Paul Replies

Paul Goosens has sent me a quite rational, if not irrefutable, response to my recent post. Its gratifying to know Paul still checks my blog out:

Greetings, Harry

I read with interest and continued amusement, your recent post about the plans to build a new school for Edison Charter Schools. I will spare the details of the inaccuracies in your post (I have long ago learned how fruitless it is to point out your factual inaccuracies), although you do somehow stumble your way through to point out some redeeming qualities about the Edison Charter Schools.

I just might add that for most of us, our choice to enroll our children at Edison is not a stance “against” something, but rather a proactive choice “for” something. As you have engaged so much of your personal energy “against” this or that, I understand that you might find such a position increasingly difficult to fathom.

My point in writing is not to re-engage in debate, Harry, but rather share my chuckle that you still don’t seem to “get it”. It seems you are so blinded by your one sided obsession with Dr. Dixon and the 709 Board, that you continue to fail to grasp that for many of us, the world is not an “us” vs. “them” arena. Blame me for wanting to have my cake and eat it too. So be it. Yes, I want it all! I want a strong charter school system in town AND a strong traditional public school! And get this….eek gads!… I ALSO want a strong set of private and parochial school options. What I will proudly plead guilty to is the belief that Duluth deserves a comprehensive, rich, challenging, and varied set of educational opportunities that, together, meet the varied needs of students and parents. I don’t see that as too particularly complex of an idea to grasp, although, I understand that from your perspective, unfortunately increasingly narrowed over the past several years by this obsessive and oppositional quest of yours, THAT might be hard for you to understand. Thus you mock. I have come to expect no less from you. That is unfortunate.

Regards,

Paul Goossens

The art and science of seduction

I read about a discovery recently concerning water striders those bugs who skate above water. It seems males will make vibrations on the water that attract predators whenever the female striders they mount resist them. Females either submit to the male or face being devoured from below.

Internet services offer some less lethal opportunities for sexual aggrandizement.

“Anyway, last weekend I was talking to an acquaintance about his use of such services. He has his assistant seducing women for him. His assistant, who is female and lives in India, logs onto his account on a popular dating site, browses profiles and (pretending to be him) makes connections with women on the site. She has e-mail conversations and arranges first dates. Then her employer reads the e-mail conversation and goes to the date.”

Old Chestnuts

My posts have been few and far between recently. Its not for want of topics but rather my inclination to practice grandfathering and read books again.

My eight loyal readers know that I’ve been reading the recently published full diary of Anne Frank out loud to my wife this summer. (I obviously haven’t read it every night or we would have finished it long ago)

Keeping Anne on my mind has been an antidote to too much self absorption. A couple days ago there was a news story about the chestnut tree that Anne could see from her hiding place falling over. By coincidence that night when I resumed reading the first diary entry I read mentioned the chestnut.

Anne hasn’t been far from my thoughts. Last week NPR had a story about Adolph Hitler’s signature being found on the Nuremberg laws which made Jews second class German Citizens and which were a precursor to the Holocaust.

Also a short time ago I ran across a Christian rock music video which was a peaen to Anne Frank that brought me to tears with a succession of photos of Anne and her family.

Last night I finally finished the diary and finally ran across Anne’s famous quote about still having faith in humanity despite everything. She was just a year younger than my Mother.

Having his cake and eating it too

I got a call recently from a former Duluth City Councilor asking me about a public notice that the Edison Schools are building a new school up along the Rice Lake Road.

Over the years this Councilor has talked to me about Edison because I was on the School Board that invited Edison into town twelve years ago. Charter Schools are a Minnesota innovation that were the brainchild of a DFL Governor, Rudy Perpich, and then championed by a Democrat (ic) President, Bill Clinton.

It would take a book to cover the Edison School history in Duluth and this post can’t do that history justice. I’ll just say I was the most reluctant vote to bring Edison in and the fiercest defender of Edison once it was established. I’ve never regretted the decision and while I’m appalled that Edison has been able to gouge so many students out of ISD 709 due to the District’s ineptitude it remains what it has always been, a refuge for kids who need to flee the 709 schools. Holy Cow! They’ve taken in a couple hundred more students AGAIN this year and have a 180 student waiting list. They are doing something right.

One more disclosure – my daughter works for Edison, no thanks to me. She loves it there.

Edison operates under state statutes regarding charter schools. It is building a new school that will be paid for by the State of Minnesota and not, as I understand it, financed by Duluth area residents. I wish I could say the same thing about the Red Plan’s construction. Once built the new Edison school will be able to take in even more students.

