Category Archives: Education

Education – Issues before Congress

The Federal Government only funds about 7 percent of the cost of public schools. Most of this money is meant for school lunch programs and special education. The latter is a particular bugaboo for schools across the nation because originally the Congress had promised to fully funding it. But the full funding idea disappeared into a dark corner leaving a mostly unfunded mandate that is forced on local taxpayers to fund from property taxes.

I’ve written millions of words about education in the twelve years I’ve served on the Duluth School Board. In Duluth I’m best known for two things. Old time teachers have not forgotten that my school board invited a charter school into Duluth 20 years ago to bring in a school that might better address the needs of some of our lost kids. While some teachers have not forgiven me the community has generally been pleased with our Charters.

The other issue is the massive building plan authorized by the Board after my initial retirement from the Board in 2004. The So called Red Plan was put into place without a public vote and I raised hell about that. I saw “too-good-to-be-true” promises made in its behalf and scanty back up information supporting the promises. I took the School District to Court. There are two history books worth of day-by-day musing on that fight in this blog. I’ll just sum up by saying I was right and the School Board and the Unions and the Chamber of Commerce and the Duluth News Tribune have been proven wrong. The latter has never forgiven me for being proven right. Their editors love to call me a “perennial candidate” as a rebuke. No one likes an “I told you so.”

The buildings cost half a billion dollars. To pay for them the District laid off over a hundred teachers. Today almost all our local school taxes are going to pay off building bonds with very little left over for teachers. When I was on the Board we spent about 10 million more on teachers than we do today even though today’s school taxes are much higher. Now class sizes routinely hit 40 students per class.

Donald Trump has no monopoly on standing up for the voters. Sadly he is all hat and no cattle in the brain’s department.

Here’s one of several thousand posts on education. Its nothing special but it does express my deep reservations about Trump’s astoundingly rich Secretary of Education Betsy De Vos.

Elevating the Duluth School Board

I have not made a school board meeting since my “retirement” in December. I’m grateful that Loren Martell keeps attending. Recently he attended a “retreat” for Board members to get to know each other outside of the Board room. Loren was not impressed.

I will add that Art Johnston and I begged for such a retreat unsuccessfully for three years. Whether the current board members need to introduce each other to themselves seems doubtful.

Loren writes about the facilitator’s recommendation of using “elevator speeches” and acting (feigning?) unity in the face of internal divisions. On the other hand she also advocated openness and seemed taken aback to learn that agenda setting sessions were held behind closed doors with only two board members present. Here’s Martell’s description of her reaction:

“The next thing Ms. Gilman inquired about was the procedure for putting something on the agenda of Board meetings. When she discovered that only two Board members attend the agenda sessions along with the Superintendent’s team, she asked if the meetings were open. When she found out they were closed meetings, hidden from the public, she said, “That would be something to think about.””

The return of the bad old days?

I have not quite scrupulously avoided mention of the Duluth School District since the public retired me from the Duluth School Board. (a retirement I have been enjoying with gusto I will add) I have largely trusted to Loren Martell to keep the public apprised of its actions. But a couple of recent tidbits relating to the secretiveness of the top administrator and his most sympathetic board members have prompted some reminiscences.

Before I was elected to the School Board its members, some of its members, had a chummy relationship with its superintendents. The one I have in mind is Elliot Moeser. His Era saw the failure of an epic $50 million dollar referendum to replace or fix up our schools. This was almost thirty years ago and that price tag was eclipses six times over by the building plan of one of his successors Keith Dixon now commonly referred to as the Red Plan – a plan not put up for a community vote.

The subsequent years that I ran for the school board I heard that during the planning for this first stab at a facility fix up the board members routinely met with the Superintendent privately at one of their homes. I thought of this recently while driving by and noticing that it was up for sale. I believe that this process of holding private meetings is about to begin again. Its not the sort of process that encourages public confidence as no one is present to document the actions of board members.

