Category Archives: Duluth Schools

The Fiscal peril for ISD 709

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

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

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

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

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

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

And don’t forget to visit WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

Say “simple summary sans soliloquys” ten times fast

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

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

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

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

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

At the one hour 50 minute point in the meeting

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

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

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

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

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

Did you catch my simple math error?

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

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

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

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

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

Moving principals

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

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

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

Annie’s riposte to busses from Proctor et al

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

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

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

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

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

Martel on Maintenance

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

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

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

Keen on Kuehn


Photo by: Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Superintendent’s trifecta

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

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

***

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

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

A SHORT PROLOGUE

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

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

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

TRIFECTA PART ONE: ENDORSEMENTS

TRIFECTA PART TWO: THE CONTRACT

TRIFECTA PART THREE: THE COMPETITION

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

More old news stories from snowbizz.com

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

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

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

Crisis of the moment – a friend sends me an email

From a friend:

Hi Harry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for giving this careful consideration,

XXXXXXXXXXX

And my TMI reply:

XXXXXXXXXXX

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

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

Settling the Contract –

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

null

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

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

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

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

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

Dear DFL Delegate

I’ve missed two great days to garden working on my election and School Board business. There have been lots of email and letters-to-the-editor to consider. Oh, there have been the regular reminders of the new Trump Dystopia we have brought down on ourselves. – Ivanka’s Chinese shoe manufacture having investigators imprisoned for recording the maltreatment of workers who were helping Ivanka’s bottom line. – President Trump catering to the Koch Brother’s desire to pollute without restriction by canceling an international climate control agreement. He says he did it for Pittsburgh not Paris. Pittsburgh’s City Council has rejected the help.

More importantly I sat in on a second round of teacher contract negotiations…………..Argggggerrrrregggggg*******!

Pardon my strangled words. At a closed meeting Tuesday I was sternly instructed by Rosie Loeffler-Kemp not to mention that they were happening on the blog. She has a firm grip on my throat. I was glad that Chair David Kirby joined me at the negotiations. Nothing explosive seemed to have happened as a result of our presence.

I’ve got another busy day planned that will put the gardening off – Drat! And tomorrow I will attend the Duluth DFL endorsing convention seeking Democratic support for my reelection campaign.

This is the letter I sent to about 800 eligible delegates two days ago. I’m guessing only one in ten will actually show up although Trump is probably keeping most of them every bit as on edge as he’s keeping me. Maybe a lot more will show up to convince themselves that can really turn the world back right-side-up:

Dear DFL delegate, Continue reading

And while I’m speaking truth to power…

…These are the 14 Questions from the DFL screening committee and my answers to them:

2017 Screening Committee Questions, City of Duluth DFL

In this questionnaire, we are asking the same questions of all candidates for a given office. When we
conduct the follow-up, in-person screening, questions can, of course, depend on a candidate’s initial
answers on this questionnaire.

SCHOOL BOARD (indicate office you are seeking): At-Large____X____ 2 nd _______ 3 rd________

1.Why are you seeking the DFL endorsement?

I wish to serve my fourth term on the Duluth School Board as a Democrat.

2. Have you been endorsed, or screened for endorsement for any other political parties, groups, or
organizations? If so, who?

I was endorsed by Republicans for the legislature in 1976, 1978 and ran against the endorsed Republican for the legislature in 2002. I parted company with the GOP when I began my blog www.lincolndemocrat.com in 2006.

3. Will you commit to using union materials and services for your campaign when possible? (Will
you support union represented members of staff in the Duluth public schools and work with
them to enhance our public education?)

I like union bugs. And yes, I will continue to work cooperatively with school district staff as I always have for the betterment of our schools.

4. What do you consider the top three priorities for the Duluth Schools right now? Please place in
order of priority and state your plan to work on them. Continue reading

Between a Rockridge and a hard place

That was my groaner at last night’s special meeting of the Duluth School Board. It was so inspired I used it twice and so bad that the second time I said it Nora Sandstad thought I owed the Board an apology.

We had three “facilities” issues on our plate last night A. approval of changes in our ten year building maintenance plan made necessary by putting two new projects on it (the Rockridge makeover and playground mulching) B. OK’ing a contract for the Stowe Playground renovation C. Approving a five year bond to pay for these projects. Somewhere in all of this was a new roof for Lakewood Elementary. Jana Hollingsworth explains it all in the DNT today.

