The Fiscal peril for ISD 709

Twenty years ago I regularly expressed concern about the long-term financial security of ISD 709. I used to call myself a “Cassandra.” In 2010 I handed over that honorific to Loren Martell. Never would I have imagined that the Red Plan would plunge us into such a precarious situation that we would lose 30% of our students to neighboring school Districts, suffer a vast increase in our classroom sizes, and commit tens of millions of our general fund to paying off bank loans for new buildings.

When I quit the school board in 2004 I had erroneously concluded that Duluth would never close the extra high school we had so that we could move about $1.5 million annually to classroom spending and new programs. Today, after the last decade of fiscal insanity, we are spending more than double that sum out of our General Fund each year to pay off the Red Plan. In addition we have squandered two or three chances to sell the old schools we are saddled with even though the Red Plan’s financial promises were contingent on such sales. That’s another $20 million lost. Plus, the Dixon Administration spent down our ten percent Fund reserve leaving our district to live on fumes while putting us at risk every time a summer fiscal cold gave us the sniffles.

Last night I went to a meeting our district’s official committee for the minority community to discuss one such unanticipated sniffle – a threat from the Minnesota Dept. of Education to take $1.6 million in “Achievement and Integration” aid away from us next year. Although the DNT’s Jana H. wasn’t at the meeting she covered the story in today’s Trib. In short, Supt. Gronseth thinks the MDE will change its mind. If it doesn’t…..it will be one more lousy bit of news that our year long budgeting process failed to take note of and which will inflict one more of the “thousands cuts” we continue to endure.

And yesterday Jana covered Art Johnston’s long ignored efforts to refinance our killing Red Plan debt repayments which take that $3.4 million out of our classrooms. At our Tuesday meeting Nora Sandstad helpfully reworked the wording of a resolution that the Board had earlier rebuffed to direct the Administration to explore opportunities that might undo some of this damage.

My hope of finding a solution short of more taxes has dimmed but its great to see our School Board covering all the bases just in case we can bulk up our financial immunity from these summer colds.

By the way, while the DFL Club’s endorsees for the School Board have been largely absent from School District meetings both Kurt Kuehn, and Bogdana Krivogorsky have been near constant presences at them. I much prefer candidates who do the long hard research (like enduring butt-wearying, four-hour-long meetings) to those who want to join in on the blissful ignorance which has so often typified Duluth School Board members over the past decade.

And don’t forget to visit WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

Say “simple summary sans soliloquys” ten times fast

That happy little alteration comes courtesy of the last post. Its as good a title to introduce my thoughts on yesterday’s very pregnant school board meeting. The forgone conclusions to approve our teacher contract and our budget and our Superintendent’s right to reassign principals were all fraught with anguished explanations and symbolic votes. Here’s my brief take on our deliberations.

Jana said of my symbolic vote against the teacher’s contract I helped negotiate:

Welty, who sat in on negotiations, said he had intended to vote for the contracts, but decided against it considering the teachers union’s stated goals during those negotiations of wanting to work to better meet the mental and emotional needs of kids.

“It is my sense that the finances of our district are such that (the contract increases) will make doing student-centered advocacy more difficult,” he said.

I was the lone vote against a contract that in essence required give and take by both sides. Even so, most board members trembled at the second contract we approved for 3 and 4 years out. A long hard conversation with Loren Martell a day earlier made me reconsider my vote to support the contract. Nora Sandstad was right to be put off by my change of heart because I did not express the same reservations when we were in closed session that I did publicly last night.

At the one hour 50 minute point in the meeting

I read the introductory language offered us by the teachers at the outset of the negotiations. This language emphasized the teacher’s determination that we help the whole student including social and emotional needs. I went on to explain with some passion, if not much eloquence, why my lone symbolic vote against the contract was intended to show Duluth that our schools would continue to come up short in the coming years in meeting those needs. We need more staff and these contracts do not give us room to hire more staff.

By the same token Alanna Oswald cast a lone vote against our budget later during our discussion of the Business Committee meeting.

Art Johnston offered an amendment that demanded that we look at a transition over the coming years to make sure that we spend an ever increasing percentage of Compensatory Education revenue on the schools that generate the funds with their larger “free and reduced” student populations. Still, the resolution deferred that decision till after next year.

