“I am disappointed by your recent post:”

An email recently sent to me at my school board email:

Mr Welty

I am disappointed by your recent post:

“I’d like Art Johnston to go all the way to the US Supreme Court and
win a judgement that the Duluth School Board has violated his free
speech rights and then levy a multi-million dollar judgement against
the District. If insurance will pay for this dreadful fight maybe that
makes it OK. To hell with our children!”

I appreciate the usefulness of an iconoclast or a gadfly, and I
realize that this post was meant to be tongue in cheek, but this is
out of hand. The Red Plan is done. Let’s just move on.

Please change your attitudes or resign from the board; let Duluth move
on with the business of educating our kids.

Sincerely yours,

E B

My Reply (by the way point J. refers to the “Atom Bomb” that I will soon be writing about. I’ll bet Loren Martell will write about it too in tomorrow’s Reader Weekly) Continue reading

Wrassling

The string of seven and eight hour nights worth of sleep keeps chugging along. I must be doing something right. Recently I got two thousand dollar pledges to help with Art’s legal fight so that put me in a good mood. I’ll have to write and send out a first fundraising letter soon now that my time is getting freed up. Claudia does want me to check with attorneys to make sure there is nothing illegal about my helping a friend and colleague beat back an inquisition.

I spent an hour this morning in the cool spring air beating the heck out of cushions and pillows to get rid of dust mites. Every little cloud of dust that wafted over my patio from each whack with my old Wilson tennis racket was gratifying. I gave up with about 70% of the cushions complete and blisters had set in. I turned then to finishing the last of the newspapers that I have been stock piling.

One of them contained an obituary/story I found interesting about Vern Gagne. It reminded me of a handful of related stories about the world of professional wrestling I grew up with.

I remember driving through rural Missouri on a family trip in grade school when my Dad pointed to a car with a big handmade sign over its trunk. It announced the car’s driver “Haystacks Calhoon”. Dad told us that Haystacks was a professional wrestler and I was pleased to see a celebrity even if I didn’t know exactly who he was. We Kansans pronounced it “wrassling” and its practitioners were “wrasslers” even when you spelled it the right way with a “t.”

I paid scant attention to the professional wrestling shows broadcast out of Kansas City, just enough to know the sobriquets (nicknames) of a half dozen of the colorful characters who preened before their adoring fans. I was surprised when I moved to Minnesota in seventh grade to see a whole new cast of characters on the local wrestling shows. That’s when I learned that the whole nation was divided into a dozen wrestling fiefdoms each with its own world champion. That sort of championship, along with the histrionics of the athletes I would have preferred to be stoic, confirmed my disinterest in their world.

I really didn’t need to hear my physical education teacher, Luverne Klar, telling me in high school that professional wrestling was phony. He had been one of the light-weight wrestlers on Vern’s University of Minnesota Wrestling team. Mr. Klar never tired of telling his classes how disgusted he was with the sham. He never forgave Vern for becoming a millionaire by claiming that professional wrestlers were serious athletes. Claudia had him for homeroom and didn’t much care for him but Mr. Klar once defended me from a bully and I had a sort of soft spot for the old curmudgeon.

Then I found myself in college with the son of Vern’s business partner, the wrestling “promoter” Wally Karbo. Wally’s shtick was to complain about the bad wrestlers and how he was going to deal with them for their bad behavior. He had no grace or wit but the seriousness of his boring complaints was oddly entertaining. His son, Steve, caught my interest immediately because of the association. Steve joined my fraternity as a pledge immediately after I went “active.” He was several years older than me and had just come back from Vietnam.

I immediately took a dim view of him because of my goody-two-shoes remove from this father’s shallow and seedy world. But Steve had a few surprises for me. He once told me of an epic drunk while he was in Vietnam in which he commandeered (stole) a jeep and drove it around all night in a stupor with a loaded M-16 intending to shoot anyone who tried to stop him. He swore to me that had he been stopped he would have killed somebody but such was his luck that no one bothered him and he quietly, if drunkenly, returned the jeep.

