Category Archives: 2013 Duluth SB election

In case there is any doubt who I support for School Board

Today the Trib published my letter in support of Alanna – 201 words. I sneaked an extra one in but didn’t count to see if they knocked one out to keep it regulation sized:

Alanna Oswald was in my classroom when teacher/astronaut Christa McAuliffe lost her life shooting for the stars. The next year Oswald’s mother committed suicide. Denfeld’s teachers wrapped Oswald in a cocoon of caring and launched her, one of the first in her family, to college at Gustavus Adolphus. There was no way Oswald wouldn’t become a teacher.

I begged Oswald to run for School Board more than a year ago before our board plunged into a year of darkness and dysfunction. Oswald had just accomplished something that outshines everything our entire board has managed to do. She did it as a mom. She got Minnesota’s Department of Education to clean up Duluth’s long-neglected curriculum when she discovered that her fifth-grade daughter wasn’t being taught science or history the same way as children in eastern-Duluth schools. The motive was commendable. Her daughter’s school was desperate to escape Minnesota’s lowest state test rankings but did so by jettisoning a complete education. Oswald knows there are better ways to fight poverty.

In 1987, I wrote in Oswald’s yearbook that she was a lot smarter than me. She still is. We need her, I need her, on our School Board.

Harry Welty

Duluth

The writer is an At Large member of the Duluth School Board.

That Editorial Part 9 – ALANNA, THE TRIBUNE’S PROBLEM EXPLOITER

The Trib has it all wrong. Alanna took a huge problem and got it fixed. As our Superintendent often says first you go to the person in charge then to their supervisor and up until you get to the Superintendent, or was it Go to the Superintendent and don’t scare the lower level administrators? I think school board members have been directed to do it both ways. The fact is that Alanna went up the chain of command without satisfaction and then kept going all the way to the Commissioner of Education until her problem and ours was solved. Case closed. If that’s the Tribune’s idea of a trouble maker I’m at a loss.

I’ve explained before that Alanna was a student of mine at Morgan Park. That was 1986 my second to last year as a Duluth School teacher but I had lost track of her. When reintroduced I fondly recalled her whole seventh grade class. It was wonderful group of kids and Alanna was the cream of the crop.

If you look at today’s candidate profiles for the school board primary you will see that Alanna has an impressive record of participation in her children’s schools far more than most other members of this year’s crop of candidates. But her credentials are not just recognized in Duluth. Another reason for the MDE’s alacrity was Alanna’s sterling reputation in Roseville where the MDE is headquartered. Com missioner Casselius had only to talk to her MDE staff to learn that they hold her in high regard. At Alanna’s invitation, I drove down with her to one of the MDE statewide committees, Title One that Alanna serves on. She was greeted like an old friend by many of the staff. Although Alanna has been frozen out of a job in Duluth I’m certain that the MDE would snap her up in a heartbeat if she moved to the Twin Cities.

But remember what we were told by the Tribune’s editors, “Oswald is the mother of two and a former teacher…her involvement can leave voters concerned that she [will exploit] problems rather than solving them.” Well, according to the Tribune this was one big problem and Alanna solved it. In fact, it was more than just making sure we taught all the state mandated subjects. It was making sure we taught subject according to current law something we stopped staying on top of when Dixon gutted the curriculum department ten years ago.

Today as a result of Alanna’s brave insistence that we do things right we are doing things right. All of our course work has been or is being “aligned” to state standards. We have a delightful new Director of Curriculum Dr. Mike Cary who has received many accolades for this skill in bringing Duluth around. Mike humbly says the work has been accomplished by his staff and many Duluth teachers. They all deserve our thanks and so does Alanna Oswald a Mother who would not let her child be short changed.

How could the editors of the Duluth News Tribune have missed all this? Well maybe there is one other explanation for That editorial. Just possibly some District sources trooped into Chuck’s offices, just as they have done so often before, to tell the editors that Alanna Oswald is a trouble maker. If so, we could use a lot more of them.

That Editorial Part 1, Other voices

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, a “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).

Ah, but will the Board reimburse Art for his legal expenses or will I have to fund raise all summer?