By the same token there was a lot of temporizing about bending to the will of parents where the reassignment of principals was concerned. But again the Board did not intrude on the Superintendent’s authority. I did point out that while I was sure “educational” concerns were the primary motivation behind these decisions they might very well have political consequences. While parents in Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s end of town were placated Laura Mac has a lot of unhappy parents.

Shakespeare could have been summing up this meeting when he wrote about “sound and fury signifying nothing.” In five months time we will discover if the voters signify nothing.

Did you catch my simple math error?

A friend texted me this morning pointing out that 18% of 2000 Proctor students is 360. I immediately knew what she meant.

From the previous post on our sending busses into neighboring School Districts to entice open enrollment students I wrote this:

“A hasty check of Wikipedia shows that Proctor has about 2000 students and Jana’s story reports that 18% of them come from Duluth. That would be another 180 lost Duluth students to add to the chart above.” As I lamely replied sometimes my brain doesn’t work but that doesnt stop my busy fingers.

The additional 180 students brings the number of our students lost to neighboring districts (not counting charter, parochial or private schools) to close to 1000 students. More of the Red Plan’s legacy not counting the ongoing $3.4 million annual transfer out of our general fund to pay off the damned Red Plan bonds that costs us 36 teachers each year.

Yesterday’s four hour school board meeting was full and Jana did a nice simple summary sans soliloquys by anguished Board members like me. More on mine in the next post.

Moving principals

The most recent hot topic in ISD 709 has been a proposed move of principals. This is the Superintendent’s decision to make but four moves he has planned have caused several grass fires. He backed off of a couple changes at Homecroft and Lakewood out east but is proceeding with two changes at Stowe and Laura MacArthur out west. This has made the western parents feel they have been treated as second class parents.

Among them will be a number of parents from Laura Mac tonight which, I was informed by email, has gathered 355 parents names on a petition to ask the superintendent to reconsider the change.

We may have a very long period of public comment tonight.

Annie’s riposte to busses from Proctor et al

Alanna Oswald posted on Facebook that she has been trying to get these figures for ages. They come from Jana Hollingsworth’s story about how ISD 709 is trying to claw back its outward bound open enrollment students. What has happened since the Long Range Facilities Plan (Red Plan) has been a great exodus of Duluth students to other schools. I’ve tried to guess at the outflow. I’ve suggested that we have lost 10 to 15%. Jana reports: “30 percent of Duluth district residents were enrolled elsewhere.”

The largest number of those students attend the Edison charter schools and that was true well before the Red Plan which some board members hoped would lure them back. Instead they built a new school too and took even more of our students since we had no agreement for an enrollment cap with them.

When I retired from the school board my recollection is that we had a surplus of about 500 open enrolled students meaning that more kids were coming into Duluth from outlying school districts than leaving.

This chart leaves out the Duluth students enrolled in the Proctor District which has sent busses into Duluth. A hasty check of Wikipedia shows that Proctor has about 2000 students and Jana’s story reports that 18% of them come from Duluth. That would be another 360 lost Duluth students to add to the chart above.

As the title suggests the idea of sending our buses into the neighboring districts to lure the students back was Annie Harala’s and was prompted by parents of western students who thought we should reciprocate. I guess I can’t complain since the costs of sending our busses in search of new students has been described as nominal. Whether they will fill up is another matter.

Martel on Maintenance

I’m not sure how many of Loren’s recent columns I have failed to mention. They seem to have been coming out weekly just as I began digging in to do some serious gardening and yard work. The latest begins by quoting my poor pun at the last meeting about our being between a “Rockridge and a hard place” and then veers into the land of the worst case scenario with regard to twenty plus million in building and maintenance costs we are faced with but for which there are no current resources to address.

Loren is right and he has yet to talk about the two contracts with teachers we are likely to approve tonight and which I finally got a chance to play a small part in helping to negotiate.

If the maintenance costs are driving Loren to despair he will likely be positively apoplectic about the contract settlement. Can’t say as I blame him.

Please note the correction from two posts ago

I unfairly slammed my school board colleague Rosie Loeffler-Kemp two posts ago. Please note the correction. I apologize to my readers. I ought to apologize to Rosie. She reminds me of this at every school board meeting when she reads our prescribed tools of civility which have also been adopted by the Duluth City Council. “Apologies” are called for in “tool” number 7 of 9.

