My Christmas Puzzles

December 16th, 2015

My serious puzzle to work out is the adventure of beginning a clean slate with a new school board come January. I won’t be at that first meeting. As I told Nora Sandstad at a long postponed lunchdate this week I decided last summer that my wife’s invitation to join her theology study in Israel in January would take precedence for me to my chance to build a new and more generous school board.

While I am working on that big puzzle I have four more to work on for Christmas. Here are three of them.

Every year I try to buy a puzzle while traveling that represents ……. I have to pick up my grandsons for our weekly “Wacky Wednesday”…….I’ll finish this tonight.

From today’s DNT coverage of the Duluth Schools

December 8th, 2015

It was good to see the Trib’s Education reporter back covering yesterday’s Education Committee meeting. She’s back after having recently delivered a prospective new student for the Duluth Schools. The Trib’s story covers the critical issue of our Reserve funds which have shrunk to a week’s worth of cushion should we face financial calamity. That means we have one week’s worth of spending in the bank. If we have to cover an unexpected expense or even an expected expense we will have to borrow money and pay interest to our lender. Not good!

When I was first on the School Board we had a year’s worth, not a week’s worth, of spending in our reserve fund. Ask yourself, as we board members will be asking ourselves, how we can address the concerns of our East High School teachers with so few resources available to alleviate their problem.

An email today from East High teachers

December 8th, 2015

For now I’ll refrain from commentary:

Dear School Board Member,

The East building stewards are following up with a “Meet and Confer” that took place as the school year was starting. We continue to be concerned about class size at East and encourage you to review the data.
Before school started on August 28th the Union Stewards at East hosted a “Meet and Confer” meeting with Superintendent Gronseth and Assistant Superintendent Starzecki regarding class size. Presently there are over 1,564 students enrolled for the 2015-2016 school year (as of 12/7/15). Throughout this process we have worked closely with our building administrator and were hopeful that additional FTE could be secured for East that would address the areas of concern. These areas are referred to as ‘hot spots’ and highlight the overcrowded classes. As building stewards and classroom teachers we are advocating for smaller class sizes. Recently, math intervention courses were eliminated to use building FTE to reduce class sizes in math. The need for additional FTE to meet this need was brought up at the August meeting to avert having to cancel courses that could help reduce learning gaps. There continues to be a need for additional FTE and support at East where the enrollment is quite large.

When the levy was passed one of the key focus areas was reducing class size. Our data from the last 5 years would indicate this has not happened at East. We encourage you to review the data and ask for your support to funnel funding into the classroom.

Thank you for your time and commitment to serve as a school board member.

The following data generated on August 20th provides a breakdown of classes by size over 30:

•Classes 31-34 143
•Classes 35-39 121
•Classes 40 and over 37

In other words:
Sections over 30: 307
Sections 35 and over: 158
Sections over 40: 37

Hot Spots at East
Although there are large class sizes in a number of content areas, the following are the content areas with CONSISTENTLY LARGE classes:
•Math
•Science
•Physical Ed

Not-so-easy to see hot spots
•Team taught classes (where some are sitting over 30 students with 16 on IEPs)

Other actions taken/elements in play
•Conflicts (so some students are not scheduled or are scheduled in study halls even though they initially registered for courses)
•Combining of mediums sized classes— and because the combined class it too large, bumping out students
•Other FTE adjustments that have had adverse impacts on remaining courses (switching courses to other course and then having to distribute the students across the existing classes)

Larger class sizes or disrupted scheduling in reaction to overloaded classes may drive student to PSEO or may make it more difficult to retain students in the margin (increasing our drop-out rate/widening the achievement gap).

Respectfully submitted East building stewards,

Gayle Franckowiak, Greg Jones, Catherine Nachbar

Back to Reality

December 8th, 2015

I’ve taken a break from regular blogging to refresh myself and to get my bearings for a soon-to-be new school board. I have explained previously that my commentary about other board members, especially my passing on their quotes or paraphrases, has led to hurt feelings and worse. I backed off from such commentary for about six months after winning my own election to the School Board in 2013 from November of that year until the following spring until I deduced that I was being treated less than fairly. I have also said that I was censured in December for my blogging and not for my premature disclosure of the Central selling price. By then my blog was a source of embarrassment for my fellow board mates.

