That Editorial Part 6 –

August 30th, 2015


August 30th, 2015

There was a thought provoking story in the Sunday Trib about counseling for high school kids. Students at East High, including the very thoughtful Jude Goosens who sits next to me at Board meetings are pressing for more resources for kid’s mental health. This was prompted by the recent suicide of a well liked member of the remarkable East Robotics team.

This is nothing new. In the nineties there was a spate of suicides in Duluth and students called for similar help. Just two years ago an East student who had endured the chaos at Woodland when whole student bodies were moved en mass to accommodate expedited Red Plan construction took his life in his first year at East.

Our Administration never acknowledged that the atmosphere at our schools had anything to do with the death despite the family’s claim to the contrary. When the family’s minister met with the Superintendent he asked if a meeting could be arranged with him and the family. The family was given to understand that this was possible but to wait until after the 2013 election. There was a school finance referendum on the ballot.

Yesterday my Buddy challenged my contention that moving kids around “higgledy piggledy” would harm their education:



Moving children about higgledy piggledy as construction took precedence over teaching and surreptitiously bleeding resources from the classroom to pay for it led to plummeting student achievement.
But did it? Coincidence, per se, is not proof of causation.

Further, what is achievement? Having been taught to perform well on tests? Did the children who were higgledy piggledy moved about, learn nothing from the experience?

I have been moving about, outside of educational institutions, for more than 50 years, but I am disinclined to suppose that my learning has plummeted during that time.

[Your Buddy]

I replied:


That’s a very rational question and the answer is far from an obvious yes or no. It depends on the child. One of my favorite movies was about the glorious childhood of an English kid during the bombing of London and how much fun it was for him to scamper over bombed out buildings. I think it was called Hope and Glory.

That said, there was a lot of chaos in our schools and chaos is just that, chaotic. Add to that the siphoning off of classroom money and you have taken some steps backward. Then, there were the advantaged families who pulled their children out to attend competing school districts – something you would favor- and a growing number of more free and reduced kids in our classes (which is not the fault of ISD 709). It all adds up to more stress. Even larger classes aren’t necessarily bad unless you have kids in them who are not well equipped to be ignored. These are all after effects of the Red Plan and its implementation.

I’ve described this transition in more detail in the past so this time I just described it in shorthand to concentrate on the real gist of the story – the abandonment of science and social studies to teach only math and reading and writing. I can even live with that as an experiment and it helped our test scores shoot up. However, if I had a bright kid who had to suffer all year doing the stuff that all the other poor testers did and miss the enrichment of a varied curriculum I’d be angry too.

The district, as is its want, made life hell for the complaining parent because she worked in the District. I kinda like whistle blowers and I kinda despise control freaks who dissemble about their strong arm tactics.


That Editorial Part 5 – No good deed goes unpunished

August 29th, 2015

Commisioner Casselius acted swiftly. Here is her email reply to Alanna:

[Having spent most of Saturday honing blog posts today I wanted some grandchild time. I went to church, Made a Zombie Movie with my littlest Grandson at his request and watched a PBS repeat of Sherlock Holmes while my wife and daughter processed five or six gallons of grapes from the back yard for jelly making. I have tomorrow to try to wrap this series up before leaving for Florida's heat wave. Its supposed to feel somewhere between 102 and 112 with the humidity. Still, it will be cooler than the Duluth School Board.]

On the subject of prohibition of drugs

August 29th, 2015

I admire powerfully argued propositions. My Buddy sent me this and frankly my blog could use a short break from the Duluth Schools. I’ll be busy editing but go ahead and read the whole Slate article if you’d like. I haven’t yet but this passage is potent.

When will we ever learn?


As a dealer, you establish your patch against other dealers by force and terror, and you maintain your patch by force and terror. You don’t just hurt other dealers – you hurt cops, and any civilians who get caught in the cross-fire. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman calculated this dynamic causes an extra 10,000 killings every year in the US. Read the rest of this entry »

That Editorial Part 4 – How to fix what’s broken

August 29th, 2015

Let’s be clear, Alanna Oswald is her own person. At no time were either Art Johnston or I aware of Alanna while we were trying to get a referendum on the Red Plan, or trying to design a more modest building program, or suing the District for offering a half billion building program without taking bids on it. All that time Alanna was busy being a mother and teaching.

