Category Archives: Uncategorized

1860 redux?

I just watched the final 2016 presidential debate. It’s worth noting that the last time a nation didn’t except the results of a presidential election we had a civil war.

That was because of the threat of ending slavery vs. disavowing the preamble to the Declaration of lndependence.

In 2016 not accepting the results of the election would be the result of a narcisist being unhappy about admitting that he was a loser.

Our “current state of affairs”

In the light of this recent offer to take empty buildings off our hands the Central sale has been reanimateded – zombie like. A new round of email is filling our email boxes. Here’s another one:

By delaying the sale of Central for the purpose of eliminating competition, you are not serving your electorate. We, the taxpayers, paid for that building (as well as others) and your responsibility is to sell it for any reasonable offer.

Eliminating competition breeds complacency. If you were to put as much effort into enhancing the educational experience of the kids as you have eliminating competition, you would drastically curb the exodus of students to area schools. Our family is one that open enrolled into another district. On my daughter’s high school hockey team (Proctor/Hermantown Mirage) there were eight families originally from Duluth- 40% of the team! That’s alarming. When including brothers and sisters, you’ve got 15 kids that left 709 for your “competition”. Don’t think it’s just for sports either- it was more about your current state of affairs. When you spend millions of dollars (without a referendum) to close the schools, then sit on this vacated prime property while the structure rots, you have lost site of your purpose. You have no legitimate excuse- stop the foolishness.

How my day started

At 7:09 Claudia came downstairs and asked me if I didn’t have a men’s group meeting I was supposed to be at. One quick expletive and I shoved the particularly informative DNT aside and hurried off to my meeting where I was suppose to introduce, Pat Collins, of the Minnesota Land Trust in the next five minutes. Trouble was, I was in such a hurry I didn’t have time to check my notes and I’d forgotten his name. I had to sit down next to him without recalling what it was.


In the co-ink-ee-dink department. After devouring a couple chapters of my biography of Wendell Willkie I picked up the Bible so as to stick to my regimen (attempted) of reading it daily. At the 63rd Psalm I read the lines above in the title and thought to myself. That’s the lyric of the duet I’ll be singing with my daughter at church tomorrow. Sure enough the sheey music lists that Psalm as the source. Not surprisingly the song’s lyric leaves out some of the colder portions of the Psalm attributed to King David. For instance this isn’t in it:

But those who seek to destroy my life
. shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
. they shall be a portion for jackals.

I probably mentioned in an earlier post that the duet was a casualty of last weekends movie shoot. Well, it got switched with some other musical performers in the congregation. My daughter and I will be practicing our vocals with the Choir director at church this afternoon.

Muhammed Ali – a Remembrance

To write this post I googled a timeline of Muhammed Ali’s life. For the purpose of this post I’m only interested in my own impressionalbe years from my age 9 until age 23′

I discovered that my Dad was a sport’s enthusiast of the barkalounger type early on. Just before I hit my teenage years I remember my Dad reciting the list of Heavyweight Boxing champions from the great John L. Sullivan to Cassius Clay. The modern era of champions started with Jack Dempsey just before my Dad’s birth and I am sure he was as well aware of Max Baer who was the undisputed champion when he was as I was of Floyd Patterson at the same age. Incidentally, when I was following Patterson’s career I was watching the Beverly Hillbillies staring Max Baer’s son as Jethro Bodine. I’m sure his depiction of a hillbilly transplanted to Hollywood explains why my Mother-in-law began explaining that her North Carolina origins (transplanted to Iowa) made her a “Mountain William.”

Even as Clay shucked off his “slave name” to announce he was a Muslim outraging much of white America I was mesmerized by him and followed his career avidly through the Supreme Court’s decision exhonorating him for his refusal to sign up for the Selective Serice – the draft – while the Vietnam War was raging. Here is a thumbnail of what I was up to through his early professional life.

