Reader’s view: Patience needed in waiting for the right Central deal

An old ally of mine, one of a dozen Bruce Johnson’s in the phone directory, singled me out to cheer for school board’s refusal to sell Central High for $14.2 million to the Tischer Creek Building Company. Since I lost the vote if not the argument a couple weeks ago its tempting to take the letter as a gratuitous (unnecessary) kick in the pants. I hope that’s not the case. Bruce and I were allies two decades ago before the GOP purged itself of moderates. We both fought for Arne Carlson’s election in 1990. That was about the last time any moderate Republican in America was able to stick his nose under the Big Tent. Its all been “small tents” since then. Bruce, an attorney, was appointed an Administrative Law Judge by Governor Carlson or possibly by Pawlenty.

After Carlson’s victory I lost three successive races for the School Board in which I became increasingly critical of the School Board as it plunged the District into Statutory Operating Debt. At some point I discovered that the ubiquitous Johnson name attached to one Duluth School Board member, Jane Johnson, had been bestowed upon her by matrimony to Bruce H Johnson my erstwhile ally.

I am sure my criticism rankled. Jane was an ally of another school board member who I’ve criticized in the past Joan Peterson. Its been a two-way street with Joan. When I defended Art Johnston.
Joan sent a letter to the Tribune calling me “absurd.”
I can’t help but suspect that there may be just a bit of payback in Bruce’s belated criticism. Not only did I beat up the Board for fiscal irresponsibility I helped bring in Edison and like Joan, Jane Johnson has probably viewed the charter more as a malignancy than as a second option for parents.

Here’s Bruce’s analysis with my replies inserted:

Reader’s view: Patience needed in waiting for the right Central deal
By Bruce Johnson from Duluth on May 28, 2016 at 11:00 p.m.

I applaud the four Duluth School Board members who voted not to sell Central so it could be used by Edison.

There’s a reason for the district’s noncompete policy. Selling Central would have been a short-term fix but a potentially long-term disaster. The former Central High School is in the center of Duluth with plenty of parking and no access-road problem. The future potential draining of students from the public schools could force the district to close one of its two high schools. If I were School Board members Art Johnston, Alanna Oswald or Harry Welty, I would have been extremely concerned about what this sale could have done to Denfeld High’s future.

Jane probably voted for the noncompete policy. It springs from the national school board association which has long championed monopoly administration of public schools even as the nation has noted the many children who have been failed by their time in school. Bruce and I are both worried for Denfeld’s sake but ironically it was Jane’s longstanding wish to have a Red Plan imposed on Duluth that led to Denfeld’s losses. Up to now Denfeld students have fled to surrounding high schools. Bruce would deny Edison parents from keeping their kids in the Edison system but he would do this while ISD 709 struggles with Red Plan imposed monster classes something Edison has managed to avoid.

Currently, our state representatives are working on making the sale of Central more attractive to commercial interests. Patience is needed.

Five year’s worth of patience has only served to put nearly a million dollars into the maintence of a white elephant sitting on property worth little more than six or seven million dollars. I think our board majority’s “patience” will be rewarded in a few more expensive years with a sale of six or seven million dollars. In the meantime our Administration has offered nothing but more cuts to our staffing. As I argued a sale would have netted us three million dollars a year for four years which we could have used to stave off a continuing exodus of our students. Bruce as a “Republican” ought to appreciate the commercial allure of keeping our customers satisfied. Instead he roots for the monopoly.

We aren’t on a level playing field. Most Duluth taxpayers don’t know that all special education services Edison provides always have been billed to the Duluth public schools. The district gets some state reimbursement, but last year the Duluth district still paid over 30 percent of these costs, or $1.6 million, money coming directly out of our Duluth classrooms for students we don’t even educate and for whom we get no state aid. As of this year, state legislation requires Edison to pay 10 percent of this unreimbursed expense.