I take no satisfaction from acting like an elementary school child but I’ve never believed that forcing anyone to apologize when they don’t feel like it is honest or useful.

Why don’t I feel like acting the part of a grownup? Rosie is busy organizing the next five months of school board campaigning with an eye to removing those of us who did not support extending a full three-year contract to the Superintendent. She has me in her sights and, truth be told, I have her in my sights.

Rosie hammered me during our closed teacher contract negotiations, as she regularly does, because she does not like what I blog about. I’m not a team player which means, I guess, that I don’t speak for her majority. I did not speak for the majority when Rosie called my colleague Art Johnston “violent” on television something for which Rosie herself has never apologized. Rosie’s majority was the prime mover behind a two-year attempt to remove Art Johnston from the Board thus reversing the people’s decision in an election. This in turn put the entire school board under the dark cloud of public ridicule from which it is only now slowly reemerging. Should Rosie survive the November election she will, in fact, be the only remaining member of the five-member majority which brought the school board into such ill repute.

I prefer honesty to apologies although I do recognize the decency of the latter even when I can not bring myself to fully embrace it.

Mankato, another Minnesota town with some history

A few weeks ago an old acquaintance from Mankato, where I graduated from high school in 1969, asked me to write up a post on a popular boutique shop that my Mother set up with a collection of “faculty wives” who called themselves the “Harpies” and who’s store they named “Harpies Bazaar.” Unfortunately, he asked me to post it on Facebook, a notoriously upbeat online space where people get depressed because everyone else’s lives are made to look so good. I linked to a blog post about my Mother’s Alzheimers. Downer.

But then Brad asked me to tell a bit about my foreign exchange student, Bedru Beshir, from Ethiopia. Brad was a class ahead of me and within a year of his 50th year anniversary of his graduation. There had been some curiosity after all these years about what had become of “Beds.” Brad and others from Bedru’s class had located Facebook pages of various Bedru’s currently living in Ethiopia. I had to tell him they were not our Bedru. Other graduates of the class of 68 had already discovered my old Reader Column spelling out Bedru’s likely fate. It was not a happy one for the first black student in memory to have attended Mankato High School. Double Downer.

What caught Brad’s attention to me was a response I had left to a series of Mankato History Facebook posts that had been prompted by the news that the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The garden was in the news for a controversial piece of art depicting the massive scaffold built in Mankato in 1863 to hang 38 Sioux Indians. Downer number three. I wrote about that in the Reader as well.

There were some furious arguments going on in Mankato between descendants of murdered settlers and sympathizers of the Sioux warriors. I waded in to say that not all the hung men were guilty. To another comment pinning the blame on Lincoln and a rebuttal by Lincoln defender who pointed out that Abe had reduced the number to be hung from over 300 to 38 I stuck up for Abe. I pointed out that despite the cries for vengeance during the Civil War when the President needed all the help he could from the North to prosecute the Civil War, his ten-fold reduction of those to be executed was an act of bravery.

To a person who responded to my reply that it was time to forget the hanging and “move on,” I quoted Santayana, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” I read almost the same argument for ignoring Duluth’s lynching in a letter-to-the Editor in the Trib shortly after Duluth began paying attention to its infamous 1920 lynching. Mankato, like Duluth, has some infamy in its closet.

One of the people who spoke up for Mankato in the face of this third downer was one of the Saiki’s. She came out with a long Chamber of Commerce like list of wonderful things to have been invented in Mankato that changed the world including the Honeymead Corporation’s use of soybeans which has had a huge impact on our oversea’s trade with Asian nations. One of her Japanese forbears happened to bring those soy beans to Mankato from California.

I wrote back in reply explaining that I had graduated in 1969 with one of her family members. I then mentioned that my Mother had told me about her family’s arrival in Mankato. They had been interned (imprisoned) during the Second World War but their mysterious ability to sex chicks to be rid of the useless roosters-to-be was just what the Nation needed to produce eggs for its soldiers overseas. I told her that that the consequence of this fourth downer gave her family and Mankato every reason to be proud of that all but forgotten bit of local history. And that was not a downer.

In the same way, Duluth’s embracing of its notorious past offers more than a little redemption.