Clay wins the light-heavyweight gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Rome and returns to his native Louisville, Clay finds he’s not immune to the racism that is so prevalent in the U.S. After being refused service by a waitress at a “whites-only” restaurant, a disgusted Clay throws his gold medal into the Ohio River. He turns professional and wins the first two fights of his career.

I spend the summer arguing with my next door neighbor that year telling her that Republican Richard Nixon will be elected President. To my chagrin JFK is elected.

Despite an unblemished 19–0 record, Clay is a heavy underdog in his championship bout with Sonny Liston. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to him. He brashly and colorfully predicts victory, and teases the champ by calling him, among other things, an “ugly, old bear.” When Liston refuses to leave his corner for the start of the seventh, the fight ends and Clay becomes heavyweight champion of the world. After the fight, Clay announces he has become a Black Muslim and has changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

I was enduring my first year in Minnesota being called a “Reb” because of my accent in the all white North Mankato Junior High. The previous year in Topeka, Kansas, half of my classmates were black. A Mad Magazine I’d been reading at a Boy Scout camp had cartoon of gorillas running over a field of mason jars poking fun at headlines as children saw them about the Vietnam War “Guerillas Advance on Plain of Jars.” Within a year I’d hear my Dad cursing at LBJ for sending more troops to SE Asia.

In April, Ali refuses induction into the U.S. Army due to his religious convictions. He angers many Americans after claiming, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” He is subsequently stripped of his WBA title and his license to fight. In June, a court finds him guilty of draft evasion, fines him $10,000, and sentences him to five years in prison. He remains free, pending numerous appeals, but is still barred from fighting.

A year later my family will agree to host a foreign exchange student regardless of his origin. He will be a Muslim from Ethiopia and integrate Mankato High School probably for its first time.

Due to a loophole (there was no state boxing commission in Georgia), Ali returns to the ring in Atlanta and knocks out Jerry Quarry in three rounds.

The year before I witnessed a draft card burning in my first month of college. I disapproved. I would also soon attend an Anti-Vietman protest that blocked up the main intersection in downtown Mankato. I later decided that was counter productive.

In March, he fights heavyweight champ Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden. A left hook by Frazier knocks Ali down in the 15th round. Frazier wins by unanimous decision. Three months later, the Supreme Court rules in his favor, reversing the 1967 draft-evasion conviction.

I will spend the summer of 1971 as an intern in Republican Congressman Ancher Nelson’s Washington D.C. Office. I have to go through metal detectors which have just been installed for the first time because the Weather Underground blew up a bomb in the Capitol Building.

In January, he gains a measure of revenge from Frazier, besting the former champ in 12 rounds. Regains the heavyweight title in the “Rumble in the Jungle” on Oct. 30 in Kinshasa, Zaire after knocking out champion George Foreman in the eighth round. He successfully uses his “rope-a-dope” strategy—Ali allowed Foreman to get him against the ropes and swing away until he tired himself out. Then Ali attacked.

I am married in 1974. Watergate is in the back pages of newspapers. The War in Vietnam is still winding down – disastrously – my college 2-S deferment has kept me out of the war that began when I was in seventh grade. I will begin teaching in the Fall of the year in Proctor, Minnesota. I am still a fan of Ali.

“Herd up”

From my Buddy:

See, which includes this interesting language:
For all the talk of Republicans who won’t vote for Trump, it’s quite likely that more than 90 percent will herd up.


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

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

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

A much wiser and more knowledgeble voice schools me on Reservation land

Your blog post yesterday about Fond du Lac is based on quite a bit of misinformation. If I may, I’d like to provide some information that might hopefully help clear things up.

The feds aren’t “allowing” the tribe to buy anything. The tribe is free to buy any property it wants to, just like anyone else. Case in point, they had already purchased the Carter Hotel quite some time ago without any approval required from anybody. They purchased the Sears building that now houses the casino in the same way. (A common misconception is that the city was involved with that sale, but it wasn’t. That was a private sale.)