I’m not sure why it came up but one night I began reciting the famous soliloquy from Hamlet: “Time creeps by in its petty pace” that Mrs. Fitzsimons had required her English students to memorize in my senior year of high school. I only memorized that single verse for a C, much to Mrs. Fitzsimons’s disappointment. I refused to memorize two more Shakespearian sonnets to get an A for that unit. She told me they would enrich my life but I’m not a fan of memorization. I still don’t know the 23rd Psalm or the Apostles Creed – by heart anyway.

It had only been a year since I’d memorized my Hamlet so I could get through it but stopped about twelve lines on where my memorization had ended. I was trying to impress the Vet with my superior knowledge. And then Steve Karbo continued the recitation. He must have recited two or three pages of the text at breakneck speed before I was sufficiently humbled. Lesson learned. After that I was happy to work for him at the local armory when he put on a wrestling card although I did feel a little sorry for Scrap Iron Gadasky who was a regular loser on every card he wrestled.

There is one more story concerning Steve involving the most shocking bit of personal history I’ve revealed on my blog but, as this is an election year, I feel no need to complicate my notoriety or the political task I have set for myself. I’ll wait until I write about my Mom if only my fellow board members stop giving me so much reason to write about them.

I’ll mention the last time I met Steve about thirty years ago. It was at a country club in Mankato. He was nervously popping pills when I asked him if he’d managed to achieve the ambition to become a millionaire before age thirty. He told me he had managed that.

Steve died a few years later. Heart attack I think.

When is a warning a threat?

Anyone who has followed my blog off an on for a couple years knows how I operate. I explain what I see and experience.

My readers also know what motivates me. First and foremost its the Red Plan and uncovering its mysteries, and recovering from it. I’m not shy about complaining when obstacles are thrown in my path to prevent me from achieving this goal. Removing Art Johnston who shares my goals is such an obstacle.

Neither have I been shy in my blog or in a few letters to School Board members about warning them that I would start doing to them what they have done to Art Johnston. My warnings have been taken as a threat while their actions are not to be taken as such. Well, if my warnings are “threats” they are also as American as apple pie. The coiled rattlesnake on the Revolutionary Gadsden Flag is perhaps the best example of this. It is an image closely associated with today’s libertarian movement or so Wikipedia informs me.

One of the books I’d like to read this summer is the latest and the first scholarly treatment of the 369th Infantry Unit that fought in World War I. That’s the all black unit recruited in Harlem that my Grandfather was sent to as an officer when the Army removed all the black officers their not being deemed sufficiently up to the task of leading their fellow African-Americans. (Same argument that was used to deny black athletes coaching positions in professional athletics)
The book is Harlem’s Rattlers. I’ve been asked to dig out some background on my Grandfather Robb to give to one of the authors for a presentation next fall about my white Kansas Grandfather’s unlikely association with the unit which earned him a Congressional medal. (This is another personal project I’d much rather write about than our dysfunctional school board)

Apparently the Harlem warriors preferred the rattlers as their nom de guerre over the one bestowed upon them by the Germans “Hellfighters.”

In choosing “Rattlers” they stood in a long line of folks honoring the American viper famed for its rattling tail. Well, my blog is my rattling tail. Step on me and I strike. What my fellow board members and others take as a threat is my way of giving out a warning before someone steps on me or on Art Johnston. At least that’s how I look at, or possibly rationalize, my “warnings.”

There is a funny scientific post script to this anecdote. In much the same way as ocean game fish are evolving into smaller fish because the great fleets are pulling out all the big tuna, American Rattlesnakes are evolving much smaller rattles. It seems that Westerners have been plugging rattlers for generations when they hear them so that the rattlers magnificent warning systems are shrinking for survival’s sake. Killing all the noisy rattlers is leading to stealthy quieter snakes and more deadly snakes.

I suppose, like some of my former and current school board colleagues, I could pen poisoned comments for others to disseminate in order to hide their authorship but that’s not my style. I prefer a noisy rattle to warn of my imminent strike – in order to make it unnecessary. Is that a warning or a threat? I can’t decide which it is but I won’t apologize for it.

Shadows on the cave wall

I had a very nice lunch with the Superintendent yesterday. Afterward he prompted me with a question to get me past pleasantries to the meat of a discussion he knew I wanted to have with him. He mentioned that our PR person had stepped into his office to ask him if he was about to have lunch with me because she’d just read it on my blog.

