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Meeting story final

For the second time this month, Denfeld High School principal Ed Crawford appealed to the Desegregation/Integration Advisory Council for money on Wednesday, though this time around with much lower expectations.

The council, which hands out funding to schools for programs that work to bring students of various races together, denied Denfeld’s request for regular funding earlier this month, leaving Crawford to ask for whatever money is left over after the other schools receiving regular funding take their share.

Crawford, however, is a little skeptical about the council’s methods.

The reason: 3 principals and several staff members from schools that receive regular funding are voting members on the council. In other words, they vote on their own funding.

“I believe there is a conflict of interest,? said Crawford.

The fact that staff from schools which are funded by the council are also voting members is an issue that has come up before the council in the past.

Members of the Desegregation Council include school board members, staff, parents, and various community leaders, all of which are appointed by advisory committees representing Duluth’s Hispanic, African American, American Indian, and Asian American communities. The council itself has no control over this process, but it can set limits as to who gets to vote.

“We talked in the past about restricting the amount of employees serving on the council and the amount of votes allowed,? said Claudie Washington, the council chairman.

Some argue, however, that council members will bring their own agendas with them whatever the case; school employee or not.

“Every member brings their own passions and personal preferences,? said George Himango, the director of the council.

“My charge is to allow them to see the bigger picture,? he said.

According to Himango, factors other than the staff of other schools voting on funding may have been involved in the council’s refusal of regular funding for Denfeld.

“They’re requesting a bona fide program, but I’m concerned about sustainability due to diminishing funds,? said Himango.

This year, the council’s state funding is at $1.8 million, down by 6% from last year. This leaves the school’s receiving regular funding, Grant, Lincoln Park, Lowell, Nettleton, Woodland, and Central, with less money for their desegregation programs than they are used to.

Add Denfeld’s request for $160,000 on top of that, and you have significantly less money going towards these programs than last year. In other words, if staff from these schools on the council were to vote yes on Denfeld’s request, it would mean less money going towards their own programs every year.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Denfeld’s request was denied.

Crawford, however, said that his school has as great a need as any for money from the council, and the amount he requested was well below the average amount received by the other schools.

Denfeld, along with the schools currently receiving regular funding from the council, has a significant and growing number of minority students.

“Our growing population means we have huge needs when it comes to additional funding,? said Crawford.

For now, though, Denfeld will have to settle for whatever money is left over. Last year, it amounted to just under $43,000.

“I’ll take whatever I can get,? said Crawford.