There is still so much more to tell.

Oh, an in case you were wondering………This is a real threat! I’ll be damned if Art Johnston or any other school board member will be made to suffer such financial hardship by his/her colleagues for exercising his/her first Amendment rights.

If you want to read my long post on how Federal Court Judge Davis gutted the District’s case you can find that post here.

Art Johnston’s data requests

When I came home from the Geek Squad with my computer I found the mail waiting for me including one of my big yellow envelopes from ISD 709. It had a couple interesting items in it. It included our monthly payment of claims and I leafed through it awkwardly because every other page was upside down. I saw the recent charge from Mary Rice’s law firm for her calculated kneecapping of Art Johnston. I worried that it was a second $43,000 charge so I called Art up to compare notes. He thought this represented the only charge from her firm. I’ll ask about that at our next business committee meeting.

Art was driving off to a skiing race in the Twin Cities when I called him. This is how he’s been coping with the stress of shuttling between board events and his attorneys. (I’ve done the same but I started swimming again – 1,000 yards at a crack) This hasn’t stopped him from going above and beyond his board duties. Last week he attended both the appearance of Malcom X’s daughter at Myers-Wilkens Elementary and a meeting of the Civility folks down my street at Pilgrim Congregational Church. No other Board members attended either function.

About the latter he passed on one interesting observation. Its speaker told the gathered that one thing missing from the Civility list is an instruction to always speak to facts and always present evidence for your opinions. This is above and beyond Art and my call for “truth” in the pledge but it is a bird of a feather.

Of course, so much evidence is withheld from Art that it makes his job very difficult. A recent example is the refusal of the School Board to ask for an accounting of the mysterious $84 million in “soft costs” that were spent on the Red Plan. Only God and JCI knows where it went.

The principle justification for the Administration to deny his requests for information seems to be that the majority of the Board is unwilling to let it be ferreted out. That’s what our CFO told me last year. If a majority of the Board approved my requests he’d oblige me.

Art has kept some track of the many requests he’s put in that have been ignored for the past five years. His attorney gave him some boilerplate language and directions on how to make such requests. He told me during our conversation that he’d put in eight completely formalized requests for data in recent months including costs of attorneys. To date only one has been acknowledged formally and that’s one of the things I called to tell him.

In today’s packet was a letter from Bill Hanson to Art copied to all board members. It says:

I am writing in response to your January 26, 2015 Minnesota Government Data practices Act (MGDPA) request for information on five years’ worth of legal bills. As you realize, this represents approximately 200 multi-page invoices. The MGDPA does allow us to redact any data that would reveal privileged information. We will do this redacting at our expense, as required by the MGDPA. Any copies you request would be charged at our standard rate.

This letter leaves me with a couple questions. One, if Art is a Board member and privy to all privileged information why should the district take time to redact any of it? Golly, Art only wants the hourly billing not the legal work. And besides, we board members all got the un-redacted report from Mary Rice. If the redacting is unnecessary I would much prefer that it not be done at the public’s expense. As for charging Art for photocopies I can only expect that this will be a bit of a cash cow for the District. I’ll bet they (we) don’t charge 10 cents a copy times 200 times X number of pages.

Anyway, its nice to know that one of Art’s eight data requests is being addressed. Only seven to go.

“Rosie colored glasses”

The same fellow who sent me this email yesterday (which he titled “Rosie colored glasses”) sent this one as a follow up to my reply:

Mr. Welty,

Greetings again sir. I hope this finds you well. You have written, “…Kevin Rupp eager to sow the seeds of discord to boost his legal service fees”. I believe through your work with the SB, you have come by this opinion honestly. Are Mr Rupp or his firm the attorney’s who will defend the SD and the Rouge à cinq in the entirely predictable lawsuit, and if so, isn’t it a large conflict of interest and unethical? Would any taxpayer have standing to bring this to the attention of the Minnesota Office of Professional Responsibility? I worry about these things.

