Being a school board member I’m never told about these meetings

May 22nd, 2015

I’m still waiting for this subject to appear as an item on our agenda.

From an email I got today from the fellow who predicted the traffic problems at Ordean East High School.

Would someone please forward this to Ms. Wasson 5.21.15

About 20 parents, students and neighbors gathered at the school Thursday to air their concerns about the congestion with East Principal Laurie Knapp and James Gittemeier, senior planner with the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council.

To which was appended this old page from the Let Duluth Vote website.

I wrote Kent back:


Ann only shows up to Board meetings these days when Art Johnston or I are about to be censured.

Evidently Loren Martell is not the only person who thinks private accountants…

May 22nd, 2015

…will be disinclined to bite the hand they audit and which feeds them:

“[Minnesota State Auditor] Otto said she fears private firms will undercut her office’s prices and provide less transparent and independent reviews.”

Maybe Ms. Otto could start auditing school districts again before her state Constitutional office meets the same fate as my Grandfather’s old Kansas State Auditor’s job. Kansas abolished the office altogether. With the recently reelected Otto in the office I’m not sure it would be much of a loss.

“Vengeance is mine…saith the Lord”

May 22nd, 2015

I’ve been meaning to write this post since about an hour after posting the last one but then Claudia and I decided to go to lunch and take in a movie. Ex Machina had a pretty high Rotten Tomatoes score. When we got home I read from Dead Wake out loud to Claudia on our sun porch. I even told Art Johnston that as much as we had to talk about yesterday morning I really needed a little R & R from the Board.

“Vengeance” was the wrong word to use in my tightrope metaphor. I’m not really so Old Testament. Except that, just now, I discovered that this famous saying comes from the New Testament. I didn’t read enough to provide any exegesis on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, Romans 12:19 KJV, but when he precedes it by saying “It has been written” he must be quoting the Old Testament for the sake of authority. I have an expert asleep downstairs but I really don’t need to wake her. The point is that I chose a word for that metaphor which really does not apply. It was such an obvious contrast to the word “magnanimity” (which, by the way, I misspelled) that I pulled it down from my mental thesaurus and popped it in without enough thought.

I don’t like to make serious contextual changes in posts after 24 hours or so lest my readers start thinking I change old blog posts willy-nilly to hide my original intent. I will change an obvious typo when it glares out at me. If I go back and find that I wrote “don’t chare a white” I’d have no problem dropping the h in what was obviously meat to be “care” or drop the e in that was meant to be “whit” or for that matter add an n to this sentence’s word “meat.” The last was obviously meat to be “meant.”

But even the word I should have used, “justice,” does offer up some of the same sort of ferocious resolve that I meant to convey. Our Board has treated a member unjustly. It has attempted to assassinate his character and force on him a huge legal bill to defend himself. Now that’s what I call vengeance. Our meeting to withdraw ourselves from a court hearing to remove him from the Board was much worse than a Rosanne Roesannadanna “Nevermind.” Had it been a simple rescinding I wouldn’t be harping on about it. Instead, the Board majority wrapped their execrable denunciation around their naked butts as if to say: the last eleven month’s were Art Johnston’s fault – don’t blame us..

I’m not interested in vengeance. I’m interested in letting the truth be told. That’s justice not revenge although it may feel the same to folks trying to cover their naked butts.

The most contemptible whereas

May 21st, 2015

My Buddy sent me this email the other day after reading the sore loser School Board’s indictment of Art Johnston after the Federal Court treated the Rice Report as though it was not worth the toilet paper it was written on:


. . . the brutally nasty series of Whereases promulgated by the Whereasses on the School Board.

Where did the Board find the constipated lawyer to put all of those Whereases in the resolution?

[your Buddy]

I’m balancing on the edge of a tightrope right now that has on one side “magnanimity” and on the other “vengeance.” Since I’m not all that much of a Christian I have no more concern than my School Board colleagues with any fussy show of the former. Consequently, I sent my Buddy the following reply refering to the only attorney on our current School Board:

To: [My Buddy] 05/20/2015 9:04 AM

Bill Westholm?

Maybe it was there [sic] Public Relations Person.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smart[ass] phone

We were asked to vote up or down, with no discussion, on a witless collection of balderdash whereases. We were denied our say even after the Chairperson’s incompetent rush to adjourn the meeting; restart it (possibly illegally); and then vote on the Censure Resolution’s whole pile of manure.