I went along with the Board majority on all of this pleasantly but grudgingly. The Board majority painted us into a corner by its refusal to consider selling our buildings to “competitors.” When other deals fell through we had no back-ups to sell the costly white elephants to. This undermined a primary element of the original Red Plan financing scheme that promised we could help finance the mega-plan by selling off our unneeded facilities for $29 million. That would have helped us retire some of the bonds which we are now being forced to repay annually from our General Fund to the tune of $3.4 million (34 teachers worth).

I couldn’t blame Art and Alanna for symbolic votes against some of our decisions but having been painted into a corner I saw little else we could do but walk away across the freshly painted surface. I have spent the last year objecting to being put in that corner but once there I was stuck an no symbolic vote was going to undo the damage.

The chief drivers of our decision making have softened up a bit. After the last election it was the Superintendent and Chair Harala and Clerk Rosie Loeffler-Kemp who were in the driver’s seat. Fighting our “competitors” off tooth and nail was the order of the day and in the first year they were allied with this year’s Chairman Dr. David Kirby and Nora Sandstad. There is obviously some history between some of these folks. During the 2013 election Annie posted wedding photo’s on Facebook which showed Rosie, Nora and another candidate for the Board that year, Renee Van Nett, together with the wedding party. Renee is now a leader in the DFL so I’ll probably see her at Saturday’s endorsing convention. She will also be a candidate for the City Council this year.

David has proven to be the best and fairest Chairman of the School Board of the four I’ve served with in this term and Nora has grown comfortable charting her own course. But Annie and Rosie have Continue reading

Art Johnston digs into East Central Denfeld enrollment numbers

They are alarming:

Notes:
1. When Denfeld students went to Central HS in 2010, the combined student enrollment dropped 355 students from the previous year. And East gained 172 students.

2. When Central and Denfeld students went back to Denfeld (after Central closed) in 2011, the combined student enrollment dropped another 216. And East gained another 100.

3. In the seven years from 2009 to 2016, Denfeld/Central has dropped 867 students or a 46% drop. And East has increased 177 students or a 14% gain.

4. It is clear from this data that the boundaries between Denfeld and East have not been enforced, and that many students from Denfeld or Central enrolled in East.

5. This data is similar in trend to Denfeld vs. East graduation numbers.

“I know nothing.”

A fellow board member just sent me a news flash about a meeting at East High School this afternoon to talk about traffic and parking with area residents. No one told me about it and I have a meeting scheduled downtown to talk about school facilities at the same time. I am running for reelection and I hate the thought that a lot of East neighbors will note my absence when their ongoing East traffic concerns are being discussed by the City at our school.

When folks ask me about various things going on in our schools my go-to response is: “I’m only a school board member. I don’t know anything.” Sgt. Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes had a more economical way to express this.

Misc on Memorial Day

Family and Memorial Day activities pulled me away from the blog again but on Sunday my mind was on overdrive thinking about starting a week-long series on the Fourth District campaign that is shaping up. That’s the far western Duluth District. It was on my mind in my post about condescension.

This is in response to someone I’d rather not name who reportedly predicted that this year’s school board race was going to get ugly. Hell, it couldn’t come close to getting as ugly as the entire first two years I spent back on the school Board. The two remaining board members who brought about two censures and tried to get rid of a fellow board member based on vile and unsupported accusations have been recruiting candidates. Let’s hope the campaign is spirited and centered around the serious subjects of equity and raising the money we need to hire more teachers.

As for me, I’m for burying hatchets. On that note I was invited by my old friend, Mary Cameron, to attend her Friday retirement reception at UMD. She remained on the Board that Keith Dixon took over after my retirement in 2004 and our subsequent disagreement over the Red Plan threatened to break our ten-year long friendship. We have kissed and made up but I’m chagrined to report I just discovered I missed that reception. I have never been good at coordinating my calendars. I had a paper calendar covered with papers that reminded me of the date but did not have it in my cell phone calendar that I have only begun using.

I may have taken a break from politics this weekend but but that’s not true of everyone. As I tended a patch of stonecrop on 21st Avenue I greeted City Councilor Joel Sipress who was walking past my house. We chatted a bit and he told me he was calling on delegates for next week’s DFL convention lining up support for an endorsement for his District seat. I have not done this to any degree myself yet. I certainly won’t be going door to door because I am running across the whole city and the 700 or so delegates are far beyond my ability to call on in a week’s time. I will begin contacting them tomorrow by phone.

Joel is a bit of a model for me. Until recently he was affiliated with the Green Party as I was once affiliated with the GOP. If the Democrats are to rise like a Phoenix they had better prepare to be welcoming – “Big tent” style. Bernie Sanders had that idea when he recently went to Omaha, Nebraska, to campaign for a Democratic Mayoral candidate. He was roundly criticized for this by a faction of women in the party who were angry that the Democratic mayoral candidate was pro-life. That’s no way to win back the White House or Congress or the State legislatures and Governorships that have come under Republican control.

