Mom’s tree topper

In the fuzzy foreground you can see one of my Mother’s paper mache, Christmas, tree toppers. Just after my college years she started making very popular Christmas tree ornaments for the little boutique, Harpies Bazaar, she was a part owner of in Mankato. My parents are in a picture on the wall behind the little Christmas scene I just put up in my attic office. Its a little artificial tree full of and surrounded by my Mother’s ornaments, the ones that don’t fit downstairs. Some of my earliest memories of Mom were of her teaching my fourth grade classmates how to make paper mache puppets. The teacher’s husband even made a small puppet theater and I remember getting laughs from my classmates by adlibbing for the puppets while I was behind its curtain.

I bought the faux tree when Mom was in dementia care and decorated it each year until her death. She died just before Christmas 2015 and I got to her room in time to begin singing a family Christmas favorite,”Good King Wenceslas.” She breathed her last breath before the first stanza was finished.

Sorry, gotta go. I have a funeral to attend. Its for one of the fellows at my church who always loved to give razz about my snow sculptures before they were completed.

Chopsticks

Yesterday I completed my 67th orbit of the Sun. We took our grandsons to hunt down a suitable Christmas tree outside of town along the Homestead Road. We found one that was unable to elude our hand saw. Its a very pretty and prickly blue spruce. Ornaments will have to be put on with gloves.

Other than the last post from six days ago I’ve ignored the blog even while watching hallucinogenic headlines flash by my face every time I look at New York Times in my cell phone. I’ve spent my time decorating for Christmas and putting jigsaw puzzles together. Why should I post about the lotus eaters in Alabama who are telling Judge Moore that they “do believe in fairies,” they “do believe in fairies”? Which reminds me of a more uplifting fable told to me at church two Sunday’s ago as though it was true.

You can read it here. It turns out not to be true. Its about the famed pianist Paderewski sitting at the side of a small child in the concert hall to support him as a haughty crowd harasses the child. The virtuoso gives the audience a well deserved reproof. If there is anything I can take from the story’s fiction it is this: Even if the story is not true – it should be.

Then there is the story of 2016 which has bled into 2017 and is about to leak over into 2018. It is all too true and of course that means “fake.”

I just heard NPR interviewing a woman who began talking about the dismemberment of babies as she was challenged on the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore.

Penny Young Nance is the President of Concern Women for America. I was busy writing this so I missed most of her interview during which she challenged the interviewer as much as he challenged her. If I have to choose my truth I’ll stick with Paderewski playing chopsticks in preference to abortion TRUMPING sexual predation. For my news I’ll stick with the New York Tabloids:

The Deep Southification of the Republican Party

As I transition away from the School Board I’m finding that national affairs is taking over the job of waking me from sound sleep in the middle of the night.

I woke from a dream about a perilous journey being carried across the skies in a jerryrigged balloon and began stewing about one aspect of the Republican tax bill – its attack on state and local tax deductions.

The attack is really on blue states with their more generous treatment of the poor. The high taxes required to pay for better schools, Medicaid and environmental care can currently be deducted from Federal taxes. The Republicans, who have been taken over by the ethos of the Dixiecrats, want to put all the states on the same low tax footing of Mississippi and Alabama.

Democrats are counting on such a change causing an electoral rebellion when it comes to pass. I hope they are right but the Republicans are bending over backward to postpone the pain until after the 2018 elections. They are counting on our strengthening economy to lesson the pain even as they grovel at feet of Trump’s base by throwing their belated support behind a likely child molester in the Alabama Senate race.

The real test will be 2020 the year of the next Census and subsequent reapportionment of Congressional Districts. Republicans owned that process in 2010 and their many Republican controlled state governments went on to tear to design voting laws that hearkened back to the good old days of southern white supremacy when it was a rare black person who was permitted to exercise his or her right to vote without being lynched.

If the Republicans get their way child molesters will be able to hide behind the Ten Commandments. That’s a small price to pay for limited government.

Minnesota School Boards in Concert

I just snapped this picture of all my monthly school board books (meeting agendas and accompanying documents) from 2014 through 2017. As you can see I ran out of room in my file cabinet after two years and piled the last two year’s worth on top of my file cabinet. I had twice as many, eight years worth, after I retired from the Board in 2004.