Of all the whereases the one I found the most galling was the one extolling the Board majority’s efforts to find a compromise short of “laughingstock.” It was a claim that an attorney courting a malpractice suit or a visit to the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board would have written:

Motion 4: I move that we strike the sixth Whereas in the resolution which reads: WHEREAS, representatives of the School Board and District Administration made multiple good-faith, but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to resolve Member Johnston’s claims against the District;

Of course I was unable to read my rationale either:

Rationale: This assertion is a bald faced lie. At no time has the majority attempted to show any good faith attempt to find a resolution short of a court room hearing for the eleven months after it approved the investigation of Member Johnston. Attempts by Member Harry Welty to initiate some other result were rebuffed by then chair Michael Miernicki as early as December of 2014.

Subsequent appeals for a different resolution have likewise fallen on deaf ears and an effort by Duluth’s Speak Your Peace organization attempting to bring the different parties together were dismissed by the Superintendent who explained that such an attempt to find common ground would be “disingenuous” because the two sides were so far apart.

I spent about six weeks during the Christmas Season (while awaiting the School Board’s imminent censure of me) stilling my blog criticisms in the hope someone would take the bait for a kinder gentler resolution to this judicial travesty. I made a dove of peace out of the almost negligible snowfall this winter and watched it degrade to a dirty heap rather like my futile gesture of peacekeeping. If you weren’t reading Lincoln Democrat in December 2014 take a look now and weep with me.

Do I sound a little bitter? Oh perish the thought.

Perhaps the only hopeful sign I saw last night of any future rapprochement was when my seatmate Mike Miernicki, who puffed and grunted and winced through the meeting to the point I had a hard time hearing the conversation jumped at something Art said without asking the Chair to speak. Our youngest member, Annie Harala, who had taken over for the Parliamentary Procedure phobic Seliga-Punyko (who left after the damage was done) actually cautioned her ally Mike to hush up.

That is a pretty slender reed to build my hope on but it’s a start.

Now I’m ready to mow my lawn

May 20th, 2015

Even though there are a lot of other things I could be writing about today. Some times you just have to step away for your sanity.

Motion 8 – I heard you loud and clear…

May 20th, 2015

Mr. Holter

“Duluth School Board member Harry Welty … [suggests] the school district reimburse fellow board member Art Johnston for legal expenses he incurred suing the district and School Board members…”

The School Board wasted enough on this witch hunt so I planned to propose the following resolution last night:

Motion 8. I move that we add point 7 to the Resolution stating that: All school board members will be directed to return one year’s worth of their School Board pay to the District to repay the community for the deplorable example they have set and to repay in part for the legal expenses they have forced the District to expend in a futile and vindictive effort to remove member Art Johnston from elective office.

Last night’s Board action may encourage Judge Davis…

May 20th, 2015

to award Art Johnston the summary judgement his attorneys requested because of the Board’s obvious lack of good faith in negotiationg some amicable peace instead of relying on the Rice Report to continue to insist that he is a dangerous, violent man.

I posted the resolution on the blog the day before yesterday without reading it. When I finally looked at it in the morning it was even worse than I imagined. So, after Motion one asking the board to simply retract their motion to proceed with removing Art failed I attempted to offer the following amendments. I only got to through Motion 3 before Mike Miernicki moved to vote on the Board majority’s cesspool of a main motion.

Motion Two: I move that we strike the second Whereas in the resolution which reads: WHEREAS, the detailed and comprehensive investigation report completed by independent investigator Mary Rice, substantiated a number of allegations against Member Johnston, including allegations that he improperly used his position as a School Board member to attempt to influence the outcome of a staff meeting on May 12, 2014, and that he physically assaulted the Superintendent and a fellow School Board member in front of students, parents, and members of the community following a June 4, 2014, graduation ceremony.

Rationale: It was an expensive report which showed little even handedness either in the testimony it included or in its subjective interpretation of the testimony. In no sense can this report be regarded as either fully detailed fully comprehensive or fully vetted in a court of law. Attorney, Mary Rice, herself explained that she was not able to confirm that Member Johnston had violated any Minnesota State Statutes.

As to the allegation of Member Johnston’s improper use of his position while some School Board’s do have such policies the Duluth school district does not. Furthermore, this complaint ignores another of the School Board’s policies which encourages Board members to make use of their right of speech.