Imagine dealing with someone like me who seems to have no filter but who shouts to the world what is going on and then repeats everything you tell him or her even or especially if they are embarrassing. I may be one of the few people in this world not to shrink from such encounters. I’ve become an accomplished, even prolific blogger. I have time to write and when someone criticizes me I have this space to offer my own version of events. That is a luxury a busy person like a school superintendent doesn’t have.

After our lunch I invited the Superintendent to drive over to my house so I could show him my plush new digs and to give him a sense where I will be operating this summer as I try to wrest the School Board out of the hands of the folks who so badly want to enforce a kind of harmony based on brutal suppression of information. I didn’t tell that to Mr. Gronseth but Katie Kaufman can read this and tell him.

Our conversation in my attic office was serious-minded. I think I promised not to reveal what we talked about. I’ve made similar promises to past chair Mike Miernicki. A politician’s stock and trade is talking to folks but a writer, like me, risks betraying trusts left and right when he/she reports what the conversations were about. The light of day is a great impediment to candor.

At some point I reminded the Superintendent about Plato’s metaphor about the shadows on the wall. (This Wikipedia page calls it an allegory) I never did read Plato’s Republic in my high school humanities class but I paid close attention to Mr. Wiltgen’s lecture on the subject. As I recall, without reading the page I just linked to, Plato describes much of life as being like the indefinite shapes cast by a fire in a cave on its rough walls by figures that can’t be seen beyond the fire. I told the Superintendent that this is how I’ve felt for the past year and a half on the School Board trying to make sense of its actions. I have no clue what the other school board members are doing behind closed walls. This includes the Federal Case Art Johnston has brought against the School Board to prevent them from removing him. There is a short window, perhaps a week, where cooler heads can prevail and we can come to some sort of settlement.

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Just because I can’t see much of what is going on behind the Superintendent’s office (the fire) doesn’t mean I won’t work very hard to try to discern what has taken place there where I’m not welcome. What I can see is the behavior of people when I am around them at Committee meetings or on the news when they comment about events in the Board room. I was once behind those walls and have a good sense of what takes place there.

For example in a recent conversation a friend suggested that in his Prior Lake interview Superintendent Gronseth had been set up as a straw man to make the preferred candidate who got the job look good. I admitted I didn’t know if the interview had played out that way but said in my experience school board members wanted to have the best choices to make a selection from. It made little sense to me for the Prior Lake School Board to select an obvious loser to make the winner look really good. That could backfire badly. What if, as sometimes happens, your preferred candidate backed out. Then you would be stuck with a loser you put in the selection process. People do act in seemingly irrational ways (just look at our school board’s legal squabbles) but they do behave in generally predictable ways. Handcuff and humiliate Loren Martell and you create an implacable foe.

I never tire of pointing out that I’ve been the victim of three attempts at character assassination one of which helped Judy Seliga-Punyko defeat me in an election that prevented me from helping craft a more moderate, compromise Red Plan. That was eight years ago. Like Loren and Art Johnston I’ve been keeping meticulous records. I didn’t get around to showing the Superintendent my office storage room with row upon row of files and documents that go back forty and more years. My news clipping file on the District goes back to 1989. These files include tons of paperwork that document our District’s continuing shrinkage and suffering following the Red Plan.

The Superintendent sees himself as a victim of circumstance who’s advice to the current majority falls on deaf ears. Our war is not his. He’s here to keep the District running and shielded from our war. For me that is not a very satisfying explanation. I told the Superintendent I found his vague explanations of what happens beyond the fire hard to credit. Oh, I see the hard-hearted way the majority is proceeding but until I become a fly on the wall I’ll keep having to use my imagination and experience to interpret events.

If what he says is true its ironic that the board majority in its attempts to avenge his shove are making life infinitely harder with this legal distraction that sucks all the oxygen out of the Superintendent’s room.

While I’m circling the runway/target

I’m pleased and a little amazed how sometimes when I’m on the verge of typing something interesting and posting it to my blog my traffic goes up. Thus it has been the past couple days. There is a reason for my being coy and quiet. I’m under something of a threat. If I write about the school board’s legal woes my side will get nothing. Considering how little “my side” has gotten since this brouhaha became a cause celeb-re eleven months ago its hard to imagine the other side giving an inch.