When I retired then I tore out all the minutes of each meeting and tossed the rest. Two file drawers were freed up. This time I’ll only get one empty drawer but that space is badly needed as I begin to focus on researching and writing some books. Besides, if I wanted to look through these old books they are located (for the time being) in the Business office. That could change. Our Administration is hellbent to go paperless and digitize all of the District’s docs. There is a move to give all Board members “Chrome books,” an electronic tablet, starting after the new school board is seated to put an end to paper. I won’t miss the new regime. I’m a happy forest eater.

Although I don’t often go back through old board books I did this morning because I’m not leaving the Board a happy camper. I attended a state School Board meeting on Saturday to decide what issues the MSBA (Minn School Board Assn) will lobby the legislature for. The meetings are the “Delegate Assembly” and I was one of the duly elected delegates from District 27 composed of a dozen districts near Duluth. My seatmate on the Board, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp, was also elected.

The MSBA Legislative Assembly began seventy years ago to decide on a platform to push in the legislature. I attended them regularly for the first eight years I was on the School Board. Resolutions are traditionally brought to to the Assembly by individual school boards but occasionally they are brought by board members with an axe to grind without their Board’s support. Such was the case three years ago when Art Johnston and I introduced a resolution to kill the state law that lets a school board expel a board member the majority doesn’t like. We didn’t win that argument.

For most of the last twenty years our School Board (other than me) have paid scant attention to the Delegate Assembly. So, you can imagine my surprise to find that four of the 16 proposals considered by the Delegate Assembly came from the Duluth School Board. Of these four the MSBA leadership opposed three of them including one that seemed intent on causing a civil war between Independent School District’s and Minnesota’s 150 or so Charter Schools.

BE IT RESOLVED, THAT MSBA URGES THE LEGISLATURE TO REMOVE THE OBLIGATION OF LOCAL DISTRICTS TO COVER SPECIAL EDUCATION FUNDING GAPS FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS.

Rosie Loeffler-Kemp was hot for this resolution but it died for lack of a second. Rosie did speak up at the microphone for one of the Duluth resolutions which asked that the fee to file for the school board be raised from 2 dollars to $20. To my delight, several school board members argued eloquently that such a change seemed anti-democratic after Rosie argued that the proposal would keep riffraff from filing for public office and thus making school board elections unpleasant. Rosie likes to keep things simple. Its been rumored that she attended a recent elementary school PTA meeting and explained that in the future she expected our School Board meetings would only last an hour from now on. (no more three and four hour meetings). The rumor further suggested that Rosie was confident that the School Board would begin being more supportive of the school administration. This should be a comfort to our Superintendent who could barely contain his excitement the day following the School Board election.

Comp ed

I’ve been sent an email reminding me to return my school board member’s visitor pass and parking permit, sure signs of my lame duck status. I’m not completely finished. I just got to a Double Tree Motel in Minneapolis to participate in the MSBA Delegate Assembly tomorrow. That’s where school board reps will determine what the state school board association lobbies the legislature for.

I’ll share one last email sent to the Duluth School board with equal parts complaint and thank you:

November 30, 2017

School Board Members

To school board members Annie Harala, David Kirby and Rosie Loeffleer-Kemp again you express your preference to only supporting the needs of East High School students. Your vote does not surprise me, but you should be ashamed that you do not equally represent all of Duluth’s High School students. Parents and grandparents of students throughout Duluth are at a loss as to there your priority regarding students is. It is too obvious who you deem worthy of your concern. As a resident and tax payers I want all students equally represented throughout the Duluth school system .

The difference in attendance between the two high schools has been a major issue which you have not resolved. But [you] continue to use this funding to resolve problems at East’s because of its enrollment numbers. If you refuse to resolve or are unable to resolve the attendance issue please remove yourself from the position of a responsible school board member, we need members who want all students to have equal advantages and giving all schools equal footing can resolve most of our current issues and distrust.

All the concerns regarding changing the use of this funding seem to be based [on] one school, large class sizes, teachers affected, loss of counselors. These concerns are already losses for Denfeld students. Denfeld has class size increases but the loss of subject availability has been the worst for educational opportunities. Time to open your eyes and see the city as a whole unit not just who can be assisted the easiest. Denfeld is in crisis mode and you don’t seem to care.