And in addition to this a long planned get together for Board members to have a face to face discussion of the their deepest thoughts has been moved from the Administrative Office to a much smaller room in the Duluth Aquarium which will hold at most about twenty people on April 26th. I do not know if members of the public planning to watch the give and take will have to pay to enter the Aquarium. They would not be if the meeting was being held in Old Central and their would be much more room. We had such a meeting one Saturday in the regular Board room of Old Central. The doors were not locked to the public.

I had lobbied fruitlessly for such a get together during my recent years on the Board but was rebuffed by a board leadership that I gathered had no interest in such a meeting with me or Art Johnston who also requested such a gathering. Now that I’m gone I no longer stand in the way……..although the tiny room in the Aquarium does not suggest any particular openness. I’d suggest any members of the public planning to attend brown bag it.

Be advised, I spell out the “N” word in the following column – four times!

Don’t worry. I’m sure the defenders of Harper Lee and Mark Twain won’t mind.

Oh, and the Reader found or made up this cool graphic for the column I wrote: Kicking the “N” word out of ISD 709


ONE LONG FOOTNOTE:

For the second time in the last couple of weeks Linda Grover (a fellow columnist) tackles the same subject I have. Her’s is a more measured response whereas mine is a pissed off reaction to some national finger pointing at Duluth’s prissy, parochial, sensitivities as imagined by a bunch of smug, know-it-all elitists.

The one thing both columns share is an awareness of what its like to have your race made a subject of scorn in a classroom. Linda Grover, a proud Ojibwa Indian, recalls Twain’s “Injun Joe” as being a pretty hard pill to swallow. I’ll bet Sammy would have felt the same way.

Sammy was an Osage Indian kid in my sixth grade class. After hearing the author of Killers of the Flower Moon on NPR last year I have added the book to my reading list. I can’t help but wonder if Sammy’s grandparents were murdered for their mineral rights too. Solving the murders is what made today’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ironically, today President Trump is trying to kill the FBI with the help of a lot of Republican Congressional stooges.

Coda Coda

Before the day is out I will write a second coda of sorts to the previous post which I billed as a coda or the last word on the subject of the Twain and Lee books being taken out of 709’s curriculum. Saner heads have spoken out since the DNT first suggested that this curriculum change was an assault on civil rights. Perhaps the best so far comes from a Denfeld teacher Brian Jungman who concludes with these thoughts:

I would ask that white readers consider what would happen if the district required a book that explains why women should be treated equally and the dangers of sexism but that did so by mentioning the c-word more than 60 times. I don’t think we would be surprised to find out our female population was offended. So why does the n-word — when used to that same degree — get a pass?

Atticus said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I think this is what we need to do because my worry here in this debate is not that we are being Atticus. I worry that we might be Atticus’ Maycomb, Ala.

My coda will be for my next Not Eudora Column in the Duluth Reader coming out Thursday. I’ve already written two of them but each day some new angle begs for a better response. And what I will likely respond to is this self righteous email written to our current school board (no longer including me) that cries out for a riposte:

To members of the Duluth School Board,

Good job Duluth. Let’s ban more books. How about a public book burning. While your at it why don’t you ban these important books in order to reveal your Fascist colors. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Call of the Wild, The Autobiography of Malcom X, Beloved, Catch-22, The Jungle

But that will be for later today before the Duluth Reader’s submission deadline. For now I want to keep practicing my French. I’ve averaged about thirty minutes a day of practicing the language for two months. I hope to be semi-conversant before I arrange a visit to France in September on 100th anniversary of end of World War I. I’ve also begun a self-directed course of French History reading. I’m holding off on writing more about my Grandfather for the time being but that too involves the issue of the integration of black American’s into the life of the Nation. And I’ve got another trip planned this time with grandchildren. And I have three days of church activities ahead of me before my departure including an Ash Wednesday Service, a choir practice, a men’s group meeting, a pancake flipping dinner and the church building and grounds committee meeting. Pretty busy week for an agnostic like me.

The blog may suffer as a result of my other preoccupations but I don’t plan to.

Censoring Mark Twain and Harper Lee?

The DNT’s story on our Administration pulling Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird out of our curriculum made it to the Washington Post and the New York Times. A friend of mine asked me on Facebook about it today?