However, like many sorely affected by the Red Plan’s consequences Alanna discovered that her children’s education was suffering as a result. Moving children about higgledy piggledy as construction took precedence over teaching and surreptitiously bleeding resources from the classroom to pay for it led to plummeting student achievement. This crisis was particularly acute in our western schools which always have been a little behind their eastern counterparts.

Alanna’s daughter was in one of these schools, Laura MacArthur. I will let Alanna speak for herself by introducing my readers to the brilliant and clear headed letter she sent to Minnesota’s Education Commissioner, Brenda Casselius. This was two years ago. Alanna also circulated it to every school board member shortly after I took office. This letter had positive and far reaching consequences for every child and teacher in the Duluth schools:


Hello Brenda,

I have been to many meetings where you have talked, and you have given out your cell phone number. I put it in my iPhone for future reference, and now that I would rather be talking to you about this issue, my last update to my phone software deleted all my contacts! Ugh. So, let me preface this by saying it will be a LONG email, and if you prefer to speak about this, feel free to just jump to the bottom and use my cell phone number listed there to call me and we can talk about this. I am available nearly all day (up at 7 am and even up until midnight if you are lol). I will bold key thoughts so you can scan it to see if you would rather call and discuss this.

Here we go: Read the rest of this entry »

That Editorial Part 3 – Why did “The Thumb” return with such a vengeance?

August 28th, 2015

Why did the Tribune’s editors give the superlative Alanna Oswald such short shrift?

Three answers come readily to mind. 1. To teach me a lesson for getting under Chuck Frederick’s skin. 2. Guilt by association with Art Johnston 3. Fears raised by the school Administration that Alanna could make things worse than our current school board has already made them. (Yes. I find that funny too.)

About number 1, the last post explained why payback was such an obvious possibility. A few weeks back I got an excited email from Chuck Frederick claiming that I had defamed the Tribune when I wondered in my blog whether Anti-Art Johnston letter writers had an easier time getting their letters in the paper than his supporters. When I wrote about our email exchange in my blog Chuck was subjected to the ridicule of one of my readers. I’d hate to think Chuck is thin skinned and believes that, as a journalist, only he has the prerogative to pass judgment on others while being immune from public scrutiny himself.

Even before these testy blog posts Loren Martell predicted this breach between Chuck and me. He speculated that Chuck was bitter because he felt betrayed after having endorsed me for the Board in 2013.

About number 2, Alanna told me after her interview that another candidate, Jane Hoffman, told the editors that she had met Art through Alanna. This was not accurate and Alanna was sure that Hoffman’s comment had ruined her chances of the endorsement. I don’t think so. It might have confirmed guilt by association in Chuck’s eyes but I think the fix was in to snub Alanna even before she was interviewed. After all they told her they were only going to endorse a single candidate before the Interviews took place.

Thirdly, its possible that school board members and/or administrators made a case against Alanna to the Editors. Such lobbying has happened in the past but rarely with happy results. A few years ago after one such visit the editors crowed that the District would soon get to spend $32 million in Red Plan savings. The Trib is still picking egg off its face over that miscall. Then after the Judge stymied the Board’s attempt to remove Art a delegation trooped over to tell the Editors that Art hadn’t been victorious. That’s just what incredulous readers saw in the next day’s editorial. Of course, it’s also possible that Chuck concluded on his own that the best means to a peaceful school board is to make sure that Rosie and Judy Seliga-Punyko’s heirs carry on their battle with us for the next two years.

There is one more plausible explanation for Chuck’s heavy thumbprint. Mr. Frederick really believes what he wrote about Alanna. To wit:

“[Oswald’s involvement] can leave voters concerned about adding another member to the School Board concerned with exploiting problems rather than solving them and with being divisive rather than cooperative.”

This is so ridiculous it leaves me to wonder whether the Editorial Board reads its own paper. Alanna Oswald was the spark behind one of the most important and positive school related stories in the Tribune last year. It demonstrates Alanna’s claim to be a “problem solver.” It was a big problem ten years in the making not that our school Administration ever thanked her for its being solved. Quite the contrary.

That’s coming up next.