Furthermore, the most hideous allegation of a physical assault is so grave that it should only be determined in a court of law which this Board refuses to do. Having allegedly taken place in front of hundreds of people in the community it is deeply suspect that only one School Board member antagonistic towards Member Johnston was there to substantiate the assault from its beginning to its end.


Motion Three: I move that we strike the fifth Whereas in the resolution which reads: WHEREAS, on March 4, 2015, Member Johnston initiated a federal lawsuit against the School District and five School Board members, seeking, among other things, money damages for claims related to the proposed removal;

Rationale: Read the rest of this entry »

I met one of my blog readers last night

May 20th, 2015

It was a very rewarding discovery with a lot of unexpected connections – to the Soup Kitchen, my Mother, and our early years in Duluth. But that quote I just found is nagging at me: “writers are always selling someone out.”

Well, I better be careful of my readership. I can’t afford to alienate any of them by putting their identities in my blog’s cross hairs. I will say that this newly discovered reader (number nine) told me that my wife is an angel. How true.

Art Johnston’s Statement on Resolution SP-5-15-3269.

May 20th, 2015

(For which I stood to applaud afterwards in breach of school board etiquette.)

It is with a heavy heart that I see the school board refusing to consider any alternative action to this Resolution, which continues the Board’s and Superintendent’s personal attacks on me and my family. This will not heal this community and school, nor improve any relationship in the school board, nor allow us to be role models for the school. It would be easy to laugh at this impotent resolution after the direction provided by the Federal Court in that they cannot remove me. But the school board has a knife in by back.

I would like to start by quoting George Orwell (the author of 1984 and Animal Farm): “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

What is obvious? Read the rest of this entry »

I desperately want to write about mowing my lawn

May 20th, 2015

That’s a joke.

I mentioned at the beginning of today’s posts that I walked around dictating words or phrases into my cell phone for later reference. I did that a few days ago and it led to a long post requiring a much dreaded proof reading. Well, I don’t know how many of these terms I’ll use as the day progresses but here are last night’s batch of them:

Hocking a loogie, Chest pounding, my 60% property tax appraisal increase which I was to busy fighting for Art to contest, bears in a cave, Max Senate comedies, “Me thinks the lady Mern Doth protest too much, Shyster and his pound of flesh, “what was that motion?” Paul Goossens, Jude Goossens, popcorn, impotence, laughing stock, poor kids story & athletic fees, All Quiet on the Western Front, possibility of Judge Davis awarding Art $60,000 for the Board’s bad faith?, walk along the Lake walk, my daughter’s baptism, the plane crash, the christening dress, months afterwards remembering every detail in chronological order, Summary of my first two years on the School Board including 1st 3 months, Mike no more red plan, Judy’s PSTD ETC., the epilogue/de·noue·ment of the Board’s year long assault on Art Johnston.

The first time I desperately wanted to write

May 20th, 2015

Claudia and I took six or seven years to decide whether to bring children into this crazy world. It meant a couple strong hints from my parents with baby booties in Christmas socks. When it happened Claudia’s Mother who had experienced the glass ceiling was a little distraught for her daughter thinking she had given up the possibility of being anything other than a wife and mother.

Babies can make everything OK. When our daughter was born we made plans for her baptism at our church, Glen Avon. My Grandmother had sent me the Christening dress she had been baptized in back in 1900. That in turn had been sewn by her great grandmother who was born about the same time as Abe Lincoln and the War of 1812. I loved the thought of putting our daughter in it for the next baptizing. (Ah, Pandora is playing the theme to the movie To Kill a Mockingbird)

My parents weren’t particularly fussy about religious stuff and a baptism was not a draw for them. Neeither was Claudia’s Mom all that churchy but she wanted to fly up on Saturday before hand so she could be there with us. Her new husband Charlie was a pilot. He would fly them up as well as his grade school daughter. Saturday was gray and drizzly and we got the word that if the weather was bad (Charlie wasn’t rated to fly instruments) they might end up somewhere else until the sky cleared.