Of all Bruce’s complaints this is the most annoying. I do think that we need to negotiate a more healthy relationship with Edison where Special Ed is concerned. I’m distressed that the Trib didn’t make Bruce research this claim like its editors have often made me research claims I have put into my letters to the editor. At the very least this special ed claim, trumpeted by exChair Judy Seliga-Punyko, deserves a news story. Here’s my take on Bruce’s claim. $1.6 million of Federal money was transferred by ISD 709 to Edison because it not ISD 709 was educating the special ed students it was meant for. Why should ISD 709 get to keep the money meant for Edison’s children when we were not educating them? Bruce is an administrative Law Judge. I hope his rulings make more sense than this poorly thought through complaint. Ditto the remainder of Bruce’s letter.

Edison’s working within the system. I would, however, support legislation to have Edison pay its own costs. Let it deal with the state and Duluth taxpayers.

School Board members need to look to the long-term success and survival of our quality public schools. That’s their job and why they were elected.

I disagree with member Welty when he states that not selling Central for Edison’s use puts the district at great risk. It’s just the opposite.

And I disagree with Bruce.

A message to be proud of

“The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

My Buddy, not a fan of Obama, also sent me the text of his brief speech at Hiroshima. I believe my Buddy recognizes the eloquence that stands in stark contrast to the hideous message preceding this post that he also sent me.

I’ve only read two books by John Hersey. I enthused about a Bell for Adano which I read for the first time this April here on the blog. The other book I’ve read twice is Hiroshima.

Today NPR had a story about its writing:

“John Hersey didn’t try to second-guess the American decision to drop the atom bomb, a year after it ended the deadliest war in history. Simply and plainly, he described the stories of six people who survived in a city where so many thousands died:”

The Bell for Adano was followed two years later by Mr. Hersey’s Hiroshima. I think the President captures the humanity that both books share in his speech.

PIG’S BLOOD

My Buddy sent me Andrew Sullivan’s long piece in the New York Magazine which mentioned this fascist libel on General Pershing which I found in a British newspaper’s webpage on You Tube.

I grew up with close family friends from the Philippines. I had a Muslim roommate in High School. Having seen this video I can state unequivocally that anyone who sees this and votes for Donald Trump for President of the United States is a traitor to everything the nation’s founders hoped for the United States.

If that means you………YOUR FIRED! Emigrate to Russia where you can have a leader who joins you in your admiration of this pig blood drenched huckster.

I had a few choice thoughts on Trump in a temporary blog I set up in January when this one went Kaflooey including my snow sculpture tribute to Ms. South Carolina.

Everyone is saying the Planning Dept.’s decision to scuttle the DPSA High School has nothing to do with politics.

I find that very hard to believe:

Hamre said that if Edison had pushed forward with those requests, and the city planning commission followed the recommendation of planning staff — which was that they reject the applications — the developer’s only recourse would have been to appeal the decision to the Duluth City Council. If the council chose to uphold rather than overturn the planning commission decision, no further requests from the applicant would be eligible for consideration until a year had passed.

Such an outcome would have forced Edison to push back its plans to open the new school, serving grades 8 through 12, in the fall of 2017.

Snowflake High or not?

I don’t know what this means but I was notified by a veteran City Hall watcher that the various requests for variances and special use permits for a new DPSA high school have been pulled…….at least for the time being. They included Items F through I on the City Planning Committee agenda.

F. PL 16-013 Special Use Permit for a High School in an Residential-Rural 1 (RR-1)
Zone District at 4300 Rice Lake Road by Pacific Education Partners (Duluth Edison
Charter School) and David Chmielewski SR As of 5/23/16, applicant has
withdrawn applications PL 16-013, -014, 015, and 029. Applicant may
submit new applications in the future.
G. PL 16-014 Variance from Maximum Off-Space Parking Requirements Per UDC 50-
24.2 at 4300 Rice Lake Road by Pacific Education Partners (Duluth Edison Charter
School) and David Chmielewski SR
H. PL 16-015 Variance from Front Yard Parking Per UDC 50-24.6 at 4300 Rice Lake
Road by Pacific Education Partners (Duluth Edison Charter School) and David
Chmielewski SR
I. PL 16-029 Variance from Height Limit in Residential-Rural1 (RR-1) Zone at 4300
Rice Lake Road by Pacific Education Partners (Duluth Edison Charter School) and
David Chmielewski SR

Break for books

I’ve had a bit of a respite from School Board work for gardening and books the latter of which keeps my mind busy.