In some ways I’m so dug in that I have a perverse (and that’s the only real word for it, self-righteousness being what it is) reluctance for the other side to see the light and beat their swords into plowshares. I am just as guilty as anyone else of desiring vindication and as blinded by the false sense that a legal victory will supply it. I’d like Art Johnston to go all the way to the US Supreme Court and win a judgement that the Duluth School Board has violated his free speech rights and then levy a multi-million dollar judgement against the District. If insurance will pay for this dreadful fight maybe that makes it OK. To hell with our children!

In a couple hours I will have a remarkable experience – the chance to sit down and talk one on one with our Superintendent over lunch. I haven’t been in a one on one situation with him since well before the Art Johnston Crisis. We will get to take the measure of ourselves once again. I for my part mean to be candid. As I told Mr. Gronseth almost a year ago, just days before the Art Johnston inquisition began, that I fully expect to be in the majority of next year’s school board after this year’s election. Gosh, I hope that honesty wasn’t what led to this sorry year-long spectacle. After all, for those wishing to prevent such an occurrence, ridding the current School Board of Art would have put me one vote farther behind in achieving that goal.

Recent events suggest that this might have been the exact reason for going after Art. That is the suggestion I will make when I finally explain the “Atom Bomb” post that I have yet to proof read and post. It’s all about St. Francis – and, trust me, I don’t mean the popular new Pope of the Catholic Church. (you can also watch the beginning of the last 30 minutes of our most recent school board meeting to get a preview of what I’ll be explaining. The stuff appended to it after it had been hacked has been removed.)

Last night I began the last organizational hurdle that has kept me from focusing on Art Johnston and the coming school board elections as I intend to. It was a small but tedious task. I had a folder full of the miscellaneous notes I’ve made over the last six months. I needed to see which scraps of paper had pearls of wisdom, important historical anecdotes I didn’t want to forget about, or reminders of back burner chores I intended to accomplish. I did it. Those scraps of paper that were not discarded have been put into order. Oh, I still have some other rearranging of files to get done but this I can do at my leisure.

The real question I have for the Superintendent is whether he feels he has any influence with the school board members who are so insistent that he be protected from further shoves from Art Johnston. If, as he suggested, he does not and he finds the his majority plunging into the Federal Courts to destroy an innocent man I will feel compelled to lay out the case for Art and the case against the current School District leadership in a very different court – the court of public opinion. I’ll do it here, I’ll offer my thoughts to the local paper, I’ll right opinion pieces for the Trib, I even play to write a book (or a series of pamphlets) to raise money for Art Johnston’s legal fight. I’ve already got the first twenty thousand in hand of the hundred thousand I will likely need for Art’s defense next year.

Those of you who pray please pray that I will soon have cause to hold my tongue and bind my fingers on the tittle tattle that has been bringing so many of you to this blog. The natural curiosity of my readers about the warts and blemishes of the school board pale in significance to the needs of ISD 709’s children. Besides, as I have written previously, I’d much rather spend the next year writing about my family than waging war.

Back into the bomb bay

I often hold off publishing blog posts if I think they will impede progress or throw a monkey wrench. Sadly biting my lips or my finger tips has rarely led to anything good for the children of the Duluth Schools. My Christmas armistice was a bust.

Although writing about the last thirty minutes of the recent school board meeting shouldn’t be any worse than than the actual discussion that took place I’ll hold off dropping my ordnance for the time being. The courts are very busy right now with ISD 709 so I’m zipping my lips again.

I had time over the past couple days to proof read my 2500 words worth of bomb posts but I kept my attention on my new office. I’m in heaven but the forty years worth of personal documents I’ve collected are finally in a single location and I’ll be culling and organizing them for years to come. For now I’m content to group them together by subject matter. I was astonished to find Snow sculpting files in several different locations. There may be even more to come but already they are six inches thick. I put them in my Mother’s old art file drawers which I hauled single-handedly up three flights of stairs with the dolly I bought just for that purpose.

Today I stole Claudia’s rocker and took it upstairs to put in a reading corner. I took a picture of it and put it on Facebook to taunt her. She’s in Florida and can’t do anything about it for the next twelve days. As I wrote in Facebook “Bwaahhahahaha.”