Claudia and I along with our new baby went up to Butler’s Air Terminal (If I’m recalling the name correctly) to wait for their arrival. After an hour beyond their scheduled arrival time we were getting worried. I’ll cut to the chase here. Charlie got them all killed. We didn’t know this for some time and the next 24 hours were seared in my brain for months to come. Every minute by minute detail, was lodged in my head and seemed dreadfully important. I thought I ought to write them all down for, I don’t know, posterity I guess. As the months slipped by the details blinked out but I could, even now, tell you a lot of details about the Civil Air Patrol, A funeral service filled with all the kids in Christie’s fifth grade class and one body not so badly disfigured that an open casket for one of the three deceased was possible, bears covering the bodies they found at the crash site with leaves, Neighbors bringing us casseroles, Months of clearing out Shirley’s home and settling her estate.

My grandmother’s christening dress still hangs in one of our closets never used by us. Even so, it brings back memories. It took me ten years to start writing and that required an Apple Computer and software that allowed me to correct my copious keyboarding mistakes. Those are still plentiful as are poor story telling which requires some serious proof reading. There are no spell checks for sloppy prose.

There are a lot of epigrams about how writers can’t be trusted. I can’t recall the one I had in mind by a quick google search found, “A writer is always selling someone out.” That’ll do. I still apparently want to write pretty desperately. I get withdrawal symptoms when I don’t blog for a while. I also get anxious because of how far behind I feel.

My Mother-in-law would have been a very cool Grandmother. Damn Charlie. He wasn’t rated for instruments.

I’m going to mow my lawn today

May 20th, 2015

At the end of last night’s school board meeting those of us on Art’s side walked around looking relaxed and a little self satisfied. That was sort of a suprise considering the brutally nasty series of Whereases promulgated by the Whereasses on the School Board. (Bored, forgive me, for I have punned)

Art had used the word impotent during a short peroration that I stood and applauded for (bad form that I don’t regret at all) at the beginning of the actual school board meeting. The resolution was so much sticks and stones and that impotence probably explains the friendly attitude at the end of the meeting. Art was supposed to be gone long ago and now he will fulfill his full term of office so long as he doesn’t tap the Superintendent on the shoulder and send him skittering across the floor.

Chair Seliga-Punyko lost what I’m almost certain was her stealthy attempt to be given a free year of service without benefit of election. All around it was a good day for Art’s side and a bad run of events for his detractors……which may explain the “vitriol” in Mike Miernicki’s whereases.

If you want the run down without all the soap opera I’ll probably get around to detailing its here in the Trib. The part of Jana’s story I like most is the comments of the audience that told the whole board we are a bunch of horse’s asses. I wear my self loathing with pride. If I was a medieval Monk I’d be wearing a hair-shirt.

At nine after two hours of business like discussion following the tempest I helped carry a satchel of camera equipment that recorded the tempest to its cameraman’s car then hopped in my own. I called Claudia and told her I was famished. All she’d eaten were some stale taco chips. I stopped at Micky D’s and the drive up person recognized me and asked how my meeting went. I said something rude and we laughed came home and stuffed waay too much in my tummy for so late in the evening. That woke me up three hours after I hit the sack and spent an hour mulling over the day. I got up to write and thought my head was still too crowded with metaphors to untangle. So I put on my coat and took an hour and a half walk along Lake Superior and back. I did dictate twenty or thirty key words and phrases into my cell phone to remember them for when I finally got around to describing yesterday………..

Do I have a choice?

May 19th, 2015

I linked to a blog post from a very bright analyst of the Duluth Schools last week. Karl Schuettler is an East Grad now at Grad School who has an exceptionally rational and fair-minded way of looking at things. When I wrote about his recent blog post and linked to it I gave the impression of being hit pretty hard by it. So should all of the Duluth School Board members.

I think I may have alarmed Karl a bit and he sent me an email to offer a little hope. I only finally found time to reply to it this morning. Here’s what Karl wrote me:

On Sun, May 17, 2015 at 6:58 PM, Karl Schuettler wrote:

Thanks as always for the blog plug, in spite of my nastiness. And I don’t for a moment think “mediocrity” is a permanent state–for anyone on the board, including Art. It can change if people change.

Setting aside whether or not the Board should pay Art’s legal fees (and I am frankly ambivalent about it either way), you and I both know what’s going to happen if you bring it forward for a vote. We have to deal with the political environment as it is, not as we wish it were. 

Dragging this out will also make this fall’s election into a vote on Art. I won’t pretend to know how it’ll play out, but I do think taking the high road and re-focusing on kids is way more likely to get you your majority than turning this into an election about Art. There may be a lot of sympathetic people, but there are a lot more people who are sick of it all either way.