On my trip to St. Louis and back last weekend I took in the first half of an audio book about Andrew Jackson by Jon Meacham. Claudia found it on the Duluth library and downloaded it to my cell phone but I bought a copy of it a few years back and its been one of a dozen I’ve meant to read. I’ll start working on the second half shortly. I’m still slogging through the Old Testament a chapter or two just before bedtime. Last night I discovered the particulars of Solomon’s source of wisdom in First Kings. I did not know that the two mothers who brought the baby to him that he threatened to divide in two were prostitutes. That part wasn’t in my Sunday School book. His decision brought him renown in Jerusalem but he also saw to it that he executed a fellow who he’d pardoned earlier when the pardonee violated an order by Solomon not to enter into the Kidron Valley. I was just there a few months ago to visit the Garden of Gethsemane. Fortunately, I wasn’t a Palestinian when I crossed into it.

At this rate it will take me till December to get to or near to Malachi. But I finished my fourth book of the year (not counting kids books) Empires of the Sea by Roger Crowley. I have dutifully added it to my reading list on my old Snowbizz.com site. If I finished the Meacham book I’d have a book for each month of the year so far.

I’d started reading it out loud to Claudia much as I had The Wreck of the Medusa a few months back but like the Medusa it wasn’t quite sprightly enough for reading aloud. But the subject was interesting and once I began reading it on my own it went fast. It intrigued me how much the terrorism of ISIS today harked back to the example of both Christian Europe and Islamic Turkey in the 1500’s. Heads, and just about every other body part, rolled then as they do today…….That goes ditto for King David. Jackson just shot the folks who insulted his wife or marched them off to Oklahoma in the Winter if they took up too much space where the White Race wanted to settle.

The book is bookended by Suleiman the Magnificent’s conquest of the Isle of Rhodes and his son Selim’s defeat in the sea battle of Lepanto The Britannica puts battle deaths at about 16,000, Crowley says 40,000. Whatever it was it was hellish. Imbetween there was a battle for the small Island of Malta later famed for Dashiell Hammett’s Falcon. BTW Suleiman is the Arabic for Solomon. Its likely that his troops split a few babies in two. This fifty year period saw the end of the much feared swallowing up of Christian Europe by the dreaded Turks. There was no love lost between the Catholics and the Protestants at this stage of the Reformation but even most Protestant nations cheered the defeat of the Turks at Lepanto.

My [Buddy] just won’t cut me any slack

From: “Your Buddy”
To:
Cc:
Sent: Mon, 23 May 2016 10:23:49 -0500
Subject: Re: Andrew Sullivan thinks Donald Trump may defeat Hillary Clinton.

Jeez, Harry:

“what Kennedy et al did re: Vietnam at least they didn’t have contempt for the system.” That isn’t even a half-assed attempted rationalization. The lives of more than 50,000 American military persons squandered in Vietnam, but the honchos “didn’t have contempt for the system”? Fuck the system. The venture was a disaster.

[Your Buddy

My Buddy thinks I’m prissy about language because I usually xxx out Fxxx or turn it into an “ef” or “effing.” I began cleaning up my act in fifth grade after I copied my Dad and spewed out lots of &#%@xx#()xx$%&. He told me no one would pay attention to me if I always cut loose and then added that swearing was a good way to get people’s attention if it was doled out in miserly portions. I think my Buddy’s “fuck” up there meets that test. Please excuse me if it exceeds your tolerance.

Here’s my reply to him:

[Buddy],

I think you have a point and a pretty good one. Lots of wars are started by folks who are simply following the conventional path which leads them to go to war. Barbara Tuchman made that point about World War 1 in her book Guns of August that JFK was reading at the outset of the Cuban Missile Crises. And yet despite bringing that powder keg to a sane solution he kept sending advisers to Vietnam. We had to stop the dominoes you know.

We will never know what Kennedy would have done. We only know that Johnson let himself be drawn down the primrose path to disaster for the 57,000 troops who died. My Grandfather felt the same way about Woodrow Wilson.

So, the question I should ask myself is will Donald Trump spare us another Vietnam? His ego gives me no comfort on that point even if Hillary has copied the Neo Cons to triangulate her way to the center.