Keen on Kuehn


Photo by: Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

I was pleased to see this picture on the anniversary of Duluth’s infamous lynching because one of the new school board candidates is pictured in it, Kurt Kuehn (pronounced KEEN). The caption below had his comments on the grim history, to wit:

“It’s always inspirational,” said Kurt Kuehn of Duluth, about the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.” Kuehn attended the memorial event Thursday honoring the three black men who were lynched in 1920 after being falsely accused of rape.

Kurt is running in District One currently represented by Rosie Loeffler-Kemp.

Although I have often written about the Clayton Jackson McGhie lynching I did not attend this particular event. Art Johnston and Alanna Oswald and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp represented the School District.

CORRECTION: When I posted this yesterday I incorrectly said that Board member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp was forty minutes late. That was wrong. Rosie was present shortly after the presentation began. As I said I was not in attendance. It was Jill Lofald, Art Johnston’s 4th District challenger who was late.

Having mis-remembered what I had been told about the order of appearance of Board members at the Lynching memorial I was a little too eager to link to an unflattering anecdote about Rosie that did not put her in a good light. After having served on the Duluth School Board with Rosie for the past three years I am still inclined to link to those unflattering 2015 posts heret and here.

I have to be careful that when I replant the rhubarb today…

…my head doesn’t fall off into the hole with the manure.

I have good reason to worry about this because, as I just told an unhappy ISD 709 parent who reads my blog, “I have so much in my head to blog about that right now its lying on my floor and if I move to fast it will snap off.

On the other hand, I have five months before the November election to get things off my chest on Lincolndemocrat so maybe I don’t have to do five months worth of blog posts in the next five days. I can probably spread them out.

Beau Geste

“Wacky Wednesday” continues. Even though vacation bible school has taken the place of school Claudia and I are still hosting our grandsons on Wednesday night. For the past four months that Claudia has checked the homeless into to the CHUM center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I gave up my Wednesday Choir practice to pick the boys up from school and get them to bed. Until this summer that meant gluing ourselves to PBS’s Nature program to watch cameras being inserted into fake animals for closeups, hummingbirds in slow-mo and crocs attacking wildebeests. Last night I was curious to see if the first movie to capture my imagination might entertain them – 1939’s black and white Beau Geste. That movie made Gary Cooper my role model for years to follow. It was an adulation which was only heightened a few years later when I saw the only movie I ever watched with my movie-phobic Grandfather.

Both movies were made in the magical year 1939 but, would the boys, aged 7 and 10, turn up their nose to Geste after Pixar classics too numerous to mention? Not at all. Good story telling wins out every time and Geste had them, like it had me, from the first look at the grim specters lining Fort Zinderneuf’s crenelations.

Even 30 minutes of frustration trying to remember my Amazon Prime password and trying to push the right buttons on the blasted remote followed by the boys pushing each other’s buttons and being sent to their rooms until they apologized didn’t dampen the movie. When they complied with their grumpy Papaw’s demand I gratefully reciprocated with my own apology. Then I told them that the movie would show them brothers who were loyal to each other. (I have to take advantage of every opportunity to give a sermon.)

Beau Geste lasted one hour and 52 minutes and was near its end when Claudia got home a little after 8. She put on her bath robe and joined us to watch as the movie finally answered its lingering mysteries and as the three brothers became one. Sorry, that’s a spoiler.

As Digby Geste sounded his trumpet for the last time Claudia gasped, “that’s the Music Man! You saw that movie with us.” We surely did and they liked that 1962 classic too with a much older Robert Preston playing Professor Harold Hill.

Claudia suggested suggested that I read to them from my Calvin and Hobbs collection because their summer bedtime gave them an extra hour. I also read C and H to their Mother and Uncle Robb with gusto when they were the same age. The boys were enchanted too although the Tan Man wrinkled his eyes and asked how a six year old Calvin could have such an adult vocabulary. I told him that Calvin was P-R-E-C-O-C-I-U-S just like he and his brother were, and besides, if he was going to get picky why didn’t he object to Calvin’s having a talking tiger.

Mao

My Mother gave me one of these t-shirts back in the 70’s. Now I’m reading two books out-loud to Claudia that I’ve had for years, in one case two decades, about the man who’s name inspired this pun – Mao Tse Tung.