This funding has a purpose but is not used for that purpose. Denfeld students do not deserve only 80% of its allocation while East receives almost 400%, really, you feel good in knowing you have treated all students fairly. I see the scale of justice for all students very off balance. And to quote John Krumm on the issue from the Duluth News Tribune. The west side was “paying for part of our cake.”

I hope you do not believe your are pulling the wool over the eyes of residents of Duluth, for you are not. But you should be ashamed for not stopping the injustice of it all. Our students deserve better representation than you give them.

And to school board members Alanna Oswald, Art Johnson and Harry Welty thank you for trying to address the injustice you see going on with our current school board. And for school board member Nora Sandstad, it was too bad you could not of stayed and showed us what side of justice you were on.

Sincerely
Xxxxx
DuuthMN 55808

I replied:

Harry Welty
1:15 PM (5 minutes ago)

to xxxxxxx,

Please make your concerns known to the new school board members who will take office in January. They will be part of the votes in June which will decide the next budget and whether Compensatory Education funding is spent as the legislature intended it to be.

Harry

The Esko Girl was missing

There was one noteworthy absence from yesterday’s special School Board meeting to give the Western School Equity group a public hearing – the newly elected representative of the Denfeld area.

A short while ago I spent an evening in the Duluth Public Library looking through the annuals of Duluth’s high schools to get a better picture of the many connections between current poobahs in the Duluth Schools. I looked through a great many Denfeld books trying to figure out which class Jill Lofald had been a member of. When I failed to find any evidence of her I was puzzled. During every public forum I was at Jill made it sound like she was Denfeld born and bred not just a long time Denfeld teacher. When I asked a friend about this they pointed out that Jill graduated from Esko’s schools. I guess I should have figured that out in advance because her older sister was a member of the Esko school board.

The meeting itself turned out to be a much bigger deal than I had anticipated. Alanna Oswald, Art Johnston and I had originally wanted no more than to let the equity group sit with us at a school board committee meeting to talk with us. When our Administration and its majority on the school board did its best to thwart this discussion the three of us once again made use of the State statute allowing three board members to call a special meeting. It was the Central High School sale discussion all over again with a large audience of concerned citizens.

Board member elect Josh Gorham was at the meeting. He’s been a regular at our meetings for a couple months now. I even saw Sally Trnka briefly when she hugged her old rival Dana Krivogorsky who had been watching the meeting on youtube before she arrived to watch the meeting in person for the last hour and a half.

There were a lot of Denfeldites at the meeting as well. At the beginning of the hour the three meeting callers had to plead with the majority to allow the equity folks get that chance to have an exchange of information and discussion as Chair Kirby seemed intent on limiting non-school board members limited to the three minutes they have at our regular public comment portion of school board meetings. We managed to soften up the opposition to this so that Kevin Skirwa-Brown and others managed to say just about everything they wanted to the School Board.

But the discussion included a couple of eastern parents who spoke in support of continuing to spend the western kid’s money to keep eastern class sizes small. They had been whipped up to attend by reelected member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp to counteract the lobbying by the western parents. Their appeals did not do them much credit and took on a very NIMBY tone even when they bent over backward to try and sound fair minded. Fortunately, one Eastern parent who described himself as a “cake” (East High cake eater) took the opposite approach expressing embarrassment that his kids got to have poor kid’s money spent on them. I thanked him after the meeting.

These comments brought two more Denfeld supporters out to stick up for the work of the equity folks. Dr. Mary Owens spoke eloquently about this being an issue of Justice. At the end of the meeting I told her that if she ever wanted to run for the school board I would be her campaign manager. Denfeld grad and teacher Tom Tusken also spoke forcefully and mentioned that anyone who thought there were small classes at Denfeld should sit in his class of 37 kids.

Jill Lofald’s neice Jana Hollingsworth was at one of her last school board meetings and wrote a fair news story about it for today’s Trib. Its one of her last because the Trib has concluded that her familial relationship with Jill will call her journalistic impartiality into question. Someone new will become the education reporter for the Trib and that’s too bad because it takes a reporter years to figure out the complicated story of our schools. When I served on the Board in my first incarnation near the end of the golden era of Newspapers the Trib had three education reporters. Its too bad that Ms. Lofald’s election will put the school district on the Trib’s back burner. I suspect the Superintendent and the majority of School Board members will breath a sigh of relief.