Obama has done a pretty good job of trying to extricate us from the Bush Wars and he gets no credit for it. In fact, it may be true that Syria and Iraq and the US might all have been better off if Obama had been a little less passive.

I don’t have any love for Hillary and her pandering to the conventional so that she could keep her options open for future political advancement. On the other hand I am in awe of her success. Of course, that success is due in large part to the Republican Party and its self fulfilling prophecy that she could become President. Had they ignored her she would have likely faded into obscurity.

To me the most remarkable irony was the Limbaugh gambit in 2008 of telling the nation to vote for Barack Obama. [NOTE: in my email I originally told my Buddy that Rush was calling Obama a “fantastic candidate:” Not quite] Limbaugh was parroted by all sorts of Limbaugh wannabes. At the time I saw their endorsement as a crass way to saddle Democrats with a black candidate who according to convention would get slaughtered in the Presidential Race. Too bad for the Limbaughites that Bush had soured the public on his wars and was blamed with the mortgage mess and that the public actually took to heart all the supportive words for Obama from the Republican pundits. Combined with the desire of American voters to get over the Civil Rights Era in a single election America found itself with President Obama.

The GOP’s next job was to backpedal and discover that Obama was the most “ultra” liberal President of all time (not if you ask my son who thinks he’s a neocon) and a Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer and a desecrator of the Constitution and generally the most incompetent President of all time. Hell from the moment he took office he was to blame for the damned oil leak in the Gulf, his State of the Union speech was interrupted by a Republican Congressman shouting that he was a liar and Mitch McConnell telling America from Day one that the Republican’s first job was to see that Obama wasn’t reelected. I meet otherwise perfectly rational people who believe all this garbage.

And now I’m supposed to fall in line with these nimrods behind Donald Trump? Hell Putin supports him too. What a class act cheering section.

No, I’ll stick with a conventional candidate and hope that the Norwegians don’t saddle her with one of their damned Nobel Peace Prizes so that she feels the need to kick sand over it like a cat hiding its doodie in a litter box.

Harry

Trumped

The email that preceded the email in the last post and my reply to it:

My Reply:

[Buddy],

My impression certainly could have been wrong. What I remember with more confidence was that you would not be voting for Hillary. Of course that could mean a write-in or a vote for a third party candidate or not casting a vote at all. But my recollection was that the way you put it meant that if Hillary was the Democrat’s candidate she wouldn’t get your vote and I may have presumed you would cast it for Trump if that was the candidate.

What can I say. Sometimes I’m presumptuous.

Whether you liked what Kennedy et al did re: Vietnam at least they didn’t have contempt for the system. Sure they gamed the system. That’s almost inevitable in politics. Trump is both contemptuous of the system and is gaming it spectacularly.

Today I heard him telling some audience that Hill doesn’t just want gun control she wants to remove the Second Amendment. That’s coming from someone who stands in the past are the spitting image of Hill’s gun control stands.

I don’t mind politicians changing their minds. I don’t like them speaking with forked tongues.

Earth will continue to orbit the sun if he wins. It didn’t stop doing so when that meteor impact killed the dinosaurs. But as a believer in the old notion that the US is a beacon lighting the path for other nations I’m not looking forward to having a man I regard as an arrogant, lying, horse’s-ass sitting in the White House.

If that’s what today’s voters consider speaking “truth-to-power” then shame on both the Republican and Democratic parties for setting such a low bar.

Harry

The email I was responding to:

—————————————–
From: [My Buddy]
To:
Cc:
Sent: Sun, 22 May 2016 17:04:36 -0500
Subject: Re: Andrew Sullivan thinks Donald Trump may defeat Hillary Clinton.

Harry:

I don’t remember telling anyone that I plan to vote for Trump. I have told several persons that I might vote for Trump.

What the hell, Harry. We were in Vietnam with Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Would Trump be worse?

I agree with Sullivan, that Trump could win.

[Your Buddy]

“Herd up”

From my Buddy:

See http://www.startribune.com/wake-up-and-see-the-trump-card-he-can-win/380327951/, which includes this interesting language:
For all the talk of Republicans who won’t vote for Trump, it’s quite likely that more than 90 percent will herd up.