All good wishes,

****** ***

I sent him this reply:

****,

Those are very interesting questions. I am not a lawyer myself but I suspect such a suit would be a challenge. As for a citizen’s standing I would think that is possible. However, I think a more promising tactic is simply to wait until the District’s persecution of Art runs aground like the Costa Concordia under the command of its immature captain.

There is every reason to believe that the District will eventually be humiliated when the courts rule that our treatment of Art Johnston is indefensible.

I have decided that my role in this unfolding fiasco is to describe what I am witnessing as candidly as I can. That should give our School Board and attorney Rupp pause. I’m sure the legal fraternity is finding my posts about Mr. Rupp cringe worthy. Serves him right.

I will add that over eight years of blogging I’ve never once been challenged publicly for any serious inaccuracies. However, I was just censured by my colleagues on the school board for telling the truth. I rather enjoy the irony.

Then after sending it I had one more point to add in an email addendum:

I should add that Mr. Rupp’s firm has innovated a new legal specialty – depriving voters of their legally elected representatives.

When I was fighting for a referendum on the Red Plan back when were being told the phoney baloney cost was only a quarter billion dollars (It is almost twice that cost) we discovered to our dismay that the state legislature had made it virtually impossible to recall a school board member.

I am equally dismayed that the State legislature has given school boards no restriction for removing a school board member that a board majority deems annoying. All it takes is the unspecific term, “proper cause.”

This is the vague language of 123:09 BOARDS OF INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICTS.

subd. 9. Removing Board members. The board may remove, for proper cause, any member or officer of the board and fill the vacancy: but such removal must be by a concurrent vote of at least four members, at a meeting of whose time, place, and object the charged member has been duly notified, with the reasons for such proposed removal and after an opportunity to be heard in defense against the removal.

I have been told that this statute violates the Minnesota constitution and I wouldn’t be surprised. It was drawn up in an age when legislatures protected representatives and senators by shielding them from arrest during the duration of a legislative session. I wouldn’t be surprised if they extended similar protections to all elected officials back in those rough and tumble political times before the Civil War.

Not out of the woods

One monthly School Board meeting down, 47 to go.

Actually its three meetings. One was a closed hour long meeting over teacher contract negotiations. Its been ten years since my last one. Mum’s the word of course but there has been a three month prologue that I can’t undo. I think I can say, reaffirm really, that none of the four elected candidates last November stressed that they wanted to spend any of the newly approved levy money to pay teachers more but they did pledge to hire more teachers.

The teachers are led by Frank Wanner who seems to have remained on the job like an ex president of a corporation for one more crack at negotiations as a CEO prior to full retirement. Frank’s era of labor leaders regarded higher salaries and benefits as the only goal worth going after. On that note I was quite satisfied with the story on the District’s projected budgets but dismayed by the headline.

The headline was not wrong: With budget surplus, Duluth School Board considers district’s financial future

The critical caveat showed up in the second paragraph: “But Bill Hanson, the district’s director of business services cautioned the School Board on Thursday, at its first budget meeting for the following year, that based on estimated revenue and expenditures, the district already will be at a deficit for the 2015-16 school year.”

In fact the projections for the end of my four year term on the Board showed a deficit projection of $9.6 million dollars. I won’t let that happen unless its over my dead body. I just have to hope the teacher’s negotiation team see the realities and do not try to disguise them from their membership. Among them:

A. The raises the teachers are calling for will make meaningful class reductions almost impossible.
B. The District’s last early settlement before waiting to see what the legislature would do caught us with our pants down since we failed to anticipate how chintzy the State legislature’s school funding would be. Most of the other districts in the state waited to see what St. Paul would do and got one year of zeroed out pay raises that Duluth missed out on.
C. There is a little matter of a legislature contemplating requiring Duluth taxpayers to bail out the teachers retirement plan at 15 million a year for God knows how long with annual tax increases that would be many times the size of the recently approved levies that skeptical voters barely passed. This legislation may not come to pass but if it did there would be Hell to pay.

No other current school board member has been through as many contract negotiations as me including one that nearly ended in a strike back in 1998. We will need ice water in our veins if we are to staunch our district’s bleeding and give our children the education they deserve.