You have a choice.

To which I finally replied:


I meant to write back to you after getting your email and link. It really is nice to get a rational analysis of events in good old ISD 709.

Don’t take my dreary commentary about it as a sign of my unhappiness with an honest outside evaluator. I was very pleased with most of it and understand the part of the analysis that I didn’t much care for. And I don’t take the mediocrity bit nearly as personally as it might have appeared. You are right. We are all to blame and that includes me and Art.

My “Buddy” wrote a very complimentary email about your blog and he was right to say good things about it. My only quibble is the stuff about Art. Oh, Art can be a downer at Board meetings but that should be put in the context of how he’s been treated for six years of which the last eleven months are only the black hole of Calcutta finale. Elected officials denied public data for years on end are liable to be a little dyspeptic and I can’t blame Art. I’ve had two years of the same treatment.

I wish I had the choice that you suggest but the penalties imposed upon Art financially and publicly with today’s crude resolution leave my conscience little choice but to redress the school board’s wrongs by revealing the truth behind this ugliness. Depending on what happens I might yet keep my lips sealed but that depends on coming events.

I don’t think mediocrity is a permanent state either. Until he became President Abe Lincoln was a nobody. Once elected he became transcendent although it took the Civil War and his martyrdom to drive that point home. I will be keeping my eye out for John Wilkes Booth. I have no personal desire for martyrdom…….I’ve already have one of those on my hands.


Two quick reactions to the resolution censuring Art Johnston:

May 18th, 2015

From my Mother:

“It takes two people [sides of the Duluth School Board] to have a fight.”

Jesus of Nazareth:

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”


May 18th, 2015

Member ________________________ introduced the following resolution and moved its adoption:


WHEREAS, on June 10, 2014, the School Board authorized an investigation into allegations against Board Member Art Johnston;

WHEREAS, the detailed and comprehensive investigation report completed by independent investigator Mary Rice, substantiated a number of allegations against Member Johnston, including allegations that he improperly used his position as a School Board member to attempt to influence the outcome of a staff meeting on May 12, 2014, and that he physically assaulted the Superintendent and a fellow School Board member in front of students, parents, and members of the community following a June 4, 2014, graduation ceremony.

WHEREAS, on December 2, 2014, the School Board adopted Resolution HR-12-14-3215, proposing to remove Member Johnston based on the conclusions in Ms. Rice’s investigation report and pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 123B.09;

WHEREAS, on December 9, 2014, Member Johnston requested a hearing to contest his proposed removal;

WHEREAS, on March 4, 2015, Member Johnston initiated a federal lawsuit against the School District and five School Board members, seeking, among other things, money damages for claims related to the proposed removal;

WHEREAS, representatives of the School Board and District Administration made multiple good-faith, but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to resolve Member Johnston’s claims against the District;

WHEREAS, School Board members are expected to serve as role models for District students and staff;

WHEREAS, it is unacceptable for a School Board member to improperly use their positions of authority as School Board members or to physically assault or threaten to physically assault anyone, including District staff and fellow Board members;

WHEREAS, the School Board’s primary mission is the education and well-being of the District’s students; and

WHEREAS, Member Johnston’s litigation against the District and his fellow School Board members has the potential to result in a drawn-out, time-consuming and expensive legal process which would distract the School Board from focusing on its primary mission.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the School Board of Independent School District No. 709, Duluth, as follows:

1. Resolution HR-12-14-3215 is hereby rescinded to the extent that it proposes Member Johnston’s removal from the School Board.

2. The hearing, regarding the proposed removal of Member Johnston from the School Board is hereby cancelled. The School Board will not take any action to remove Member Johnston from the School Board based on the conduct described in Resolution HR-12-14-3215.

3. Member Johnston is hereby publicly censured for his conduct on May 12, 2014, and for his conduct on June 4, 2014.

4. Member Johnston is hereby warned that any future attempts to use his position as a School Board member to improperly influence a District personnel matter, where he has a personal conflict of interest, or to engage in unwelcome physical contact, or threatened physical contact, with any District employee or School Board member may result in further consequences, including, but not limited to, removal from the School Board pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 123B.09.

