Category Archives: Education

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

—————————————–

40 years ago today

From the DNT “Bygones” for May 25, 1977

A grim picture of budget year 1977-78 was presented to the Duluth School Board yesterday. School administrators told the committee of the whole the district will have about $350,000 less to work with next school year than was originally anticipated.

And ever shall it be.

1977 was my third year in Duluth and I’ve been reading the desperate headlines about the School Board’s finances every other year or more from that time to the present. Its no different this year. The challenge is always to make-do to the best of the District’s ability and remember that we have one top priority – our children.

I have argued since the advent of the Red Plan that the tilting of our the finances so radically to buildings has made the people end our our schools more perilous. I stick by that statement and no amount of happy talk will improve the situation. However, hard work, creativity and a big dollop of honesty to reinforce public trust can improve things given time.

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

2,590 May readers to disappoint

As of ten seconds ago 2,590 people have visited my blog so far in May. Its not as impressive a number as it my seem.

I check my blog’s stats daily and they have changed glacially over the last ten years since Lincolndemocrat’s birth. But they have changed. In all of my first full year of blogging (2007) I had 9,937 “unique visitors.” So far in the first half of 2017 I’ve had 19,794 such visitors. At year’s end I should have a four fold increase in unique visitors over my first year.

But that statistic is very misleading. Most of my “visitors” just take a quick 30 second peek in to look before flitting off to more interesting websites. My hard core readers (all of them anonymous to me) are the ones who read for an hour-long stretch or more. For years those readers have numbered 100 each month. So far in May there have been 110 hour-plus readers. I call them my “eight loyal readers.”

100 hour-plus readers, multiplied by the last 48 months would represent 4,800 “unique visitors” over 4 years. But it stands to reason many of these folk only visited once and a smaller percentage, maybe 30%, come back semi-regularly. Still, that would be 1,600 return visitors.

The point I want to make is this: I have a lot of people looking over my shoulders. In ten years I’ve heard the occasional whisper that my blog is not fair but I’ve only had a very few public attacks on the contents of my blog. When I took the School District and the Goliath Johnson Controls to court the lawyers printed out a hundred pages of my blog to submit to the court to demonstrate my unworthiness. I presume the deep pocketed legal firms defending the half billion building plan set three or four newbie attorneys to pour through my commentary for anything that would discredit me. The court wasn’t impressed so Johnston Controls’ PR man handed the printouts to a local “liberal” Rush Limbaugh who took a couple passages out of hundreds to his readers that I once said I didn’t use the “B word” and that I had the audacity to mention that our judge was an elected official.

A more serious complaint was about an unnamed friend who told me that one Red Plan school board supporter said such foolish things that they ought to be “bricked” (have some sense knocked into their head). It was suggested that this was a threat. I think I heeded that criticism and withdrew the quote but I’ve been unable to locate the offending post. It’s one of the few instances in which I made a serious change to a post.

In the last year I can’t count the number of times someone has told me either, “that’s not bloggable,” or “Don’t blog that.” Every so often someone will request that I remove something that could be traced back to them or told me that they will simply have to stop being forthcoming with me. That includes Claudia Welty, my wife. She told me years ago that I was not to blog about her and as my “eight loyal readers” can attest -I keep mentioning her.

This is a long prologue for a tiny tidbit. Despite two warnings yesterday not to blog about the teachers negotiation I’m going to mention it here. After many old posts complaining about my ill treatment three years ago during contract negotiations I sat through the first meeting of this year’s negotiations. No blood was spilled.

I had informed the Board by email that I was inviting myself to attend. No objections were sent back to me. Once there an administrator told that if I said so much as a single word at the meeting the teachers would all walk out instantly. I considered this hyperbole to drive home home the sensitivity of the meeting. Nevertheless, I abided by the injunction and said nothing although I did take copious notes. (Not good notes, just copious notes) Six hours later one of our administrators told me that the teacher negotiators told him to pass on to me that they didn’t want to see any mention of the negotiations in my blog.

Well, I’ve just mentioned it. Big deal! It was a public meeting.

I’ll risk thinner ice. After watching our top three administrators negotiate, including the Superintendent, I told them I was very satisfied with the process I’d witnessed. (read into that what you’d like) I added that unlike my previous experience, of being frozen out, this experience had put to rest the paranoia which accompanies being denied access. Let me add that I was elected to be a part of this critical process and that I have no desire to betray any confidentiality while the talks continue. I’ll also add that it is critical that the school board be represented at the negotiations and that state statute makes the Board responsible for them.

