Category Archives: Duluth Schools

“Eat that mistake”

I’m meeting a candidate for the school board election in seven minutes for coffee. You will have to find that quote in the Trib’s latest mulch news.

ONE HOUR LATER:

I’m so treading water trying to keep above the editors of the Trib and the special interests who want to keep the cozy status quo. That meeting this morning had been rescheduled ahead a week and I was a week early. Well, being a week early at everything I’ve been doing is how I’ll win despite the occasional aggravation it causes.

At least I got to return home with a scone and take my grandsons to school.

That story on the mulch is here.

I want to hear why paying more than we wrote a contract for is justified. I’ll be putting in a day of shoveling snow to build a snow sculpture at Lowell School this winter as my part in paying for the mulch. I offered to build one at a silent auction by the parents wishing to remove the mulch. The $600 bid was the biggest single sale. I’ll be darned if I’m going to do that work for the contractors. I did it for our children.

Catching up on Energy

I was exhausted last Wednesday after the Primary election when we rescheduled our Business meeting. I began hallucinating when we got to a turgid conversation about energy savings. I saw Loren Martell in the back of the room leave the meeting and I decided to leave the meeting and thank him for running despite his disappointing fifth place.

But then I decided I really didn’t have it in me to go back to the meeting. I could catch it later on youtube after all.

I didn’t even follow up the next day in reading Jana Hollingsworth’s story in the Trib. Its under a stack of partially digested Tribs in the corner of my office. I did hear from Art later that it was a good story. That’s quite a tribute from Art. Well I just read it and it is a good story about our District’s energy use. I recommend it.

I just finished listening to the hour I missed of the meeting. It was a very thorough discussion which is easier to consume in Jana’s story.

One point I’d like to harp on like the cranky guy I am – We were sold a bill of goods by Johnston Controls. Our energy savings are one-tenth what they predicted. The problem with this is that to make up for this we have had to cut staff which was our other means of making ends meet on JCI’s unfulfilled promises.

That’s not to say that JCI doesn’t know the energy business:

This is one of the photos I took of the Shanghai skyline. That soaring building on the far right is one that was equipped with JCI technology. Its impressive. I saw a PBS NOVA program about JCI’s role in building and equipping the air units. I guess its easier to fiddle with tiny little Duluth than the People’s Republic of China.

A delayed request for a change order

NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS THE CLAIM THAT THE STOWE SCHOOL PLAYGROUND IS NOT YET DONE. THAT IS NOT TRUE. SO MUCH FOR IMPECCABLE SOURCES.

Last night at the School Board meeting the majority balked at authorizing a $12,000 “change order” for the company supervising our change of mulch. The justification was that the playgrounds were configured differently than the supervisors thought necessitating more work. This footnote missed the DNT today.

I was very pleased when Nora Sandstad suggested tabling the decision for another month. Nora joined Art, Alanna and me with some other more reluctant board members to push for a switch out of the rubber tire mulch. As the mother of young kids she has no doubt kept in touch with parents who have watched the project take place over the summer. The target date for completion is October 15th but starting the school year without playgrounds has been tough on kids and schools. Even the Stowe Playground out west is not finished and it wasn’t even part of the original mulch switch we authorized last June.

There are whisperings across the District of foot dragging and I’d prefer to wait until next month to make a decision. From the beginning I was concerned at the million dollar cost of the program and the idea of getting nickle and dimed at the end is annoying. Nora’s motion echoed the concerns expressed by school board candidate, Dana Krivogrorsky, who spoke 22 minutes into the the Board meeting and asked us not to approve the change order.

I read a hot email to the District from a parent at Homecroft who scolded the District because the children there are playing on a parking lot. Balls were being spit out at traffic along the Howard Gnesen Road. That required parents to volunteer for a couple hours a day to be part of a “human fence” and retrieve lost balls for the kids so that they didn’t rush out into the traffic. I will be standing watch there next week myself. The email did prompt the District to bring some temporary fencing to set up by the road.

The discussion of the change order included a guarantee that refusing to pay it or paying it later would not in any way push the completion of the work past October 15th. Even so, the Administration made a very strong plea to accept the additional expense without delay that I couldn’t buy. I expect a couple more shoes to fall before this project is over. I hope they are soft fuzzy slippers and not heavy construction boots.