A thank you

January 3, 2014

Dear Friends,

With our passage into 2014 it has been forty years since I moved to Duluth to become a public school teacher. Since then I have never found myself far from our public schools. Education is far more to me than that slogan carved into the new East high school, “the foundation of the state.” To me it’s what thinking beings pursue to understand the universe.

In my long recent fight against the theft of the public’s say in how we finance our schools I came perilously close to an estrangement with our schools. Now that I have been elected to the School Board I once fought so bitterly It’s time to rededicate myself to public education and to “pluck up that which [has been] planted.”

I am a son of the Baby Boom and popular music has been the soundtrack for my life from Presley’s Hound Dog to the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. One Boomer song has been on my mind for the last month. It’s the Byrds Turn Turn Turn with its lyrics plucked from the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes:

A Time for Everything
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…

A new season has begun and this is a long overdue thank you for the season past and your help putting me back on the school board. Sending out this letter has weighed on my conscience since the election. Mailing it out today completes my campaign. I am grateful to 300 folks who let me put up lawnsigns, several thousand who took the time to speak with me on their front porches and the seven thousand who voted for me. I couldn’t have won without any of these people but you were an even more critical part of my success. You were among the few, the one hundred, who sent me donations that helped carry the day. Without your generosity I would not have been given this chance to end my unhappy estrangement.

I will be just one of seven school board members trying the put the worst of the past behind us while doing my best to make good use of the rich resources this community has placed at the disposal of our schools. I will do this for the sake of our children. Again, thank you.

Harry Welty
Duluth School Board member elect, at large

Alliances

I’ve been meeting with a few people prior to being sworn in on the School Board in January. I’ve got some catching up to do since it will have been ten years since I was last on the Duluth School Board. I had an opportunity to do that and more last Saturday at this “summit” meeting for young people in northeastern Minnesota. Here’s a DNT story on the event.

I was invited by the Superintendent’s executive assistant a month before the November election and held off signing up until I knew I’d won. I was intrigued to attend because its based on an initiative General Colin Powell got started many years ago. Former Supt. Dixon’s wife Sarah is one of the Youth Alliances top brass and I thought she might attend. We got to know each other well before the Red Plan controversy on the District’s Endowment Committee.

Two new School Board members were at the meeting Annie Harala (who once worked for the Alliance) and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp. I talked with them a bit as well as the District’s number two man supervising the educational side of the District Ed Crawford. And both Dr. Dixon and Sarah showed up a little after I arrived.

We shook hands and greeted each other before taking different corners of the room. However after the conclusion of the Summit Sarah and I spoke at length about the Alliance. Dr. Dixon came over to listen in shortly afterward. We kibbutzed a bit and he informed me he just retired and lost some weight and was off his heart medications. I told him that after I rejoined the board in January I might ask for his prescriptions. He gave me a hearty laugh.

To my reading public

Thanks for keep coming around. Even with a paucity of posts I’ve had over 5,000 visitors this November. Sorry I’ve got slow fingers lately. Its not for want of ideas for posts. Its more like the quiescence (fifty cents for silence) of a volcano just before an eruption.

I’ve had plenty to do, winterizing my yard has been completed, campaign reports turned in, some embassies to new colleagues on the Board pursued. I have a massive filing to undertake of many year’s worth of clippings about Duluth School news and I still have thank yous to send out. I am optimistic for the news school year as well as wary of overconfidence. I think you can expect to read much on these themes in coming months as well as hair lice.

I confined myself to school related posts for the most of the summer and fall. I’m pretty sure I’ll go back to the many other topics Lincolndemocrat has enjoyed pontificating about. Now that I’m poised to become an insider again I’ll likely be a little more discreet about my speculation where my soon-to-be colleagues are concerned as well as a little less clueless. Rest assured, however, that any public comments made by my fellow Board members I will consider fair game for my analysis.

It may be December before I swing back into blogging mode. I have a week’s worth of old science magazines to catch up on first. They always get set aside for more pressing obligations but I can’t bear to toss them without reading them cover to cover.

Anger and Logic

I passed out flyers on Friday before the election so as not to waste unused campaign materials. They cost the campaign $329.00 and I worked hard to raise the money.