This is all very shocking, I know.

Why #1 is #1

I will post the DFL screening committee’s 14 questions to me and my replies later. I’ll start with the most important one which asks me to list my three top priorities. My two two top priorities are almost inseparable – like asking which came first – the chicken or the egg. Still, when I was asked to explain what my top priority was at the actual screening I stuck with number 1 – More money! It killed me not to address my second priority equity between east and west.

There is a straightforward reason. Without more money directed at the classroom it will be a challenge to address the issue of equity. Yesterday’s excellent story on absenteeism and today’s follow-up story by Jana Hollingworth reinforced this conviction. They are about the high incidence of kids skipping school in Duluth. The fewer staff we have to greet and teach these students and the more remote our schools seem from their needs the less able we will be to help them succeed. On the other hand – we have many students for whom equity is far less important because of the kinder, gentler circumstances of their lives. More money can help us help the kids in greater need. That why my #1 priority is #1.

DFL question 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.

MY ANSWERS:

1.Hiring more teachers to reduce class size.
HOW: Keep our expenses low. Win back the trust of voters and use that trust to pass an increased operational levy referendum. Renegotiate the Red Plan Bonds which are taking an unconscionable $3.4 million out of our classrooms annually.

2. Make sure that our schools with large “free and reduced lunch” populations are treated fairly and equitably.
HOW:
Begin by making sure Compensatory Ed funds follow the children for whom they are meant into their schools. Make sure that the course offerings at all secondary schools are equally attractive and lure open enrolled students back into our schools.

3. Treat our staff and public responsibly, with respect and expect the best from everyone connected to our schools.
HOW:
By setting such an example myself.

“No news” for me isn’t “good news” although I was hoping it would be

I’ve reading the news since waking this Saturday while also listening to NPR’s Saturday new program. Before the November election I had anticipated being able to ratchet back my fifty year old preoccupation with the news so as to spend more time researching and writing some books. But something happened on the way to the Library’s Foyer. Donald Trump!

I was worried all last year that his infantile demagoguery would get the best of America’s voters since our political system is so broken. And yet, I kept putting my faith in the prognosticators who had little doubt that Hillary Clinton would win. With my fingers crossed that she might put an end to a thirty-year RINO purging juggernaut I hoped that I could tune out the news in 2017. No such luck. Now it occupies even more of my attention especially with my new subscription to the New York Times – the best source on Donald Trump’s history imaginable. I’m even staying up past my bedtime to watch Late night television hosts skewer the Trumpsters although this doesn’t guarantee me a full night’s sleep.

And so, its been three hours of news on what should have been a sleepy Saturday morning. In two-and-a-half hours I will be interviewed by a DFL screening committee to see if I can muster their recommendation that I be considered endorsement as a DFL School Board candidate at the June 3rd convention. The first question on their 14 item questionnaire is: “why are you seeking the DFL endorsement?” My answer: “I wish to serve my fourth term on the Duluth School Board as a Democrat.”

My eight loyal readers can guess that there is a very long post hiding behind that short reply but newbies to this blog aren’t going to get it here. Its buried in posts in categories like “Republican Dogma,” “My GOP Defection,” “Lincoln,” “God’s Own Party,”
Crime and Punishment,” “Civil Rights” and many others on the list to this post’s right.

The School Board is a non-partisan office and I’ve never been a fan of politicizing it but today it seems useful for me to dive into the blender. I already have plenty of experience with a frog puree.

There are two stories from today’s reading I’d like to recommend. The first is Denfeld Graduate, Judge Mark Munger’s reminiscence about the Duluth Schools written in response to a recommendation that we saddle Denfeld students with a blue collar curriculum.

The second come’s from the NY Times, The Collapse of American Identity, which had this arresting illustration:

I highly recommend reading some of the 1200 replies to this op ed.

My email exchange on “equity”

From: “T F”
To: “Harry Welty”
Cc:
Sent: 17-May-2017 14:14:55 +0000
Subject: Equity

Harry,

I read with interest your post about the Denfeld Equity Question, and the 4 recommendations put forth by the Equity Group.

First off, I’ll be the first to admit I have no great ideas to solve the very real problem.

I have concerns about the first recommendation, regarding the mandatory offering of 2 sections of any advanced class at Denfeld and replacing 1 “in-person” class at East with a telepresence class, with the teacher in Denfeld. I assume this means the Honors, CITS and AP classes.