Although the new Board has yet to be seated I can assure my eight loyal readers that my early confidence in the new school board seems to be justified. I have met with one of the newly elected board members who was sort of keeping distance from me and we found much to compare notes about. School Board personalities and politics did not rear its ugly head, however, so that remains to be tested at a later date.

There are many speed bumps ahead for the new board. I’ll post two such bumps following this. I’ll offer no answers because none will be easily available to us. The simple fact is that as tall as these bumps are they will be infinitely higher if we don’t have a sensible board. It is my strong belief that the next school board will focus on solutions to these difficult problems far more closely than the wounded egos of each member. Keep your fingers crossed that my prediction pans out.

One year ago today

December 6th, 2015

My Mother, Georganne Robb Welty, died one year ago today. Well, I was ten minutes late posting this. She died on the Fifth of December.

The night of her death I felt compelled to crank out about 2,000 hastily drafted words about that day which ended up being very special to me. For the last year I have meant to go back and polish up that work. Today I finally managed it. She was very much on my mind that month as Christmas neared. I featured her Christmas ornaments for most of my December posts. I put her ornaments up again a couple days ago in our sun room. More than anyone else she gets the credit, or blame, for my snow sculptures. She always wanted me to be an artist.

Hidden motivations behind some of my posts

December 2nd, 2015

I don’t get that many email comments about my blog posts so I do value my Buddy’s retorts even though he frequently beats me up.

I was taken to task over my comments relating to police relations with the black community in “Driving While Black.”

In addition to the crapweasel comments impugning 99% of all politicians he sent me a couple on the distressing execution of a Chicago teenager. This one came today as a simple link to the New York Times editorial on the subject. The events put Chicago’s “men in blue” in a very bad light which is a little surprising when it comes to my buddy. I sort of think he wanted me to see how President Obama’s old Chief of Staff, now Mayor Rahm Emanual, has so shamefully conducted himself in this matter. If so, then the Men in Blue are only collateral damage. Its just one more way my Buddy can remind me that Democrats are not necessarily all angels.

My Buddy sent me this response to my Crapweasle post:

Of what relevance was the source – “conservative” or “liberal” – from which Michelle Malkin’s comment was pulled? Isn’t a (more or less) valid observation, a more or less valid observation? Further, are there more “conservative” pundits than “liberal” pundits, which justified your reference to the genesis of her comment as having been from a “legion” of “conservative” pundits?
You didn’t know that numerous Democrats apparently voted “to turn their backs on the Syrians during the Christmas Season? See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/house-democrats-refugee-bill_564e5101e4b0258edb30ca4e.

As for lawyer jokes, what do lawyers use for birth control? Their personalities.

[your Buddy]

My eight loyal readers who may often wonder what motivates me might find my reply to my Buddy informative. This is it:

Great joke.

As for the political orientation of Malkin it was not critical to her argument but it was a convenient data point for me to mention for my political ends. I suspect that I am distrusted, in particular, by local DFL activists. I enjoy confounding them with potshots directed against folks in the other party they consider villainous. I like the thought that they end up agreeing with me no matter how grudgingly. It’s even worth all the potshots I get from you about my not being even handed.

I am keen to telegraph my constant irritation with the GOP to this crowd because they pay a lot of attention to the public schools. They had a huge turnout in this last election and they are ardently anti- Art Johnston especially in my back yard.

Ironically, I don’t think my GOP bashing hurts me with Republicans because I don’t think they tend to read my blog but they give me some credit for being a skeptic about spending and taxation.

My suspicions may be way off and I don’t conduct polling to know the effect of my blog on readers. I write a little intuitively.

I don’t think I have ever put that motivation into words before but it has been a long standing goal of mine to keep the XXX XXXXXX crowd at bay. XX has a passel of pals that detest me and they always put up my foe’s lawnsigns. There is a line in the New Testament about showing kindness to your enemies to drive them nuts and set their hair on fire. I like that.

Harry

Note: My paraphrase of Romans 12:20 is a little off. Hair isn’t mentioned.

A modest December update

December 2nd, 2015

Better than a week ago I jotted down ten or twelve posts I wanted to write for my blog on a sheet of paper. Most of them were harmless but I’m torn between getting off to a good start with the new school board and getting things off my chest. This blog is my public diary and there is nothing I find more annoying than to go back to see that some detail of the past was not jotted down for posterity because I was on hiatus. That is particularly true of my first year fighting for a right to vote on the Red Plan and organizing Let Duluth Vote. I have only my current memories of those now distant events but I don’t have my thoughts of that moment. I’m often surprised to read what I wrote when I go back to old posts and I trust their accuracy more than my memory.