Rosie’s ally accuses Loren Martell of being vitriolic

August 28th, 2015

From a letter in today’s Duluth Reader by one of the paid staff that works with Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s husband in the Public Employees Union, AFSCME:

I respectfully request that Loren Martell recuse himself from editorial or staff positions while he conducts his campaign. While I have always appreciated the sophisticated level of political discourse that the Reader offers, particularly in regards to its endorsements. I have as long despaired of the level of insight Mr. Martell provides in his columns. Recognizing that in the current culture of journalism his brand of is often used to incite inflammatory response and rather than dialogue, I understand the Reader’s need to publish Mr. Martell, less than insightful rhetoric. I do believe that the discourse in our local elections requires far more reflection and complexity than Mr. Martel has provided. I think the integrity of our elections relies on the integrity of our media and that the Reader has by and large bucked the trend that has led to the national trend most recently exhibited on Fox paraded as a Republican Party debate. But in my opinion the Reader is in danger of becoming a part of the circus and indeed negligible in the local discourse on politics if Mr. Martel is allowed to continue to be a regular contributor, particularly while running for office. If Mr. Martel is going to be allowed to continue his regular column while running I respectfully request that the Reader recruit a voice to balance his vitriol.

Theresa O’Halloran-Johnson,
Duluth, Minnesota

The definition of vitriol is harsh, nasty criticism. I defy the author of the following letter to the Reader to provide a sample of any vitriol in Loren’s commentary. The most telling materiel in Loren’s columns comes in context from the mouths of the people he is describing. They are uttered at public meetings and can be verified by watching them on youtube. Loren listens to recordings over and over until he gets the quotes exactly right.

There is no doubt that there is an edge to Loren’s writing but it pales compared to the people he is shining a light on. They put Mr. Martell in handcuffs, literally, and then got the Duluth News Tribune to headline stories for a year calling Art Johnston a racist. Rosie herself went on local television last year to tell Duluth “The investigation was brought forward because of Art Johnston’s violent abusive and harassing and threatening behaviors.” Such bile goes far beyond mere vitriol and vitriol goes too far in describing Loren Martell’s insightful reporting.

Had the author merely complained that a candidate for public office was getting a freebie column after filing I would have been sympathetic.

Note: the poor sentence construction is either the work of the author or the Reader. It is not mine.

That Editorial Part 2 – Why Just One Candidate?

August 28th, 2015

I was astonished when the Tribune’s editorial board put all their eggs in one basket and recommended only one of the two at-large candidates who would pass on from the primary to the General election. They simply skipped the primary and endorsed one of three candidates for November’s General election. This was unprecedented. In forty years of reading their endorsements I don’t recall the Tribune ever ruling out candidates like this. I guess the voters have been told all they need to know about who Duluth should elect ten weeks from now. Only it wasn’t the full Editorial Board that made the selection. There were only two of five citizen members of the Board in on the interviews. This gave the Editorial Page’s editor an inordinate influence on the decision and yet all five names were listed on the editorial as though the three missing members of the Board had gone along with the majority. That’s my kind of decision making.

By contrast the Editorial Board endorsed two candidates for the Second District School Board Race Charles Obije and Dr. David Kirby. Just as in the At-large race only one of these candidates will eventually prevail in the November General election. So why did Chuck Frederick’s merry band deviate from precedent to endorse a single candidate for the At-large position? I have my theories. (That’s the next post in this series)

I wrote in the blog some weeks ago that it was worth pondering whether the Trib’s editors put their thumb on the scales when their readers sent in letters- to-the-editor regarding the Duluth School Board. That post was prompted by a woman who stopped by my house and told me that her letter supporting Art Johnston never saw the light of day after she submitted it to the Tribune. That post prompted an email exchange between me and the Editorial Page editor, Chuck Frederick, who challenged my suggestion with a plausible, and possibly, credible argument. He concluded by asking me not publish his email. I disregarded his request and published it anyway. That led the editor of a local tabloid to satirize him and I published that too. I felt his accusation that I had defamed the Tribune was ridiculous and felt it showed a bunker-like mentality that was worth pointing out to readers of the Editorial page.

Had I been the focus of Chuck’s ire I wouldn’t be writing and posting this. But instead of singling me out in an editorial critique, as the Tribune has done twice in the last year, he dumped on one of the smartest and most able candidates I’ve ever seen who filed for a school board seat.