To be up front, I have a [child] in many of those classes at East, but she only has one year left, so any changes will likely not impact her much. Even so, I don’t see how the logistics of this plan would work. It may be helpful if enrollment numbers/projections are available. Does the district provide the Board with enrollment numbers such as “how many denfeld students signed up for these advance classes?”

As near as I can tell based upon my [child]’s estimate of class sizes, there are currently 2 sections of AP World History at East, each with about 40 students. If we assume there are 40 Denfeld kids who wish to register for that class (here’s where the hard numbers of registered students would come in handy), Denfeld would have 2 sections of 20 kids, both with an in-person instructor. East would still have 2 sections, but one would be a class of 40 led by a Denfeld teacher who already has 20 kids of her own to teach, essentially making it a 60 student class of AP World History. That doesn’t seem workable. It also removes the opportunity to get extra help during WIN (of which I’m not a real big fan anyway) for the students in these advanced classes. Someone from administration might know more about what an optimal class size is for telepresence, but 40 seems like a lot. Even the “advanced classes kids” probably need close supervision than that.

The Equity Group also implies that removing an in-person teacher for the advanced classes at east “does no harm”, but I don’t think that’s the case with the science/math classes. Unless someone has an idea for how to teach CITS chemistry (with lab) by telepresence, East will need just as many teachers on-site for the advanced science (and probably) math classes.

More likely, if 709 does direct the Comp Ed money back to Denfeld, that may allow Denfeld to offer second sections of the advanced classes, but any notion of savings at East as a result probably wouldn’t come to fruition. If the East students are left with 40 students in a telepresence AP class, you would probably just as likely see more East kids trekking up to UMD for the classes (an option available only to those with transportation).

If the Comp Ed distribution is changed (which it probably should be) and less money is available to East, they may very well have to cut some of the advanced classes at East, and they may choose to do so. I just don’t see the telepresence scenario as a “no harm to East” solution.

Again, I have no magical solution, but unless there’s data that shows that such telepresence classes can be handled effectively, this solution might do more to lower East’s accomplishments than raise up Denfeld’s.

Just my two cents.

Sorry this went so long, but thanks again for your time and your efforts in trying to tackle messy problem.

T F

My reply:

Thanks for your thoughts T,

There are no easy answers to your concerns or to the Denfeld group’s concerns. The one small bit of bedrock I stand upon is this: East High with its better-off student body is getting additional funding that is meant to be spent on Denfeld’s less-well-off student body.

I agree that taking AP classes from any school will only prompt a small stampede to PSEO classes at colleges which will further reduce aid from the state of Minnesota to ISD 709.

I agree that ITV classes may be avoided if other more attractive alternatives are available.

I agree that just as East families have a hard time picturing the problems at Denfeld this group of Denfeld parents may fail to see the consequences of taking things away from East.

I sympathize with this Denfeld group and do not dismiss any of the alternatives they have proposed. I will add another consideration that I find distressing. I don’t think the Denfeld group imagines that many of their recommendations will bear fruit any time soon. Like you, many of these Denfeld parents have children who will soon graduate so that their current advocacy is likely to come to a precipitous conclusion after this year. This has been Denfeld’s plight for the past six years. Its best and most savvy advocates have abandoned Denfeld for greener pastures and taken their advocacy with them. Perhaps the only thing they may get will be a fairer distribution of the Compensatory Aid they are (by virtue of the spirit if not the letter of the law) entitled to. At least until next January they have me, a former East parent, on their side to push for better treatment as an “at-large” member of the school board. I sense some folks eager to see me disappear from the scene as little more than a long time trouble maker. We will find out how that turns out next November. I can only hope that if I am replaced it will be with an equally firm advocate for our poorer western schools.

And Denfeld needs advocacy. Our Administration seems comfortable deferring any tough decisions which might help Denfeld until a thorough review….a year-long review…which suggests nothing will change for Denfeld until 2018 unless the School Board demands change. A request by the Denfeld group to meet with the School Board seems to be targeted at July after the Board finalizes its budget for next year at a June meeting.

Harry

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

Good runners can complete a marathon in under three hours.

It took the Duluth School Board four hours to complete the May, 2017 meeting.

For those of you who can’t wait for the Reader’s Loren Martel to unpack yesterday’s meeting in next week’s Reader I’ll mention a couple details.

It was a four hour marathon but a productive one. I counted 35 people in the audience at the midway point but noticed that six were looking at their cell phones. I highly recommend this distraction to help future audience members pass the time when I’m engaged in a sonorous monologue.

SPEECH TRYOUTS

A half hour demonstration was scheduled before the meeting began to give High School speech competitors a chance to strut their stuff to the school board and early audience members. Their coach, Jill Lofald, is rumored to be contemplating a run for the School Board.