I will say that I’m delighted that the two new board members I’ve not had a chance to meet with have generously agreed to meet with me soon. We’ve even set a date. I will probably not write about that meeting or what we discuss – at least not in any depth – because I meant what I told Dr. Kirby when I saw him campaigning at Chester Bowl last October. I told him that I expected that we would be “boon companions” should he be elected. I can’t blame him if he was skeptical of that prediction but I meant it. Not blogging about what we talk about is my stab at building up some trust between us.

At my feet, as I type, is one of dozens of DNT clippings that I meant to blog about. Its the story from November 16th about shifting enrollments between area school districts. There are two new constants that the new school board must deal with. First, we’ve lost 15% of our enrollment (probably permanently) to other Districts since the Red Plan began to materialize. Second, we’ve dedicated roughly $10 million dollars which used to be available for the classroom from the local property tax levy to paying off building bonds. I have no objection to having the School Board shower Duluth with lots of positivity. But, I will not be a party to this positivity if we refuse to acknowledge the deep trench we dug for ourselves. If we are honest about that I will search for a good backhoe to fill the trench in.

I need to file my latest clippings in my ever growing clipping file which I’ve been keeping for twenty years. I’ll get that and some other organizational work done today although I also have grandparenting duty. My oldest grandson came down with a fever yesterday and I will be hosting him for the day. He’s sitting in my comfy new rocker in the office reading at the moment. This weekend I’ll be heading down to the Twin Cities to participate in the Minnesota School Board’s delegate assembly. We will be looking through a couple hundred possible resolutions that once whittled down will form our wish list for the State legislature. Art Johnston and I have a resolution which would alter the law that seemingly gives school boards the arbitrary power to undo elections in order to rid themselves of unpopular school board members. I don’t think we will get our resolution passed this time around but we’ll offer it up again next year.

Too bad we got so little snow yesterday. I actually have an idea for a snow sculpture. I think the children passing my home in their school buses will like it.

Crapweasels

December 1st, 2015

More Un-Vetted Refugees Coming to Minnesota?

After ISIS terrorists killed 130 people and injured 352 more in Paris in coordinated attacks just this month, serious questions are being asked about Syrian refugees now being welcomed to the United States. One of the organizers of the Paris attacks entered the European Union under refugee status and another had fought with ISIS in Syria according to The London Telegraph.
President Obama has committed to resettle 10,000 more Syrian refugees in the United States, despite serious concerns about the vetting process of those being relocated.
FBI Director James Comey has said that it’s “impossible to vet every single Syrian Refugee.”
While 27 state governors have so-far voiced objection to resettling un-vetted (or poorly vetted) Syrian refugees in their home states, Governor Mark Dayton calls that “grandstanding” and appears prepared to welcome them to Minnesota with open arms. US Senators from Minnesota, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar agree.
At a recent NAACP event, Governor Dayton said to those attending who questioned bringing more Syrian Refugees to Minnesota at this time, “If you are that intolerant, that much of a racist and a bigot, then find another state, [you] really should go somewhere else.”
And Senator Franken said that we must “do part of our job like the rest of the international community” to take in refugees.
Senator Klobuchar said, “I will say these are legally vetted, screened refugees that would come in. And they can actually fill some of the jobs that we have available in states like mine, where we have lower unemployment rates.”

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I can’t head into the Christmas season without thinking about the challenges to peace on Earth. I have avoided pleas to blog about the Duluth Schools in hopes of the dawning of a new Era but my mind is always roving over the news events of the day beyond Duluth’s borders. Sometimes, as with this unwelcome email request for me to donate to a Republican cause it comes right into my computer inbox.

My Buddy recently “twitted” me about politicians (which would also include elected school board members) being “crapweasels.” The comment was pulled from one of the legion of “conservative” pundits, Michelle Malkin, who said 99% of all politicians are “crapweasels.” I replied by asking if a pundit like Michelle, who bent over backward not to offend her readers by avoiding the whole truth, couldn’t be considered a crapweasel too. My Buddy agreed that a pundit, even one coining such an expressive pejorative, could be a crapweasel. I thanked my Buddy for his agreement and said we crapweasels wore Michelle’s designation with pride. (not unlike lawyers who like to tell lawyer jokes) Didja hear the one about why Lawyers never sue sharks? Professional courtesy.