And:

The identification with political parties is a psychological attachment that often forms in childhood. We are not handcuffed to our party but the tie is tight and has become more so.
A Stanford research team studied the reaction of Republicans and Democrats to the prospect that their child might marry someone from the other political party. In 1960 — no problem. Only 5 percent (or less) reported being upset by the idea. Our new hyperpartisan world has introduced a very different reaction by 2010. Nearly a third of Democrats were irked and almost half of Republicans were unhappy.

“herd up”? We are ostensibly farther out of the jungle since 1960, but we are increasingly tribal?

It was funny when I was a kid in the 60″s watching Candid Camera. Its not so funny now:

Delaying the Big Objective

Winston sniffed me awake this morning in his sleeping quarters, my Son’s sunroom. I had to sleep diagonally in the guest bed but being a guest in his house for the first time worked out well. Hosting your parents at your new home is a right of passage. Winston and Clementine are my son’s cats. You British History nuts will know who they are named after. (Clemmie’s naming was my suggestion and I’m very proud of it)

After eleven hours on the road and a few stops I made it to St. Louis on my solo drive. Last month I traveled to the other side of Missouri, Kansas City. (I seem barely to have mentioned it in my blog) Geez, I see I’ve only mentioned Jeffrey Sammons once in my blog and that was last year. Gosh, I’ve been preoccupied with ISD 709.

Even today the first thing I did after rolling over from Winston’s attention was check my cell phone to see what the Trib had about the schools. There was a letter beating up teacher’s unions and a story about how teacher relicensure in Minnesota is underfunded. Oh yeah, and after the MPR exposé I see that Mesabi Academy is done for.

I parked the Big Objective here two days ago to make myself write it but I don’t feel like attacking it at the moment. So I’ll ignore it in preference to a little Harry’s Diary.

Not wanting to waste my drive time (and to stay awake) I asked Claudia to download an audio reading of a Jon Meacham book about Andrew Jackson on my cell phone to listen to while traveling. The book was available from the Duluth Library although I’d bought it a couple years ago and hadn’t started it. This may become a habit. I finished listening to McCullough’s Wright Brothers in March when I visited Kansas City – a ten hour trip one way.

Damn, I can’t believe I didn’t write more about that KC trip.

Well, anyway, this trip is to watch my niece and God Daughter get her high school diploma. That will be tonight and we will gather at my Brother’s home afterwards. That will be part of three days in a row with both my son and his girl friend and my Brother’s family. I’ll leave for home Saturday after a pancake breakfast.

Last night I took my son out to dinner and afterwards we scoped out my Brother’s new home. I called that get together to an end after my son, A Bernie Sander’s supporter, got into a heated discussion with my sister-in-law who supports Hillary. Its a good thing we didn’t have a brace of pistols handy or there could have been some Jacksonian fireworks.

Oh, and I don’t know why this popped up in my computer this morning but I found it interesting. In 2009 I posted this to my blog to show how many people were visiting it as I railed against the Red Plan:

Last month, by comparison, I had 6,157 “unique visitors,” 14,814 visits viewing 47,829 pages with 78,924 hits using a bandwidth of 2.02 Gigabytes.

I ain’t Andrew Sullivan but I ain’t retired from blogging yet either.

The BIG objective

This will be so brief my readers will wonder why it took me so long to compose it. Well, the reason is that I expected to write War and Peace with footnotes.

Just now I got another email from a parent who wants me to replace the rubber tire mulch. Frankly I’d spend the $400,000 just to offer parents peace of mind at a time when so many think our administration and school board don’t care about them. Losing 40 kids more would cost about $400 grand at $10,000 a kid. But that kind of reasoning my not cut it with a school board that just turned up its nose at $14.2 million. It has also turned up its nose at Qcomp and Alanna Oswald just showed me the document that demonstrates our do nothing legislature just pulled the plug on our getting any of the million plus we were once entitled to.

So the little objective was saving one or two teachers (about $180,000) to keep a Zero Hour while the News Tribune is editorializing that we should spend ten million to fix up Old Central – $18 million if we don’t get a grant to help us.

The Big Objective is finding one, two or three million annually to put back into our budget. It could be used to fund a seven period day. There seems to be one obvious way to do this and it would be great because the Red Plan promise to save $5 million a year has proven to be a bust. Our Finance Director, William Hanson, has told us repeatedly – for six years – that there is no way we could do this and for six years we have used what should be classroom money to pay off Red Plan Bonds.