The Editorial Board’s slight to Alanna Owsald was breath-taking. Her bona fides were so obvious that I had foolishly assured her she was a cinch to get the General election endorsement by the Trib never mind the primary. Heck, only one candidate wouldn’t be recommended and it was obviously going to be Jim Unden who refused to show up to be interviewed by the Tribune.

That morning Alanna teased me in a text message telling me that I had lied to her. I told her I was mortified because I always claim to be “an apostle of honesty.” Some oracle.

This lone endorsement gets even more suspicious. The Tribune’s editors decided even before the interviews that they would endorse only a single candidate and explained this to Alanna. When Alanna told me this after her interview was concluded I told her she had gotten it wrong. I told her the Trib would do this just like they handled the Second District race with two candidates getting the nod even though only one would eventually prevail in the General Election. It’s painfully obvious that Renee VanNett was going to get their nod all along. The interview was a sham.

In the next post I’ll speculate about why the Editor chose to demean Alanna’s reputation while inflating Renee’s qualifications beyond recognition. I’m sorry, but these posts will not be getting any prettier.

That Editorial – Intermission

August 27th, 2015

I’m working on it. I’ve got about seven or eight more posts to write to tell this story “exactingly.” It may take me more than a day.

But remember what my friend Karl said, take me with a grain of salt.….or maybe a handful of Advil or Alleve or just plain aspirin.

That Editorial – Part 1, Other voices

August 27th, 2015

My busy day gave me a chance to research but not to begin the writing this subject deserves. I’ll work on that tomorrow but for this beginning I will share the thoughts of others who read the editorial I so object to.

First up, Andrew Slade, the most reasonable person in the world who gave serious thought to running for the Board himself and who perfectly echoes the concerns of Denfeld parents who see their children’s educational options shrinking compared to those being offered at East High School. Andrew has taken on the role of Alanna’s Treasurer. He quite accurately describes the Trib’s editorial as being a “passive-aggressive hit. From the email buzz I’ve been reading it has prompted a number of Alanna’s supporters to redouble their efforts to campaign vigorously on Alanna’s behalf. That includes me.

Here’s Andrew’s take:

Alanna, you’ve got this. And we’ve got your back. Sign me up for doorknocking, I’ll be honored to walk with you.

The DNT piece was nothing but a passive-aggressive hit job on people who are working on the actual hard problems the district is facing. Anyone can see that you have all the qualifications and experience they touted for Renee, plus so much more.

Everyone on this email needs to go to their typewriters or whatever and write a letter to the editor sharing your support for Alanna. Let the readers of the DNT know the real story, even when the paper won’t acknowledge it themselves.

Three weeks to the primary. All the time in the world.

And from my old eminently fair minded young acquaintance, Karl Schuettler, who doesn’t much care for Art Johnston and who says of me that he takes me with a “grain of salt.” He is mystified by the Editorial’s conclusions based on the video interview of Alanna. His piece has a link to Alanna’s interview.

Karl’s post offers a balanced view that put’s the Editorial Board to shame. Although I’ve not talked to Jana Hollingsworth, the Trib’s education reporter, about the editorial I’d hazard a guess that was astonished and appalled at the Editorial Board’s conclusions. I’ll offer much more evidence of Alanna Oswald’s talents and influence tomorrow. In my view her efforts over the last year, although unheralded, have been so helpful as to almost offset our disastrous school board’s antics. Here’s a sample of Karl’s analysis but I strongly urge you to read the whole thing:

I always read Harry with a grain of salt, so I watched the video of Oswald’s interview with the DNT to see if it was an accurate assessment. If this is the editorial board’s idea of divisiveness, I shudder to think of what would happen if its members were ever to actually meet a divisive person. I wouldn’t say we agree on everything, but she seems like an eminently reasonable west side lifer with admirable commitment to achieving results in education. Her take on Art Johnston—guy with an obnoxious tone with whom she sometimes disagrees, yet sometimes has good ideas that the rest of the Board ignores because they come from Art Johnston—couldn’t be more accurate. It’s the least divisive, most balanced view you’ll hear about Johnston from anyone in the world of ISD 709 (in public, anyway).


August 27th, 2015

Today’s story on the pre-college sorting out test called the ACT is mixed and unsurprising for Duluth.