THE DEPLORABLES

During the public comment time at the beginning of the meeting my friend, Henry Banks, took our Chair, Dr. Kirby, to task for an impolitic moment at a recent meeting with minorities. He addressed the people at the meeting with a “You people…….”

The good doctor is a fairly blunt spoken physician, something I much approve of when consulting doctors. But a poorly thought out “you people” can be a big turn off to people who resent being lumped together and stripped of their individuality. Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, learned this painful lesson when she put all her detractors in the “Deplorables” basket. It became a badge of honor for Trump supporters even those the Secretary of State had no wish to offend.

Henry spoke sternly but at one moment he seemed to be taking on a tone that challenged our “civility” code and Supt. Gronseth jotted down a question for me on a note pad. “Personal attack?” Although it was open season on anything we Board members had said publicly I was moved to fight my disengaged microphone to get the attention of the target of the “attack” Chair Kirby.

While the mikes were fiddled with Henry stood down and waited patiently until I was on air. I commended Chair Kirby for his restraint while facing criticism and noted that we might be heading into personal attack territory. I didn’t express myself with David Gergen’s concision when he said that the nation might be heading into “impeachment territory.”

Henry put up with my interruption and then resumed his objections which in my opinion did not too far breach the attack mode. He got a little round of applause from the audience.

BOUNDARIES

while mulch took center stage it was not the only spending item we palavered over. We had a lenghty discussion about allowing the demographers RSP to finish its analysis and help the district draw new school boundaries. I was gratified when the vote swung my way with a little more room than I had anticipated. It was a 5-2 “no” vote. This seemed to be a harbinger of a kinder gentler school board.

There was one important decision left undecided after we had consumed four hours – whether and when to hold a meeting on equity as requested by the Denfeld parents. It appeared that such a meeting might be set to take place in July after our June budget setting meeting. July would be too late to easily re-adjust our spending to follow “free and reduced lunch” populations into the schools they attended. Art Johnston explained to the lone remaining Denfeld Equity champion after our meeting that Chair Kirby had promised we would hold a meeting with the Denfeld contingent. Three of us would call a special meeting if necessary. For my part I want the compensatory ed money distributed more closely to the spirit of the law and follow these children into their schools.

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

More borrowing for 709?

Or as the Trib’s banner headline read this morning. School projects could lead to debt.”

It is debatable whether the rubber tire mulch is a toxic threat and there were other locations to teach Woodland Hills students than Rockridge elementary School. That said, time, inaction and the June deadline for making budgetary decisions means the Board will likely pursue both projects.

I will cavil a bit at one obvious point about the headline. While certainly true, all budgets, whether that of a family; a business; or a non profit like a church; or the school District, is constantly weighting budgetary priorities. Did a neighbor kid without proper insurance back his or her car into your garage? Unless you are sitting on a big pile of cash you will have to do some budgetary juggling. And District 709 no longer has a ten percent reserve, the protection of which, consumed my first eight years on the School Board.

We will pay to remove the rubber mulch although quite possibly for half the cost trumpeted by the Trib thanks to Cory Kirsling and other PTSA parents. We will fix up Rockridge. Both will be paid for by local taxpayers. My concern is that it not come out of taxes designated for the classroom but that it come out of taxes destined for capital projects (for buildings).

Only $600,000 of the anticipated $3.6 million expense could be siphoned out of our General fund for the classroom. (Too much for my taste) The rest would or could come from taxes already levied. But we have ongoing capital needs for maintenance which would lose out if we robbed money already set aside for it in order to replace our mulch and re-purpose Rockridge.

Budgets are not static and always undergo change through any given year. It’s just that the District has precious little give these days as our priorities change. I am used to walking on thin ice. I just don’t expect to find any money I should break through it – just ice-cold water.

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

Where the Red Plan demographers drew the line…

…that supposedly divided our school population into two equal halves. (this was sent to me by Art Johnston today as he reviews our current proposal to hire more demographers to help us plan possible new school boundaries)

I learned something about the Dixon years that helps explain today’s vast inequity between Denfeld and East.

I’ve groused for years about the financial pretzel twisting that the Dixon’s administration pulled off to finance the Red Plan and keep people happy at the same time eg. spending down the reserve, balloon payments on bond costs, raising taxes surreptitiously after making impossible promises, ignoring public referenda, laying off teachers and lying among other crimes that slip my mind. There was yet another action I’d not been aware of.