I certainly think the Republicans grubbing for money to protect us from Syrian refugee/jihadists have earned Michelle’s appelation. Why, it was only a few weeks ago that Republican congressman were waving the picture of a drowned child, Aylan Kurdi, in front of television cameras to condemn President Obama. Now they want to turn their backs on the Syrians during the Christmas Season.

I googled for some of the pictures of the crapweasels who recently waved pictures of the drowned Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, in front of television cameras. I found this short note from the Albany Times Union showing how pols of both parties spoke out of both sides of their crapweasely mouths regarding Syrian refugees.

Here’s a Democratic politician being a crapweasel. I could have posted a picture of a Republican waving little Aylan Kurdi’s picture around but my Buddy might have accused me of being bigoted toward my old political party.

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Shhh, Mum’s the word

November 11th, 2015

In case any of my other eight loyal readers were wondering my Buddy sent me this question.

Jeez, Harry. No comment for a week. Were you neutered by the recent election?

Your Buddy,

My explanation:

Jeez Buddy,

Can’t a jabber mouth ever get a chance to shut up for a few days?

Blogging now could be counter productive to my goal of having a more rational school board. The last thing I need to do is antagonize some of my new seat mates. Take your pick between either of these two overused maxims: “Silence is Golden” or “Discretion is the better part of valor.”

I’ll hide behind either of them at the moment……Besides, I have lots of things to catch up on after knocking on thousands of doors for the past month.

Harry

The Mourning After

November 4th, 2015

I’m laughing at the title right now. It cheers me to no end finding a good pun.

I told Art after the filings that even if none of our champions won the new School Board couldn’t help but be a big improvement over the current board. That said I did regret Loren Martell’s loss personally. He’s such a good guy with a brave heart. It would have been poetic justice for him to prevail.

He’s doing OK. This morning he returned the call I gave him after the results were posted last night. While he wasn’t chipper he tossed in that old saw about being resilient. It was Loren’s third loss so I joked with him that I lost three school board elections in a row before I won on the fourth time. He assured me he was hanging up his boxing gloves after this fight. Well, he won’t run for the Board anyway.

I am elated that Alanna Oswald won comfortably. I’ve spent several hours looking over the precinct by precinct results. I may have done her some damage in my area of town. I gave her the maximum contribution to pay for lawnsigns and when I could give her no more I excercised my first amendment right to pay for my own flyer extolling her virtues. Actually I reprinted the News Tribune editorial which extolled Alanna’s virtues. However, to be kosher I hand wrote a disclaimer explaining that I paid for the flyer. The gushing of the Trib may have been canceled out by my neighbors recoiling at the thought I had a hand in Alanna’s campaign. Gosh, my nightmare school board Censured me for defending Art Johnston….oops, I mean for revealing the price we sold Central High School for twenty-four hours prematurely.

The new board members and I may have a little fence mending to do before we unite on January but so far I don’t think our transgressions against each other are too severe. The positivity stuff is a bit hard for me to take when there are so many alligators in the swamp. We need to be on the lookout for the drain.

Alanna’s results surprised me. She did well both in her western precincts and carried many of Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s First District precincts. She did that with just a few lawnsigns.

My Buddy sent me Karl Schuettler’s take on the election results.

Here’s Karl’s big picture summary on the School Board race:

School Board Big Picture: It’s a potential changing of the guard in ISD 709, as three consistent votes in the monolithically pro-administration bloc retire and three fairly new faces in Duluth school debates make their way in. Unlike some of the current and outgoing members, they don’t have long records siding with one side of the dead horse Red Plan debates. With two solid pro-administration votes and two staunch critics among the remaining members, these three now have the power to play kingmaker. Whatever they decide, one hopes they will stay above past squabbles, ask tough questions, and dig into the district’s most pressing debates. Color me cautiously optimistic that some new blood will leave the old debates behind and provide a much-needed jolt of energy for the real issues at stake.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. A lot of innocents out in voting land think that new board members feel beholden to other Board members so that they will be pawns after their election. I don’t expect that to happen on our Board although I am aware that it happens on occasion. I can’t speak for Dr. Kirby or Nora Sandstad but there is no way Alanna Oswald won’t make up her own mind. I wouldn’t have been interested in supporting her had this not been been the case. We’ve already had several spirited debates where we look at issues through different lenses. And besides, I told everyone at every door I knocked on that I wrote in Alanna’s year book back at Morgan Park – that she was a lot smarter than me. Thank goodness. Our Board could use an IQ boost.