Our average grades are up a fraction on the one hand but the gap between majority and minority students remains grave. This paragraph puzzled me:

Very few of the district’s black and Native American students, for example, took the ACT. Nearly 9 percent of the district’s enrollment is black, so about 70 of those students would be expected to take the test if participation mirrored demographics, Lake said. Only 13 students did with an average score of 18.8. Nearly 7 percent of district enrollment is Native American, meaning 26 of those students might be expected to take the test. Fewer than 10 took it, also meaning results can’t be shared. Another 17 students who identified with two races scored an average of 21.9.

The puzzler is the statistical extrapolation of how many black and native students should have been expected to take the test. If 9% of our students are black and almost 7% Native I can not understand why, according to the middle sentences, 70 black students but only 26 Native Americans would be expected to take the test. Those numbers suggest that there are over twice as many black students as Native students in the Duluth Schools – not a mere 2% difference. One answer may be that more Native kids drop out by their junior year when the ACT tests are taken so that their numbers don’t reflect the average enrollment percentage of “Nearly 7 percent.” If so, that is troubling and good reason to consider electing Renee Van Nett to the School Board since she knows a thing or two about the miserable experience of Native students in the Duluth schools.

The test for Renee is whether she is up to the challenge. I have my doubts.

That Editorial – a Prologue

August 26th, 2015

Rarely have I been so offended by a Duluth News Tribune Editorial as I was this morning when I read, in slack jawed wonder, an offense to journalistic integrity.

Its taken me a long while to process the enormity of its message and the hubris upon which it was constructed. Ostensibly its the product of a collection of leading Duluthians but it is almost certainly the brainchild of a fellow I’ve always liked, Chuck Frederick. Having said that I have a damning thing to say about Chuck right now so, if you are squeamish, please read no further. Here it is: Chuck Frederick is a darned fine feature writer.

Its been a while since I’ve written a part 1, 2, 3 blog post series but this editorial merits such treatment. I will crank out this prologue before midnight and work on the rest of them tomorrow.

Let me begin by explaining why I say the editorial is hubristic (That’s fifty cents for excessive pride and arrogance). The fact is that the Editorial Board, Chuck really, has taken on the lofty goal of bringing peace and amity to our embarrassing school board by guaranteeing the election of new board members who will continue to persecute two stubborn minority members – Art Johnston and Harry Welty. Chuck and the Board are promoting or about to promote one candidate who has made it clear that the Board’s toxicity is all Art’s and my fault; another candidate who is in the early stages of wrapping herself up in an Administration that has colluded with the majority thus bringing disgrace to the entire District and, in today’s editorial, a third guileless candidate whose head has been turned by the slavish praise heaped on her by folks who are counting on her to keep the power of the current School Board in place. In other words, Chuck Frederick is attempting to solve the problem of long standing bitterness over the Red Plan and its unpleasant aftermath by keeping the same sort of stalemate in place that has dogged the School Board for a year and a half.

The unfortunate victim of Chuck’s hubris is one of the most intelligent and thoughtful people I have ever met, Alanna Oswald. I taught her American History at Morgan Park the year before her mother committed suicide. That traumatic event led to Alanna’s discovery of a caring faculty that reached out its arms to nurture her in the suicide’s terrible aftermath. This is a much more hopeful background than the Trib endorsed candidate’s frank belief that our School District failed her.

There is so much more to say but I will end this prologue with the gracious email that Alanna sent Chuck after she was dismissed, in two short paragraphs, as little more than a “mother” who would bring discord to the School Board.

Hi Chuck,

Thank you for the opportunity to interview for endorsement. Although saddened that the DNT chose VanNett over me, and chose to quote me in a light that I do not live by or believe in, I understand we all have different views.

I find it ironic that I have the exact same experiences you chose to highlight with David Kirby, plus a pile more on top of the school PTA member, school PTA board member, District wide PTA seat held (At Large Integration), and attended the State PTA convention TWICE….. yet you are concerned I will exacerbate conflict.

I am a problem solver and work with all to get the issue taken care of. I hope, should the voters choose me, that I can work with the newspaper to highlight the positive changes we will work towards while making our schools the best in the area.


When I resume these posts tomorrow I will not be so gracious. I will be exacting.

