please attend an emergency meeting to express their opinions. But tonight everyone can please join me in honoring this graduating class."

Instead, not one person from the School Board attended the ceremony.

One day after being blindsided, betrayed and left devastated by drastic cuts, the very people whose jobs were terminated came to graduation and honored the graduates. They were there for the kids. They set aside their hurt and their anger. They showed up.

Unfortunately, poor decision-making continues. At Thursday's meeting the public demanded transparency and fair-dealing and agreed to the School Board's demand for every person at the meeting to assist in finding a solution to the budget deficit. But then, at approximately 3:45 p.m. Friday, the School Board posted notice of a meeting of the finance committee SOD Plan to be held at 6 p.m. today. The notice was placed on an interior window at the district office late on a Friday afternoon when the school was locked and most of the staff and faculty had gone home -- effectively providing the board constituency barely one day notice of the meeting. In addition, the notice failed to provide a meeting location. In light of the mistrust and the law, this was unacceptable.

Heltzer maintained his integrity even after making bad decisions. He did the right thing and was humble enough to put the company he loved ahead of his ego. The Carlton School Board must do the same.

Julianne Emerson is an attorney in Carlton with three children in the school district.

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