This view also was addressed at the beginning of the Board meeting by yet another candidate for the Duluth School Board, Kurt Kuehn, who asked that the District pay more attention to transparency by making our policy on public data easy to find since he saw no evidence of its existance in a prolonged search of our offices and website. I wish him luck. Poor old Art Johnston was rebuffed for eight years by our administration in his requests for data whenever it concerned the Red Plan. It earned him an attempted ouster, $75,000 in legal fees, and a censure that the Duluth News Tribune spent a year and a half harping on. Talk about “ugly.”

Its too bad the Trib can’t always tell the difference between innocence and guilt. Maybe their editors should read the Duluth School Boards 11 Rules of Civility. Start video at 9:32:

Well, I shudda known better than to boast

It turns out that Gary Westorff has me beat in his giving to school board candidates. His wife also gave Josh Gorham $500 making their joint contributions an impressive $1,500 for pro status quo candidates. If you don’t count the money I’ve spent on myself so far I’m behind Gary in funding candidates. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

So far the fundraising champ is Sally Trnka who has cash on hand, as of the latest report, of $3515 almost the equal of everything I’ve spent on my own campaign. She’s raised a close to a record $6100 to date for a Duluth School Board race. Not bad for a novice.

This is the first year I haven’t sent out a fundraising letter. I have about three weeks of literature to pass out so I’ll wait and see if my appeal (in the door to door piece I’ve been handing out) pans out. I need to make one more $400 dollar expenditure which will extend my lit dropping by another three weeks after that. I’ve got time to consider sending out a letter although my blog and the website serve that purpose as well.

My eight loyal readers have nearly doubled as the election season has started kicking into gear. I have, until 2016, always believed that voters make rational decisions when given ample information. Duluth voters have had forty years to size me up. They know my eccentricities. If I’m not reelected I’ll be relieved of the great burden of undoing the damage past school boards have done.

A critical email asked me recently what I had done for the Duluth Schools since my return to the Board – what educational initiatives I’d brought to the table or supported.

Before I jot down my reply I’d just like to note that for the first two years I was on the Board some modest inquiries for public data by Art Johnston and me brought about a two year Kangaroo Court persecution that embarrassed all of Duluth based on charges championed by the folks who are behind the candidates I haven’t been donating to. I was pretty busy defending the 2017 election results for those two years and had little time to visit schools or do anything useful. Nonetheless:

I pushed for more transparency in School Board actions leading to the videotaping of all of our meetings for the public to see at their leisure rather than at 4PM when many citizens are still at work.

I successfully helped replace rubber tire mulch that had our parents in a tizzy and giving them one more reason to open enroll their students elsewhere.

I helped conclude the best teacher’s contract possible with the very pro union majority on my school board.

I have cheered on Administrative attempts to better coach teachers.

I helped champion the work of Alanna Oswald which brought about the state’s intervention and funding to greatly help one of our struggling schools and, while they were at it, realigning our long neglected curriculum a requirement imposed upon us by the state of Minnesota.

I unsuccessfully, but forcefully, pushed for a more equitable spending of our funds for the western schools particularly the Compensatory Education funds meant for children on free and reduced lunch. Half a million of this is spent on eastern schools that do not generate the funds because they have a much smaller population of impoverished children.

I also tried to sell our costly empty old schools to get more money for our classrooms. Again, the same folks championing the candidates I have not been contributing to did everything they could to prevent these sales. This cost ISD 709 about $20 million dollars and cheated our students.

Oh to be in a majority! Check out the lawnsigns in my front yard……..when the construction crews leave.

I know, I know. You can only vote for two of these At-Large candidates. But you can’t miss with any of these three.

I’ve never met a school board candidate who didn’t want to help educate children…

… So what?

The last ten year’s worth of Duluth School Board members reduced the local taxes going into our classrooms from $14 million to $2.5 million.

These Board members loved children. Their own children were in the Duluth Schools. Many of them matriculated from the Duluth Schools. They only wanted the best school buildings for our children. “Schools for the 21st Century!” If I can level any serious accusation at them it would be this: They refuse to acknowledge the damage they did to our schools. But, God knows, they cared about our schools and our children all the time they were inflicting the damage.

As Mark Twain wrote: “First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he created the School Board!”

And as for that title above this post there is an important qualification. “I’ve never met.”