5. The School Board reaffirms its commitment to setting a positive example for the District’s students and staff by holding all School Board members to the highest ethical and professional standards, including prohibiting conflicts of interest and unwelcome physical contact by School Board members.

6. The CFO/Executive Director of Business Services is authorized and directed to make all arrangements necessary to cancel the removal hearing.

The motion for the adoption of the foregoing resolution was duly seconded by Member __________________________ and upon vote being taken thereon, the following voted in favor thereof:

and the following voted against:

whereupon said resolution was declared duly passed and adopted

I kind of wish Erik would have run for Mayor

May 18th, 2015

Representative Simonson signed on to the legislation that would have made what happened to Art impossible for a school board to pull off again. That bill will have to be revisited next year because those of us who lobbied for it got started too late in the session despite finding quite a few supporters.

Here is an email he just sent to the Board:

Erik Simonson
11:33 AM (3 minutes ago)

to anne.harala, arthur.johnston, me, judy.seliga-pu., michael.mierni., rosalie.loeffl., william.gronse., william.westho.
Good morning,

A wise man once told me to never meddle in the affairs of local elected officials. And I generally adhere to that.

I am writing to you as I sit in St. Paul, on the last constitutional day of the legislative session, where I and each of my House DFL colleagues have elected to stand with Governor Mark Dayton and not accept what would be a disastrous E-12 education bill. I have decided, that even a risk of a special shutdown is worth standing strong for the future of our children, and I am not interested in seeing districts such as ours make even more difficult decisions about how to address budget shortfalls. After all, it is about the children.

Now, I am asking you all, to please, please find a way to set aside your differences and move forward together. Much damage has been done, both personally and as a community. And we are all to take part of that blame. But now is not the time to blame, now is the time to stand up for our children and move ahead. Showing solidarity now, will go far in repairing good will in our community.

I know, trust me I know, there is unresolved differences. I am only asking as a friend, if nothing else as a friend to the school district, to please, drop the issue that purports inflammation and move ahead on behalf of the children.

Thank you for your time. And best of luck in difficult times.

Representative Erik Simonson
Room 221 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

Art sent the School Board an email regarding tomorrow’s censure resolution.

May 18th, 2015
8:21 AM (2 hours ago)

to william.gronse., michael, anne.harala, rosalie.loeffl., judy.seliga-pu., me, william.westho.

The school board is at a potential junction where we can finally move forward and show leadership; or we can bull forward with the same animosity as the last 11 months.

The action that is proposed by Resolution 3269 is a clear indication that 5 members of the school board and the Superintendent have decided to continue the animosity.

I find this very sad. I propose that we take another route and try to heal and show leadership.

Art Johnston
School Board member

It was prompted by this email from retired Board Chair Mike Miernicki to a constituent:

michael miernicki
May 15 (3 days ago)

to *******, anne.harala, arthur.johnston, rosalie.loeffl., judy.seliga-pu., me, william.westho. [note that Harry Welty is not included]

Dear Ms. *********,

Thank you for your letter. I totally agree with you. I was a student in the Duluth School District and received an excellent education. I also worked as a teacher, advisor, and administrator for 36 years in the Duluth District. I ran for office to see if I could help out. I felt the Red Plan controversy was over and that the new Board could move in new directions. I underestimated the hatred and vitriol still carried by a small group. I am frustrated because we spend too little time on the very issues you raised in your letter. At next Tuesday’s meeting, instead of discussing those issues, we will be bombarded with more anger and accusations. I decided to not run for reelection this Fall because of all of time wasted by the anti-Red Plan group. What we need are School Board members like you, with your ideas.

Best Wishes,

Mike Miernicki

Confidentiality Notice: This E-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply E-mail and destroy all copies of the original message.

NOTE: About this disclaimer (found at the bottom of all or most District email) which I have italicized. I think it is illegal. It is too broad and is aimed not so much at protecting “privileged information” but the actions, statements and thinking of some of the people who are passing information back and forth on the School District’s website. When I receive them and publish them on my blog I am usually careful to ***** out the names of the innocent. I don’t generally obscure the names of School Board members. We have much less protection from this cloak of “privilege.”

Why I need to write “Good People For Kids…”

May 17th, 2015

The Duluth News Tribune has aided and abetted the folks who despise Art Johnston. It follows a pattern I’ve seen in Duluth over the years of a kind of piling on of dissenters, and gadflies along with real villains. The first such victim in my forty year life in Duluth was a City Counselor, Tom Agnew, recently deceased.