I was up for most of the night driving through the fog tracking down lawnsigns to pack up till the next election. I’m a little bleary eyed. Fortunately, Claudia and I are heading up the North Shore with our grandsons for a couple days of unwinding.

A Congenial School Board – thoughts on election day

November 3rd, 2015

I went out and waved lawnsigns yesterday morning. It goes against my grain to do this no matter how much of an exhibitionist I appear to others. When I saw the Stauber family doing this a few elections back I had the sinking feeling that someday this would be expected of me too.

I had other plans for the last day before elections too, leafleting a few missed cul-de-sacs, putting up unused lawnsigns some of which I’d begged for a week in advance of election day. Some were discovered hiding two days before the election. It took me until 2 PM to work up the enthusiasm to get to them. I was already spent from a furious last month of going door to door. A rough guess is that I visited between six and eight thousand doors. Toward the end I stopped knocking and just passed out flyers for my candidates. I don’t think I worked as tirelessly for myself two years ago.

We’d been hearing reports for a few days of lawnsign theft. Alanna had one fellow tell her not to bother to give him a sign because he knew where a bunch of hers had been dumped. All he had to do was just go get one of the discards for himself. I hope we pick up the rest later. Alanna could use them again if she is disposed to run for reelection in four years. So I decided the least I could do was restore and improve upon the lawnsignage I’d put up along lower Woodland and 21st Ave leading down to the I-35 exit.

Right now is a little about 7 AM on the day of the election. I will soon be heading out to make sure these signs survived the vandals last night. And no, if you were wondering. I never heard back from the police about that SUV that was stealing lawnsigns last week even though I gave them its licence plate number.

Last night as dusk was descending I headed over to a missed neighborhood and began putting a flyer I designed for Alanna and one for Charles Obige in screen doors. (For Alanna I simply printed out the marvelous DNT endorsement with my disclaimer that I’d paid for its printing) I could still pick my way through the yard when I got to what would be my last house. There I found a woman furiously raking her yard in the dark and announced myself well ahead of reaching her so as not to scare the bejeebers out of her. We had a very cordial conversation about the state of the School Board. She liked the beginning of the patter I’ve been using for the past couple weeks when I told folks I was suggesting candidates who would be congenial Board members. She liked that word, “congenial.”

This last year has been a nightmare. I felt the way Congressional Democrats must have felt when Newt Gingrich and the GOP took it upon themselves to impeach and remove President Bill Clinton for being a lying cad. At least the fellow I was supporting though his own impeachment was honorable. I think it is this, as much as anything else, which has made me a one man campaigning machine for the past month. I crave respectful congeniality and open and honest discussions when discussing the state of the Duluth Schools. For well over a year I’d been telling Art Johnston that our only hope for a sane and sensible school board would come with today’s election. As today’s date has come closer I’ve doubled and redoubled my efforts to make congeniality come to pass.

Oh, congeniality won’t solve our problems. Duluth’s school board took ten million dollars from the classroom for the next twenty years to build “state of the art” (read vanity project) buildings. Cries for more teachers, more course offerings and more of everything else will not be solved by congeniality. What this Board needs is “grace under pressure” as Hemingway defined courage.

I’m reminded of the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling which begins:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

It was a poem of advice to Kipling’s son who, by the way, was one of a million British boys killed in the First World War.

Congeniality will not assure anything like courage but if paired with the latter our Duluth School Board might find itself becoming part of the solution for ISD 709 instead of being so much of the problem.

Now go out and vote!

Francis Gary Powers should have taken cyanide

November 2nd, 2015

When U2 pilot Gary Powers was shot down by the Ruskies I was 9. For long afterwards I was convinced that he should have taken his “cyanide pill.” After all, as I just wrote, “My grandfather was shot in a war and he didn’t cry.” It was Power’s duty to kill himself.

Such are the thoughts of innocent youth.

Claudia and I took in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies last Thursday not expecting much. It did have something like a 93% approval on Rotten Tomatoes which was promising but other than knowing it was about the prisoner exchange bringing Powers back I didn’t know much more about the movie. It was so good that Claudia even said she didn’t wonder what time it was through the whole production. High praise from Claudia.