How the local DFL rigs endorsements

August 26th, 2015

Jane Hoffman, who lost the 2nd District DFL endorsement last night, wants folks to know how the contest was rigged from the beginning. Here is an email she is sharing with anyone who will listen. It primarily involves the list of delegates to the convention who must be persuaded to vote by the candidates. If you are not given the list you can’t campaign in advance:

On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 7:21 AM, Jane Hoffman wrote:

I started calling people yesterday afternoon off the delegate list. I worked graveyard the night before. Of the 7 people I called, only 1 was attending. When I arrived last night, 60% of the delegates in my district already had Kirby stickers on their shirt. I want to complain that I did not get the delegate list until the morning of the convention. I asked two times since the initial meeting and that was over two weeks ago. We were told the night of the screening we would have a delegate list in our hands that week. I have been a lifelong DFL’er and I am disappointed in your process,not to mention 4 existing board members were there and already backing a predestined horse even before the speeches were made. Now I can see why candidates go rogue or break party line.

Jane Hoffman was reminded of Obama too

August 25th, 2015

I just got an email from one of the also-rans at tonight’s DFL endorsement, Jane Hoffman. I skipped the audio but read her post.

Jane kept track of the school board members who attended. There were four of them. They all wanted Art Johnston removed and spent a quarter of a million dollars attempting to do the deed. They are still stuck with Art but got their candidate endorsed.

Table scraps of the DFL endorse Duluth school board candidates

August 25th, 2015

Three state and national election years have been highlights for me. In 1978, before the GOP started calling moderates like me RINO’s, I went to the Republican state convention that nominated and subsequently elected Two Republicans US Senators and a Minnesota Governor. It was called the Minnesota Massacre. In 1990 frightened Independents and Democrats joined moderate Republicans to elect Arne Carlson Governor. On the Presidential level only one political year was as satisfying. That was 2008. That was the second or third year I caucused with Democrats. I went to the caucuses that year to elect Barack Obama. It was an eye popping year at the DFL precinct caucuses. A thousand folks arrived to support either Hilary Clinton or Obama at the old Woodland School, with its new addition for the younger grades in a school with only another four years of life. I was in awe. There were easily ten times the number of people there than had attended any recent caucuses. It was the most gratifying presidential election of my lifetime. Obama with his white Kansas mother, just like mine, got elected.

I was particularly pleased at Woodland for another reason. In caucus after caucus the attendees brought resolutions and passed them calling on the Duluth School Board to let voters have a referendum on the Red Plan. I had been fighting for a referendum for two years and I was heartened to see so many DFLers agree with me. I know the same thing was happening in the Republican precinct caucuses as well.

I’ve just been told about tonight’s DFL endorsing conventions for School Board candidates. Something like 68 people showed up to endorse in the 2nd District which will fill Judy Seliga-Punyko’s seat. Sixty-eight people showed up to endorse and the winner, David Kirby, was nominated by Judy Seliga-Punyko – the champion of the Red Plan and the failed attempt to remove Art Johnston. Dr. Kirby got 75% or about 51 of the votes.

Barb Russ a neighbor of mine and no nonsense City Councilor nominated Charles Obije. Charles brought his children to the convention and played with them rather than milk the small audience for handshakes. When he spoke we warned the delegates that they had a choice of selecting a candidate poised to carry on our school board’s disturbing feud of the past year. His pleas fell on deaf ears as only about 15 folks voted for him while Jane Hoffman garnered another two. It will be interesting to see if a campaign so antithetical to the inclinations of that huge DFL Caucus of 2008 can succeed and, if successful, whether Charle’s predictions come to pass.

Only twelve delegates took part in the 3rd District endorsement to choose a replacement for Bill Westholm. Nora Sandstad won with about eight votes. It would be hard to characterize such an endorsement as a clear mandate from the the party.

Rosie, Annie and Judy were all at the festivities. There is no doubt who they are campaigning for.

Is it any wonder that the editors of the Duluth News Tribune take such a jaundiced view of party endorsements for non partisan offices?

More on my Grandfather

August 25th, 2015

I have often written about my Grandfather, George Robb, both in the blog and in my old webpage

Recently the coauthor of the definitive history of the Infantry Division that my Grandfather fought with, Jeffery Sammons, contacted me. He’d visited both my Grandfather’s old home, Salina, Kansas, and the Kansas State Historical Museum. He told me that had he found this information earlier it would have been put in the book and improved it. Today he sent me one small find from yet another source I’ve never seen. Its a scrap of archive that survived a great inferno in St. Louis back in 1973, a year after my Grandfather’s death. The conflagration destroyed a lot of the nation’s military archives.