The flyer was written two months ago when I was still working up the steam to campaign and it reflected my passion perfectly at the time. In fact I had toned it down after a day of thought. Originally I was going to begin it “I’m pissed off.” Instead I opted for the less crude salutation “I’m angry.” Even that seemed a little strong on the final Friday before the election. Still, even with a couple typos I hated to waste them. I got another 500 passed out that day.

The following day one showed up at my doorstep with a note on it. It was signed and I appreciated the feedback even though it was critical. It said:

“Harry, As a person who wants to support you, I was very turned off by this. You are asking people to use their head and be angry. Anger and logic are in different parts of the brain so that is difficult to achieve. My advice is to have a diverse group of friends read your material and then listen to what they say. This reads like an angry first draft.”

I have no way of knowing if this person ultimately voted for me. Her advice was very good but I’m terrible at asking people to help me. Other than my now infamous “volunteer” I did this campaign myself. Claudia hates politics and I did my best to hide the campaign from her. The piece was almost a first draft as the note writer suggests. But I’ve attempted to rush a lot of thoughts out here on the blog and I needed a flyer after the September primary to begin asking for lawnsign locations. I only printed up 3,000 thinking I could print more to correct mistakes. Sadly the first batch cost more than I expected and I never ran out of them. No money for corrections.

I disagree with the writer although I can appreciate her concern. Anger and logic may be in different parts of the brain but they are both in the brain. Like all mental functions we humans must juggle them at all times and they are always interacting. I look at anger like this. The difference between a rocket and a bomb is slight but critical. Both are explosives. A rocket however, is controlled just as anger must be.

Anger, like other strong emotions drives people. It is neither good or ill in and of itself. It is simply a strong reaction which may or may not be justified and which may be destructive and counterproductive unless controled. Logic may reside elsewhere in the brain but it is one of the intellectual forces which can turn anger to good or ill purpose. Everything else about my flyer suggests I’ve put a lot of thought, logic, into my campaign. Certainly I have more history with the Duluth Schools than any other candidate including Rosie. I think that anger or not this flyer demonstrates my use of logic. As noted in the preceding post I used that logic to win passage of the second levy question.

This is clearly a case where I have put my anger at over crowded classes, and the negative consequences of the Red Plan to a positive use. This is so much more useful than a fatalistic and cynical giving up.

Again I’ll concede that bits of this flyer sound like a first draft. But my first drafts are so superior to the final crowd approved banalities of my rivals for the School Board I can live with this. Besides, I labored much longer over the pieces I sent to be published in the newspapers, even the infamous tract about “gangrene” spreading through western Duluth. Our successful second levy, that I credit myself with passing, will be like a shot of antibiotics to make the gangrene retreat. That is of anger being used for good purpose.

Disappointing the voters

This KBJR story told about the successes for the levies in Duluth. You can read it or watch the minute and a half of it here.

I got a brief mention:

Duluth School Board–elect Harry Welty, who supports the levies, says it’s now up to the board to fulfill its duty of successful and cost–effective implementation of taxpayer dollars in the long–range facilities plan, especially after the breach of district trust the multi–million dollar Red Plan created for some residents.

“We on the school board have a huge responsibility not to disappoint them,” said Welty Wednesday morning. “They expect that money to be used to bring class sizes down.”

I can not stress enough how important it will be not to “disappoint” the voters. I have the uncomfortable feeling that there are too many people out there who have the attitude, “oh, well, we got the money. We’ll spend it the way we see fit.” If that attitude prevails I can assure you that there will be hell to pay and it won’t just be from me. New money should be spent on reducing class size first, second and third.

This is a particularly important issue for me because I know the infinitesimally small 2% margin of victory of the second levy question was my doing. If a hundred votes had swung the other way the District would have lost almost two million dollars. I spoke to 600 people at the 2,000 doors I knocked on. Every communication of mine in the Duluth Tribune, Budgeteer etc mentioned my desperation to get the class sizes down by passing the levies. I dug an additional $500 out of my pocket to put two ads in the Trib saying passing the levies was the most important thing this election. My flyer, which is also on the first page of my campaign website, makes it clear how important the levy questions were. It would me a mistake to underestimate the credibility I had with angry voters as the only Anti-Red Plan candidate supporting the levies. Had I opposed them as vigorously as I supported them I could easily have turned a few hundred votes if not a few thousand against it.