Edison does not pay its teachers as well as the Duluth Schools. Its teachers are under tighter supervision. It takes on more difficult special education students. lts test scores show it is roughly the equal of the Duluth public schools despite this handicap. There is a fairly high morale among Edison teachers which is one key to their success. They are not oppressed by their own union leadership (they have none) which is the principle reason the DFT took such umbrage to having an Edison charter plunked down in Duluth.

Charter schools are not private schools. They are public schools paid for by taxpayers. As with their new school’s construction Edison draws more heavily on state funds than the Duluth School District. This is because they receive very little, if any, of the locally approved operational levy. This is yet one more handicap that Edison has overcome.

One last point. As a connoisseur of fine irony I’d like to share this with my eight loyal readers.

All through the initial stage of fighting the Red Plan I had one particularly venomous critic Paul Goosens. He condemned me in some very tough letters to the editor and submitted uncounted snide comments about me on the DNT’s web pages. Put his name in Lincoln Democrat’s search function and you will see that I give as good as I get.

Paul Goosens is convinced that brand new schools are a key to a better education for our children in the Duluth Public Schools. One potential consequence of new schools would be their ability to draw students into our schools from surrounding districts thus increasing revenue, allowing us to hire new teachers and add new programs.

Paul’s actions will make this a little harder to accomplish because he once chaired the non-profit Edison set up to build their new school which will allow them to draw students away from the Red Plan Schools Paul frothed at the mouth to defend.

As the kids say – “Go figure?”

Bending over backward for ISD 709

Property developers must have their tongues hanging out all over Duluth as they enviously see how readily the City gives in to the School District for Red Plan variance requests.

Here’s an email sent by City Councilor Jim Stauber to the City Attorney on that subject.

Mr. Johnson, we (the Duluth City Council) have granted numerous variances based upon our own beliefs of the definition of “hardship.” Many of the most significant recent variances have been granted (with more to come) to ISD 709. The most prominent ones in my mind are those for the new Eastern High School.

The memo we received from your office on “Variance Policy Update” and in specific regarding “hardships” referencing the MN Supreme Court decision on
Krummenacher v Minneapolis seems to make it clear that our interpretation and subsequent decisions in many cases may not have been according to state law. Specifically, “The property in question cannot be put to reasonable use if used under conditions allowed by the official controls.” This memo to the BZA regarding Resolution 440 seems to make it clear we need to stop granting these under our current practice.

Since the Municipal Planning Act has been around for decades and this language has remained the same, our granting of these variances in the past could be challenged in court, assuming there are limitations on how far back someone could go. My guess, however, is that all of these variances to ISD 709 could be subject to challenge as they are fairly recent and according to the MN Supreme Court, “too bad so sad,” but unless and until the state legislature takes action, that’s what the law says.

While I believe municipalities should have a little more latitude on granting variances, today, that’s not what the law says. I also believe that challenges would have a very high chance of success based on the ruling of 24 June 2010.

Gunnar, I’m looking for feedback on my logic here.

Thanks, Jim.

Fan mail from some flounder

I’m kinda glad that Loren Martell made a stink about the District making its public correspondence, well, public. This one came out with the rubber stamp notation “spindled” on it. I’ve retyped it.

• SPINDLED LETTER
RECEIVED AUG 26 2010
OFFiCEOF THE SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS

Mr. Grover, Board Chair:

I live just slightly west of your district, but everything you’ve done affects me so I decided to write. You represent for me everything that is wrong in politics today. I just get so disgusted by public officials like you who tell people something in order to get their vote, and then go running off on their own agendas after the election. I doubt you have the courage to run for re-election, given your attempts to shut down all debate about your indefensible betrayals. I hope you don’t plan on running for any other political office. Only a fool would dare to run again for anything in this town, with a documented track record of lies like you have. Please distribute to all board members and make this letter public.

Robert Slimak 326 N 19th Ave W Duluth

300 more students RIP

Dr. Dixon is pleased they can find a good education elsewhere.

Lamentable quotes.

“[Dr. Dixon] knows that parents are looking for stability right now but says that the public school system won’t be able to offer that for at least the next couple of years.”

“Over all enrollment at private schools in Minnesota has remained stable, Denny. That makes Duluth one of the only areas in the state to see an increase in enrollment in the private sector.”

Critiquing East High

I received this email evaluation of the new East High. Unless there is some dramatic change I’d have to say I agree with this appraisal. Eastern Duluth seems to have backed this school through its votes. It remains to be seen if eastern Duluth will be pleased with their new school and equity bestowing stadium. And parking hasn’t even been addressed in anything like a proactive way. Maybe the School Board will take the advice I read another commentator make and require students to take school buses to East. That would be popular.