In most cases, such off-reservation acquisitions are “fee land” (i.e., the tribe is the owner and they pay taxes on it). Fond du Lac owns fee land scattered throughout the region (much of it is actually undeveloped land that they purchased to preserve habitat). What the feds did, first with the Sears building and now with the Carter Hotel, was place the land into tribal trust. Fee-to-trust transfers are done at the sole discretion of the Department of the Interior. So, you’re correct when you say the city wasn’t engaging in charity by “letting” the tribe open a casino—but only because the city had absolutely no authority in the matter. City officials get very testy when this is pointed out, but it’s nonetheless true. I got confirmation of it straight from the Department of the Interior: Local governments, including Duluth, have never had any say whatsoever in tribal trust decisions.

On its face, that might not seem fair, but there are two important points to understanding what tribal trust is all about:
(1) Tribes don’t own trust land, including their reservation land. The federal government owns it and holds it in trust on behalf of the tribe. This is why tribes don’t pay taxes on trust land—because it’s owned by the feds, not by the tribe.

(2) Fee-to-trust transfers are mostly used Continue reading


Read the screed Here.

• Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will maintain permanent property tax income for the district.

Well Duh! Doesn’t Ed Mn know that Central has sat empty sucking up $170,000 every year in heating and maintenance for six years? We had one buyer who chickened out at the last minute and they only offered us 70% of what we were offered by Tischer Creek Building Corp.

As for the over-hyped permanent property tax income for the district of a modest development of $40 million it would amount to significantly less than 100 grand per year and that’s if the City didn’t grant a TIF District to a developer. In that case we would have to wait 20 years to see a cent from the developed property.

Does Ed Minn offer this kind of boneheaded financial advice to all of its affiliates?

Lets Get Real #4 – “Another value of belonging” to the teacher’s union

Until the President of the Teacher’s Union mass emailed this to her teachers the email coming in to the School Board was running over 85% in support of a sale. After this email went out prompting some teachers to write to us the support for a sale went down to a still overwhelming 70%. This letter only prompted about 40 of ISD 709’s teachers to write in to oppose the sale. That’s out of perhaps 600 teachers or less than ten percent. Not very impressive. Perhaps the other teachers were wondering which of several dozen teachers were about to be laid off due to next year’s budget cuts.

I will leave this “talking points” as it was sent out in this post. In the next post I will pick it apart.

As has been evident in so many Presidential campaigns fear mongering has proven a useful political tool.

BTW – I am pleased Bernie told her members to read this during their off duty hours.


From: Bernadette Burnham [DFT President]

To: Teachers Unit

Subject: Read during off duty hours~Fwd: for members and community – messaging about fiscal impact
If you have not yet written to the board, here are a few more talking points provided by our ED MN staff, sure appreciate all they have done for us the last couple days!

Another Value of Belonging

Begin forwarded message:

Subject: for members and community – messaging about fiscal impact
Date: March 30, 2016 at 4:45:09 PM CDT
To: [Bernadette Burnham]

Here are some new talking points for your members and community supporters:

• Edison charter school’s growth ambitions will cost Duluth’s public schools at least $4 million to $5 million by 2020. Competitive advantages gained by operating Edison’s high school at the Central site mean that future Duluth school board members could be grappling with a loss exceeding $7 million by 2020.

• If the district sells Central High to Tischer Creek, the $14.2 million in one-time money from the sale will be gone in eight to 10 years.

• Based on a conservative estimate projecting a loss of 700 students to the charter by 2021-22, Duluth school board members should prepare for larger class sizes, catastrophic cuts and additional school closings in those years.

• Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will maintain permanent property tax income for the district.

• Enrollment losses will be a harsh reality for Duluth if the school board does not swiftly and boldly refocus its work on bringing parents, students, educators and the community together in the work of strengthening Duluth’s public schools.

• Let’s reject false choices and short-sighted promises and move toward uniting the community behind real and sustainable improvements, like creating more full-service community schools. The success of this model has shown that by working together, diverse stakeholders can reinvigorate Duluth’s schools from the bottom up. Through community engagement and participatory school improvement, Duluth can retain and attract new students and families for generations to come.

