Minnesota Governor Sworn In At High School He Attended

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Minneapolis--Traditionally, Minnesota's governors have their swearing-in ceremony in the capitol in St. Paul, the capital city. But the newly elected 36th governor, Rudy Perpich, broke that tradition and was sworn into office in the auditorium of the rural high school where he had been a student 40 years ago.

Mr. Perpich chose Hibbing High School because, he said, he wanted to give a speech on education, "and that should be delivered in an educational setting. In a high school, more people can see it, hear it, and respond to it than in the capitol." He also acknowledged that he and his family had not looked forward to "all that fuss" associated with a ceremony in the capitol.

Not everyone approved of his decision. Editorial writers around the state criticized Mr. Perpich's notion to change locations, saying he was slighting the rest of the state.

The new Governor, who had also been the state's 34th governor, said he believed the occasion would mark the first time that a Minnesota governor was sworn into office outside the capitol.

The Governor's audience included about 1,500 students and teachers of Hibbing High School and nearby Nashwauk-Keewatin High School. About two dozen former teachers of both Mr. Perpich and his wife Lola, who attended Keewatin High School before it merged with Nashwauk, attended the ceremony.

The Governor, 54, delivered his inauguration speech from the same stage where he received his high-school diploma. The former Hibbing superintendent, James Michie, who had handed Mr. Perpich his diploma, attended the ceremony. Mr. Michie, 80, said after the ceremony that Mr. Perpich impressed him as a student and an athlete but that he remembered him more as a school-board member in the 1950's.

A Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party member, as Minnesota's Democrats call themselves, Mr. Perpich is a former dentist, the son of a Croatian immigrant who worked in the state's iron mines. He reports that he did not speak English until he started kindergarten. Hibbing is about 200 miles from Minneapolis in the heart of Minnesota's mining region.

Members of the audience cheered as the new Governor said, "I want to call a halt to the wholesale cutting of classroom teachers whenever school budgets get tight."

Instead, he said, he wants schools to consolidate their administrations, which he describes as top-heavy, by having several districts share superintendents and business managers as well as payroll and other service functions.

The governor also said he wants schools to strengthen their programs in foreign languages, computers, and science to enable Minnesota graduates to compete more effectively in "the world marketplace."

During the four years prior to his election, Mr. Perpich worked as a trade envoy in Vienna for the Control Data Corporation, which is headquartered in Minneapolis. The insights he gained in that position, he said, led him to focus his speech on education.

The Governor said in response to questions following his inaugural speech that he would seek legislation to bring about the consolidation of school administrations. He noted that he has not figured out how much money the move would save Minnesota taxpayers.

Minnesota's public schools have undergone several sharp reductions in promised state aid over the last two years, as state officials fought to control a budget deficit of well over a half-billion dollars.

Last month, the legislature passed a budget-balancing bill that lopped another $25.6 million from the state-aid program.

Vol. 02, Issue 16

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