Don’t read the link at Wikipedia in the first sentence if you plan to see it. There are too many spoilers for those of you who don’t know your Cold War history and would like to get the movie fresh.

I long ago dropped my disapproval of Captain Powers but a week ago I saw shades of my earnest youthful conviction in my Grandson. He had just learned the National Anthem in Kindergarten along with the history of the bombardment of Ft. McHenry. After he sang the song to us flawlessly he told us he hated the British.

Some hard truths from a man of good will

November 1st, 2015

I was still smarting from having lost my first campaign for the school board in 1989 when I sculpted this out of snow. I would lose two more elections for the school board before finally winning a seat at the table.

Back then the building was called the CAB or Central Administration Building. Today its called HOCH or Historical Old Central High. The sculpture suggests that there has been an air of controversy about the Duluth Schools for a very long time. The big fellow on top of Old Central I called Phil. The little fellow joining him in raising an angry fist is my son Robb, then all of five years old. That’s the same age as my grandson who stars in the preceding video. Today Robb is in this third year of a Doctoral program in Chemistry.

Robb was never very happy about the attention I brought him as Duluth’s foremost snow sculptor and iconoclastic school board member. I don’t think his teachers ever punished him for being the son of a School Board member even when I got national attention for my voodoo stunt. But my school board work kept him in the spotlight from 4th grade until his graduation which he pointedly skipped because I was the one designated to hand him his diploma.

I can hardly fathom that my previous record has been surpassed by recent events even if they have failed to draw national attention. The Trib’s photographer, Steve Kuchera, snapped an animated me at the school board meeting when our Board decided to kick Art Johnston off.

Perhaps the singular difference between me and most school board members is that when calamity hits, say an imminent teacher’s strike, or a thousand angry parents rage against school closings, or a top hockey coach is about to be fired I’m not inclined to hide in a janitor’s closet. I blame my Mother who told me repeatedly when I was small not to cry when I skinned my knee because my Grandfather was shot in a war and he didn’t cry.

In two days we will have an election to replace three school board members (old friends of mine) who hid in a janitor’s closet rather than acknowledge a bitter truth. They so preferred the closet that they even ginned up a malicious excuse for removing a colleague they didn’t much like who asked too many questions. The bitter truth is going to haunt us for half a generation to come. It is this: Before the Red Plan we spent twenty million of our locally raised property taxes in our classrooms. After the Red Plan we spend ten million of our locally raised property taxes in our classrooms. That annual ten million loss to our classrooms will end when we’ve paid off the Red Plan. So much for “moving forward.”

In the meantime our students still melt away to other school districts. Our Western Schools have become the province of Free and Reduced lunches. We have overcrowded classrooms and diminished course offerings. No amount of happy talk will alter this. Replacing three people with their heads in the sand with three like-minded candidates is not what I would call a sure-fire recipe for success.

The photo of my son with Phil on Old Central comes from the web page I set up to run for the school board two years ago. I haven’t looked at it until I googled “Harry Welty” last night and clicked the “images” option.

The first paragraph on this page is pretty hyperbolic but also sort of prescient:

“If I get elected to the Duluth School Board to save our schools, after eight years worth of well intentioned idiocy, it could be like winning a deck chair on the Titanic. Our schools are foundering and in one year, two at most, they will probably sink to the bottom of the Atlantic.”

I only promised one thing in that campaign – that I would practice a simple rule of thumb. “Honesty is the best policy.” I hope this blog has generally lived up to that standard.

Our challenge is nothing less than finding some significant portion of the annual lost ten million dollars the Red Plan diverted from
Duluth’s classrooms. There are three school board candidates I hope very much to have at my side as we go treasure hunting.

I will be passing out flyers for them door-to-door this afternoon and tomorrow. Two days ago my cell phone’s pedometer told me I’d taken 32,000 steps passing out flyers. My 64-year old knees are pretty sore but as my Mom told me all those years ago – my Grandfather was shot and he didn’t cry.

Happy Halloween

October 31st, 2015

Ditto, Ditto, Ditto

October 30th, 2015

Another friend sent me a link to Board Member Annie Harala’s endorsement letter in today’s Trib for the same three candidates Rosie Loeffler-Kemp endorsed in her letter yesterday.