I find it hard to believe Mr. Hanson. I see no reason why ISD 709 can’t do what any homeowner has traditionally been able to do – refinance our loans. Art Johnston has worked up amortization tables which suggest that if we took twice as long to pay off our remaining Red Plan debts we could keep a million or much more in our General fund each year. The trade off would be paying for the Red Plan an extra ten or twenty years. But right now we are hemorrhaging students from our half billion investment in new school buildings. We need to stop that and make our schools the magnets they once were – before the Red Plan.

If I learn that we have had this opportunity for the past six years and sat on our thumbs. Well, let’s just say I won’t be happy.

The small objective – zero hour

Monday and Tuesday were, Geez. I was going to write “Red Letter Days” for me – as if every day since 2007 hasn’t been that color.
I have my niece/God daughter’s graduation to drive to for the weekend and the superlative weather simply begged for yard work and spring work to be done. I will be driving down solo and I didn’t want to leave it unfinished for Claudia. I haven’t even written back the five dozen, that’s an estimate, folks who emailed me at my school board address to beg me to save the zero hour. I hope they will forgive me under the motto that actions speak louder than words.

I learned some things about two of my new school board members this week. One was very positive the other was very informative if somewhat neutral. This is a much better school board even if I have found myself in the minority on a couple important votes. Perfect. Not quite but even rye bread tastes good after what I’ve been force fed for the first two years.

I’ve been telling folks for the past couple weeks that I feel like I’ve been wearing a halo the past couple weeks. Not bad for a school board member who was censured two Christmases ago. As I was pulling dandelions by hand out of my front yard a woman came by and tried to pull a red handbag off the bottom of my front stairs railing. I’d found it on my steps yesterday and tied it to the railing like a red flag. (there’s that word again) didn’t want it to blow away. It had been left by someone waiting for the bus.

I went down to help her and she explained she’d thought she’d left it on the bus. She was an older woman and after I got it off the railing she thanked me……..for all the work I’d done to sell Central.

Since yesterday’s announcement of the rescue of the Zero Hour I’ve been getting more thanks.

I’d walked into Old Central last night feeling very chipper. When I realized I couldn’t enter the building because I’d forgotten my door swiper I invited two young Denfeld students to go around to the new 2nd Street door designated to be our security door. I joshed with the two young ladies and showed them where the school board met. It was pretty obvious they were the vanguard of save zero hour forces.

I had much more I wanted to tell about our Monday meeting but I’ll make it short because I should be tucking myself in bed for my eleven hour drive tomorrow.( I want to be off by 5AM. No proof reading tonight)

Alanna, Art and I all came prepared to debate the claim that Zero hour was inequitable because only better off kids could drive to school early to take advantage of it.

Two days on and being sleepy I can’t think how Art and Alanna approached the argument. Best I can recall Art said that denying ambitious kids a chance to dig deeper academically wasn’t equity. Alanna used herself as an example of a student who made use of it. I was quoted on the WDIO broadcast tossing in two cents but my most controversial argument lasted too long for a sound bite. It was this. Because we no longer bus kids home after late night school activities we were putting ourselves at risk of canceling things like sports because these were just as inequitable……that is if we were going to stay true to our stamping out inequity.

After Art’s plea Chair Harala went after him with the most pleasantly asked question. Art had said people are leaving the district because we take opportunities away from their kids. Annie turned the observation on its head and asked Art if he’d ever talked to parents who were keeping their kids on our schools to find out why they were happy with them. Art was taken a bit by surprise by this argumentative stratagem. As he pondered the question the two young women from Denfeld were raising their hands to answer the question for the Chair. (These young ladies got top billing in the WDIO news story and it was well deserved.

Principal Tonia Sconiers suggested that the students be allowed to come to the table and offer their thoughts. I moved aside to give them the microphone and they dived in. One said she couldn’t leave Denfeld because she didn’t have transportation. She went on to say she got rides from friends to the zero hour class. By the time she was finished she more than answered the rhetorical question and then some.