Harry, what’s up with the school board outlawing Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird?

I explained:

I am off the Board now so I am innocent. However, they are not banned. They are still in our libraries. It’s just that they won’ t be part of the curriculum. I think this story is much ado about nothing….however another story noted that today only 8 percent of high school students believe that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. That is alarming.

My friend told me I should read an editorial out of Post today that mentioned the 8 percent figure. Here’s the story which first publicized it.

Had our District pulled any book from our school libraries I would have joined the ACLU or any other group to object but that’s not what we did. That issue did face us in 1996, my first year on the Board, in a book which had the “N” word War Comes to Willie Freeman.

Anyone who cares about American history can not escape it. The N word appears in this blog. However, American schools seem to have been paralyzed by all manner of academic controversies. Teachers tippy toe around controversies. Slavery and race are radioactive, and Texas dependably leads the way to keep schools pro-Dixie and Christian Fundamentalist with its state-wide buys of text books that dis evolution, human driven global warming and other verboten truths and consequently impose these standards on all US text books.

Even so, both of the books scrubbed from English classes in Duluth are white centric and tied to earlier Eras in which white Americans were the champions for downtrodden blacks while the blacks had no agency. These are great books but it takes brave teachers to talk about these subjects. Too bad so many keep their heads down. This just keeps the next generation ignorant.

A Win for Equity in Duluth

The Duluth School Board is off to a strong start. Last night the new board swept aside Supt. Gronseth’s and David Kirby’s and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s objection to fairly distributing the Compensatory Ed funding..

It was important that Member Sandstad brought the motion and that it only started with an 80% figure for schools “earning” the funds keeping them. The new board members all voted in favor despite some early indications that they might heed the Superintendent’s reluctance.

Once again there was a good story in the Trib which gave tenacious Alanna Oswald much deserved recognition for the change.

I watched much of the public comment remotely from Bullhead City, Arizona, until I was called to dinner. I’d been following the push by the Equity group which I thought would fall through after Art Johnston and I were defeated in our reelection bids. Fortunately, my prediction proved far too pessimistic. The vote was unanimous.

You can watch the meeting here. So far 56 folks have watched some portion of the meeting online. I don’t know how many were present at the meeting but 20 people spoke in favor of Sandstad’s proposal.

Columbia Height’s school board compares poorly compared to Duluth’s

An reporter acquaintance of mine from the Twin Cities commended me for my recent column in the Reader. Later he told me of the obstacles the Columbia Heights School District placed in his way to cover their meetings. We’ve been communicating since the early days of the Red Plan. He thought the tidbit about the Tribune ending its regular coverage of the Duluth School District was funny. I presume as in funny odd.

He has dug into his pocket to the tune of $200.00 to ask for an opinion to slap the District’s hands. He explained:

On at least two previous occasions, the time they would unlock the doors for free entrance to the building was at 5:30. This was a little painful because a school board meeting might start at 5:30, although they usually start at 6:00. I was able to get into those 5:30 meetings, but the doors would not unlock until precisely 5:30 – and then you had no time to get there a few minutes early to sit down in the meeting room. If the school board chair was running late and they didn’t start precisely at 5:30, then the extra time was yours. I never missed anything because of this 5:30 unlocking time but it’s inconvenient in a way, to be rushing in. (If I ever had to video tape the meeting at 5:30, I would never have had the time needed to set up equipment before showtime – I would need a minimum of 30 min. to do that)

But on this last Tues night, they told me the unlocking of the doors was now at 6:00 pm. I said how the hell are you going to do that when the meeting starts at 5:30 and the public needs to get in?

Furthermore, the reporter was told he had to surrender his driver’s licence to the District if he wanted to enter the building before 6PM. In addition they do not show their meetings live and hold the right to edit community comments out of the video when it plays afterward.

I will miss Loren Martell’s reporting on me

Loren is often a week late for his Reader Column because the Reader goes to print Tuesday night when we have our regular Board meeting and the day after our Business Committee meetings.