The older book I found in a used book shop. It was published when I was nine years old in 1959. That was ten years after Mao drove out the Nationalists leading to cries in America of, “who lost China?” and two years before Mao’s agricultural revolution starved twenty to forty million Chinese to death. It was possible then to imagine Mao as a benign nationalist which seems to be the point of author Siao Yu in his reminiscence When Mao an I were Beggars.

The other book was initially lauded as the first authoritative tell-all of Mao’s depredations. Later commentators cautioned that its author, Jung Chang, went overboard blaming every Chinese catastrophe solely on Mao. She’s a great writer. I read her family history Wild Swans to Claudia a couple years ago. She knows China well.

I’m half way through the gentle tale of a month in Mao’s life living as a beggar with the older Siao Yu with whom he had a teacher/student relationship. Written over forty years after their 1917 experiment in poverty, Siao Yu does his best to portray the young Mao as an inquisitive but dogmatic companion on the brusque side. The writing is a little pokey and I’ve taken to alternating a chapter of this book with Jung Chang’s history of Mao.

The latter book is a 600 page monster and so far I’m only up to the early years of Chinese Communism. Its interesting to see the scheming authoritarian emerge from the truculent young nationalist that Mao started off as. Mao’s begging took place in 1917 the year my Grandfather Robb was fighting in France. Mao, the communist war lord, was gadding about Yunan Province with an army of 3,000 in 1928 when my Mother was born.

As for me, I was trying to defend the Chinese “Cultural Revolution” to my gymnastics coach in 1966 while waiting for a bus to take me back to North Mankato, Minnesota. That was seven years after the Begging book and about the time that its author Yu, broke with his old begging buddy.

Today Mao’s posters live on. In six weeks I will see his hanging over Tiananmen Square, a tribute from a Party that has otherwise distanced itself from his legacy of keeping China backward and stupid. It seems that its America’s turn to emulate that failed legacy.

Trifecta Schmrifecta

Posts that began in my head over a week before but which become placeholders for me to finish are a pain. Life goes on and so does my attention. I am not only watching the developments in the School District campaign ahead but in China and in the ongoing Trumpaloonia. And the books that I’ve been digging into to provide me context on my grandfather’s life for a book that I would like to write – Well, they are on hold too. I’d love to get the book finished by the time the 100th anniversary of his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor takes place. But I’ve got a darned school board race to run and China to study before my summer travels.

So, about the Trifecta. Supt. Gronseth had a very good couple of days. Candidates that he can count on to support him no matter what won all the DFL endorsements. That was his first success – trifecta part one, although it’s no guarantee that these candidates will win in the Fall, five months from now. Not having the endorsement hasn’t stopped me from getting elected to the Board 3 times. However, its always nice to have the entire city leafleted with your propaganda a week or two before the election and I expect the Democrats to be energized after last year’s debacle. I began writing about this as part one of the “Trifecta’s” but I’ve lost interest and my reporting some of the details might make people unnecessarily mad at me. I am a politician and making people mad by being “impolitic” has its costs.

Trifecta Part two was the conclusion of the teacher contract negotiations. Once again it was/is an interesting story with details that might make people unnecessarily wary of me. I had people nervous even hinting at things that took place during the Board’s closed meetings. Perhaps that quality helped us reach a contract that gave the teachers less than two successive years of 2% pay increases which is what the State Legislature embedded into the Education bill. The wiggle room we achieved has just allowed the Superintendent to come up with new spending that will soothe some savage breasts. There has been a simmering anger over moving some principals to new schools. One particular hot bed was in Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s 1st District. Now those reassignments are kaput which puts out the fire and last night the Superintendent gave all the credit to Rosie for having made the parents happy. No such thing occurred but Rosie is his gal. He has also credited her with being the force behind replacing the rubber playground mulch even though Rosie came a year late to the party. Rosie was one of the two Board members who jumped down my throat in closed meeting to discuss our teacher contract negotiations. Ironically, the agreement we got has allowed the Superintendent to placate her first District voters.