I never met the greatest murderer of school children in US history – Michigan farmer and school board member Andrew Kehoe. He blew up a school and killed 38 children in 1927.

There have never been any Kehoe’s on the Duluth School Board, thank goodness, but as I noted before “pride, goeth before our children’s fall.”

I’ve touted my “candor” in campaign literature and on my blog. But I’m also a convential nice guy. I believed my Mother when she told me that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Therefore, my candor is edged with a heavy layer of diplomacy. I breached a diplomatic wall in the last post. I mentioned I’m supporting Kurt Kuehn in the First District Race for the School Board. Kurt is challenging my colleague Rosie Loeffler-Kemp.

My “eight loyal readers” know that I’ve mentioned Rosie’s machinations many times in my blog. But, I’ve been coy. Now, I will be completely candid. I do not want to serve with Rosie anymore, particularly if she is part of a majority and I remain in a minority.

She led the attempt to destroy Art Johnston costing him $75,000 and the School District $200,000. She pushed and voted to censure me the week my Mother died for doing nothing more than blogging that there was a ten million dollar offer for the purchase of Central High School. Perhaps Rosie is the person who told candidate Josh Gorham that it was me who killed that deal because I was being “unethical.” That’s what Josh told Barbara Reyelts in the recent interviews which KBJR/KDLH has conveniently failed to put up on the Internet.

Rosie’s success has astonished me. I knew her as a fairly harmless PTSA (Parent, Teacher, Student Association) President years ago ratting out her successor Judy Seliga-Punyko for running roughshod over the PTSA Board. I’ve told many a political novice that you can never tell who opposes you now that might one day become your ally. And to this point Rosie and Judy became fast friends during the first two years I returned to the School Board as they pulled out all the stops to make the Duluth School Board look like the most dysfunctional school board and laughingstock in Minnesota history.

Rosie was not only Duluth’s PTSA chair but for three years was the Minnesota State PTSA chair. I have seen little from Rosie in the last three and a half years to explain how she could have been elevated to such a position in Minnesota. I defy anyone to go through the last three years worth of School Board committee meeting videos on you-tube to show evidence of Rosie’s understanding for what’s going on in the Duluth Schools. One reporter once told me that they never asked Rosie for a comment because she never had anything useful to say.

I’ll leave it to Rosie to respond to this bit of candor of mine. She helped recruit candidates to run against Art Johnston and me and we have reciprocated.

As far as I am concerned she stands for the sweep-the-last-ten-years-under-the-rug-agenda that has put our schools and our children behind the eight ball.

How much more candor will I dispense? I don’t know but I may not be done. I’m feeling an attitude coming on.

Ramos Correction

John Ramos, true to form, admitted a mistake, albeit a tiny, picky mistake in his last column. He did not realize that there were eight school board candidates appealing to the Duluth Federation of Teachers for their endorsement. It was strongly suggested that his failure to mention former Denfeld teacher and current Speech Coach, Jill Lofald, was typical of the Reader’s carelessness. As a former writer of for the Reader myself, clocking in at over 100 columns, I am hurt by this presumption. My “Not Eudora” columns can be found on my old Snowbizz web site.

Here’s John’s acknowledgement in last week’s Reader:

“Last week, John Ramos inadvertently left Jill Lofald off a list of School Board candidates who participated in a screening session at the Duluth Federation of Teachers. Ms. Lofald was there.

Ramos regrets the error.”

I have been known to make “inadvertent” mistakes too. I once prematurely mentioned that the School District had a ten million dollar offer on the table for Central high School on my blog. That was inadvertent because I mistakenly thought the figure had already been mentioned in the press. I was censured by the school board for that. BTW – four of the six board members who voted to censure me have quit the school board. Only Rosie Loefler-Kemp and I are running for reelection. And yes, we both voted to censure me for that mistake of mine.

I think it may be fair to say that ten years worth of Duluth school boards inadvertently failed to check our finances while they began looting $11.5 million from our classrooms annually to transfer to Red Plan debt repayment. Sometimes inadvertent mistakes should be judged on the basis of their scale.

BTW – Not one of the passel of school board members who robbed our children in this way over this period of time have ever acknowledged their inadvertent mistake.