My corespondent noted with some puzzlement that Member Harala didn’t really offer any reasons why they should be chosen other than that they would continue the Board’s successful work of the past two years. Its funny but most voters probably only know one thing about what we’ve done for the past two years. Annie sort of glossed over our best known “accomplishments” by writing: “In spite of public distractions…”

I’m sad to say that all our accomplishments did not bring new students to ISD 709′s schools. Art Johnston sent the following to the Duluth News Tribune two weeks ago:

A year ago, there were headlines on your front page that the Duluth Public School had an increased enrollment of “10″. We now have had a decrease in enrollment of -228. What’s happening to enrollment in Duluth Public Schools should qualify as news, particularly for this election cycle.

Nearly all newspapers that I’ve seen in the last month have been reporting on enrollment in their prospective schools. As far as I can tell, our Duluth public school have had one of the largest decreases of enrollment in the state.

I suspect that our student loss was precipitated in part by the “distractions” Annie mentions….the ones that started when her sharp eyes saw a “shove” that was not verified by the person alleged to have been shoved. How like-minded (to Annie) school board members would help us get past the “distractions” is hard for me to fathom.

Rank Vote

October 30th, 2015

I don’t have a category for just “politics” or “elections” so I’ve lumped this post about Ranked Choice Voting under “hope” and “moderation.”

My Buddy has become a fan of Karl Schuettler’s blog “A Patient Cycle” and he sent me this link to Karl’s very sensible appraisal of the debate over ranked choice balloting. This is Karl’s last paragraph but the whole post is well worth a read for those still pondering the question.

From http://apatientcycle.com/ :

The shrill tenor of the debate and dismissal of critics as simpletons or bigots is especially ironic, given the claim that RCV is supposed to reduce negativity in campaigns. Somehow, RCV has become part of a religious cause; one that is incapable of self-reflection and above any criticism, and considers the cause more important than the deliberative democratic process it needs to go through to become reality. If only it were actually a cause worth fighting for.

As of yesterday Lincolndemocrat had 5,447 “unique” visitors for October

October 29th, 2015

That’s not a record but its close. My head is so full of stuff to blog about it could explode. Instead I’m going to keep my fingers busy today passing out Obije and Oswald flyers.

The thought of the School Board remaining in the hands of the crowd that gave us the last Godawful year keeps me awake at night. Eight hours of going door to door is the best narcotic know of to provide a good night’s sleep. I didn’t dose myself yesterday so I was up till 3AM tossing and turning. Heck, some of our possible new school board members refuse to meet with me. Two thirds of them are Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s choices.

You can’t fix stupid

October 27th, 2015

Big Dorothy’s picture prompted one wag to send a friend of mine a video of the comedian Ron White. The post was titled “You can’t fix stupid.”

I’d never heard of White before but I got sucked into watching the routine which ended with that pronouncement. It fit perfectly with the set up. It may very well fit with the Duluth School Board. I didn’t take it personally but got a good laugh out of it. However, White’s humor is not for the faint of heart so I won’t go linking to it.

My friend was prompted by today’s Trib story about Martell and Sandstad to send me another email with a question in it that I don’t have THE answer to. Its a good question. Here’s the email:

Harry:

This, at http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/3869249-martell-sandstad-face-district-3-school-board-race, puzzles me:

The board currently has a problem with transparency and isn’t welcoming to the public, Martell said. Among other steps, he called for agenda sessions to be open to the public, similar to the Duluth City Council’s sessions.

See https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=13D.01, which pertains to meetings of public bodies in Minnesota. Has the Board ordained that its agenda sessions are not to be open to the public?

I’ll let my friend read my reply here in the blog.

For as long as I’ve been watching the Duluth School Board the Chair and Clerk have met with the Superintendent behind closed doors with his cabinet to set the agendas. Our policy used to guarantee that any subject that two board members wanted to discuss would automatically be placed on the agenda if they were given to the Chair about a week in advance. If agenda items were brought up at the meeting it required a unanimous vote at the meeting to be added.

The Dixon led Board changed this preventing minority members from placing anything on the agenda in advance or at the last minute.

If this is not illegal it is, as Loren Martell says, lacking in transparency.

Is such a meeting for agenda setting purposes required to be open? Again, I don’t know. Any meetings of a quorum of the School Board must be open unless they involve private student data or personnel issues which are required to be kept secret. We had such a closed meeting yesterday.

As I read the statute I see a likely exception when the Superintendent and his cabinet meet with less than a quorum of the Board for whatever reason. On the other hand I remember bitterly learning that my intentional exclusion a year and a half ago from a meeting by management to consider the teacher’s contract was illegal at a Minnesota School Board Association meeting.