Trifecta Part three was the unexpected news at the beginning of last week that the Edison schools have, at least for the time being, given up on building a new high school. This is a subject that put the Superintendent’s majority at some risk because it entailed turning down $14 million badly needed dollars and left continuing to take $3.3 million out of the general fund for Red Plan bond repayments. I talked with the Superintendent about this briefly a couple days ago and he restated his position, that has some merit. Mr. Gronseth argues that the loss of 400 or more high school students to an Edison High would damage our District in the long run – even close Denfeld. On the other hand, turning our back on “competitors” cost us even more than $14 million. By the time you consider the Many Rivers Montessori offers and the rehabbing of Rockridge you could argue that the District lost twenty million. If that loss damages our credibility with angry voters when we next offer an operational levy referendum that would add millions more to the loss. It dwarfs the teacher contract settlement savings we just negotiated. We let a couple birds in the hand fly off. Now only time will tell whether these building non-sales will haunt us. For once I am inclined to believe in ghosts.

There was much more to these trifecti for me to tell than I’ve shared here. Maybe I’ll dredge some of the gritty details out in the future. But for now that’s it. I’m headed to China for my next post.

Finding good Karma

My neighbor’s sweet little Karma, aged 11 and mostly deaf, escaped the fence for the first time last night and was last seen crossing 21st Avenue East, by my home. If by chance you have spotted Karma note the sign posted on the street lights at my corner and earn a better life to come.

The Superintendent’s trifecta

I called the Trib’s education reporter Jana Hollingsworth on Tuesday and told her about the tentative settlement of the teachers contract. When she picked up the phone I asked if I’d reached the “Hollingsworth News Tribune.” Her stories that day (four of them) covered the front page. She laughed.

Sorry, I’ve got more gardening to do. I just put this here to force myself to write this post which should have been posted on Wednesday)

***

Ah, now I’m back. It’s 2:15 AM Saturday. This not my preferred time to blog, but what can you do when the cares of the day invade the night?

So Saturday last, the Superintendent enjoyed the first of three remarkable bits of good news which would continue through Tuesday. On this day the Duluth DFL would emerge from its slumbers much like the United States did after the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the Democrats the alarm was spread not on December 7th, 1941, but on November 8th, 2016, the day of Donald Trump’s election. Almost 300 delegates would be seated to endorse candidates for municipal offices for the first Duluth election following that earthquake.

A SHORT PROLOGUE

I had only attended one other DFL endorsing convention and it was quite a contrast. It was 1999 and I was still a nominal Republican. But my good friend Mary Cameron hoped to earn the DFL endorsement and asked me, her de facto if not official campaign manager, to give her moral support at that year’s endorsing convention. I agreed and sat somewhat awkwardly in a small room at the YWCA.

If there were forty people in the room I’d be surprised. It was all the DFL regulars, AFSCME leaders, the candidates, the new school board members elected in 1997 that dearly wanted to take control of the Board, and me, a lone Republican, sitting beside Mary. She didn’t stand a chance. Neither did she stand a chance in her reelection campaign. She was smeared for deciding to stay on the Board while commuting to Syracuse, NY to earn her Masters Degree. It was a campaign organized by fellow school board members who wanted to improve their 4-5 minority status by removing our only real “minority” member and me. I got re-elected despite being “targeted” by the DFT President and May won vindication after completing her Master’s and ended up ousting the Board member who had ousted her in 1999.

(I was able to confirm my memories of this thanks to the “Wayback Machine” which has been capturing websites and recording them for the past two decades. I found several news stories I captured of that Era. Pouring through it is a great time waster.)

TRIFECTA PART ONE: ENDORSEMENTS

TRIFECTA PART TWO: THE CONTRACT

TRIFECTA PART THREE: THE COMPETITION

Sorry, Anybody who thinks writing is a breeze I’ve been at this for two hours – mostly researching. I’ll post this prologue and work on the Trifecta parts later after I make another go at getting some shut eye. Hope I can sleep through the thunder storm that’s just started.

More old news stories from snowbizz.com

https://web.archive.org/web/20010228073446/http://snowbizz.com:80/EdNews1999/4-99Edu/FIGHT4-8.htm

https://web.archive.org/web/20050223091937/http://www.snowbizz.com:80/EdNews1999/8-99Edu/sboarden.htm

https://web.archive.org/web/20010228074520/http://snowbizz.com:80/EdNews1999/4-99Edu/ReplytoGeorge.htm

Crisis of the moment – a friend sends me an email

From a friend:

Hi Harry!