No, No, No, Loren Martell didn’t get more face time with the editors than I did

I will not be making it easy for the people I advise on who to vote for for the Duluth School Board. At least not with the At-large candidates. Only two of the five candidates will be elected and I’m rooting for three of us – Loren Martell, Dana Krivogorsky and me. In fact, I’ve put all three of our lawnsigns on the front yard that no one will be able to see for the next month while road construction blocks our intersection.

Shortly after Loren’s sign went up Loren told me I’d misreported how much time he got to spend with the News Tribune editorial board. I recalled him saying they gave him a little extra attention and since I’d spent 40 minutes with them I presumed he must have gotten a full hour. Naw, he just got the same 40 minutes I got. We both offer corrections to the other when they seem to be warranted and Loren didn’t want anyone to think he got special treatment.

I’ll mention one of the things that I told the Editorial Board when the subject of the Superintendent came up. I told them what I always say about Mr. Gronseth, “I think he has a good grasp of what is good for kids,” or words to that affect. I also said I had no objection to his looking for other superintendent positions. I told the Editorial Board that I had given a lot of thought about how candid I wanted to be with them as I presumed I would be “on record” through the interview. I told them that this was a pretty good time for me to be diplomatic but I also told them that I figured the Superintendent and I were probably rooting for different candidates.

Hint to voters: I’m partial to that old maxim attributed, probably incorrectly to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

The folks I’m rooting for are all aware that the last ten year’s worth of Duluth School Boards are the ones who diverted $11 million annually from the classroom to build “21st Century” school buildings. I sorta think the folks I’m not rooting for would prefer to be cheerleaders when they are running for a management position.

No plans for today except stuffing envelopes when I get a new flyer

The interview with the DNT Editorial Board…

…was very cordial. Loren Martell told me that he got almost an hour with them, much longer than expected. I got about forty minutes as someone else was waiting in the wings. I should have taken better mental notes but I recall their being two citizen representatives and Chuck Frederick and four other DNT operatives from the publisher down to an employee representative.

We began with a longish remembrance by Chuck and me of Jimmy Kimmel’s show thirteen years ago periodically following the quixotic attempt by a Duluth brick layer to build the biggest snow sculpture ever which he later ratcheted back to the biggest one in Duluth history. I got invited to offer a couple of observations as a recognized expert on the subject. And Chuck was there too. Kimmel sent Chuck an autographed picture of the event which an earlier story by Chuck in the Trib had prompted. I made Chuck promise to let me see it. I noted that back then Kimmel was infamous for frat type humor whereas he recently made a compelling speech about health care with the near loss of an infant son.

As my eight loyal readers know 38 minutes is hardly enough time to cover the millions of words I’ve spilled about the Duluth Schools here in the blog but it was a fun, fast, interview.

***

I decided to skip a fairly important presentation last night put on by the Minnesota Dept. of Education about the replacement to No Child Left Behind. It was partly because I am pooped out from so much gallivanting and partly because I had both grandsons over last night and their folks and family time seemed more important. You can read about what I missed in the Trib.

***

I’ll be at home with the boys this morning but before they woke up I went back through my China posts. Yesterday while I was at the Board meeting Claudia showed our youngest grandson and his Dad the recent NOVA episode about the Terracotta Army and the book she bought while we were there. Today she is going to the book club that lured her to the cruise we took. She’ll be offering her travelogue. My summary can be found in the China series and the last five or so have links to Facebook slideshows which are short but snappy with pictures I took of each of the locations we spent time visiting. I’d suggest reading from beginning to end which in the blog means from earliest (at the bottom) to most recent (at the end).

***

And we picked up our Chevy Traverse in Hinckley with its Serpentine system repaired and humming again. Now all we have to do is figure out how to deal with the intersection of 21st Av and 4th St. which will be plugged up for the next month on the major fix up being imposed on it. And I thought our traffic was loud!

When FLIKR begins cooperating with me again I’ll try posting a picture of all the trucks out front.

Begging the Chair’s Indulgence

I made one stop on the way to Duluth, Mankato, my residence from Junior High through college. I had hoped to have time to take my grandson to the hilltop where my folks, his great grandparents are buried. There wasn’t time for that if I was to get to last night’s monthly School Board meeting. I did, however, take him for a walk through Minneopa State Park. He experimented, as thousands had before him, carving some lines into the soft sandstone that bore witness to better than a century of love declarations. The Falls were lovely but sadly the Buffalo imported to the glacial stone debris below the old Seppman Grist Mill all remained hidden as we drove through. From thence on it was a rush to get to Duluth.