The reality: Money from Central sale will disappear within a decade
Edison charter school’s growth ambitions will cost Duluth’s public schools at least $4 million to $5 million by 2020. And if the district sells Central High to Tischer Creek, the $14.2 million in one-time money from the sale will be gone in eight to 10 years.
Based on a conservative estimate projecting a loss of 700 students to the charter by 2021-22, Duluth school board members should prepare for larger class sizes, catastrophic cuts and additional school closings in those years.
Using the Minnesota Department of Education’s interactive revenue projection model in their website’s data center, the math is simple and clear. The sale of the Central High School site to Tischer Creek will not pay off.
Edison charter school’s stated goal for new enrollment is 660 students. If they acquire Central, a cheaper and more centrally located site, the school will grow faster and have more flexibility to spend money on programs and services to compete with Duluth’s public schools. These advantages mean that future Duluth school board members could be grappling with a loss exceeding $7 million by 2020.
School board members should vote to maintain the current policy prohibiting the sale of the Central High site to a competitor. Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will, at a minimum, maintain permanent property tax income for the district.
Children are not commodities. Competition in education is not equivalent to competition in the private sector. Charter school competition has accelerated public school closings around the state and the country, creating winners and losers.
Enrollment losses will be a harsh reality for Duluth if the school board does not swiftly and boldly refocus its work on bringing parents, students, educators and the community together in the work of strengthening Duluth’s public schools. Let’s reject false choices and short-sighted promises and move toward uniting the community behind real and sustainable improvements, like creating more full-service community schools. The success of this model has shown that by working together, diverse stakeholders can reinvigorate Duluth’s schools from the bottom up.

Let’s get real #1 – Has that ship sailed?

This is a sort of a morning-after-the-crisis post. It will be the first of several more posts to come examining the recent nonsense manufactured by people with hidden agendas or smothered in cluelessness.

All of these posts will have at their heart (my heart) the question above: Has the DPSA ship truly sailed off to Snowflake?

The answer is Probably. I resent how quickly our school board and the Edison critics smashed their bottles of champagne on its hull. The hasty decision denied our community the three or four weeks available to think this important issue through. Instead, the insiders of ISD 709 rushed to kill the project, albeit with a brief episode of transparancy, to push the Central offer’s head back in the Jack-in-the-box.

My proposal that we enter negotiations Thursday night was meant to keep everybody’s options open. The four Board members who voted to prevent negotiations had their minds made up in advance to shut down any further discussion. I’d like to bring the subject up again and state law gives three board members the right to call a meeting. I just don’t know if the DPSA Board could stand any more public brow beating. It would be much simpler for them to quietly build their new high school at Snowflake and be done with ISD 709. I view that as a lost opportunity for Duluth to ends its public schools civil wars.

Furthermore, we not only have turned down a shot in the arm that would have served us well for several years we, the ISD 709 School Board are taking a great gamble. We need to find a buyer in the next year. If we don’t find one I will personally remind voters in the 2018 election who killed the goose who offered us a golden egg and allowed us to sink deep into a financial black hole.

First I need to make one things clear. Today’s Duluth School Board is fantastic compared to the one recently retired.

I called Chair Harala this week and asked her to meet with me. This was something that was no longer possible in the last year of the old school board. Annie agreed as I expected she would. Annie is the first Chair since before the Keith Dixon Era to pay the slightest attention to fairness in Board discussions. Annie and I had a good discussion although not without some tension. We bit our lips and stuck to business. She told me I had a good heart and I probably assured her that she did too. I left assured that we would have an open discussion that evening. Annie more than made good on her promise to keep it open.

Annie let me know that such discussions would end if I shot my mouth (or blog) off about them. I don’t blame her. I will push that button a little by noting she thought I was guilty of “ageism.”

