Category Archives: Education

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.

August blogging, campaigning, and family life

I’ve had an uptick in visitors since I resumed blogging after my return from China. There will be much more to add as the school board campaign kicks into gear but as I’ve told candidates for the School Board people still have summer on their minds and tearing their attention away to what comes after Labor Day will not be easy. I have already done more early campaigning than I’ve done in years preparing campaign materials coaching other candidates etc. And my summer, or rather my family’s summer, is not yet over.

Yesterday my brother-in-law showed up for a long weekend primed to take my grandsons fishing. I did manage to pick up my first 10,000 flyers yesterday but as I look at my calendar for August I’ll only have Monday to pass them out before flying to Colorado on Tuesday after the Business Committee meeting. I’m heading to a family reunion in the Rockies for a remembrance of my Uncle Frank who died a few days after I left him in Denver last January. Then on Saturday or Sunday following my return I’m going to take my oldest grandson on a trip to wherever it is cloud free to watch the eclipse. We are determined to enjoy it for all of its 2 minutes and forty seconds of totality. I am very psyched for this trip with him. It was looking like I’d have to go solo as other folks in my family have important things on their calendar that will keep them in town. The Tan Man loves science and I’ve charged him to do some research before we leave.

It will only be after our return, August 22nd or so, that I’ll be able be able to pass out the bulk of those ten thousand flyers. Hopefully I’ll be able to double that if my fundraising kicks in. I am almost resolved to stop spending any more of my money on this campaign. I care deeply about remaining on the School Board now that some semblance of sanity has taken hold of it but I don’t like the idea of buying the darned office.

I think there will be a surprise coming up. The Superintendent has forecast that is going to be an ugly campaign but dogged Art Johnston has made unending inquiries and I think he has finally uncovered a fuller explanation for why Dixon’s Duluth School Board unwittingly took $11.5 million local dollars out of the classroom leaving them a shambles.

All that is yet to come so I hope my eight loyal readers will forgive this teaser and my next break away from keeping them informed about the doings of the Duluth Schools.

I think this campaign will finally be rational. If I’m right, it will pit the School Board’s constitutional duty to act as management against a long recent tradition of school boards ineptly trying to sweep embarassments under the rug in a lame excuse for salesmanship.

Spirit Valley Days not. . .

. . . Spirit Mountain Days. I had two people correct me about that faulty post.

I attended the “family day” part of it late this afternoon and had a blast. That makes today my first official day of pressing the flesh. And most of it was with kids except that I didn’t offer them my hand to shake I offered them one of my trading cards.

Here is a picture I took of them this afternoon mixing them up so I could hand them out randomly at Memorial Park. One of the cards has a snow sculpture that I made 15 years ago at the park for the Spirit Valley Winter carnival. Valley, Valley, Valley! Got to get that right.

I told the kids that they were “snow sculpture trading cards” and the kids were so nice and polite thanking me for giving them the cards. “Did you make this?” was a typical reaction. To their parents I would say, “They are really political literature disguised as trading cards.” The parents seemed amused except for one fellow, a civil engineer, who wondered how I found the time to make them. “I had thirty years to make them” I sputtered. Then he turned around and pointed to the pile of pea rock by the Laura MacArthur playground and asked why the School Board had spent a million dollars to replace perfectly good rubber tire mulch that protected kids from falls with wood chips. I was not prepared to switch gears……not with a civil engineer! Heck, he told me, even California hasn’t said rubber tire playgrounds were unsafe and they think everything is bad. “Democrats!” he said, summing up his disgust.

Rubber tire mulch or not this is going to be a fun campaign. After I got back home a friend brought me some wire stands for my lawnsigns……I’d given all of mine away after the last campaign. Then another friend called to tell me that he/she would be putting an ad in the Duluth Reader sticking up for me next week. And I’ll probably have all that I need to start going door to door by Wednesday or Thursday. Maybe I’ll even find time to do some fundraising.

Anybody want to donate to my campaign for a deck of snow sculpture trading cards?

Medical schools are catching up with public schools…

…where pedagogy is concerned.

According to this story on NPR today:

For students starting medical school, the first year can involve a lot of time in a lecture hall. There are hundreds of terms to master and pages upon pages of notes to take.

But when the new class of medical students begins at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine next week, a lot of that learning won’t take place with a professor at a lectern.

Testing one, two, three

Back to business. I still have two weeks of Tribs to read and I’ve got to see if my “trading cards” are ready yet. And this morning my nephew paid us a call ending a seven year estrangement between our families. He’s a new Dad and that means new leaves being turned over. I’m delighted.