I won’t miss being lectured to by my erstwhile colleagues but it’s certainly been gratifying to read the discussions that Loren’s columns transcribe. I hope he does some reporting on last night’s final meeting. This story about our red ink, which seems only to be online, has this brief interchange between Annie Harala and your’s truly:

The reserve, which was $2,359,436 at the start of last year, tanked to nearly half a million dollars in the red. Besides pointing a finger at special education, the district is also blaming that depletion on a levy adjustment for an elementary reading curriculum and a big loss of money due to enrollment once again dropping lower than projected.

“This year,” member Welty said, questioning this last point, “using ADM figures, I came up with 60 fewer kids.” Multiplying that with “the $12,300 per kid, I calculated that at about $740,000,” which, he added, “doesn’t account for the entire $3 million deficiency in revenues.”
“Member Welty, I think you missed a section of our conversation,” the Superintendent retorted, referring to the fact that member Johnston had just asked a similar question. “That was what member Johnston just asked —” Business Chair Harala chimed in, “and then you re-asked.”
“I think that question was legitimate from Mr. Welty,” member Johnston countered. “Looking at the numbers: they don’t quite jive.”
At one point, as the meeting progressed, Harala snipped under her breath that some Board members “should put their listening ears on.”
Harala also ventured a query of her own: “I have a question, before any other Board members start asking questions again. It’s kind of a–it’s a four-part question in one, that–aaaaaaah —so I keep thinking about–you know, there are some–I’m just gonna ask them: so what can we control, with where we’re at? And what can we do about what we can control? What can’t we control with how this budget happened, and what can we do about that? I just–we need–what–this is not a good state for us to be in. And what’s the plan for moving forward? So I’d just — I’d like to hear from administration on that —”

Expressing what everyone else in the room was thinking, Mr. G. replied: “I’m not sure I followed your four-part question, but I think I know where you’re headed.”
Over the past four years, whenever our current Chair of the Business Committee has asked a finance-related question, I’ve found myself fumbling with my listening ears, wondering how in the hell I can bring myself some relief by taking them OFF.

Squeezing some blood (thoughts on education) out of a turnip.

I began deleting old email messages on my District website a few moments ago. One gives me a link to clear out all of my district information on Google without disrupting non District info I had on a separate Google account previously. Having finished my holiday decorating…..including a second “fake” Christmas Tree in the basement with grandchildren produced gingerbread cookies I think its time to wrap up my District connections including turning in that tardy campaign finance form my Board policy book and my District ID’s and parking passes. I just discovered another eight inches worth of old Board books I’d put on some shelving to toss out so I’m really freeing up space. I have three or four bins of paperwork to look through some day and clean out as well.

I left my eight loyal readers hanging a couple days ago with assurances that there were subjects school district I intended to address related to All Day Kindergarten and more thoughts on Charter Schools. Promises, Promises. I’ll turn them into bullet points: Continue reading

Fighting my Blog freeze

I began writing the second fuzzy post on Kindergarten but stopped half way through. I’ll finish it and unlike its predecessor I may even proof read it. Why did I stop? Well, as I’ve confessed before my enthusiasm for writing about the Duluth Schools is significantly blunted at the moment what with Christmas, learning French and preparing to write a book and all. And did I mention I put five hours in starting a snow sculpture yesterday. I have even backtracked on a promise to the Business Office to turn in my post election finance report.

But today Jana Hollingsworth managed to put some special ed cost numbers in the Trib that our District has been unable to scrounge up what with its penchant for picking fights with Edison. I’d like to put that in perspective here and now but I won’t. I have to try to finish a snow sculpture before a noonish Christmas Concert for my grandsons. That’s become another priority over my receding compulsion to write about everything ISD 709.

Its kind of too bad that someone like me has been pushed off the 709 School Board. I am a genuine see-both-sides-of-the-story kind of politician. I want what’s best and fair for both our public school systems in Duluth even though I was elected to serve the larger 709 schools. Now the Superintendent has reinforced his anti-Edison majority which will not bode well for passage of future operational levies. (Why should Edison families vote for 709 operational levies when they feel under assault?)