Dixon broke the law by handing out Minnesota compensatory education funds to eastern schools that should not have been given them.

At the time Minnesota required that 65% of comp ed funds to go to the schools based on the free and reduced lunches they served. The district was only allowed to spend 35% of the millions of Comp ed dollars throughout the District including eastern schools. But under Dixon’s division of the spoils only 35% of Comp ed Funds followed the free and reduced lunch kids into their schools not the 65% state law mandated. Eastern schools got to share an undeserved Comp ed bonanza.

Today we are abiding by the law’s requirements which have been altered from the Dixon days. The State now only requires that 50% of Comp Ed funds follow poor kids into their schools and we meet that rule. I presume that the GOP legislators who are big fans of “local control” and not fans of Comp Ed are responsible for the change.

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

Denfeld Equity Questionaire

Yesterday my blog was down for much of the day. I presume this was the result of the worldwide hack. You can see it play out on this map over the day. I had no way to post and this one comes belatedly.

I had been sent this questionaire from the Denfeld Equity group and was reminded yesterday that I had not yet replied to it:

On April 18th, we provided a summary of our work outlining areas of inequity and specific recommendations for addressing them in the short term and longer term. We trust you have had plenty of time to consider them and now ask for your initial response.

We heard the administration’s desire to calculate the fiscal impacts of each of the recommendations before discussing the inequities. This approach, however, would sidestep the essential discussion of what is currently just vs unjust / acceptable vs unacceptable. Leadership requires that you articulate not merely what we can afford, but also what we must be committed to addressing.

The community engaged in these issues is eager to hear from you. We ask for your responses to the following questions by Thursday May 11th. Responding to our committee will allow us to share those replies with the larger community. Your response(s) will save you having to hear from and respond to each person individually.

1. How important is it that ISD709 do things for the 2017-18 school year that are not already being done to improve equity within the District?

2. Which examples of inequities and unmet needs are, for you, the most pressing? (this is not dependent on the cost of addressing them or inclusion on the list we generated, simply the most pressing inequities/needs)

3. Considering the four priority issues (not strategies) put forth by our group, which, if any, do you support addressing differently in some form in time for the 2017-18 school year?

Thank you for your response. We look forward to working with you to creatively consider how to address the pressing equity needs within the District.

Here was my belated reply: Continue reading

The Quality Steering Committee

I finally steeled my courage and attended, uninvited, the Quality Steering Committee. Chair Seliga-Punyko forbade me to attend when I asked out of courtesy if I could attend, although not appointed. I had enough other things going on so I decided to avoid that fight. More recently Alanna Oswald had gotten a similar no go.

I don’t know what the fuss was all about. I was greeted cordially and learned that it is a rehash of the topics dealt with in the School Board’s standing committees. About a third of the attendees are Union board members, a third are principals and the last third is other administrators. The meetings have freer give and take than the committee meetings and no one drones on.

When I left I thanked everybody and said that I wished I had invited myself to the meeting years earlier.

I’m still working on a campaign website

If, after today’s many ridiculous posts which began here, you would like to see me put my long experience, keen insights and cool demeanor to good use you could make an online contribution to my campaign.

I’m afraid to rent a PO Box this year for fear of letter bombs. Keep your donation under $100.00 and nobody has to be any the wiser. That’s state law!

Welty for School Board donation page.

Meanwhile we are going to take Rockridge off the market…

… and spend $3 plus million to fix it for Woodland Hills which has just sold its white elephant Cobb Elementary to Many Rivers.

Do not get me wrong. I can’t blame Many Rivers. I can’t blame Woodland hills…….for our school board’s foolishness.

I’m pleased for Woodland Hills which our family has a long experience with. My wife Claudia Welty served on its Board of Directors for ten years finishing as the Chair of the Board. She served with Bill Westholm among others.

This is one of Minnesota’s preeminent schools for court adjudicated young people who have so many strikes against them that WH is often their last chance. I’ve teared up at the stories of its students at the annual Board of Directors dinners. ISD 709 provides the teachers for these students and they are paid for by whatever school district they came from. Its like open enrollment.

However, Woodland Hills’s upside is a downside for 709. Instead of selling Rockridge we are now going to spend millions to make an elementary school usable for high school aged children. We will pay more for transportation and will take over maintenance costs as well. Furthermore, the financial tables have been turned on us for rent/lease costs.

We haven’t decided whether to pay for Rockridge’s fix up from left over Red Plan monies or bonding or partly from our own general funds (classroom money). Until recently we were paying WH $150,000 annually to rent space in Cobb for our teachers to teach. Cobb’s growing decrepitude was about to force WH to double the rent to $300,000 annually. Maintenance costs were soaring.