The new allure of Books and Bombs

A few minutes ago I grabbed my gym bag and got ready to head to a pool to swim laps. Swimming a thousand yards seemed vastlp preferable to continuing to pick up my office and sort through the detritus of my recent campaign. Trouble was I forgot that I had taken my second car in to put on snow tires. Claudia was with her book club so I disconsolately tromped back up to my office and turned on Pandora to listen to the Arron Copland station I created to write blog posts. I’ve been putting off my eight loyal readers for almost a week now satisfied to leave the most recent post where it was rather than cover it up with a string of less important additions.

Its only about 1200 words but they were very personal to me and I was very pleased with what I’d written. On the other hand I often second guess myself after such posts, even those I go over carefully edit. With some trepidation I just reread it and other than finding the word “sexed” instead of “sex” in the next to last paragraph I found it every bit as satisfying as I remember feeling about it upon first posting it.

I have often pulled my punches for the past four years of being a school board member. I know that this statement will shock a few people that I’ve written about but I have. Pulling punches is a habit. Abe Lincoln would write hot letters to his critics but then put them in his hat to think on and usually discarding them a short while later. The act of writing a response settled him down although he had as long a memory as any other person. He put up with his Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P Chase for a couple years because he had not practical option to dump the man who was helping figure out the complicated financing of the Civil War. But when the opportunity to dump Chase turned up he did so without a second thought…….except that he also gave Chase, who desperately wanted to be President, a royal send off making appointing him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Not a bad second act for the politically duplicitous Chase who nevertheless shared many of Lincoln’s political views.

Just before his assassination Lincoln was talking about traveling abroad for the first time in his life with Mary Todd Lincoln. He was ready for a second act himself which, however, would not be over for another four years of his second term. That never came to pass. His second act was as Martyr to the cause and civic saint.

My second act is about to start in a month’s time and I’m already slipping into it comfortably. I started growing a beard, still seedy at this early point, at my youngest grandson’s request. Maybe no one will recognize me. I have stopped hoarding unread Duluth News Tribunes and will end a 22 year habit of clipping out every article about the Duluth Schools. I’m even tossing my school board meeting books. Twelve three quarter inch books for each month for four years will empty out a file cabinet drawer.

I’ve resumed reading. I just finished listening to a book my daughter raved about by Trevor Noah, “Born a Crime.” Actually I listened to it as an audible book while I put together my first jigsaw puzzle of our Holiday Season. Actually its not done yet. I have about 200 of the 1,000 pieces left to insert. Its a hellish puzzle we stated a year ago and which I kept intact to finish this season out of sheer stubbornness. I’ve got another five puzzles after it to keep working on after I finish it. This is how it looked when I started but by now almost all of R2D2 has been completed:

Noah’s book is a marvel and a far cry from Alan Patton’s Cry the Beloved Country which may be the last full book I’ve read about South Africa and that was almost fifty years ago.

I’ve complained a couple of times about how the campaign was so all consuming that it put an end to my book reading for a couple months. Actually I’ve read a fair number of books in 2017 many about China. (I just added Trevor’s book to the list and Lynne Olson’s as well even though I still have another 74 pages to finish.)

I’ve got a couple of Pulitzer Histories that are half way done which I’d like to add to the list. Meacham’s book on Andrew Jackson and Tuchman’s on Vinegar Joe Stillwell and a book about the financiers behind the recorporatizing of American Politics, Jane Mayer’s Dark Money. They will have to wait however as I’ve finally finished a chapter in Back Over There by a World War I enthusiast Richard Rubin. Remember, I’m hot to write a book myself next year about my war hero grandfather. He’s already made it into the blog with over 40 posts.

As part of my research I’m keen to travel to France and walk the battle grounds of the Meuse-Argonne. That’s what Rubin’s book is about. It was a helluva war and this tidbit from Rubin puts it into perspective. Experts say that the unexploded bombs and shells of the Great War still lying in the old battlefields exceeds all of the bombs and shells expended in the Second World War. Farmers don’t much mind collectors going through their lands, after asking permission first, because they can spray paint the old bombs that turn up in the wake of a tractor, orange.