But like I began – back to business. I read this story in the Minneapolis paper last night and its in the DNT today. This will have implications for Duluth which I can not yet thoroughly discern. Second paragraph:

The new plan would take full effect in the 2018-19 school year. It replaces the ratings and labels given to public schools based on their performance with one that focuses on the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title 1-funded schools. It also would identify high schools with a graduation rate below 67 percent or where any student group — black, Asian, Latino or low-income, for example — falls below a 67 percent graduation rate.

This story screams “EQUITY!”

Good. That’s one of the three legs of my campaign and you can find it on the back of my trading cards. “EQUITY-HONESTY-EXPERIENCE” I better go pick them up if they are ready and begin passing them out at Spirit Mountain Days. Tomorrow though. Its too wet today.

I might even need to spend some time working on my clunky campaign webpage: http://www.weltyforschoolboard.com/

A brief recent email conversation about equity in the Duluth Schools

Sent to all School Board members:

WHY DOES THE EASTERN END OF TOWN GET ALMOST [all the] MONEY TO HELP EDUCATE THEIR LOW INCOME AS THE WEST END OF TOWN WE ALL KNOW WHERE THE LOW INCOME LIVE.. USE THE MONEY AS IT WAS INTENDED. I WOULD APPRECIATE A ANSWER W B

My Reply to W:

W,
The reasons are as simple as they are pathetic.

1. Precedent – because we are abiding by the letter of the law (now but not always) and use half of the funds to lower class size across the whole district and to fund our Curriculum Dept. (For which other funds should be made available.)

2. Political deference to Eastern voters if not outright fear of their reaction if we pulled half a million dollars out of their schools to send it to the schools with a higher free and reduced student population.

W pushes back:

LETTER OF THE LAW ?? MY UNDERSTANDING THE FUNDS ARE FOR LOW INCOME STUDENTS NOT MANY OUT EAST … SECOND POINT I AGREE

I explain:

Current Minn law requires only 50% of the $ to follow students.

Bringing back Phil to manage my school board campaign

Alanna Oswald told me yesterday that she might not to vote for me because of all the posts in which I whine about having to campaign instead of writing about my Grandfather. She says my getting off the School Board might be the only way she gets to read that book.

Its a tough choice. I’d love to compare George Robb with his fellow Kansan, oil billionaire fifty times over, Charles Koch. My Grandfather was a rock ribbed Republican but Koch is making it his business to roll back not only Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society AND FDR’s New Deal BUT the trust busting reforms of Teddy Roosevelt. Koch truly wants to take America back 100 years to the Gilded Age and Jim Crow. Perhaps that explains the jarring video I saw the 82-year-old Koch along side our Era’s Stepin Fetchit Snoop Dogg. Koch is a lot more comfortable with a black idiot sidekick than a sober and brilliant Black President taxing his billions and restraining his pollution.

Hell, when I was exploring the Kansas State Historical Museums files on my Grandfather I got a peek at his old College scrapbook which gave a pretty strong hint that my then 21-year old Grandfather liked Teddy Roosevelt. He pasted in a flyer from Park College’s Teddy Roosevelt Club into the book the year the ex-president’s Bull Moose party challenged Wilson and Taft. It was probably Koch who talked right-wing talk show host, Glenn Beck, to denounce Teddy. Beck was regularly invited to attend Koch’s soirees to return America to the days of John C. Calhoun and State’s Rights.

But as tempting as it is for me to try to save America with a boring reminder of a more decent political past, my Grandfather also set another standard before me when he fought in the Great War. As the lyrics to one of his Era’s war songs put it “…and we won’t come back till its over, over there!” I’m afraid that my school board work is not over either.

My Grandfather’s war lasted about one year. Mine began 28 years ago (if not earlier) when I first ran an unsuccessful race for the Duluth School Board in 1989. That was two years after moving to our new home on 21st Ave E and my Daughter Keely’s request that I build a snow dinosaur. I was reminded of this a week ago when visitors asked if they could look at my scrapbook of a 30 year snow sculpting career.

Following my second failed attempt to run for the School Board I decided to make a not so subtle comment about the struggles of the Duluth Schools in 1991 in snow. The DNT’s head photog, Chuck Curtis, snapped a photo which made it to the Front Page if I remember correctly. A passerby with a camera took a photo of me sculpting it and sent it to me afterwards. Until the advent of cell phones Claudia and I got used to flashes coming through our drapes on winter nights from folks dropping by to take a picture of our front lawn to mail to their friends in warm weather states.

Like my Grandfather I conceived of my campaigns for the School Board like his Meuse-Argonne campaign. I ran a third time and lost that election as well. As a consolation Claudia gave me a small black figurine of a disconsolate Gorilla sitting chin on hand like the thinker for my birthday. That became my inspiration for yet another snow sculpture and perhaps an augury for a change in my political fortunes.

