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TIM LAMB: Critic to the contrary, Grand Forks schools perform well

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opinion Grand Forks, 58203
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

GRAND FORKS — In response to C.T. Marhula’s column and with all due respect, I, for one, am tired of his irresponsible spew (“Base deserves fuller accounting of schools,” Page A4, April 10).

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What Marhula is doing with the numbers simply is not rational. He cites erroneous numbers and events, and then makes illogical assertions and conclusions. I don’t wish to dignify his remarks, but he’s gone over the top. He needs to be called out on his abusive commentaries.   Constructive comments to improve our K-12 public school system always are welcomed, but making unfounded public comments — asserting that there are problems where there are not — is not.   The Grand Forks Public School District has a longstanding good relationship with the Grand Forks Air Force Base School District. Together, an outstanding curriculum as well as music, arts and sports programs have been maintained through a cooperative and well-managed plan. Staff and resources are shared and well-accounted for.   To suggest that there is not transparency with student numbers or budgets in either school district is hogwash. The base schools’ student numbers have been made public for years, as have the numbers for the Grand Forks schools. For the past several years, the need to maintain two schools on base has been publicly addressed. No one has been hiding the ball.   It’s not just a matter of past or current numbers on the base; it’s a matter of what the future role may bring and what best approach should be taken. For example, what if the base is designated as one of the home bases for the new KC-46A tanker? It’s no secret that once a school building is mothballed, there’s no turning back, so the decision to close a school is not something taken lightly. The finality of it takes serious deliberation.   With regard to the issues Marhula raises regarding revenues and budget numbers: If Marhula had attended any of the past years’ audit committee meetings or School Board meetings when the audit was presented, he’d understand that his questions on state and federal funding were asked and answered.

They are complicated funding formulas and were addressed at those meetings.

As they say, ignorance is bliss, but making false and inaccurate statements is not useful and has no place in our community. If Marhula has an ax to grind, he should make a full disclosure.   The School District’s business manager, Vicky Schwartz, has done an excellent job in maintaining the books and has received a superb recommendation for her efforts in the annual audit by the Brady Martz accounting firm. She has had to have a thick skin to shake off some of the slanderous remarks made about her business office in recent months. She really deserves a medal for maintaining a calm and collected demeanor.   It should be noted that Doug Carpenter, a new member of the School Board, was critical of the budget; but after seeing first-hand the district’s operation and review process, it appears that he’s satisfied our accounting system is sound, judging by his approving voting record.

No doubt there is room for improvement in our schools, and we continually try to evaluate issues and resolve them, working toward a common goal of what’s best for our community’s children.   Aside from the annual tough budget review, some real issues our district faces relate to increased enrollments (versus declining enrollments, which had been the trend for many years); meeting high standards for increased numbers of English Language Learners or ELL students; using our limited state resources to accommodate students from around the world, students who speak more than 35 different languages in their homes; and accepting the challenge of offering vo-tech or career tech classes for those who want to learn a skill or trade to advance directly from high school to the job market, an ever-increasing demand.   I can only speak for myself, but I’m confident that our hard-working citizens can see through the blarney of one viewpoint and be assured that our K-12 school system is the best that our limited resources can buy.

We continue to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars in delivering outstanding educational services to our students.

Lamb, an attorney, is a member of the Grand Forks School Board.

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