In the space of a day Denfeld had gotten over 200 student signatures on a petition asking the Board to save the Zero Hour. The following day East students brought 900 student signatures on a petition. But by that time the Administration no doubt with the already somewhat bruised majority on the issue of the Central sale announced a full throated retreat.

At our next day’s school board meeting a large section of about forty East Students waited to address the Board. Comments that were no doubt planned to be forceful pleas became instead thank yous for the decision.

Our former School Board Rep from East thanked me for my position on the Central Sale and for suggesting our District take the million plus of Minnesota “Q-Comp money”. A lot of the East students chastised the board between thank yous for our turning our back on the Central Sale money.

I wish I had it in me to finish with the Jill Lofald story but I still have one more post……which I’m also too tired to write……….It’s the big one I’ve been hinting about describing how we might be able to make a really painless decision to radically alter our year by year financing and maybe even without that tax hike I’d been threatening.

Sorry, I’m too tired. Maybe I’ll take my computer to St. Louis and explain it before I get back to Duluth. Maybe.

How about that! We saved the Zero hour

Can’t wait to tell you about it…….after my grandson’s concert this afternoon.

Sorry, I guess that was a teaser. We partied (ice cream and catch) after the concert then because I’m leaving to visit my brother Thursday I decided putting up the screens was more pressing.

Tonight we will have a school board meeting. Frankly am guessing it will be a pretty tame affair. Yesterday two issues were discussed and the little one was what was covered in the Trib this morning – the Zero Hour. The big one wasn’t mentioned but we talked it over for an hour.

I’ll deal with both after the Board meeting tonight or tomorrow.

As for calling the Zero Hour the little one here’s some perspective. We’ve continually recieved emails about the issue all of them for saving it for the past two weeks and more. They picked up when we announced the Zero hour was going to be trimmed.

This was a second black eye for us but only got a fraction of the traction as the sale of Central.

That’s an interesting story but the big one is more important yet. Later.

Blasphemer or Gadfly?

To quote the beginning of the Sunday Trib’s Editorial:

“The blasphemy was uttered by an elected official. Of course elected. Easy political points.

Except Duluth School Board member Alanna Oswald — like so many politicians, candidates and pot-stirrers before her — missed the mark by suggesting in March the Duluth school district consider ridding itself of Historic Old Central High School, a landmark as identifiable and iconic in Duluth as the Aerial Lift Bridge. Maybe even more so. The castle-like brownstone has been breathtakingly dominating our skyline since 1892. A bridge over the ship canal didn’t go up until almost a decade and a half after that.”

Alanna Oswald didn’t take much offense at this grandiose allegation of her apparent willingness to subvert Duluth’s architectural history. And the Trib is not exactly wrong to say that other “pot stirrers” had suggested that Old Central was too big a financial burden (Brownstone Elephant) for the District to maintain. I remember how UMD caviled when the Congdon family generously gave The estate to them to maintain thirty years ago.

But there’s more to this story……which I will explain after I go for a walk on Brighton Beach with my recently returned better half…….

……My break led to a leisurely lunch at Va Bene and was followed by a satisfying read about the horrific seige of Fort St. Elmo on Malta by the Turks. It puts the Alamo to shame. That will put me in the mood for our 4PM Committee of the Whole meeting in a short while to discuss our budget. I’m not going to it in a very positive frame of mind.

So, anyway. Alanna’s question was really about why a building valued at $4 million to the Duluth School District by the appraisers that told us all of Central was only worth $8 million, tops, should now be worthy of our spending $18 million – especially in the face of an enrollment decline based on our using classroom funds to pay off Red Plan debt. If that’s blasphemous so is putting a higher priority on education than on schools. I guess that makes me a blasphemer too.

The first school board member to cavil at the prospect of hanging onto Old Central – which is so perfectly suited to a massive educational bureaucracy – it was Board member Garry Krause who more than any other public official can be given credit for catching George Sherman’s interest in developing Duluth. Although I was no more interested in abandoning Old Central in 2002 than I am now I seconded a motion of his to consider the idea.

The editorial actually contained some news in it. Our Facilities Manager, Kerry Leider, learned that there could be up to eight million in government funding available to fix up Old Central because its on the Historic Register. In that case, Alanna’s questions may have borne fruit. And I suspect the Editors at the Trib wanted to give her credit for the discovery. Certainly Mr. Leider, despite nearly a quarter century on the job, seemed surprised to hear of such potential funding.