So, if we were to bond for the Rockridge costs (to save classroom dollars) paying back the bonds will cost us over $400,000 annually. That’s a hundred grand more than if we had simply paid WH more to continue renting Cobb. Meanwhile we lose a sale……two sales actually. We lost the Nettleton sale and we lost the Rockridge sale.

Instead of attending the next MSBA School Boards Association Conference it might be cheaper for our school board to attend this one:

Sorry Rosie!

Inside Baseball oops School Board – emails 3,4,5,6

Number 1

Harry,

Thanks for speaking with me on the referenced matter.

Through various sources, I achieved a greater understanding of the situation. It is known #709 is responsible for providing education to Woodland Hills residents. At some earlier time, #709 agreed to pay Woodland Hills rent of $150,000+/- per annum for use of Cobb school (owned by Woodland Hills) to do so. Because of the aging building’s increased maintenance costs, etc. (the building owner’s responsibility) Woodland Hills reportedly requested annual rent be increased to $300,000+/-. ISD #709 balked and Woodland Hills threatened (as part of the negotiations) to seek charter school linkage. This, of course, created great consternation as the district might lose its per pupil $$$ reimbursement and teachers would be shifted elsewhere or, perhaps cut back. So, #709 suggested the alternate location of Rockridge be provided with the district renovating the building to accommodate Woodland Hills student population needs. In addition to feasibility/engineering study cost, reports suggest renovation costs may approach $2.5 million dollars. Since the district is obligated to provide these students an education, Woodland Hills is not obligated to participate in such costs nor pay any type of compensation. (Will they?) Any question of student added transportation cost isn’t even in the equation.

It is of interest to note, the former Cobb school, being vacated by Woodland Hills students, is being purchased by a Montessori school who had previously offered to buy Rockridge. So ISD#709 policy to not sell to another educator, not only lost the opportunity to dispose of a “shuttered” building but will possibly require $2.5 million in district expenditures. At the same time, the districts attempt to thwart competition by refusing to sell to a perceived educational competitor simply moved that entity to another location from which it will expand its student population. Does this sound like a solid ISD#709 business decision? Sounds like a taxpayer loss and disservice to community expectations.

So, it appears from available information, to maintain Woodland Hills per student $$$ reimbursement (with no guarantee of W.H. not having future linkage with a charter school) and faculty positions, #709 is potentially expending $2.5 million to reactivate Rockridge school. Under current debt, where will these funds be coming from? Or is it simply a matter of again going back to the taxpayer. You suggested this topic had not been fully vetted at the board, therefore you were absent reasonably knowledge of the transaction. Perhaps this provides some insight for your further discovery.

Harry, your filing for reelection was noted in today’s paper. Quite frankly, the whole school reorganizational process is a mess. Several of the buildings could have been sold save for the board’s non compete policy. Several educational entities are planning and will soon establish their own buildings. ISD#709 can never, through refusal to sell school buildings, limit educational expansion within the community. The diocese is even reorganizing to accommodate educational expansion. It does appear, however, the expectation of being able to continually tap the taxpayer prevails. I hope you can bring some reasonable discussion on these issues to the campaign. Positive changes would even be better.

Number 2, My 1st reply: Continue reading

Inside Baseball oops School Board – email 2

like Duluth the Minneapolis schools has decided to replace its rubber tire mulch. Cory Kirsling who has been lobbying the State Legislature with other ISD 709 parents to get rid of rubber tire mulch on State playgrounds forwarded this email to Duluth School Board members:

Hello board members
I’m sharing this email I just received, and want to thank you for your commitment.

Sincerely, Cory Kirsling

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Dianna Kennedy
Date: Apr 28, 2017 3:45 PM
Subject: MPS will replace the tire mulch!!!!
To: A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE INCLUDING THE DULUTH SCHOOL BOARD

It’s official!!!

The Minneapolis Public Schools have included $3.3 million dollars in this year’s capitol budget to replace the tire mulch in all 47 playgrounds!!!! Thanks to the commitment of Director Nelson Inz and Superintendent Ed, the project is fully funded and work will begin soon.

What happened last night:

At last night’s Finance Committee meeting the new COO Karen DeVet and Superintendent Graff made a special point to announce that the project will be fully funded in the FY18 capitol budget. They are EXCITED about it and call it an early, positive step toward their larger overall Wellness goals. Of course, our champion Director Nelson Inz was there, but it was the chair of the committee, Director Jenny Arneson, who gave us our moment. She insisted on giving Graff and DeVet a few minutes to present the news despite the fact that the meeting was running very late. The committee then passed a motion to recommend all of the staff capitol budget recommendations to the whole board, making the recommendation to include playgrounds in the captiol budget official.