Just before the Red Plan saga began I put together a fat little notebook of news clippings about Tom that I gathered at the Duluth Public Library in preparation for a book I intended to write about the biggest Minnesota political scandal of the Twentieth Century. The scandal cost a popular former Governor his US Senate Seat in what was called, at the time, the “Minnesota Massacre.” The “Massacre” followed by seven years his designation as the man who presided over a miracle – the “Minnesota Miracle.” Tom Agnew was a bright, earnest harbinger of the scandal I was researching busily pointing his fingers in too many directions at shady going’s on in the Zenith City. For this he was put through a public ringer from which he emerged a few year’s later a broken man with a broken family.

Agnew’s lesson was one I’ve taken to heart. Make sure your aim is true before you point fingers. Read the rest of this entry »

If I write that book I think I’ve got my title for it

May 16th, 2015

For now its only a working title but this seems so appropos:

Good People for kids
Learning to hate each other
Wrecking their own schools

A blog haiku for u

May 16th, 2015

Haiku – I will write a book -Judge Hylden – Lusitania by Eric Larson – wrestling with my conscience – Tom Agnew’s example -”They was just Niggers” – where my home is – How my blog is a very big part of everything that is wrong with the Duluth Schools – Cosmetics – My parent’s example – Sophie’s Choice…….

Since waking up at 5 this morning these are a few of the things that have run through my mind to blog about…..a few of them. I am a writer, a half-ass writer probably but a writer nonetheless. When I was younger I considered politics to be my future thus setting off on a career leading to my achieving mediocrity as a Duluth school board member. That seemed to be seconded by my ["Buddy"] who emailed me yesterday that he really enjoys reading this blog that I frequently link to – that described me as mediocre. Of course, my Buddy would say this. I emailed my Buddy back and wrote that if I could stand his calling me a “bigot” I could handle being described as “mediocre.”

Currently my writing career is even less stellar than my political career. I do, however, make nice snow sculptures. That’s to my credit. I think! There is one thing I do believe about myself and have since getting elected to the Mankato State Student Senate as Vietnam roiled my college campus along with marijuana smoke, Earth Day, a-riot-a-year that burned down whole (usually black) neighborhoods across the nation. What I believe about myself is that I am the most reasonable man. I know that is a tall claim for a man of such demonstrably limited accomplishment but I believe it – to this day. I work very hard to put myself in the other fella’s shoes; to see things as he sees them……and yes, of course, I’m using one gender in this sentence when I mean both… although really…I’d have a hell of a time standing in, let alone walking in, high heels.

Long time readers of my blog (poor benighted souls they) will probably recognize hints from the partial list at the beginning of this post of things I’m alluding to. If they are long time residents of Duluth they will recognize even more. I’ve got a lot of things on my mind. The writer in me, in every good writer, must choose to tell their welter of thoughts one word at a time, one idea at a time, one sentence, paragraph, chapter and book at a time until Cat’s Cradle or War and Peace emerge apparently fully formed.

The book Ullysses by the author James Joyce is famous for being the best mostly unread book in English literature. It’s a quarter million words long and it’s all about a single day in Dublin back in 1904. I’ve never read it although I’m suddenly tempted to add it to my list of about a thousand must reads. The Wikipedia entry offers one of its many delicious sentences which I would alter thusly: “History [Our school board] is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

A quarter million words about a single day in Dublin! Imagine that! Now imagine a novel of similar detail dedicated to a year’s worth of days or a lifetime’s. Its amazing to think that each of us could live a novel’s worth every day of our lives. My lousy little blog only manages a few posts of miscellaneous length on about two of every three days. Even so, in its own way, it’s a little Joycian especially the “mostly unread” part of it.

My greatest preoccupation is not the school board. It’s me, as the viewer of my life. Too often it is written without the benefit of being able to put on other people’s shoes because they’ve been hidden in a closet to hide the scuff marks. If Ullysses is a quarter million pages long it’s got nothing on Years ago I calculated that I had written a couple million words just on the “Red Plan.” All of it has been hurled over Niagara one word at a time.

I’m not poet. I could never be satisfied with haiku although that might make for an easier summary of the Duluth School Board. To wit:

Good People for kids
Learning to hate each other
Wrecking their own schools

If I wasn’t impelled to keep writing I could stop there. Actually my haiku could be altered slightly to cover just about every news story I’ve ever read.