I got a look at the new Denfeld addition a few days ago. Some people have commented that the addition to Denfeld obstructs the original facade. It certainly does, however unlike East Denfeld as a whole doesn’t seem so “squished” into its space. At least that’s my unschooled impression.

Harry,
If you haven’t driven by the new and improved Eastern HS you will be surprised.

Boring. The Superior St. facade has the “we better add something interesting” look to it. No creativity.

And that $5000 inscription? Long, block letters across the front. Not a nice pleasant plaque.

It is hard to believe that any city concerned about traffic safety would have allowed that entrance right before a stoplight. Accident waiting to happen. Congestion will happen. And that entrance also serves to highlight just how ill-conceived the building is, squished into a corner.

The downward slope of the building is not welcoming, more like impending doom. Quite fitting.

A+, D-

Its a shame that the DNT doesn’t put its local cartoonist Steve Lindstrom’s cartoons on its website.

I was so preoccupied reading the editorial a few days ago about my neighbor taking on the duty of being on the editorial board that I failed to notice the Lindstrom cartoon that sat beside it. When the cartoon was described to me I had to go back to the Monday paper to see it for myself especially after hearing that the Superintendent said it did the School District no credit. (which I took to mean it did Dr. Dixon little credit) It was simple and pointed. It showed a character representing the School District proudly holding up a report card on “new buildings” graded A+ and holding behind his back another report card on “teaching students” with a D-.

I have to give the editorial board credit for publishing letters (including mine) which often drive stakes of holly through their heart. The Lindstrom cartoon is a similar rebuke.

A belated thank you

My campaign got a little financial contribution today. The note that came with it helps assure me that while I may not be a Washington or a Lincoln my fight was nonetheless of value:

8-17-10

Dear Mr. Welty,

Thank you for the noble effort toward the 7th Senate Dist. seat. I vote for you and would not hesitate to do so for whichever position yo seek in the future. Your voice against the Red Plan and all the shenanigans surrounding it, is the voice of truth and justice. Carry on. Too bad our only newspaper fails to honor that truth. Today I lament the official groundbreaking for the Lincoln Park Middle School. Sending you this donation helps to ease the pain.

1865 T0 1776

One of the many sacrifices I made for the three years I most actively fought the Red Plan was to give up reading history. Oh, I read dribs and drabs but I didn’t wade into a single serious book for most of that time. Last Fall after easing myself out of the lawsuit I picked up a history by a Pulitzer winner about the exploration of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon while my wife and I traveled around the Colorado Plateau.

As regular readers know I’ve been reading a bio about Abe Lincoln the writer. I finished it a few days ago. Some day I’ll read just the last chapter again. It had, among other things, the most concise and blunt history of Minnesota’s Sioux Uprising. Its a subject I once wrote about for a Reader Column. I mentioned that I was ready to wade into Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” but frankly I needed to find a little shorter book first. Resting next to it was 1776, another Pulitzer winner, written by David McCullough. I’m 96 pages into it. A great read so far.

I might have read the last of Ann Frank’s Diary yesterday to Claudia except that it was our 36th wedding anniversary and somehow the Frank Diary seemed like the wrong thing to finish on this particular day.

One thing both histories reminded me of was just how long a good cause can run. My three year fight although ultimately unsuccessful was never destined [sorry for the interruption I just got a automated phone call offering the Welty for Senate Campaign the use of automated calls] was never destined to be a short term project. For some the fight continues.

Goosed

I didn’t know who the letter writer (previous post) was but others do. He’s a single fellow, a Duluth East Grad and a former Piedmont teacher. Former because Piedmont is currently leveled while the District is negotiating with the church across the street to buy the land it will need to build Piedmont’s replacement. (Cart before the horse!)

One LDV regular made this ironic observation about the letter writer’s showering praise on Board Chair Grover to wit:

Yep, Single, employer is ISD 709, and does NOT LIVE IN GROVER’S DISTRICT – and graduated from Duluth East himself.

I remember Tim Grover saying many times that when he gets a letter or email he immediately looks up where the person lives, and if they are not in his district then he says their opinion doesn’t matter to him, because it is his job to listen to his district (choke, choke.) and here we finally see someone speak for him…and here we go., he isn’t even affected by the construction OR IN GROVER’S DISTRICT!

Sauce for the goose

The letter in today’s Trib deserves some reply.

Reader’s view: Grover displays courage in face of Red plan foes

Duluth School Board Chairman Tim Grover has demonstrated exemplary and courageous leadership in the implementation of the Long-Range Facilities Plan. Despite insults and harassment by an irrational few, he’s been able to keep perspective, focusing on the task at hand and providing quality education for our children.

Its true that Tim has endured insults. I do not see that his critics are any less rational than his supporters.

