School needs to tap the brakes on superintendent search, building project

There was a special Ely school board meeting on Monday that brought a reason to tap the brakes on two major initiatives, hiring a new superintendent and pursuing a major building project. The reason? Millions of dollars for collaborating with neighboring school districts such as 2142, the sprawling St. Louis County district that includes schools in Babbitt and Tower.
A law pushed by Sen. Tom Bakk makes millions of dollars available to districts who work to share services, personnel and even facilities.
Ely hasn’t been able to get a seat at the table, until now. On Monday it was made clear that the taxpayers of Ely could get the IRRRB to foot a good portion of the bill for a major building project.
The district has stumbled so far with the way it has pursued connecting buildings and making other improvements. Instead of having a community-driven approach, an architectural firm has led the charge and this has led to committee members outright questioning the project.
We believe there is a way this project can be turned into something the community will support, but only if major changes are made.
This committee was appointed strangely. Each board member submitted a name. There was no effort to get a true representation of the community. There isn’t even a majority that have children in the school district or have any regular involvement at 696.
Reform a committee with a broader representation and then put control back in the hands of people who live here. That means having a chairperson, taking minutes of each meeting and making sure the board can be present at each meeting.
This project will not pass without help from the IRRRB. To go it alone is just foolish. Heed the advice given at Monday’s meeting and find ways to collaborate. Maybe it’s sharing a superintendent. Maybe it’s cooperating on courses offered. Maybe it’s something we will be pleasantly surprised to discover and ultimately proud to be able to offer our students better educational opportunities.
Let’s not leave millions of dollars on the table. Tap the brakes, take a step back and explore.