So, I’m reading a fantastic book out loud to Claudia. Its “Dead Wake” by Eric Larson. It’s the nonfiction story of the Lusitania’s sinking. It was an event that my Congressional Medal of Honor winning Grandfather didn’t think merited America’s entry to World War I – which he blamed on causing World War II. I know already that we will finish the book (unlike the last two novels that I only managed to get two thirds of the way through before our interest in them petered out).

That’s the kind of book I would like to write only in my case I’ve got much smaller stories to tell: my Mom’s determination to become an abstract artist; the Duluth School Board through the years I’ve haunted it; Minnesota’s biggest, but now forgotten, political scandal that had Duluth as its point of origin; my Grandfather Robb’s experiences that, while extraordinary, didn’t quite elevate him to the level of heroism that the flawed little man, Martin Luther King, managed to take on.

I will write a book – barring my getting hit by a car. That’s an echo of my childhood mantra: “I’ll live to be 100 barring my getting hit by a car.” Or in my book’s case getting stopped by being hit by a lawsuit. Ex Senator Ralph Doty begged the corporate behemoth Johnson Controls to do that to me in the Duluth Budgeteer five years ago. That would have been a mismatched fight. Even Art Johnston is only facing five clumsy school board members trying to push him off the School Board with a couple hundred grand of taxpayer dollars. By comparison, Johnson Controls employs twice as many people as live in the whole City of Duluth. They also have better lawyers than those at the disposal of the Duluth School Superintendent. Trust me. I keep lawsuits in mind every day I blog.

My conscience is wrestling with the problem outlined in yesterday’s Tribune. Do I defend Art Johnston by telling his side of the story even if it prolongs the trauma of the Duluth Schools? Well, I would drop the story like a brick (even stop blogging about it and the school board) if the five nice people in the majority paid the extortionate forty thousand bucks they forced Art to pony up when they attempted to do to Art what Johnson Controls had the good sense NOT to do – persecute and prosecute an honest man.

I assume that the majority will risk my further scrutiny despite a year’s worth of warnings from me not to go where they seem determined to head. If they go ahead and exact that small minded revenge against Art Johnston I will feel duty bound to help him pay those expenses. I believe I can find 2000 people who will donate $20 bucks each ($40,000) to Art on the off chance that I might actually do what I promised but failed to do five years ago – write a book about the School Board’s misadventures.

Like Michael Fedo’s unsavory book about Duluth in 1920 with its first unsavory book Title it’s a story worth telling although I’d really prefer to write it ten years from now so I could write it with a little more perspective. That would also let me get on with my other preferred writing projects.

Here’s the deal:

1. I may or may not complete this book. If you spend your money on it it’s for Art’s legal bills not for my guarantee of completing this project. (In my defense I did refund everybody that last time. In fact, I got a call from one of the buyers yesterday who told me that he kind of wished I hadn’t returned his $100 donation back then.)

2. Should I get it written I’ll see to it that everyone who helps pay Art Johnston’s legal bills ($20 dollar minimum donation) gets a copy.

3. If it is completed it will not be available until after the general election this November. And again with my record it may never be written in full.

4. It will probably borrow heavily from my blog……which will make it easier for me and will finally give folks who have never found their way to the Internet – good reliable senior voters – a chance to see why Ralph Doty wanted Johnson Controls to sue me.

5. If Art is not compensated I will continue to harp on our school board on my blog book or no book. I’m a lousy politician. I’m a lousy writer. I do, however, still consider myself a reasonable man. I believe a reasonable man has an obligation to stand by the truth at least in most circumstances. I hold on to the hope that a different school board will put our children on a higher level of priority than the seven of us on it now currently do. That alone justifies my faith, that “honesty is the best policy.”

We will learn on Tuesday whether this book project will commence that being the day the Board considers my proposal to pay off Art’s bills for the sake of putting the last eleven months behind us. By the way, I understand that my threat is a compelling reason for the Board not to do what I ask of them. I don’t respond to threats well either. They make me stubborn too. Therefore, if you see any of my colleagues (because they won’t be reading my blog) point out that their vote shouldn’t be in response to my threat. They really should vote for it to insure the peace and calm of the Duluth Schools and for our children’s sake. For that, $40,000 is a pittance.