Edison is quite right to claim that its schools are being scapegoated in the current 709 financial shortfall. But 709 has a legitimate beef. Edison spends twice as much on its special ed students as 709 does and then puts 709 in the position of paying for their more generous special ed spending. That creates a bidding war that 709 can never win with parents determined to get the best education for their special needs children.

But for local taxpayers Edison is something of a godsend. Other than the cross subsidy for special ed almost all of Edison’s financing comes from State taxpayers. To keep the numbers grossly simplified lets say each public school child (not counting special ed kids) costs $10,000 a year to teach. To keep things just as simple lets say that Edison has 1,000 students and ISD 709 has 9,000 for a total of 10,000 students. (In reality Edison has more and 709 less) This would mean that Edison gets $10 million for its kids and ISD 709 $90 million or a total of $100 million.

Normally 709 taxpayers would cover about 20% of the costs of local public school kids while the state would cover about 75% of those costs. Twenty percent of 10,000 students would cost local taxpayers $20 million each year or $2 million for every thousand students. Ah, but the state pays the full freight (not counting the cross subsidy) for Edison’s thousand students. Local taxpayers thus get a $2 million savings. Even when you subtract out the cross subsidy local taxpayers are getting a nice subsidy courtesy of state taxpayers.

That doesn’t mean that 709 doesn’t feel the burn as parents pull their children out of 709 school for Edison’s special education which then bills 709 for its more generous spending. Yes, yes, yes. The state law only lets Edison charge 90% of its special ed costs to 709 but considering they are spending double on each special ed student that’s a very modest break.

I’ll keep things grossly oversimplified again. Assuming that 20% of Edison’s students are special ed students (200 kids) and cost double what 709 spends. And assuming that the costs are $20,000 for Edison SPED students and $10,000 for 709 kids. And then, completely forgetting the 10% reimbursement discount. Edison could demand $4 million from 709 or two million more than 709 would pay to educate Edison’s SPED students if they were all in 709 schools.

The actual numbers can be found in today’s Trib story. To me they strongly suggest that some compromise ought to be sought in state statute. They also suggest another reason for the 709 schools to be resistant to the sale of Central to Edison. Edison would be able to charge special ed costs to 709 for 9th through 12th grade students that currently attend 709. That would be a special ed enrollment jump of about 25% for Edison meaning more costs charged to 709.

It took the News Tribune to ferret out this information and so local 709 junkies can be sorry to see Jana Hollingsworth leave the education beat. There is no trust or cooperation between Edison and 709. The bridge I might have formed has been severed by the voters and that is a loss. My daughter was an Edison SPED teacher for the last couple of years until she left for another Independent School District and, through her eyes, I had an inkling of that took place in Edison. At double the spending of 709 they offer wonderful special ed services but even they have their challenges.

I’ll add one other marvelously oversimplified wrinkle to this story. At present Minnesota taxpayers are able to deduct all of their state and local taxes from their federal tax returns. The Congressional Republicans and President Trump are diminishing that deduction with the soon-to-be approved new tax changes. They don’t want the penurious (cheap) super Republican southern states to look so bad by comparison with Blue states in their public ed spending. I called that the “Deep Southification” of America in a recent post. Its better that northerners are penalized for having better schools. My hero, Lincoln, must be rolling in his Springfield grave over that.

If Minnesotan’s tire of funding the cost of Special Education because they can no longer deduct those costs from their Federal taxes it could be curtains for lots of children. Its too bad that Republicans only care about children when they are in utero instead of after they are born.

Two fuzzies, a referendum and a gift horse (2F,R,Horse) – A prologue

NOTE: I ONLY TYPED THIS UP TO CLEAR MY MIND SO AS TO GET BACK TO SLEEP. THESE 1485 WORDS SERVE AS BOTH THE PROLOGUE AND FUZZY NUMBER 1 (SPECIAL EDUCATION) I HAVE NO PATIENCE TO EDIT IT. ITS MY SLEEPING PILL AND I DO NOT PROOF READ SLEEPING PILLS. I’M GOING TO BED AND MAY OR MAY NOT ADD TO THIS ONE MORE FUZZY POST (ABOUT KINDERGARTEN), A POST ON THE NEXT REFERENDUM AND ONE ABOUT A GIFT HORSE.