I don’t deny it exactly but I would put it another way. I am guilty of experiencism. I do think my experience counts for something although I hope I’m not too condescending about it. If its true that we learn from our mistakes I must be one of the smartest people in Minnesota.

I have more experience with ISD 709 than the rest of our Board. Alanna Oswald, David Kirby and Nora Sandstad have to serve nine more months before they have a single year’s worth of experience on our Board. Annie and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp have 4 combined years on our school board. Art Johnston has served 6 years. I have served ten years so that its my ten years to the rest of the Board’s ten years. It goes deeper than that. David, Nora, Alanna and I have teaching degrees. Alanna has a masters degree to my bachelor’s Degree but she was my student when she was in “Junior High.” I first began running for the School Board when Annie was a second grader in my son’s class. David Kirby has a PhD in Education and, as he told me, “taught principals how to be principals.” But he has not been an Educator since he became a family practice doctor. He arrived in Duluth twenty years ago to my 42 years in the city. I was voting to allow the Edison schools to set up shop back then before his children were born let alone enrolled in Duluth’s schools. Nora Sandstad also left teaching to earn a law degree.

As for knowing Duluth I’ve got by far the longest residency. I began knocking on doors when I ran for public office in 1976. There is not a part of town or the school district I haven’t door knocked many times. Furthermore, if anyone wants to access ISD 709’s history they have the public library’s online newspaper database and my blog, slanted though it may be.

I will freely admit to suffering from “experiencism” and maybe even being insufferable in the process. I hope, however, that most visitors to my blog have concluded that my main purpose in writing it is to keep the dealings of the Duluth Schools transparent and understandable.

Now on to Representative Simonson’s efforts to clip the wings of the Duluth Public School Academy.

Swords/Plowshares 30 – How did the DPSA get here in the first place?


The letter sent to the Duluth School Board today by the Superintendent of Schools back in 1996:

School Board Members,

I would like to first thank you for your work on the board, it is too often thankless. Lost in the discussion regarding Central High School is the reason Edison is here in the first place. In 1996 Minnesota first tested eighth graders in reading and math. Duluth didn’t do so well. In fact, 2/3 of the state’s 300 plus school districts outperformed Duluth in basic reading and 3/4 outperformed Duluth in basic math. In light of those results and a 25% dropout rate plus the
achievement gaps between white, minority, higher and lower income students, the nine member school board unanimously decided to try and do something about it. Minnesota charter school legislation had recently been enacted and the school board had turned down two weak proposals. Inevitably there would be a charter school but rather than weak proposals they proactively sought the best research based charter school focused on Duluth’s needs. They went nationwide requesting proposals for a research, results, accountability based charter school. Local teachers were asked to submit a proposal, they chose not to. Edison was selected from all applicants. Edison introduced to Duluth a longer school day, a longer school year, all day every day kindergarten, before and after school child care, current technology, and well researched curricula and instruction. The Duluth Edison public charter school has operated successfully for 19 years with waiting lists in most grades. The for profit argument is mute in that the Northstar and Raleigh Academies are now independent of Edison. The school board policy in question was enacted specifically to block Edison’s purchase of school buildings. Prior to Edison the school board had no such policy and willingly sold Lowell school to the Christian Academy and Lakeside to the St. Michael’s school.

Mark Myles



These are the Key sentences in the email sent to the Board re: the Central Sale on March 25th

Sell emails are bolded 14…… Don’t sell emails are italicized 1

SF – We are in favor of selling the former Central High School to Edison Charter School. It is a school and can still be used as a school, without the need to tear everything down and haul it away to a landfill and scar up the land with more construction, and without the need to clear more land and cut down more trees to build a new school in another location.

LK – While it’s obviously too late to turn back the clock and undo the shortsighted closing of Central, this sale will help to put the mistake behind the board. ….. Every time I drive by the barricaded entrance to Central I wince at the misguided decision. With the Edison plan, it’s hopeful that the building will return to its intended use.