This sculpture was the first of a couple which made it to newspapers on the Associated Press circuit.

By now I had a name for my gorilla. Phil. It was prompted by yet another gift from Claudia which came with a card inspired by the cartoonist Gary Larson:

After christening Phil I decided to attach a story line to him. He became my “campaign manager” who couldn’t get me over the finish line. I pinned the blame on him in a letter I penned to the News Tribune. That’s in my scrapbook too and for school board wonks its a most interesting peek back at our school district’s history.

What I wrote is the gospel truth. In the 1987 school year (the year in which, by coincidence, I lost my teaching job) our school district reported that we had 1200 seniors. And yet only 775 seniors graduated. We were paid by the state of Minnesota to educate 425 students who seem to have vanished into thin air. It was school board counselors who told me to check the numbers and they were confirmed by an employee in the Minnesota Department of Education. Sadly, the MDE didn’t lift a finger to call the District on the carpet. It was a preview of how they would handle the preposterous financing proposed for the Red Plan.

Discovering that public school administrators would lie was as shocking to me as it was for Loren Martell to find himself handcuffed for addressing the Duluth School Board during the Red Plan. Its the sort of experience that turns concerned citizens into ever vigilant watchdogs. Its been my Meuse-Argonne ever since.

I thought I had left the School District in pretty good shape when I retired from the Board in 2004. Three years later, after the voters were denied a chance to vote on the half billion dollar Red Plan, I realized that if I could get elected again I could put the issue before the voters. I was prepared to offer a smaller plan should that referendum fail. Instead, the Dixon administration worked hand in hand with my critics to attack my motives and those of Gary Glass. In doing so school administrators passed on one more great lie – that Johnson Controls would earn no more than 4.5 percent of the building program’s cost. Throw in the wildly incorrect promise that the Red Plan would barely increase property taxes and you can see how my vigilance was rekindled.

The travesty of seeing my colleague Art Johnston raked over the coals has done little to restore my faith – especially after it become evident that 30% of Duluth’s eligible ISD 709 resident students have left us. Golly! We’ve got new half-billion dollar schools to fill up and maintain and we are not succeeding at either objective. I’ve got five months to make a case for shoring up our schools even while my Grandfather’s life story begs to be told.

This began as a light-hearted reintroduction of my old campaign manager, Phil. I’m bringing him back.

Phil has given me the idea to raise money for my campaign by selling snow sculpture trading card packs in lieu of political propaganda. Goodness knows I’ve taken lots of pictures of my creations over the years. Here’s the first page of my scrapbook’s Table of Contents:

I’m going to do things a little differently. Rather than ask for donations by mail this year I think I’m going to offer the trading cards in sets of five to help me recoup my expenses incurred to defend Art Johnston. That was because the school board used the excuse of a nonexistent assault to remove him from the Board. My Mother’s death left me with a modest inheritance that allowed me to give Art $20,000 to help defray the $75,000 legal charges Art incurred to defend himself from the vile accusations hurled at him, to wit:

“Racism” (He was a member of Duluth’s NCAAP Board for crying out loud)
“Conflict of Interest,” for sitting in on meetings affecting the employment of his school district employed partner. Nevermind, that a Red Plan supporting Board member sat in on similar meetings when a relative ran a school bus into a child – the relative was given a desk job!
“Violence” Who wouldn’t be mad after serving five years on the School Board while constantly denied public data and then discovering that the School Administrator who recruited your last opponent was now orchestrating a spy network to harass your partner starting on the very day you beat the candidate that said administrator encouraged to run against you?

$20,000 is almost all I “earned” over my first three years on the School Board. I spent just as much trying to get a Red Plan referendum on the ballot. Its been expensive to pay for the honor of serving the public.

So, if I print up trading cards, I’ll treat it as a small business and use the proceeds to pay for my campaign. Maybe I’ll break even on the cards and avoid going any deeper into the financial hole to stay on a school board that has finally calmed down from the insanity of 2014 to 2015. Calmed down yes, but we still need to get out from behind a $3.4 million dollar a year eight ball that costs us 36 teachers.

It may be hard for folks to take Phil seriously as my campaign manager so thank goodness my old rival, Representative Mike Jaros, has agreed to be my campaign chairman. He ran a dozen or more campaigns and never lost. Having only won three of 16 campaigns for public office myself, I am in awe of his record.

I just can’t wash my hands of Phil. He’s been the logo above my old webpage for almost twenty years now. Like me, Phil deserves a little respect.

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.

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.

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:

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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.