My last post ended as though I was washing my hands of the Duluth Schools thusly: “Not my problem. My last meeting is Tuesday night. I lost. I’m free.”

Then my one remaining success on the Duluth School Board, Alanna Oswald, sent me an email which kindly punctured my balloon. She pointed out that a special Thursday meeting has been added to our schedule to “fix” our belatedly announced budget shortfall of two million plus bucks. We, the school board, have to do something because if we don’t the shortfall is enough to put us into Statutory Operating Debt otherwise known as Financial Hell. Its where the frog is pithed (made brain dead) just before a couple of high school freshman start carving it up for a lesson in anatomy. So, I will be resurrected zombie-like and made to slap some band aids on our budget before a new posse is sworn in to save the day after.

[I say Alanna is my only remaining success because Art Johnston, (who I helped “tame” the way one might attempt to turn a bobcat into a house cat) and I have both been forcibly retired by the voters. I worked my tuchus off to elect Alanna two years ago and she is by far the only person on the school board who understands our school’s workings as well as our top administrators. I fear the rest of the board will ignore her in deference to the Superintendent.]

So……there is no washing my hands of the District just yet…..especially since I’m keeping my campaign checking account open until the 2019 election just in case. And that means I woke up at 2AM with the Duluth Schools on my fevered brain…..sacre bleu. (I told you I’ve been studying French.)

First fuzzy (and not a warm one) Special Education funding: Continue reading

Being willing to lose

For the past week I’ve had a post-it note on my keyboard with the phrase “Being willing to lose” stuck to it. It is one of dozens of posts I’ve not posted as I begin turning my attention to my new postschool board life. I’m in the state of metamorphosis and so are my eight loyal readers. My Anti Trump rants seem to have have cost me two regulars who no longer write to challenge or debate me. They’ve gone to their own silos. But others have discovered my blog. A month after the election with very little being posted I’m still averaging 400 peeks a day. That’s a rough doubling from the pre-election numbers.

By the way, its 3 AM. I’ve been sleeping poorly of late and I think its because I haven’t been posting. Spending an hour or two during the day emptying my head onto the Internet seems to let me sleep through the night. Therefore, not blogging about the School Board or the titanic national political climate has been a poor option for me. I need the sleep if for no other reason than to fend off dementia. Look what the absence of sleep has done for our President!

I recycled a file cabinet’s worth of School Board meeting books yesterday. It felt good if not quite final. I’m keeping that campaign account open for two years from now and have even disclosed that fact to Claudia. “Why would you want to run again?” she asked me. That’s a good question that I’ll answer in a couple years if I still have that burr under my saddle.

I’ve stuck all the remaining School Board related materials in one corner of my office to sort through. I still owe the public and our CFO’s executive secretary one last campaign finance report. She gently warned me I was late with it a couple days ago. It was due December 7th. She also told me that not turning it in put my status as her favorite school board member in jeopardy. I’ve told her before that I suspect she says the same thing to all the other school board members – about my being her favorite. As for the current delay I explained that this date has long been noted as a “Day of Infamy.”

Other than stewing about the world’s, and the school district’s problems at night I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my pending status as a free man. I just started my third holiday jigsaw puzzle. I’ve decorated the house for Christmas. I’ve made more time for my grandsons. I’ve made my lawn ready for Winter. I’ve been reading books and the New York Times. And, I’ve decided to take up French. Now that I’m free from the school board I intend to write about my Grandfather a century after his militarily service in France. Claudia and I have begun looking at trips we might take to Ooh La La land. I’ve found it very easy to get lost in the French language App Duolingo. I’ve got s’il vous plait down, finally, thank you very much.

Tonight our grandsons were over and we watched Home Alone with them. Its the first time I’d seen it in twenty years. Oh that Culkin was cute. Afterward we baked Gingerbread Cookie, Xmas ornaments. Tomorrow we will go to church to rehearse Sunday’s children’s service with a Christmas pageant. School Board! What’s that?