If I resume my previous critique of the School Board it will soon swing from the mild stuff of the past to ghost pepper hot. That would be too bad because our children deserve a much better school board than they are currently saddled with. I said much the same thing in my interview on WDIO television calling on the Superintendent to play referee. To my surprise Claudia who saw it (because she heard one of her Grandsons might be in it) wrote to me to say she really liked what I said. She might not have been as supportive if she’d heard what I told the reporter and cameraman after the camera was turned off. I’m a Hoover Dam full of flood water right now and I haven’t been suffering the West’s draught.

I’ve got a summer ahead with almost nothing to do but campaign, write and open the spillways. Or I could start writing a book about my family. That would only happen if the School Board changes course and discovers its humanity and stops burning through our taxpayer’s money for a unjustified vendetta.

Oh, and if you were going to look at that last thirty minutes of this week’s school board meeting but haven’t gotten around to it you may not find it. The District’s youtube was hacked by a fellow who has been on the majority’s case for several months now. The District took the video down to scrub his contribution off.

If its not put back I now have a privately taken video of the meeting that I’ll have to learn how to video edit and post to the Internet. I finally have time to build a website to defend Art and that’s where I’ll put it.

Oh, and regardless of what else happens I really have to write about the St. Francis School District. Holy cow! It holds some important lessons for Duluth.

Bombs await

I was up at 3 to see my wife off for a two week trip to visit her father. I wrote two thousand page bombs but wanted to proof them again before setting the detonator then I woke one grandson up and got him off to school. Then took in an ailing grandson and spent the day with him. You can catch the corner of his head as he sat on my lap during an interview with WDIO television seen here. I was relieved at three to attend a Q & A session with Minnesota’s Education Commissioner at Myers Wilkins. Imbetween all these activities I continued to organize my new office and shuffle papers. I’m too brain dead to do any proof reading. Good night.

Square One

Art Johnston called about a quarter to ten to tell me that Superintendent Gronseth would be staying in the Duluth School District. That news has been confirmed by KBJR. There will be no respite for the Superintendent from the quarrelsome School Board he claims not to have any control over.

I planned on a busy day of blogging tomorrow but my progress may be dented a bit. My littlest grandson has come down with a fever and I’ll be taking care of him for most of the day. He can bring his toys up into my new office which he likes because he can run behind the knee walls I built for storage. Plus it has the only wall to wall carpeting in our home. Its like walking on clouds. My report on the bombs can wait till I review the tape of the board meeting or the youtube video.

Prelude to an Atom Bomb

Tonight Duluth’s Superintendent Gronseth will have his interview with the Prior Lake/ Savage School Board. He may have last night’s meeting on his mind.

Over the weekend I was called by School Board “Director” Richard Wolf who left a message explaining that he’d like to interview me about our Superintendent. I called back and left a message of my own saying I’d be happy to speak with him. I mentioned this to Claudia and she offered some sober advice based on her long tenure as an HR person herself. To avoid lawsuits, she told me, I should be very limited in what I said lest some errant comment could be used against me to claim I had hurt the Superintendent’s job prospects. My reaction is to roll my eyes at this sort of advice. I didn’t, of course. Its good advice but I kept thinking about how Duluth got stuck with Supt. Dixon when the Fairbault community palmed him off on Duluth. Surely, I should be candid. That’s what I keep claiming to be.

Well, I got the call Saturday or Sunday and I was very positive. The reason is because I think Supt Gronseth has talents that could be put to very good use especially in a growing District like Prior Lake/Savage. I told Director Wolf that Bill had a good grasp of educational theory. I said I thought he had a lot of loyal staff. I did explain that I was in a minority and that I had recently been censured – and that I’d even voted for my own censure by way of explaining that our Board was very divided.

I explained that Duluth was the toughest School District in the state to run and that this kind of adversity would have afforded Mr. Gronseth the kind of experience he could put to good use elsewhere. I said that he had a very good eye for talent having hired some very bright administrators.

Mr. Wolf gave no indication that he was aware of my blog and I didn’t ask him or draw attention to it. When I mentioned the East West Divide in Duluth he said he had just spoken to Dr. Dixon who had explained this to him as well. I felt I should mention that I had no use for Dr. Dixon and blamed him for many of the problems we now face. I left it at that but wasn’t surprised that he had been contacted. I’m sure he was on Gronseth’s list of references.