I don’t have much interest in blowing my leg off collecting old buttons and cartridges but I’d like to get a gander at the land my Grandfather spent almost all of 1918 defending. I’d rather begin preparing for that more than I would tonight’s meeting about our use of Compensatory Education funds to keep parents in eastern schools happy.

On Being Charlie

“That’s just Charlie being Charlie.” That was the rationalization Charlie Rose’s right-hand woman gave the young ladies who told her disturbing stories about their boss. She just chalked it up to …I don’t know, eccentricity I guess.

A cavalcade of clay feet have been revealed to be little more than heels in recent weeks. I, for one, appreciate the stink. It’s long overdue and there is nothing eccentric about this. From CK’s exhibitionistic Onanism to the barring of a District Attorney from his local shopping mall all of these stories have been “creepy.” As our soon-to-be President said on tape, “When you’re a star they let you do it,” adding, “You can do anything.”

I’ve put a lot of thought into the sexual proclivities of men since my best friend told me how he persuaded a neighbor kid to pimp his twelve-year old sister so that my buddy could have sex with her. We were high school freshmen. I would be five years older before my first such experience and it would be with an older woman where the power differential was more nearly equal. Continue reading

Our Little Thing – 2, Addendum

It is time for me to confess that Mary Rice, the attorney hired by the district to defame Art Johnston, was right to stress that I didn’t have perfect recall about what took place in 2004. Its because the accurate information was never entered into the record that I have just cast aspersions on those who did know what in fact had taken place.

I was probably wrong about the person I was sure had attempted to suborn a witness to give false testimony. The Duluth News Tribune made that clear a few weeks ago with information that was a surprise to me.

It now seems that, despite my imminent retirement, one school board member with good recall of what took place in 2004 will remain on the Duluth School Board.

My award for public service

Today I received a friendly letter from the Minnesota School Board Association. It informed me that I had attained the “President’s Award” for 2017-2018. This was for completing over 300 hours of attendance at MSBA sponsored meetings. I am to be presented with a certificate for my many hours of service as a school board member at January’s Leadership Conference luncheon. I don’t plan to attend having lost the recent election.

My ardor to continue writing about the Duluth Schools is waning rapidly and it remains to be seen if I will continue with the “Our Little Thing” series. That was the question asked of me by an acquaintance who texted me to point out I’d left Number 2 blank. I wrote back this explanation: Continue reading

The Cowboys – a movie review for grandparents

I’m always thinking back on movies I think will appeal to my grandsons. Beau Geste was a hit and so was John Wayne’s 1972 The Cowboys.

I haven’t seen the movie since I turned voting age 45 years ago but my recollection was that it was a great ride about an old cowhand forced to hire school boys to drive his cattle to market. Being made in the hippy era I thought the worst sins of Hollywood would be modest and for the most part this turned out to be correct. Claudia was worried about Native American’s getting the short end of the stick but I couldn’t recall that they made any appearances at all. One of my Grandsons traces a slice of his ancestry back to the Five Civilized Tribes which calls for a little extra sensitivity.

There was just a hint of the subject. One boy shows up with an attitude and a 30-dollar gun. Asked by Wayne about himself when he tries to join the drive he tells Wayne that he’s “a mistake of nature.” Could he be part Indian? The fight he starts with a school boy moments later starts with his insult in Spanish about another boy’s mother. The other boy knows enough of the language to take exception to the remark. John Wayne takes the “mistake’s” gun and kicks him out despite his remarkable display of horsemanship. What follows is a nod to Horst Buckholz’s role in the Magnificent Seven with the mistake shadowing the Cattle Drive until he rides to the rescue winning redemption, gratitude and acceptance.

The film also deftly handles race when the drive’s cook shows up. He’s not who Wayne’s character hired. He’s black, courtly, confident and a raconteur. The N word is bruited about two or three times in impeccable usage that showed the sting but redounded against its users. After the movie it led to a followup conversation with my youngest grandson. What is the “N word” he asked and without saying the word I explained. Then he wanted to know what the “C word” was.