After showers and a very late nine O’clock bedtime I read the boys a small slice of my blog’s “Harry’s Diary” from three years, ten days ago. They were a big part of that post – the day my Mother died. I didn’t write it for children but I did write it for them much as my Mother sat me down and told me family stories. If I write that book about my Grandfather Mom will be my co-author. As I did the day Mom died I sang Good King Wenceslas to the boys after I finished reading them the post. Then I went downstairs to watch Washington Week in Review with Claudia. Hooray for Alabama!

Oh, and about this post’s title. I began my political career 16 election campaigns ago with the idea that I had an obligation to make clear what I stood for and that this obligation took precedence over getting elected. I hate the idea of keeping one’s political agenda to oneself for fear of losing an election. For instance, I’d be embarrassed to let the people of Duluth think I was open minded about selling an empty ten million dollar albatross to a competitor. That’s the modus operandi of our probable next school board chair.

With my retirement the blog will have far fewer revelations about the Duluth Schools which will make our Superintendent happy. He set his wife and the union to work to elect a more compliant school board and succeeded mightily. Now he has a lot more positivity to deal with the two million shortfall he recently revealed to the world.

Here’s one of Jana Hollingsworth’s last stories as the Trib’s Education Reporter on the District’s attempts to solve its financial difficulties.

Not my problem. My last meeting is Tuesday night.

I lost. I’m free.

Comp ed

I’ve been sent an email reminding me to return my school board member’s visitor pass and parking permit, sure signs of my lame duck status. I’m not completely finished. I just got to a Double Tree Motel in Minneapolis to participate in the MSBA Delegate Assembly tomorrow. That’s where school board reps will determine what the state school board association lobbies the legislature for.

I’ll share one last email sent to the Duluth School board with equal parts complaint and thank you:

November 30, 2017

School Board Members

To school board members Annie Harala, David Kirby and Rosie Loeffleer-Kemp again you express your preference to only supporting the needs of East High School students. Your vote does not surprise me, but you should be ashamed that you do not equally represent all of Duluth’s High School students. Parents and grandparents of students throughout Duluth are at a loss as to there your priority regarding students is. It is too obvious who you deem worthy of your concern. As a resident and tax payers I want all students equally represented throughout the Duluth school system .

The difference in attendance between the two high schools has been a major issue which you have not resolved. But [you] continue to use this funding to resolve problems at East’s because of its enrollment numbers. If you refuse to resolve or are unable to resolve the attendance issue please remove yourself from the position of a responsible school board member, we need members who want all students to have equal advantages and giving all schools equal footing can resolve most of our current issues and distrust.

All the concerns regarding changing the use of this funding seem to be based [on] one school, large class sizes, teachers affected, loss of counselors. These concerns are already losses for Denfeld students. Denfeld has class size increases but the loss of subject availability has been the worst for educational opportunities. Time to open your eyes and see the city as a whole unit not just who can be assisted the easiest. Denfeld is in crisis mode and you don’t seem to care.

This funding has a purpose but is not used for that purpose. Denfeld students do not deserve only 80% of its allocation while East receives almost 400%, really, you feel good in knowing you have treated all students fairly. I see the scale of justice for all students very off balance. And to quote John Krumm on the issue from the Duluth News Tribune. The west side was “paying for part of our cake.”

I hope you do not believe your are pulling the wool over the eyes of residents of Duluth, for you are not. But you should be ashamed for not stopping the injustice of it all. Our students deserve better representation than you give them.

And to school board members Alanna Oswald, Art Johnson and Harry Welty thank you for trying to address the injustice you see going on with our current school board. And for school board member Nora Sandstad, it was too bad you could not of stayed and showed us what side of justice you were on.

Sincerely
Xxxxx
DuuthMN 55808

I replied:

Harry Welty
1:15 PM (5 minutes ago)

to xxxxxxx,

Please make your concerns known to the new school board members who will take office in January. They will be part of the votes in June which will decide the next budget and whether Compensatory Education funding is spent as the legislature intended it to be.

Harry

The Esko Girl was missing

There was one noteworthy absence from yesterday’s special School Board meeting to give the Western School Equity group a public hearing – the newly elected representative of the Denfeld area.