Whether the law that my friend sent me has been violated for twenty years is uncertain. That it keeps the District’s business secret from not only the public but from elected members of the school board is without question. Loren is absolutely right about that.

If you are never told what’s wrong you sure as Hell won’t be able to fix stupid.

Not a laughing matter

October 27th, 2015

I haven’t been motivated to do a lot of serious blogging for the past couple days but NPR had a good summary of No Child Left Behind that answered some questions I’ve been wrestling with since it went into effect the last couple of years of my former school board term.

In fact, there are a lot of things I feel like blogging about not the least being the News Trib story about the 3rd District school board race. Claudia read it and proclaimed it fair and balanced. I agree….but I have some thoughts about the race and the candidates. Some echo concerns I mentioned in the last post while other’s would be directed at the comments from the two candidates. In particular, the historian in me objects to Attorney Sandstad’s comment that we should stop looking back.

I’ll be passing out flyers for Charles Obije and Alanna Oswald most of the day so I may wait until tonight to come back to the blog by which time I may be too tired to think and type at the same time. I was up till eleven last night. I’d gotten a call from an ally who said he’d followed a truck that was picking up “orange” lawnsigns. Since Alanna Oswald has orange lawnsigns I reported this to the police. I then drove out to the neighborhood in question and was relieved that most of the lawnsigns I’d put up for Alanna over several days seemed to still be standing.

I don’t usually conclude that someone’s out to get my lawnsigns in local campaigns. Every candidate’s signs seem to be taking hits pretty equally this year. Win lose or draw I plan to wake up early the day after the election and pull down all the signs of my three candidates and put them away for future use or to junk them.

But the real focus of this post should be the NPR story I linked to at the beginning. What it described as quicksand was very important. So was what it reported about schools that had been in NCLB quicksand for five years. I think there is an important lesson in this for Duluth’s schools. But understanding history is probably the only way it can be taken in. Historical blinders are not helpful, especially when they hide the fact that the Red Plan took ten million classroom dollars annually and committed them to pay off bank loans to finance the building of pretty new schools.

I sure hope that, if elected, the candidate (candidates) encouraging us to look to the future will finally meet with me. I’ve been tested for distemper. Had I not been there is no way I would have put on a dress.

What’s so funny?

October 27th, 2015

Claudia says I know who I am. I take that as the highest compliment from the person who has had to endure all the unwelcome scrutiny I have put her through. She’s a pillar of the community. I seem to be more of a bonfire.

So I dressed up as Dorothy Gale of Kansas. On her Facebook Page, read by many members of our very sober Presbyterian Church, Claudia hinted that the person soon to wear the ruby slippers (my old sneakers) really was from Kansas. I was born in Arkansas City, Kansas in 1950. While a lot of fellows would shrink at the thought of putting on a dress I’m not a lot of fellows. One of my earliest memories of men dressed as women was the Movie/Musical South Pacific. I wonder if that wasn’t the first use of coconut shells as faux braziers? Since then there have been a lot of World War II movies showing the sex starved GI’s and sailors dressed up as women in USO type shows. One of the guys in the gritty Stalag 17 did so too.

I found this picture in a blog post about cross dressing in Hollywood that says a lot more about the subject than I ever imagined writing.

I was thinking about my Dad and humor and ego as I began this. In a lot of ways my Dad had a tin ear for humor. As a kid I would tell him jokes from a book of jokes for kids. Even then I imagined myself as a comedian. I was always discouraged that he didn’t find them funny. They were in the book for God’s sake! They were supposed to be funny! I don’t know if I ever saw Dad laugh at a joke. He told me he enjoyed the absurd. He also told me that his father liked humor that was intended to puncture pretentious and pompous egos. The First Harry Welty, my Grandfather, thought Laurel and Hardy shorts were hilarious because poor old Hardy was as pompous as they got and he always got a comeuppance.

I guess this is just a reminder to my eight loyal readers that I am always my first target where ego is concerned. I might point needles at other people’s balloons but I’ve got a Bunsen burner under my balloon. Its just that I’ve taken the precaution of building my balloon with a hole in the bottom center so that the hot air will keep me aloft rather than blow me up.

I don’t necessarily distrust folks who resist self deprecation. I just worry that they lack the kind of humility that is necessary to work with their inferiors – folks like me. If they don’t watch out the joke will be on them.