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Jim Lakoduk, Fargo, Published March 18 2014

Letter: Just keep saying no to schools

Congratulations to Fargo residents who voted against allowing the School Board more autonomy to spend more money.

Let’s start with Bluestem. The Fargo School Board spent millions of dollars building an admittedly beautiful facility. But not only is it in another city (Moorhead) but also in another state (Minnesota). And the buildings and stages were built on land that Fargo didn’t own and still doesn’t own. Read the last sentence again. Then they gave up control of the facility to a board, whose first idea was to subordinate the revered and branded name of Fargo Trollwood Performing Arts to something called Bluestem.

That was the first of several mismanagement decisions. Is it any wonder it went bankrupt?

Over several years, millions of dollars accumulated in the Fargo school building fund and the Fargo School Board discovered they had the autonomy to spend it. The rhetoric from at least one member of the current board is that the community built Davies High School, implying the community had the opportunity to decide if Davies should be built. The community didn’t make the decision. The Fargo School Board did. This was a highly debated and controversial issue. The sense many had is at that time the majority of Fargo voters were opposed to building Davies.

This continued attempt to rewrite history is becoming Orwellian. I was opposed to the building of Davies, not because of the lack of need for the facility, which had merit at the time, but by the machinations involved then, and are still involved, in the ongoing justification.

Davies is something all Fargo residents should be proud of. The School Board should have enough sense to just say it loud and proud. Although, I am curious to know the annual operating expense of Davies, and how and if it directly relates to the board’s desire to increase the mill levy cap.

Last year, the board conducted a study regarding the continued need for some of the older, outdated, underutilized school buildings in Fargo. This made good sense. A few schools were identified as potentially available for closing. Of course the neighborhoods weren’t happy about their schools closing, and after several meetings where the public was invited to share their thoughts, the School Board backed down and now are remodeling and modernizing what many would say are obsolete facilities.

And finally, we are a tennis- playing family. In the summer, we usually play in the cooler times of the day like mornings and evenings. Also it’s not as windy. Then why in heaven’s name are the tennis courts at Kennedy Elementary and Carl Ben Eielson Middle School facing east and west, which make the courts only ideal to play at noon? The rest of the day not so much, with the sun in your eyes one way or the other. The weird thing is all the other courts that I am aware of are facing north and south, including, thankfully, the ones at Davies. The courts at Kennedy and Carl Ben have to represent at least a few if not several hundred thousand dollars wasted.

Residents of Fargo made the right decision in not providing any more autonomy. The need now is for smart, progressive and fiscally responsible folks to step up to the plate and run in the next election to the board. Until then just say no.