CK – …this location and building is the perfect place for a school. Too bad the school board could not see that truth before building Lincoln in such a remote location.

GN – Until today, I have never written an email or given my opinion to an elected person…. Continue reading

Quick comments about last night’s SB mtg.

Number one: No Duluth News Tribune reporters were present. I’m not sure if that’s a first at a school board meeting. Then again, their lead ed reporter just had a new baby girl. Congrats Jana.

Number two: It was, as has been the case for the past five or six board meetings, business-like and even friendly. So much for past overblown complaints about Art Johnston’s demeanor.

Number three: Only candidate, Alanna Oswald, sat through it all as she has every board meeting this summer with one exception. That was when she interviewed with the DFT endorsement committee. What happened with the DFT? Here’s a clue. I told Alanna I’ve never gotten a DFT endorsement and I’ve won three of my seven campaigns for the School Board. At least it wasn’t a vile and contaminated process like the AFSCME endorsement.

Number four: We had a long but important discussion of our student test results. Continue reading

a refreshingly unplanned letter to the editor

While I was away in Florida a message was left on my cell phone telling me that the caller was about to put a Charles Obije lawnsign in my yard. I called back and left my own message telling them not to do this – at least not yet. I explained that I have been waiting for three or four weeks for another 2nd District candidate to call and set up a get together with me. Dr. Kirby seemed a bit surprised when I called him to request that we meet over coffee. He is being pushed by board members who I have been at odds with and I have commented on that in the blog. But except for that support I’ve held my comments to the things Dr. Kirby has said in the Tribune for instance, his conviction that their are just one or two board members who cause most of the School Board’s problems.

I have actually put calls out to two school board contenters being promoted by my adversaries but both have kept a ten-foot-pole’s distance between themselves and me. As I will be on the Board for at least two more years their reluctance to talk with me now leaves me to worry that their promises to make sure the new board gets along are just so much lip service. If they won’t talk to me now why should they talk to me after they are elected? At this point I’m being on my best behavior for diplomacy’s sake. If they proceed to follow in their advocates footsteps I’ll be even more likely to hold tight to my cudgel for fear of getting censured again – for speaking plainly and honestly.

Charles Obije, on the other hand, was happy to sit down and have a cup of coffee with me. I offered him lots of advice, for instance, I suggested that he plan to be his own man if elected. I wonder if other candidates are getting that advice from their partisans or forming secret alliances and ententes like the Europeans did before getting sucked into World War 1?

I read a couple of letters to the editor yesterday from the usual suspects, long in the tooth political types, extolling the virtue of a school board candidate. Blah, Blah, Blah. Its the kind of stuff that campaign’s manufacture like confetti to create the illusion of a groundswell of support. Today there was a rather different a letter which, unless it was very craftily conceived, was a refreshing departure from canned canards.

If its for real a Lakeside resident saw Charles Obije while he was campaigning and went over and asked him what he was up to. She liked what she heard and planned to vote for him. She seemed to especially like the idea of having a school board that wasn’t at each other’s throats.

Medaling with the Superintendent

Perhaps its because I was a competitive swimmer but I’ve never gotten this picture out of my head of Mark Spitz who won seven gold medals at the Olympics when I was in college. So, after we concluded an hour long discussion of our students testing results at yesteray’s Education Committee, I got a chance to decorate the Superintendent in a similar fashion.

I was able to do this because we got another demonstration of the remarkable East High Robotics team, the Daredevils. They first showed us how they developed their pallet loading robot and let Annie Harala and I do the work of a single student to put the Robot to work. After the show and tell the students called on the Superintendent to accept the many awards they received last year. There were at least five medalions and they put all of them over Mr. Gronseth’s head like an Olympic Champion. Of course, we had to pose for pictures and after shouting that Bill looked like Michael Phelps I insisted on spreading the medals out a la Spitz for the photo shoot.

I just checked the ISD 709 website but couldn’t find the photo posted. It was, as someone else called out, a lot of bling.