I’m sorry to have to come to you with a concern, but I hope you can help!

It has come to my attention that the school board intends to vote on Superintendent Gronseth’s budget at your next meeting. Gronseth has proposed cutting the principal at Homecroft Elementary to a .6 position. I do not support this proposal.

It has also come to my attention that Gronseth intends to move Principal Worden from Homecroft Elementary School and I am writing in protest of this decision.

I’m sure you are already aware that Homecroft has endured many changes in leadership in the few short years my child has been attending. If we start with a new principal this fall we will have had 6 principals in the last 12 years. If that’s not bad enough, we will have had 4 in the last 6! This lack of consistency needs to stop. Homecroft deserves a chance to build a long range vision with someone that can lead the charge and be supportive to staff in order to have positive lasting affects on our students.

Principal Worden has already set the ground work for a hopeful future at Homecroft Elementary. She has worked hard to build communication with parents, not just about happenings at school, but also regarding interactions parents can initiate to bolster our children’s education. It’s clear that Principal Worden is working for our kids and it could be very devastating to lose her leadership. I fear it could have a large, lasting affect on this wonderful community school.

I have expressed my concerns with Superintendent Gronseth and he has replied with a form letter that I’m sure several others have received already. I really don’t appreciate the language he’s used to make it sound like the position will be staffed at all times. .6 = 24 hours/week. If we subtract from that the time spent out of the building for regular principal commitments, we aren’t left with much time at all.

I do not support the budget proposal to cut our principal from full time and I strongly support that we keep the principal we have.

Thank you for giving this careful consideration,

XXXXXXXXXXX

And my TMI reply:

XXXXXXXXXXX

You and the children at Homecroft deserve a full time principal. Because we know each other through xxxxxxx I feel an extra responsibility to reply to your message quickly but I am doing so before having all the information at hand to be satisfied with my reply to you.

Remember my first sentence to you as I prattle on and know that I mean it. Continue reading

A month’s worth of blog material in a week…

…and I’m using my free time to garden?

This has happened a number of times since I got reelected to the School Board. Sometimes I drown my readers in verbiage. Sometimes I do a lot of cogitating and only half-heartedly attempt to keep up. I figure I have a whole summer before me that no one in their right mind will want to read about the Duluth Schools. (Then again I’m probably not in my right mind!) I will find time to do some catching up between picnics and barbecues. And then, Whoo-boy! Wait till school starts again after Labor Day. That’ll keep my fingers busy.

Settling the Contract –

I may have missed a story about the Teacher contract negotiations but they are likely over as we, Management, and Teachers, shook hands on Tuesday two days ago. The DFT has to take the proposal to the teachers for a vote and then it will come back to the School Board for the final OK – probably at a special meeting next week. To punctuate the conclusions of the negotiations the Superintendent led all concerned on a tour of Old Central’s Clock tower which I haven’t seen in better than a decade. Here are a couple of my pics of that celebration:

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I don’t think I am obligated to mention the details of the contract but I did call both the Trib’s education reporter and Loren Martell to tell them it was over. According to Jana Hollingsworth once something is on paper it is public data. That sounds right but I have no idea if “the paper” been made available to her or Loren.

When it comes time to vote on this I will offer what I consider some sobering insights on the District’s financial future. That said, the State legislature offered up education funding increases that amounted to a 2% increase in each of the next two school years and our teachers, for an important and uncertain consideration, accepted less for these two years. That will give ISD 709 a tiny improvement in its fiscal situation for the next two years.

What will happen in the second consecutive approved contract (the third and fourth years) could be a disaster or a success for the District. Time will tell. Loren was aghast that we did not win concessions on our health care. It wasn’t going to happen with this board and could have caused a protracted year of more of bad feelings while we wrangled over an unsettled contract.

I have no idea if I will be on the Board in four years but I am I will want to have a long public study of the District’s finances to prepare the District for talks in the fifth and sixth years.

During one of the school board’s closed door talks it was suggested that the meager insights I put on the blog could get me censured again for not being a team player. That led to a testy 45 second discussion before we agreed to new parameters which were undoubtedly necessary for the quick end-of-year settlement we seem to have achieved. I hope the Union finds them entertaining when they become public.

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."