Since the second levy owes it passage to my enthusiastic support I’ll be very upset if I see it frittered away on paying teachers more rather than hiring more teachers.

Rosie Loeffler Kemp on WDSE

Claudia and I decided to break out of Duluth right after the campaign for a couple of days or rest and relaxation. I had my cell phone ringer off and missed the invitation to appear on WDSE’s Almanac North Friday evening as one of the newly elected school board members. I just caught the episode. Rosie was the sole voice who showed up. She held forth for a little over six minutes starting at 10:30 minutes in.

Lawnsigns and Cleopatra

Thank you Duluth. You won’t regret it.

I crawled out of bed at three in the morning after the eleftion to begin picking up the 270 lawnsigns I put up the previous month. Twelve hours later they were put away in my attic.

Much to say but I’m reading Stacy Schiff’s autobio of Cleopatra to Claudia as we drive out of town for a day of R and R.

“Gangrene” spreads to social media

I got a call just now 45 minutes into today’s election. Apparently my comments about gangrene spreading from western Duluth to eastern Duluth is now part of a Facebook campaign to discredit my candidacy. I’m not suprised. I told a friend who asked me about some of my recent actions it was the only one I regarded as a mistep. Using a baseball analogy I called it an “unforced error.” Its not that I disavow it its more that I didn’t do a good enough job explaining what I meant.

The Red Plan has led to a gross under staffing of our classrooms and families fleeing our new schools. Its worst out West where children are being bused from Duluth to Proctor. Test results are dire. I used gangrene to describe what’s happening because its famous for spreading. If the first levy referendum question fails we will be forced to cut another two and a half million dollars from the District’s budget. Is that a knock on West Duluth or is ignoring the calamity a worse knock on Western Duluth?

One of the people who brought this all about, Nancy Nilsen, is the person who stands to benefit from this last minute social media campaign. In her comeback attempt she has been aided by Judy Seliga-Punyko who endorsed her with very little commentary in a letter to the Editor recently. She has also been aided by her other confederates on the old School Board Tom Hustad and Ann Wasson who object to my constant reminders of the consequences of the dictatorially imposed Red Plan. They made much of the gangrene comment too in their recent letter to the editor.

I don’t know how long the social media campaign has been bubbling along. This is my first whiff of it. Its not the first whiff I have had of a character assassination campaign. I put the strange ad in the Reader to fight off the guilt by association campaign some unpleasant person is trying to spread.

I’ve always asked, “if you can’t be passionate about your children what can you be passionate about?” I stand by that today. I also stand by my observation that so far western Duluth has been most savaged by the Red Plan’s unintended consequences. I think passionate parents ought to consider that if they wish to make things better for their children. Killing the messenger has never solved anything. Electing someone too blind to see carnage when it lies at their feet is no better.

Brickbats for Halloween

There were two predictable letters complaining that I was an eastern elitist for using the word gangrene to describe the Red Plan’s dire results in western Duluth Schools. You can read them here and here.

More prickly criticism came from two of the Red Plan’s staunchest advocates Board Chairs in turn Tom Hustad and Ann Wasson. I am not surprised that they take my constant criticism of the Red Plan and Johnson Controls and their beloved Superintendent Keith Dixon personally. They were elected to save a hockey coach who treated his bench warmers like a bucket of spit. The results of their tenure on the School Board have led to the gangrene which I’m taking heat for describing.

I’ll post the entire letter here as per usual. I like to put the most egregious criticisms of my work and words in this blog. There is one trivial attack on my “honesty” in the letter. It says I falsely claimed to serve on the School Board until eight years ago. I was wrong! I was defeated by Tom Hustad in the Fall of 2003 and stepped down in January of 2004. If you do the math you will see that I’ve been off the Board for 9 years and 10 months. I made a similar mistake when the Tribune mistakenly said that Ann Wasson had served for 14 years on the School Board. I wrote in my blog that she had only served 8 years. It was ten. She was first elected to serve a half term of two years.