And a sad note:

The Superintendent just texted all the School Board members about an accident involving our students. There is no respite for a school superintendent.

How the proposed Education funding law will affect negotiations.

As the school year grinds to its end a story appeared in the DNT about the Education budget that will have a significant impact on teacher negotiations. The following paragraph sounds optimistic:

Each of the two years, schools will get a 2 percent increase in the per-pupil funding formula that pays for general operations. There is also $50 million for a new preschool program called “School Readiness Plus,” which prioritizes low-income students, as well as $20 million more for early-learning scholarships.

But a few short paragraphs beyond it come calls from the teachers union for Governor Dayton to veto the bill. There is a Republican inspired language allowing Districts more freedom in hiring teachers without the professional degrees and giving District Administrators more power to keep on and/or release teachers without bending to their seniority.

I’ve not read the actual language so its hard for me to gauge just how serious a threat to tenure and seniority this law would be.

Six times is more than enough times to put the hackneyed phrase…

“chopped liver” in the title of one of my posts. So I just put it <--- here instead.

I was not the only absentee school board member at the Teacher’s and Staff retirement party. Annie and Rosie were also missing. It was announced that they had previous engagements and would be unable to attend. Art had been there earlier but also had to leave before the proceedings began. Chair Kirby and the Superintendent mentioned the reason for Annie and Rosie’s absence but did not introduce Alanna, who was present, to the audience.

I thought I’d make sure Alanna got a mention.

Replying to yesterday’s…

post on the first negotiation session.

Here’s the email I got and by the way I doubt that XXXXX would mind my using his/her name. I’m just being overly delicate:

From: XXXXX
To: “Harry Welty”
Cc:
Sent: 24-May-2017 19:02:05 +0000
Subject: “Confidential” public meetings?

Hi Harry,

Nothing said in a public meeting is “confidential.” You can repeat it, report it, spread it around the world as you please. I really wish somebody would come up to me at some meeting and warn me not to report on something. That would be great.

By the way–you should get a digital recorder. They’re not that expensive. Mine cost $80 two years ago and it works great. You can store 44 hours of recording on it, which you can easily transfer to your computer hard drive. That way if people get on your case about things you can find a nice juicy quote from them on the recorder and put it out for all to see. Just a thought.

XXXXX

And my reply to XXXXX:

Thanks XXXXX,

My blog has several audiences:

1. the public, 2. the teachers, 3. my fellow board members and 4. my conscience…

… as well as several conflicting personal goals:

1. Getting the finances to overcome the chains the Red Plan put on the District, 2. Having amicable contract talks, 3. restoring public trust, 4. transparency and last and least, 5. getting reelected to keep working on all of the above for the next four years.

My sense is that this was a public meeting that does not require a public announcement perhaps only because of precedence. I doubt that our negotiation’s meetings have been announced in the past. I only found about the meeting myself the night before so I didn’t have time to research its statutory requirements. I only knew that by showing up I could cause consternation and might end up being abused for exercising my right and responsibility as an elected member of the Duluth School Board. I know that sounds crazy but I’ve witnessed two years of crazy while back on the school board. All the warnings I got when I did show up only reinforced my sense that many folks were prepared to tar and feather me for what turned out to be a pretty benign meeting.

The only meeting to date that I have bothered to record was the kangaroo court the previous Board called to rake Art Johnston over the coals with the shyster lawyer the District paid $40 grand to sully Art’s reputation. I had a friend video record that one. Its too painful to watch in part because I ended up looking like a fool among the kangaroos, many of which have since escaped the zoo.

Since that time Art, Alanna and I have succeeded in persuading the School Board to put committee meetings on you-tube which was long overdue. My paper and computer files are already too gigantic for me to add a lot more digital info so I don’t plan to start recording more…..but I do take notes as a way to help me recall what took place.

After a night wrestling with the fear that simply telling the public that the negotiations had begun my instinct for transparency overcame the fear so I blogged about it. We will see what happens and, by the way, I do keep some confidences to myself to avoid betraying frightened sources just as a good journalist would. That’s a small price to pay to get access to the truth. Deep Throat remained anonymous for 45 years.

And your first sentence is absolutely correct: “Nothing said in a public meeting is ‘confidential.’ You can repeat it, report it, spread it around the world as you please.”

Ditto my blog.

Harry

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