The big discussion last night was centered on the general budget (called Fund 1)—which is facing a very difficult deficit. You’ve probably been hearing about layoffs and difficult meetings. It seems that everyone is happy to have the capitol budget (called Fund 6) be dispute-free, as there is ample money in that fund to cover the projects they want and it cannot be used for the general budget.

After the meeting, I also learned that Superintendent Graff is planning a resolution for the May 9th school board meeting, in conjunction with the 1st reading of the budget to the whole board. The school staff and the school board are looking at this project as a positive action that they can tout…because they all really need something positive right now since the general budget is so difficult.

So we did it! They did it! Minneapolis children will have healthy playgrounds!

Inside Baseball oops School Board – email 1

A very thoughtful email on the comparison between Congdon and Myers-Wilkens the two schools nearest my home.

Dear School Board Members-

I’m writing to you both as a parent of a child at Myers Wilkins elementary, an East Hillside resident and an intervention teacher for your Families in Transition (homeless) program.

I understand that there has been ongoing concerns regarding the number of students attending Congdon elementary and I believe recently there was a public meeting to discuss those concerns. I did not attend this meeting.

Still, I was at Congdon, serving homeless students for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. At that time, and I believe still, there seemed to be two pervasive false perceptions at Congdon:

One, that shelter children were being bused to Congdon in large numbers from outside their boundaries and two, that Myers Wilkins elementary was better equipped to “deal with those kids”.

As with everything, there is a small kernel of truth with these perceptions.

Families in Transition is in place in ISD 709 to ensure that our district is abiding by federal McKinney Vento guidelines, one of our charges is to help homeless families maintain their student’s school of origin, as research shows that multiple school transitions have negative academic consequences.

To this end, when magnet elementary schools existed in Duluth we often enrolled homeless students in a magnet because of the busing. Magnet busing was available to all students in magnet schools from anywhere in the district. This freed homeless families to be able to find housing where ever it was available in Duluth without having to transfer schools for elementary students.

So, while a parent entering shelter within Congdon’s boundaries (and newly enrolling a student) could have enrolled their student at Congdon (because it is their neighborhood school), many didn’t. When magnet schools (and busing) were cut, this was no longer an option.

Congdon does have a domestic violence shelter, a hospitality house and transitional housing in its boundaries.

For students who call these housing organizations home, Congdon is their school and they have every right to attend Congdon, and always have.

Point two, the perception that Myers Wilkins is more equipped for “those” students. It is true that Myers Wilkins staffing looks different than Congdon.

It looks different because of the population of families it serves. MW typically sits around 85% students in poverty. 25% of MW students receive special education services. There is a Northwoods program, it is full. In addition, because Northwoods is an outside agency, there is the ability to exit a student with severe behavior needs without a plan in place, and then that student returns to the regular education classroom.

While MW is somewhat equipped to handle students who have endured trauma, to say that those services are readily available or to not acknowledge that those services aren’t completely overloaded is false.

As a parent and a professional, the school district needs to address that MW is a segregated population socioeconomically, and unfortunately, with that comes a wide array of needs.

I hear Congdon’s class size concern, it’s real, but it cannot be fixed on the backs of homeless families or to further skew a school that is already largely a school in poverty.

Here’s one crazy solution: Take the Congdon/MW populations and create a K-2 and 3-5 building, providing classroom size relief and socioeconomic balance.

As a parent and teacher, thank you for taking the time to consider my perspective.

Peace- SA

Here is my reply. One of my shorter ones:

Thanks SA,

Thank you for a very informative letter.

And thank you for a very alarming suggestion. I like it.

Harry Welty

A little “flight” reading – The Sage of Emporia

For years I’ve wondered if William Allen White “the Sage of Emporia” ever wrote anything about his fellow Kansan, my Grandfather George Robb. Although I’ve known about him and knew the famous quote about his sagacity for years it took Doris Kearn’s wonderful history Bully Pulpit about Teddy Roosevelt and WH Taft to fill in White’s biography.