This is one of the battlefield commendations that was used to justify award George Robb the Congressional Medal of Honor. Below it I’ve linked to a larger more readable facsimile of the document.

Battlefield commendation full sized.

I’d much rather spend my time writing about this than the Duluth School Board.

Well connected people

August 25th, 2015

I don’t think there is any inviolable rule for or against School District employees taking part in school board races but, as a frequent candidate myself, I do pay attention to their involvement.

After I got elected to the Board in 1995 I recall one lower level administrator telling me that their boss the Directer of Curriculum forbade them to so much as put up a lawn sign in their yard. I always found that humorous because a few years earlier I had seen their boss at a Brad Bennett reelection fundraiser in the Gopher Restaurant’s basement. Still, it would be wise for some administrators to keep a safe distance.

I thought about that a week ago when a visitor to candidate David Kirby’s Facebook page noticed that the Superintendent had liked one of the posts. Perhaps the Superintendent will make a point of liking something on all of the candidate’s Facebook pages before the campaign is over.

I thought about it again this morning when I learned that a group of folks along with candidate Renee Van Nett stopped by the house of Alanna Oswald’s Campaign Chairman, Thomas Bersell. They greeted Thomas, a retired teacher (guidance counselor) himself, as he was leaving his house wearing his Alanna Oswald lapel pin. They asked him if he could be counted on to support Renee while he was standing beside his Alanna Oswald lawn sign. This took Mr. Bersell aback and then the door knockers, who gave the impression of being teachers, told him that they were friends of the Superintendent perhaps hoping that this would seal the deald. It didn’t.

This would be a good time to note that the Duluth Federation of Teachers recently decided not to endorse an at large candidate at this time. Apparently Annie Harala called the DFT office to complain that they had not supported her preferred candidate, Renee.

Annie was not the only person to object to the DFT’s non endorsement. This is even funnier. Read the rest of this entry »

30 minute videos of the 3 Second District Candidates…

August 25th, 2015

…shot during interviews with the Duluth News Tribune, in alphabetical order:

Jane Hammerstrom Hoffman

David Kirby

Charles Obije

Obije’s and Kirby’s endorsement

August 25th, 2015

All I have to say about the Duluth News Tribune’sendorsement I wrote in the email included in the preceding post.

Advice and analysis offered to a candidate on not getting the Newspaper’s endorsement

August 25th, 2015

An email from today:

From: “Jane Hoffman”
To: “Harrywelty”
Sent: Tue, 25 Aug 2015 11:13:26 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: critical news.

I need help. the DNT endorsed Obije and Kirby and said i did not have enough experience. I am the ONLY teacher, i work in triage like Charles daily. Read my response below. Can you put something on your blog about it? I AM SO [NOT HAPPY].

Jane Hoffman
M.A. Political Science

[included to me was this email message to the Editors] On Tuesday, August 25, 2015 6:30 AM, Jane Hoffman wrote:

I appreciate the professional response but what I am really angry about is that you didn’t mention I am a parent. I also work in 4 different group homes where I have been hit, threatened to be killed, put people in manual restraints, drive people in STS who are on the verge of suicide. I work in triage every day and I am the only one working 70 hours a week. I am angry but not explosive. I think if you guys are going to allow us to write candidate view articles, you should really find out what we do in our everyday lives. My son used to be severely autistic and now he is vastly improved. He is crew manager at McDonalds. I don’t want to get into the whole story. I believe in endorsing one candidate, not two. Also I am the only woman and only teacher so what does that say about the editorial board? I work in the same field as what school board examines. A major downer in my book.

Jane Hoffman

To which I replied:


I have to live with the person who is elected in the second district for two years so, for the time being, I will not be taking sides. A poor decision in this election could make my next two years as miserable as the last one. I will be supporting two other candidate’s in this election. The first is Alanna Oswald because she is smart, knows the District inside out and because she stands head and shoulders over the other candidates. My greatest fear for her campaign is that my open support of her will undermine support for her from folks who don’t cotton to me. I was reluctant to put her lawnsign in my yard but I did it anyway.

Likewise, Read the rest of this entry »