School’s out for summer but board has plenty of homework

Students at ISD 696 had their final day in class yesterday and 32 will walk the stage tonight. For the Ely school board, there’s plenty of homework to be done after the last locker is emptied.
The district has been looking at hiring a new superintendent but has gone back to the drawing board after finding the first top four candidates not too appealing.
Struggling with process the board was unable to come to terms with giving one of the candidates who didn’t make the grade on paper a chance to interview. A 3-3 vote threw that plan out the window.
So, we’re back to the beginning and looking for applicants for a part-time job without full benefits for the top job at the Ely school district.
This isn’t the first time Ely has been in this situation and for that matter, it isn’t the first time for another option. The district has shared a superintendent in the past, it’s just that a majority of the board members weren’t aware that Don Langan worked for Ely and International Falls.
The whole sharing of the position has been so misconstrued it’s not a surprise the board has failed to see the possibilities. We believe there could be an opportunity to share with 2142 where the person would be Ely’s superintendent and 2142’s assistant super. This might attract better candidates, and even a retired superintendent might be interested.
Now that appears to be off the table to the loss of the district. That’s despite being warned unless Ely comes to the table with a plan that shows collaboration with a neighboring district, millions of dollars in IRRRB funds will not be made available.
That means if the district does get a major building initiative off the ground, more than likely the local taxpayers will be footing the entire bill. A failure to access those funds could very well lead to a referendum failure at the polls.
We would like to see the school board look at the big picture and how the puzzle fits together, even though that appears unlikely at this stage of the school year.
Sitting at the table a number of weeks ago were two familiar faces who know how to hand in homework that is rewarded with grant money.
Longtime political worker Gary Cerkvenik and Ely High School graduate Jeff Anderson were joined by St. Louis County Commissioner Paul McDonald at an Ely school board meeting to talk about ways the district can collaborate and access funding.
Maybe the board wasn’t ready at the time to learn from Cerkvenik and Anderson, but there is still plenty of time to get them on board. ISD 696 could use their assistance.
That could lead to a revamping of a proposed building project which to this point has been driven from the outside and roundly criticized from inside the community. Involving an architect is one thing but letting them drive the school project is a mistake.
Without local leadership (and we would suggest a firm with Ely connections), the district now looks to be relegated to a patchwork approach in an era where Mesabi East, Eveleth-Virginia and 2142 are investing millions in their district to attract families and their students to enroll there.
For a district that relies on open enrollment, current Ely students in Babbitt and Tower will have better options to choose from instead of hopping on an ISD 696 bus every day.
Enrollment is what makes or breaks a district and Ely’s got a lot of homework to do or the red ink will creep back in the grade book.