I did make my grandson take a break from his cell phone to read something I’d written years earlier about my move to Mankato. I told him writing was my way of carving lines in the sandstone to be remembered .

Before cresting the hill to descend to Lake Superior I called Claudia and asked her to order hoagies for me to gulp down so I get to the School Board meeting on time. I had about twenty minutes to change cloths and find my board agenda. I missed the roll call and the Pledge of Allegiance but got to the Board meeting in time to congratulate the East Cheerleaders for good works which I just missed hearing about. At least my handshakes were on time. My other eclipsing colleague, Art Johnston, who had a better view than me in Casper, Wyoming, was still in transit home.

Summer meetings can be short. At the beginning of the Education Committee Report from last Tuesday the Board was congratulated on finishing it up in an hour and fifteen minutes. My being in Colorado that day probably helped speed things along. I would drag out this night’s meeting to an hour and a half by launching into a story from my travels to make a point. It might have been five minutes longer had the Chair and the Clerk not objected to my story telling. They were not in the mood for a raconteur. I launched into a prologue to express my concern that recent budget cuts to the Curriculum Department and the many initiatives undertaken to improve teaching might fall seriously short. But veering into the example of my travels with too much on my mind leading me to sit on a flimsy water bottle in my back pocket elicited only impatience. I did beg for the Chair’s indulgence considering that our’s would be a short meeting but gave up in the face of a crowd eager to go home early. My three minutes of prologue start at the 48 minute point and end with my concession and cutting to the chase. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wDG8dKpA_U&t=42s

Candidate Welty’s view

It’s Online here with the headline: Incumbent’s View: Red Plan fight isn’t over; funds needed for classrooms.

This is my text in full:

I have much to be modest about when asking Duluth voters for a fourth term on the Duluth School Board. My determination to bring about equity, my candor, and my experience are, however, something I value deeply and which I think recommend my continuing service.

I ran four years ago determined to make the Red Plan a thing of the past. To my shock, my inquiries for public data, to lay old questions to rest, were met with fury, stonewalling, and, finally, hysteria. And the Red Plan was never dead. For 10 years, Duluth School Board majorities refused to acknowledge that their financing of the Red Plan would loot locally levied property taxes from the classroom for decades to come.

Twenty years ago, in 1997, my second year as a School Board member, Duluth school property taxes were $23 million; $9 million of this was for debt servicing, and $14 million went to the classroom. Today, local school property taxes are $31 million. But this year’s Red Plan debt servicing takes $28.7 million, leaving only $2.5 million for the classroom. That is $11.5 million less for our classrooms despite an $8 million property tax increase.

If you care to do the math, our average teacher costs $90,000 per year. I will leave it to others to explain the insistence of some that the Red Plan is over.

What is not over is the loss of $11.5 million for the classrooms each year at a time when our district is expected to meet the needs of a growing poor and minority student population desperate for teacher contact time in order to bridge an infamous learning gap.

Like it or not, Duluth now has a nearly half billion-dollar investment in new schools to protect. Our board has refused good offers to sell derelict buildings, even though such sales were made a critical part of the Red Plan’s financing.

I will do what I deem necessary to raise the funds we need to educate our children. I will, to the best of my ability, hold true to my conviction that voters should be offered referendums to raise the necessary funds. However, if given no alternative, voters must know that I may decide to vote to raise additional taxes even if the public has soured on providing them.

I can hardly blame the public. Ten years ago, district residents were denied a referendum on the Red Plan, and this was just after our state Legislature placed a heavier property tax burden on more modest homes than on those of the more affluent.

Not every child can do what Abraham Lincoln did: educate themselves beyond a meager few years of an elementary education to the law, to Congress, to the presidency, and to the rescue of the American nation. What Lincoln would have given to have been educated in the Duluth public schools!

We owe it to our children to remember President Lincoln’s words: “with malice toward none.”

Let’s give our children an education we can be proud of.

Harry Welty is a candidate for an At Large seat on the Duluth School Board.

Fallout from the John Ramos column

Here’s WDIO’s story about the teacher union’s endorsement.

While I was in flight back to Duluth, WDSM’s Brad Bennett, an ex Duluth School Board member, was engaged in a spirited 5-minute discussion with an agitated listener who bashed Art Johnston and the writer of a recent Reader column John Ramos. It starts at the 35 minute point in the 2nd hour.