That’s because as Kearns researched the book she discovered how closely Teddy was to the many “muckrakers” (Teddy’s description) the dedicated journalists who exposed the many evils of the “Gilded Age.” Teddy was just as effusive as Donald Trump but unlike Trump he was also well informed and a friend of the press and its investigative reporters. White was one of these although, unlike so many others of this era William Allen was a country boy. He retired from the Progressive era and New York to sedate Emporia Kansas where he owned and edited the Emporia Gazette with a national reputation gained in the Roosevelt Years.

Last year, after subscribing to Newspaper.com, I found that White’s Gazette regularly covered my Grandfather’s politics after he was appointed State Auditor of Kansas. Many of the articles mentioned his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor but I’ve found nothing that suggests the men rubbed shoulders together which was a bit of a disappointment. But last Fall I discovered White’s name in a letter sent to my Grandfather by his closes brother, Bruce, while George Robb was hospitalized after the War.

“Uncle Bruce” mentioned in his letter that he had just read William Allen White’s short book about the War, “The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me” to better understand what trench warfare had been like. Well, I had to read that. I found it online as its now in the Public Domain. I printed it out and decided this trip to Florida was the prefect time to read it through.

White wrote the book when he and the editor/owner of the Wichita Beacon were asked to check out the theater of war by the American Red Cross just after Congress declared war. White was in France during the time my Grandfather volunteered and began his training.

Its a light read and it gave me some wonderful context. I’ll mention two such items:

White writes: “‘In the English papers the list of dead begins ‘Second lieutenant, unless otherwise designated.’ And in the war zone the second lieutenants are known as ‘The suicides’ club.'” Then White proceeded to explain why. My Grandfather was a second lieutenant.

White describes meeting an English mother of two children whose husband is in recovery after losing an arm and a shoulder. He suggests somewhat indelicately that her husband should get a good education and become a typist. When she says they couldn’t afford for him to go to school White reports his reply to her: “That’s too bad–now in our country education, from the primer to the university, is absolutely free. The state does the whole business and in my state they print the school books, and more than that they give a man a professional education, too, without tuition fees–if he wants to become a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer or a chemist or a school teacher!”

As my Grandfather began his education in Kansas and became a teacher in Kansas and was chosen to be a principal in Kansas only to turn down the promotion for the trenches, I found White’s assessment of public education one hundred years ago fascinating.

Patience and Impatience

I have yet to go through the four paper copies of the Tribunes that were delivered to my door while I was away in Florida. I believe only one of them, last week’s Thursday edition mentioned the Duluth Schools and that only to inform the public which of the incumbents were planning on running for reelection. The news must have been in the Friday paper copy because I my quote was given to reporter Hollingsworth Thursday morning while Airport announcements were being made in the background.

I had to repeat myself to Jana because I whipped my answer out pretty fast. I said,

“I don’t think there is anybody better prepared to deal with the challenges of the Duluth school district than somebody with my long experience, my patience and my impatience.”

Jana, didn’t add the bolding to that last bit about my impatience but I think she chuckled a bit under her breath when I repeated it. Its been a long three plus years with two of them wasted on a futile and destructive attempt to undue the 2013 election. Four of the board members who brought that about are now off or soon to retire leaving only Rosie Loeffler-Kemp to defend her pro-removal record and Art Johnston and me on the other side of that catastrophe to seek public vindication. Its that waste of two years which prompted my reference to both patience and impatience. It could hardly be otherwise.

The last year has seen some recovery from the first two dark years which imitated in microcosm the trials and tribulations of Washington D.C. Let’s hope that the tweet machine, Donald Trump, isn’t elected to the Duluth School Board this fall to fix everything.

My visit to Florida over the weekend brought home the division across the land as I listened to FOX News and visited with in-laws with very different opinions on the state of America. Hand me the sutures, Nurse, and some cotton for a little mopping up.

Oh, and this New York Times piece over the weekend on the same set of issues caught my attention: How the Left learned to Hate like the Right.

Before I leave for Florida….

…where I’ll be wishing my father-in-law a Happy 90th Birthday, I’ll point my eight loyal readers to two stories about what’s happening in the Duluth School District.

Second, from tomorrow’s News Tribune there is this. It explains the school board’s sudden surprising (to me)lack of enthusiasm about employing RSP as our guides for further public input on resetting school boundaries. Suddenly equity has more of our Board’s attention than the uneven distribution of our school age population.

And First, giving vent to his frustration with demographer’s is the Duluth School Board’s most faithful chronicler, Loren Martell, in the Duluth Reader.

And while its not online yet there may be another DNT story tomorrow mentioning that I will be running for reelection to the Duluth School Board. I’m not sure any of the other incumbents has announced yet but I’m kinda counting one colleague to join me at his leisure.