Unlike boys of my generation my grandsons rarely see cowboy themed entertainment. It took a while for my younger son to get into the story-line of a gold rush emptying out cattle country of cowhands. I particularly enjoyed the short appearance of Slim Pickens as a barkeep. Early on there was some brotherly get-under-the-skin foot-kicking back and forth on our sofa but the movie grabbed their attention by the time the “cowboys” aged 10 to 15 had to prove their mettle by riding a nasty little bronco for a count of ten to be signed up for the drive.

Wayne chews up the scenery as expected in his familiar role as a cowboy icon. At the end of his career he also played Rooster Cogburn in True Grit and a dying ex gunman in his final picture, “The Shootist.” His Wil Anderson in The Cowboys is a satisfying role and the only false note for me was a scene where “Wil” cures a stutterer with a conservative tongue-lashing about growing up. It works, of course, as it never would in reality. However, Wayne’s terse, no-nonsense, screenwriter polished, conservativism is vastly more eloquent and appealing than the vitriol being tweeted today from our seven-year-old Commander and Chief. Sad.

The chief reward for a kid watching this movie is the idea that young kids can step up and take on the tough jobs adults do – even using guns in the heat of battle. Sometimes it comes at a cost, as it does in the movie. My alphabet word curious youngest wiped tears away once, but this movie doesn’t coddle its audience. Instead, it routes Bruce Dern’s nasty cattle rustlers and gets the cattle to Belle Fourche as you knew it would.

Our little thing – 2

Last spring I learned that my daughter was applying for a position with the Duluth Schools. I quietly cringed but said nothing. There is more than a whiff of favoritism about our District which only seems to have intensified during the Keith Dixon years. I would hate to have my daughter suffer for my perceived crimes.

The thing I regret most over the past four years was my reluctance to visit schools early on. I stayed out of them because I had taken Art Johnston’s side in an almost unfathomable war and was worried that my comings and goings would be reported to higher-ups who would not forget the transgressors willing to talk with me. It’s often said that no good deed goes unpunished and associating with lepers is not popular.

Sometimes it was painfully obvious that the District’s employees felt the same. For instance, I made a date to speak with one principal but when I arrived at the office learned that she had decided to travel up the North Shore with her husband instead. She had called my land line to warn me but I rarely answer that phone anymore and missed the heads up.

In recent weeks something else has become painfully apparent to me. When I was defending Art Johnston back in 2014 one Board member had inside knowledge that could have supported a claim I made to the investigating attorney hired to flay Art Johnston alive. I gave evidence of an earlier attempt to give false testimony to the District by one of the chief witnesses against Board member Johnston. That employee’s former boss was on the Board with me and read the claim but never stepped in to support my testimony. He also helped the same employee exit her school gracefully after her colleagues learned of her actions. She later became an administrator and once again supplied misinformation, in an attempt to give the School Board grounds to remove Art Johnston.

Old friendships die hard in our District and it pays to be a favorite.

The night the attorney made her report to the School Board I ended up looking like a fool by attempting to act out what I guessed had taken place after the East High School graduation. My mistake may have given the Board more confidence to embark on the futile year-long fight to remove Art Johnston that would mar our reputation and waste $200,000.

For a long time I believed that Mike Miernicki had honestly described his interaction with Art Johnston following Art’s argument with the Superintendent. I no longer believe Mike was being honest. I know Mike willingly, if reluctantly, agreed to make racism one of the complaints against Art. They were the foul harvest of a spy network set up by the staff member who had attempted to subvert the 2004 investigation.

This is what I now suspect happened on that fateful night. Art Johnston found Mike Miernicki and expressed his outrage with the Superintendent for the harassment of his long-time partner. Shortly after this Mike was besieged by three irate female Board members who insisted that Art had assaulted the Superintendent. (The Superintendent himself denied any assault) In an attempt at gallantry Mike embellished his account of being accosted by Art explaining how he had been spun around. That charge forced his best friend, the former supervisor of the spy mistress, to either back Mike up or undermine Mike’s testimony. I believe friendship prevailed once again and recall how uncharacteristically passionate Principal Westholm was in defending his own honesty.

Of course, Mr. Miernicki suffered a few slings and arrows himself during the two years he fruitlessly attempted to kick Art off the Board and I’m sure he nursed his wounds carefully. He wrote two savage critiques of Art this election season. One came before the primary and the second arrived before the general election. And the false claims leveled against Art will not die in the public imagination.