As for the other items mentioned I’ve addressed them all in this blog or elsewhere many times. You can find my explanations by inserting the offending terms in the search function.

I’ll mention a couple of things about both of my critics to blunt their analysis.

Ann Wasson was the Board Chair who failed to sign or read the Review and Comment sent to the State Dept. of Education for a quarter billion dollar Building Project. That was typical of her blind career of being a School Board rubber stamp to duplicitous School Administrations.

Tom Hustad was the Board Chair when the first critics of the Red Plan’s denial of a referendum began speaking out at School Board meetings. An email from a friend recently reminded me how he conducted himself on one occasion during criticism of the Board’s anti-democratic actions:

Yup, I did a little digging and found a great article :)
http://www.snowbizz.com/PoliticalDiary02-03/HSDAprMay03/RandolphRehired.htm

Hustad is the one that told Brenda to “shut up and sit down” And that pretty much sums up the approach the board has had to anyone who disagrees with them. And they are in charge of nurturing critical thinkers!!

One last anecdote. Last December while I was out in my front yard tending to the candles I placed around my snow angel Mr. and Mrs. Hustad pulled over by the curb and rolled down their window. Tom graciously thanked me for expressing the sentiments of so many other people to the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

Here’s Tom and Ann’s letter to the Duluth News Tribune:

We’re disappointed the newspaper endorsed Harry Welty.

He said he wouldn’t run a “sour-grapes campaign,” but his Oct. 24 “Candidate’s View” column was negative. Honesty isn’t his best policy, despite his lawn signs. As one example, he didn’t serve on the School Board eight years ago, as he claimed.

Welty has cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars on meaningless lawsuits. He was quoted saying he enjoys creating chaos even when information is wrong. How can we trust him if he manipulates expert information and isn’t truthful?

He blogged about hitting fellow School Board candidate Nancy Nilsen “upside the head with a brick.” Bully? Absolutely. We need to rid our city of bullies, not give them support.

He blogged about being “canned” from teaching three times. Frightening. So he’s not a retired teacher, as he claimed.

He was School Board chairman for four months and stepped down because he couldn’t build consensus, was ineffective and couldn’t take the heat. Clearly, he still doesn’t understand education funding.

He seems to be violent in nature, blogging about “blood on the floor” and using voodoo dolls. Don’t take it lightly. Welty is unreliable.

Nancy Nilsen is honest, intelligent and respectful, and deserves your vote.

Ann Wasson
Duluth
Wasson represents District 1 on the Duluth School Board and is not seeking re-election.

Tom Hustad
Duluth
Hustad was a Duluth School Board member from 2004 to 2008 and was chairman of the board from 2005 to 2007.

Gangrene Pt 5 – That other letter

Then there was that other letter in today’s DNT:

Let me quote select passages:

I’m finding it hard to believe the News Tribune’s endorsement of a voodoo doll-wielding former School Board member instead of a former member with a business degree and an economics and math minor and who is a small-business and rental-property owner. It was almost laughable and would’ve been sent to Jay Leno if that had been the headline (Our View/Endorsement: “For Duluth School Board, Harala and who?”).

I give the editors credit. They have been quick in the past to dismiss me but they are not blind. They see what everyone else is seeing. Our schools are under assault. It can’t be easy for them to admit that I’ve been on to something all along. The heading of that endorsement caused me some extreme merriment. Perhaps, however, like all sensible folks they follow the old adage: “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.”

Nancy Nilsen was the Chairman of the Board that brought us the Red Plan and its unintended consequences. All along she touted her business credentials just as this letter writer does:

Nilsen does her homework, is well-educated on state funding, is an excellent communicator and listens to her constituents.

She didn’t listen to people who called for a vote on the Red Plan. I guess that’s selective hearing. Her homework is in and the grades aren’t good. 1,700 children have fled, 180 teachers have been laid off, High school classes are at 40 students per class.

Now that’s laughable…….but only after a good cry.