Thank goodness we have someone else on the Board who asks questions. Such a person is neither a blasphemer or a gadfly but simply a public servant looking for accountability.

What’s that line teachers are always quoting? Oh yeah, I remember: “There is no such thing as a dumb question.”

Unto the fifth generation – Not!

My children are as allergic to today’s GOP as though it was a toxic substance. If it had not become the party of God and the vulgarian, double talker, Donald Trump, they might have become fifth generation Republicans.

Using the best examples from my family’s history I’d like to talk about the preceding four generations.

The Grand Old Party began its life a few years before my Great Grandfather entered New York harbor from Ireland in 1860 one month after Lincoln’s election and two months before his inauguration. “What’s the news?” called a passenger on his ship as they passed an outward bound vessel. “South Carolina has seceded from the Union,” was the reply. Thomas Robb was twelve years old. It would be four years of war plus seven years of Reconstruction before he could cast his first vote as a naturalized citizen.

Thomas was the son of a protestant land manager who had threats made against his life by Irish Nationalists. The men who left that threat attached to a prize bull they killed were largely Catholics in Ireland and Democrats in America. It’s not surprising then that Thomas would vote Republican.

If he had any doubts about his party’s virtues one incident sealed his thinking. Continue reading

Zero Hour’s beginnings twelve years ago

Tonight I decided to look through old scribblings of mine thinking that I might be able to cobble a book together for use in a possibly nefarious activity in the near future. I discovered a 2002 column I had written for the Duluth Reader during my four-year stint as a columnist. The column presaged the email I’ve been receiving for the past couple weeks from students and parents trying to save the zero hour.

In 2001 I labored long and hard to pass an operational levy. It was an uphill fight. I remember PTA President Judy Seliga-Punyko telling me that she wouldn’t vote for it. She was mad that the school board hadn’t acted on my idea to slim down from three high schools to two high schools. I thought her reasoning was nuts. The following year after the failure of the levy we put an end to the seven period day. Years later Judy’s memory of the loss of the seven periods involved my being on the School Board when it happened so that I could take the blame. She had no memory of voting against the referendum that would have allowed us to keep it.

Well, I’ve pasted the last half of the column below which deals with the Union’s crocodile tears about having lost the extra period. The column begins with my mulling over another run for the legislature in the 2002 election. I eventually did run and lost – one of my thirteen electoral defeats. I think its 13. Its hard to remember them all.

Here’s what I wrote about the “seven period day.” Or, if you’d like, you can read the whole original column:

Last week I bumped into my old nemesis Frank Wanner, the teachers’ union president, a fellow who helped put me in the minority. While my feud with Frank was put to bed two years ago my feud with the folks he helped elect lives on. Well, it’s true that one of them was defeated last year, but the three-high school supporters still have more votes. Frank was very cordial and suggested that we get together. I promised to call.

The next day I had to leave a message with him because he was holding a press conference about saving the seven-period day. I sure wish he’d done this before we finished registering students for a six-period day! When my wife saw him on the news she said, “No wonder Frank was so friendly!” The next day I left another message for Frank.

The weekend was blissfully free of politics (except for some email) until we joined friends for an Easter Dinner. Our friend’s son is interested in political science. He told me that Frank likes to bad mouth SUVs in class. Apparently my website gets discussed too. That explains some of my email.

Frank called me back on Monday and we agreed to meet at Bixby’s. I told Frank that I’d heard that he hated SUV’s. He smiled and asked where I’d heard this. I told him that I had my sources.

We talked about his seven-period day proposal which he assured me was not a negotiations ploy. I prefer to take him at his word. The DFT wants high school students to be able to take up to seven classes a day. Many students, teachers and parents are convinced that this is a key to getting into their preferred colleges. Whether it is or not the six-period day is our response to financial hard times. I told Frank what I keep telling the Board – if we had two high schools we could keep seven periods. Frank didn’t disagree. Ah! But I’m in the minority!

If I could just get elected to the legislature maybe I could do something about school finance. I’m sure not having much luck on the school board.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."