During the campaign the spouse of one of the “positive” candidates posted on Facebook the claim that Art had assaulted Bill Gronseth. When the spouse was informed of her mistake she took the post down with a replacement explaining that she guessed she had gotten in trouble for posting it. She chose not to admit any mistake.

It is important to discredit such uninformed thinking and to make sure the heads of our new school board members stay free of fog. They will face enough of it for the next four years.

I’ve been lauding the book “Last Hope Island” a lot lately and I’m reminded of the story it tells of Czech President Edvard Benes. The British forced Benes to hand Czechoslovakia to Hitler at Munich. Fleeing to England afterwards Benes was ill used by the British government which blamed the Czechs for not defending themselves even though they agreed to let Hitler take it over. One British diplomat said of Benes’s treatment that it was “a tragic illustration of the dislike that men feel for those whom they have wronged.”

Et tu, Mike?

Our little thing – 1

A quick search on Wikipedia tells me that “little” is not originally part of the Sicilian Mafia’s term for itself, “our thing” or “Cosa Nostra.” I’m not sure where the “little” came from but since I’m talking about our public school hierarchy here rather than organized crime its seems more appropriate and less threatening to insert the qualifier “little.” We educate children. We don’t put people’s feet into cement before tossing them over a bridge into a river. Although, come to think of it, IV Foster might beg to differ.

This is a topic I’ve covered before. To commence this post I began by entering the term “parking pass” into my search engine which led me to a post I recalled composing a few years back in which I made this assertion:

I have felt for a long time that there is an unhealthy favoritism riddling the Duluth Schools which I believe is corrosive. I’m just not sure that my corrosive criticism will make things better. I’ll try to stick to simple criticism from now on.

And this led me to the post preceding it which I began by grimly describing how our closest relatives, chimpanzees, reacted to perceived unfairness. Its always a surprise to jump back and read my old posts. Continue reading

End of the Campaign odds’n ends

I’m not yet ready to start my new life free from the School Board. The final step will be to put all the campaign debris on the floor of my office away. That won’t take too long because I’ve already done it a couple of times earlier when it was a major task. Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve begun doing to pull myself away is to begin reading aloud a new book to Claudia. I’ve said before that Last Hope Island is great. I’m about half through it. There have been several stories in it with pithy commentary about human frailty that I couldn’t help but associate with the campaign and the Duluth School Board. Those associations are among about ten items I’ve jotted down on a pocket sized note pad that are begging me to become future posts.

My readers are slipping away. What had peaked at over 600 has been winnowed down to 377 undernourished daily visits. Undernourished because I’ve not posted regularly. I suspect I won’t be able to help myself commenting on the School District over the next two years despite my yearning to write a history book or two. I’ve even mentioned to the publisher of the Duluth Reader an interest in writing about the Board. I told him a column might be called the “Minority Report” but frankly, I’m too eclectic to want to limit myself to writing about the School Board. A better name might riff on my old column’s name Not Eudora Redux. The Reader has a lot more eyes than my blog and I’d like that. Continue reading

The 2017 election’s good news a post mortem and a caution or two

A week ago I wanted to begin a post by writing that my defeat for School Board was a small price to pay for the successes of the Democrats in many regional elections. I attribute my defeat mostly to President Trump and the outrage he has caused and continues to cause as President. I anticipated that I could have a very difficult time with the election after I participated in the woman’s march early in the year simply because I was a man. That proved not to be the case as Josh Gorham won handily enough so it was something else that drove the numbers. (One woman’s organization did pester me)

Angry Democrats just would not give up. Continue reading

Anticlimactic Moody Mulch meeting and a jab back at the editors of the Trib

I am beginning my posts today with a throw away post about yesterday’s Business Committee meeting. I post it because I’ve tried to provide my ISD 709 wonks with ongoing information about the concerns of the District and mulch and District finances have both been part of that. But for me the first half of this post is strictly a chore. In eight weeks I’ll be free from an almost oppressive sense of obligation to keep readers informed.