My eight loyal readers have ample evidence of my thoughts about Art Johnston and the travesty of “justice” he endured at the hands of the School Board of 2014-15. The listener bashing Art and John suggested that it was no surprise that information in the Reader was unreliable.

I’ve always considered John Ramos to be an exceptionally careful reporter. Of the Ramos column in question at the Reader I only read one bit of inadequate information besides the failure to include Jill Lofald in the list of candidate attendees at the Endorsement screening. John reports that the attempt (travesty) to remove Art and invalidate his lawful election cost $43,000. It was far closer to costing taxpayers $200,000. As for the “tens of thousands” it cost Art to defend himself and those election results – it was closer to $75,000.

Brad and I go waaaay back. When I became Board Chair in 1998 Brad encouraged me to require that the School Board start saying the Pledge of Allegiance to begin school board meetings because he knew one of the new board members elected in the 1997 election was an atheist and resisted saying the Pledge with its mention of “under God.” She had also been worried that she might be asked to place her hand on a Bible for her swearing in as a new board member. We don’t do that.

At some point in Brad’s subsequent Radio talk show career he started calling me “AC-DC,” and “Madman Welty.” He was referring generally to my wavering support of the Republican party. “AC-DC” is a term suggesting both gay and straight proclivities. I was not very pleased with Brad’s teasing/taunting so I wrote a column in the Reader which demonstrated that Brad himself was all too human during his stint on the School Board. His wife at the time told me she would never forgive me for it. (Sorry, but some of the links in that column have gone bad over the last 15 years. One of them had the photo of a wrecked ISD 709 car)

Brad is a big boy and never, to my knowledge, disparaged me for my “payback.” In fact, we went on to have spirited debates over other issues which also made it to my space on the Internet.

Candidate Martell’s view

Very thoughtful.

Loren has strongly suggested that the insiders in one local political party have a particularly heavy responsibility for leading the Duluth School District into its Red Plan disaster. I have suggested that these candidates substitute management and inadaquate finance with poms poms.

The school board candidates are now out with their campaign lit highlighting their DFL endorsements:

Blogging while pissed off

Its a terrible thing to do but I’m pissed off. In an hour I will go to a memorial for my uncle Frank but I made the terrible mistake of taking two calls from home – hour long calls to talk about the Duluth School District. If I don’t get the frustration that’s in my heart out now I’ll be in no decent frame of mind to send my Uncle off to the great beyhond.

The second call was from a school board member from long ago in another district. This Board member’s contention is that laws have changed – What’s done is done – that bitching about the past is not helpful and – that where my figures are concerned “figures never lie but liars figure.”

No wonder I’m a little aggitated. Here in brief is what I explained.

A. Ten years ago the people of Duluth were lied to and told the Red Plan would pay for itself and other words to that effect and that taxes would hardly go up at all.

B. When the spending got started and it became apparent that the promisess were smoke and mirrors they began tweaking the District’s finances by taking ten million out of the classroom to pay off bonds that should have been paid for with ten million new dollars annually taxed to pay off the facilities bond payments.

C. Our taxes went up ten million dollars when they should have gone up $20 million but instead we pulled ten million dollars each year out of our “21st Century schools.”

D. I didn’t say this to my caller but there is a new response to these dreadful shennanigans that’s been going on for five or six years. Calls to elect school board members who will not harp about the past and the cheating of today’s students but to paper over the education crimes and to be cheerleaders of “positivity.”

Screw the pom poms. We should tell the truth.

If I’m elected voters better understand that as unfair, foolish and duplicitous as the Red Plan funding was (which I fought for a decade) I will likely vote to increase the taxes the Red Planners should have raised had they been honest and showed some backbone.

WHEW!!!!! Now I’m ready for you Uncle Frank. All those New Yorker cartoons you used to enjoy about human foibles are so so true.

Candidate Krivogorsky’s View

Bogdana (her Ukranian birth name) Krivogorsky has been Americanized since she immigrated to the US at age 15. She goes by Dana (pronounced Donna) now. She left at the strong urging of her grandfather who saw the former Soviet Union crumbling and wanted a better more secure future for his granddaughter. She arrived a little too late to lose her charming slavic accent. Multilinguist, Mike Jaros, told me her name meant something like God’s gift.