Being pragmatic, he understands the need for a comprehensive facilities plan to benefit the entire city. Unlike those board members who blindly oppose any progress, Grover sees the need for change and has worked for compromise, guiding a process that has been under budget and on time and that has brought businesses, families and neighbors together.

Tim has always valued pragmatism but this has been as much about choosing the side he thought would eventually win as improving our schools. Whether this will provide a better education for our children in the long run remains to be seen. The short term dislocations, and relocation of entire school populations, the laying off of teachers etc is doing little to improve short term education. Hiring an ex police chief in anticipation of quelling student violence does not suggest a particularly healthy educational climate.

The naysayers have thrown up multiple obstacles to stop progress toward creating better schools. Frivolous lawsuits, costing hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, have been thrown out of court. Despite fear-mongering, eminent domain has not been used, and no one has lost their home because of increased taxes.

The naysayers were never given a vote on a plan which was the first obstacle and sadly they never were able to overcome this. I can assure that the lawsuit filed was so deadly to the Red Plan that the District was desperate to delay and derail it. As for the costs to the District of fending off critics – if the Superintendent can be trusted it did not stop the District from saving $32 million in construction costs. I personally doubt this but since Johnson Controls has been under fire for three years its entirely likely that the constant pressure of Red Plan critics made it difficult for the contractors to milk the project of additional earnings when no one was looking.

Grover has personally made efforts to reach out to individual families to hear their concerns and work toward understanding and compromise. Traffic patterns, entries and parking have been modified to meet local needs. For example, collaboration between the city and school district helped create a vision where Memorial Park and Laura MacArthur Elementary will be jewels to the community. The district and Grover continue to be committed to finding workable solutions to neighborhood concerns.

I know Tim made a few such efforts. He is the chief author of the referendum that will likely be put to a vote in the fall, a referendum he is now ridiculing. I have little doubt that there will be some gems among the new schools. For $430 million dollars it would be a terrible shame if this were not the case. As for other schools, well, the new Duluth East looks incredibly cramped to me which was predicted by a very experienced landscape architect long before the first shovel full of dirt was removed. I remain skeptical that the site will ever be regarded as practical for the number of students who will be crammed into it without acquiring many more homes for future expansion.

In the middle of an understandably difficult transition to a two-high school structure, Grover has kept a level head and followed the rules. He continues to work for the community.

If turning off microphones on critics and walking out of meetings is playing by the rules that’s news to me. It certainly isn’t level headed.

The naysayers would have you think otherwise. But speaking louder and longer and twisting the facts at School Board meetings doesn’t make you right – just loud, longwinded and twisted.

As the kids I knew in grade school used to say: “same to you and more of it.” As their parents used to say: “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

John Bushey

For Southern Rights Hurrah

I’m just sixteen pages from finishing a biography of Lincoln that I’ve commented on before. Its not a book for the beginner but it has given me new insights on Lincoln that compliment the history of his Cooper Union Speech that I so appreciated.

Lincoln is often beaten up by libertarians for his short lived suspension of habeus corpus. The author says doing so during an insurrection is constitutionally protected which could be true. Whether it is or not I’ve always given Lincoln a pass on this because he did face an insurrection and because he so lightly abused the lifting of this protection. In the famous case of Vandlandingham Lincoln seems to have been eager for his critic released to the South and get him out of his hair than to injure the Copperhead.

I love the Amazon search function that allows one to search for passages within books. If this link works it will take you to the general pages where I left off. [note: the link only takes you to the book’s Amazon page. If you type in “libertarian” into the search box it will take you to the page in question] The author points out how it was in the libertarian South that real civil liberties were suppressed not Lincoln’s North. They even forbade opposition political parties. Lincoln wasn’t even on the ballot in most Southern states. In some ways their violation of their own philosophy of state’s rights was simply a matter of self preservation. However, I find it ironic that the current GOP which has become a place of refuge for Southern “conservatives” sounds a lot like the South depicted in these pages around the 332 mark.

Once I finish this and Anne Frank’s diary I may jump into the Goodwin book Team of Rivals although if I read it at the same pace that I’ve read these books it may be two years before I complete it.

The one bldg needing AC

Since we no longer offer any serious summer school there is only one building left where people swelter in the summer. Too bad that was the only building for which the installation of Air Conditioning was canceled. Johnson Controls is making millions on all the AC it decided the District needed installed in those other schools.

Early Release
william c. hanson
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:31 PM
To:
School Board
I wanted to let you know that I elected to close the office early today. Employees were allowed to leave two hours prior to the end of their normal work day without penalty. After four days of these warm and humid conditions, I know people were having problems tolerating the conditions.

I appreciate your understanding of this situation. If you have any questions, please let me know.