So, here’s today’s News Trib story from soon to depart education reporter Jana Hollingsworth. (She won’t be allowed to report on ISD 709 while her Aunt sits on the Board) The headline, which Jana and her predecessors have always stressed are not the reporter’s to write, trumpets reduced costs for the mulch. In short, a simplified plan made for a $60,000 reduction in the million dollar project. This made it a little easier to swallow a $12,000 “change order “addition for the company overseeing the mulch replacement as they designed the simpler plan. Only Art Johnston objected and his qualms may be justified, however, for me this is not a battle I choose to continue.

The bigger deal was having our bond adviser explain to us how the Moody’s Investment Service downgrade of our financial status affected our borrowing for what is now to be called the Rockridge Academy. Steven Pumper said two things I found difficult to square. In response to my questioning about whether it was ultimately the state or the District taxpayers that were on the hook for bonds (or COP) repayments he explained that it fell on the state’s shoulders. He added that this meant that there was really no reason for our bonds to be downgraded forcing us to pay higher interest rates. However, he explained, Moody’s was simply giving bond buyers information that managed to raise our interest rates based on (and here I’ll insert my own words) the dimwittedness of ISD 709’s financing which has left us with virtually no reserve cushion. That last sentence almost deserves an exclamation point.

What makes this post worthwhile to me is a chance to point fingers back at the editors of the News Tribune who gratuitously gave Art Johnston and me a swift kick in the posterior the day after the election results were announced saying of us:

“Also Tuesday, voters picked a positive fresh start for the Duluth School Board, rejecting doomsday-trumpeting incumbents in favor of elected leaders who said they wouldn’t ignore the district’s very real challenges, including financial ones, but committed to working together toward solutions. It’s on the new board now to do just that. They can be held accountable, even if the task is thankless and won’t be easy.”

I consider myself an optimist not a doomsdayer. But optimism must be earned by realistically evaluating current situations. Our financially crippled Duluth Schools will continue to give lots of kids an education which will launch them into successful lives. But there will be fewer successful launches while the District lacks the adult contact time that many of our students need. That’s not a catastrophic tire blow out but it is a slow leak. Rather, I’ve always considered myself a “Cassandra.” She was an ancient Greek prophetess who predicted the future but was cursed by Apollo who made sure that no one would ever believe her prophecies.

FINGER POINT —> the Editors of the Trib who failed to heed my warnings are also flattering me by imitation by explaining opiningthat Duluth may not get permission from St. Paul to implement the sales taxes for street repair despite a whopping 76% yes vote in the recent election. As in my case I think the Editors are simply being prudent not doomsayers when they point out this glaring fact:

“It’s a good question, especially on the heels of a 31 percent water rate increase in Duluth, a 9 percent electric rate increase, revaluations of properties that are driving up property taxes by as much as 30 percent, and the coming unknown costs from Superior Street’s reconstruction and the Steam Plant’s conversion.

Like Duluth’s residents, businesses can only be asked to give so much. While fixing potholed streets is a basic city service and something voters Tuesday clearly declared as a do-it-now priority, workplace benefits are appropriately left to employer-employee negotiations. Government intervention here is government overreach. Calling on elected leaders to pick up the slack where union negotiators fail is inappropriate.”

A few weeks back I wrote a very modest column which I meant to keep the eyes of our next school board faced on the realities they will deal with so as not to find themselves mired in impossible promises to make the Duluth Schools the best schools in the nation. In that column I noted that twenty years ago local taxpayers put $14 million into our classrooms. Today we only put $2.5 million into them. That burden no longer rests on my shoulders and I’ll confess this is the first time in ten years that I’ve felt free from the responsibility of fixing things since I first predicted the District’s unhappy future.

Veterans Day 2017

Since the election I’ve woken from a couple of dreams about going door to door. In much the same way I keep thinking of new things to blog about the campaign I’ve just been through. This all comes at a time when I feel free of a great burden of public service and pulled to a larger burden of using the past to shine a light on the future. Think Book writing.

I still have about eight weeks to wrap up my final school board work. For instance, I’ll be meeting with the Superintendent at 8 AM this morning as part of his five-month-old initiative not to let unhappy school board members feel like they are out of his loop. Each month all of us meet separately with Mr. Gronseth and Chair Kirby in groups of three so as not to violate the state’s Open Meeting Law. Continue reading

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."