I know Dana’s background because her claim to have met with all School Board members was certainly true in my case. She, along with Loren Martell, are the most reliable and dogged meeting attenders usually hanging on our every word from beginning to meeting’s end three to four hours later. If course, it goes without saying that Loren is the record holder having started his listening posts about the time I flamed out after Let Duluth Vote’s legal challenge to the imposition of the Red Plan without a vote sputtered and died. That was 2010.

Furthermore, Dana brought an interesting proposal to our “Special” Board meeting on Monday before I left Duluth for my Colorado family reunion. She spoke at the beginning of the meeting. By the way this is the video I was unable to find in the previous post.

Dana suggested that we bring some auditors in to see what we can do to clean up the finances that have been so damaging. And by the way it turns out that microbiologist Dana has a formidible Mother, Victoria, who teaches advanced accounting and auditing at San Diego State University. I have a sneaking sense that Dana spoke with her mother before speaking to us. Considering the financial wrecking ball that the Red Plan has been to our schools I welcome Dana’s recommendation.

Her opinion piece in today’s Tribune is full of good general recommendations.

It looks like the Trib is publishing in our think pieces alphabetically by candidate’s last name. If so, mine will show up on Saturday.

On the backs of our teachers and children

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwuyk9KM7A4

Much to my annoyance this link takes you to the video of yesterday’s School Board’s special meeting that won’t play for me. That’s where we reauthorized bonding for $3 million in construction that would mostly have been unnecessary if we had simply sold Rockridge Elementary to a “competitor” Many Rivers Academy or sold them Nettleton which still sits empty on the market. Instead we were forced to spend a lot of money on this school to educate the non residential students from Woodland Hills (now the “Hills”). We had to reauthorize it because we are asking the city to let Rockridge be used as a school again after asking them to take away that zoning so we could sell the building to pay off part of the Red Plan.

The Hills simply sold our old Cobb school to Many Rivers so we lost a buyer and Many Rivers got one of our old schools anyway.

I made that point in a more business-like fashion at the meeting which I thought made a nice contrast with yesterday’s informal video chat that I appended to the previous post.

Our finances drive me nuts. After my soliloquy the only non candidate/non employee witness at our meeting said he wished that the two folks he had spoken to a short time ago had heard the meeting. They had insisted that ISD 709 had to fix up the old schools because they had never been taken cared for. This trope took on two silly myths. First, that old School Board’s neglected their duty to fix up the Duluth schools. Second, that having allowed them to become decrepit there was nothing we could do but spend half a billion dollars on the Red Plan.

What the last ten year’s worth of School Boards did was insist that they were going to save us half the cost of new schools with energy savings and efficiencies. That was nonsense. As my trading cards make clear, and as I have suggested for the last ten years, all they did was fire teachers to pay for new schools. Today we only put $2.5 million of our $31 million dollars of property taxes into the classroom. Twenty years ago we put $14 million of $23.5 million into the classrooms. 137 teachers were let go to pay for those buildings. Now we are borrowing more because of a policy that handcuffs common fiscal sense.

I’m heading off to the airport in ten minutes to fly to a family reunion in Colorado for the next four days. But I’m taking my computer. I may want to add some more posts while I’m away. I have one in mind about one of the genius’s who made it possible to pay for the Red Plan on the backs of our children. I think I’ll title it Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Hoheisel. I’ll have to be careful though. He likes to threaten to sue people.

Big Boo Boo

I made quite a fuss in this recent post about our lost ISD 709 students (30% of the total students we could be educating) only being lost do to “open enrollment” to neihboring Districts. In that post I incorrectly explained, “By the way, Open Enrollment DOES NOT INCLUDE ENROLLMENT IN CHARTER SCHOOLS!!!!! That’s extra.”

I was sooooooo wrong. I am prone to such mistakes when I hastily review old info without reading it carefully. It turns out that charter school students are the bulk of the students 709 has lost.

Ironically, the Red Plan was partly motivated by the hope that our new schools would lure the charter students back in the system. But in the complicated game of chess for enrollment it did not occur to the Duluth School Board that state law permitted our Charters from using state money to build their own new school. So, the Red Plan did help drive more students to Charters because of a chaotic transition from old schools to new schools.

But the fact remains – I WAS IN ERROR.

Trust me. It won’t be my last mistake.