A short while ago I spent an evening in the Duluth Public Library looking through the annuals of Duluth’s high schools to get a better picture of the many connections between current poobahs in the Duluth Schools. I looked through a great many Denfeld books trying to figure out which class Jill Lofald had been a member of. When I failed to find any evidence of her I was puzzled. During every public forum I was at Jill made it sound like she was Denfeld born and bred not just a long time Denfeld teacher. When I asked a friend about this they pointed out that Jill graduated from Esko’s schools. I guess I should have figured that out in advance because her older sister was a member of the Esko school board.

The meeting itself turned out to be a much bigger deal than I had anticipated. Alanna Oswald, Art Johnston and I had originally wanted no more than to let the equity group sit with us at a school board committee meeting to talk with us. When our Administration and its majority on the school board did its best to thwart this discussion the three of us once again made use of the State statute allowing three board members to call a special meeting. It was the Central High School sale discussion all over again with a large audience of concerned citizens.

Board member elect Josh Gorham was at the meeting. He’s been a regular at our meetings for a couple months now. I even saw Sally Trnka briefly when she hugged her old rival Dana Krivogorsky who had been watching the meeting on youtube before she arrived to watch the meeting in person for the last hour and a half.

There were a lot of Denfeldites at the meeting as well. At the beginning of the hour the three meeting callers had to plead with the majority to allow the equity folks get that chance to have an exchange of information and discussion as Chair Kirby seemed intent on limiting non-school board members limited to the three minutes they have at our regular public comment portion of school board meetings. We managed to soften up the opposition to this so that Kevin Skirwa-Brown and others managed to say just about everything they wanted to the School Board.

But the discussion included a couple of eastern parents who spoke in support of continuing to spend the western kid’s money to keep eastern class sizes small. They had been whipped up to attend by reelected member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp to counteract the lobbying by the western parents. Their appeals did not do them much credit and took on a very NIMBY tone even when they bent over backward to try and sound fair minded. Fortunately, one Eastern parent who described himself as a “cake” (East High cake eater) took the opposite approach expressing embarrassment that his kids got to have poor kid’s money spent on them. I thanked him after the meeting.

These comments brought two more Denfeld supporters out to stick up for the work of the equity folks. Dr. Mary Owens spoke eloquently about this being an issue of Justice. At the end of the meeting I told her that if she ever wanted to run for the school board I would be her campaign manager. Denfeld grad and teacher Tom Tusken also spoke forcefully and mentioned that anyone who thought there were small classes at Denfeld should sit in his class of 37 kids.

Jill Lofald’s neice Jana Hollingsworth was at one of her last school board meetings and wrote a fair news story about it for today’s Trib. Its one of her last because the Trib has concluded that her familial relationship with Jill will call her journalistic impartiality into question. Someone new will become the education reporter for the Trib and that’s too bad because it takes a reporter years to figure out the complicated story of our schools. When I served on the Board in my first incarnation near the end of the golden era of Newspapers the Trib had three education reporters. Its too bad that Ms. Lofald’s election will put the school district on the Trib’s back burner. I suspect the Superintendent and the majority of School Board members will breath a sigh of relief.

On Being Charlie

“That’s just Charlie being Charlie.” That was the rationalization Charlie Rose’s right-hand woman gave the young ladies who told her disturbing stories about their boss. She just chalked it up to …I don’t know, eccentricity I guess.

A cavalcade of clay feet have been revealed to be little more than heels in recent weeks. I, for one, appreciate the stink. It’s long overdue and there is nothing eccentric about this. From CK’s exhibitionistic Onanism to the barring of a District Attorney from his local shopping mall all of these stories have been “creepy.” As our soon-to-be President said on tape, “When you’re a star they let you do it,” adding, “You can do anything.”

I’ve put a lot of thought into the sexual proclivities of men since my best friend told me how he persuaded a neighbor kid to pimp his twelve-year old sister so that my buddy could have sex with her. We were high school freshmen. I would be five years older before my first such experience and it would be with an older woman where the power differential was more nearly equal. Continue reading