After I was through with the interview I told Claudia that I had given an “obnoxiously positive” evaluation of our superintendent. Then I went on my cell phone and texted to the Superintendent telling him the same thing meaning the “obnoxious” as a humorous descriptive term. It was only my second texting of Bill the first and only other time being my fury at my treatment during negotiations a year ago.

I think the Superintendent caught my drift. He must be anxious about this job possibility and he thanked me. I wished him good luck. Then I asked if we could have a cup of coffee and conversation. I’ve been trying to get him one on one unsuccessfully for half a year. He agreed and I told him I’d make an appointment with his secretary the next day.

Then we had out Tuesday meeting.

Atom bomb – Hydrogen Bomb

I had two or three good posts about our school board meetings last week. One would have been titled something like “Scary” but I can’t recall the other off hand. Well, anyway I’ll likely remember and write a capsulized post or two because the subjects were just too good to ignore….except that things are only getting interestinger and interestinger.

After a day I thought better of posting them. Our Superintendent is in the midst of a job search and I’ve wished him well. I’m not sure using my blog as chum on the water is particularly helpful to anyone. But two bombs blew up at tonight’s Board meeting. They will be visible on Youtube shortly but I mean to borrow the video taken by the citizen who keeps coming to video record school board meetings and post each of them myself. Apparently the obvious questions ( the bombs ) I asked took some people by surprise. I don’t know which was the bigger bomb. Of course, the media left before either bomb was detonated.

I’ll quit here with this to tantalize my recently disappointed eight loyal readers. I need a good night’s sleep to think about the blood spatter and whether there is any good reason not to report on it.

Lemon Drop Hill post script

There was one more item I forgot to mention about the special Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss Civil Service Commission. I said that Art spoke up to defend me. Its true. He said that the Chair had no call to stop my questions to which I swear I heard Chair Seliga-Punyko say she did have that right and she could do the same with him…..I wish I had that recording to be sure. What she said next I have no doubt about. As Art went on she said she could adjourn the meeting if she didn’t like the way it was going. Art replied, no you don’t. And again I could almost swear I heard the Chair say sort of under her breath that she could too. She didn’t stop Art or stop the meeting so in this case her petulance was all bravura.

I thought after posting the original Lemon Drop Hill that I really should rename the post “The meeting no one wanted.”

Lemon drop hill

Duluthians will understand this reference to the hill that is the last major obstacle to runners at our famous Grandma’s Marathon. That’s what today was like for me until Claudia suggested we go to Tavern on the Hill so she could use their WiFi connection to finish her third paper this week for this quarter’s seminary classes.

While Claudia worked I tapped out a one finger email to myself to incorporate into a blog post. It was a little like breaking out of writer’s block. It would take editing but I had it ready. (yeah sure, just like the latest MAJ post) I had to attend a meeting first, however. It was a Committee of the Whole on a pretty trivial subject having to do with the City of Duluth’s Civil Service Commission and the District’s maintenance bargaining unit.

I’d already told our Education reporter Jana Hollingsworth I didn’t figure it would end up being particularly newsworthy. That turned out to be the truth. What I didn’t expect was that I would get really angry with Chair Seliga-Punyko who interrupted me to tell me my questions were not appropriate during my questions related to the subject we had met to discuss. Art stepped in to stick up for me which is about the reverse of how it usually works.

I wasn’t eager to attend this meeting. It turns out no one was. I was tired as I collected the paper work I’d already read through pertaining to the issue. So here’s the issue and a little background on why we were meeting tonight. Continue reading

Morgan Park, Rockridge schools to be sold

I sat down next to Claudia to read today’s newspaper with the story headline (above) in the title of this post. She asked me suspiciously, “Well did you leak the sales price yet?”

I barely glanced in her direction and lifted by hand to my lips and pantomimed a zipping motion across them.

“That’s good” she replied as we both broke into a chuckle.

There is no dearth of things to blog about but my head has been elsewhere lately. The carpet will be installed on Thursday so much of my house is still cluttered while I wait to move into my new office. I have been on my knees for the past day shoving items for storage behind the “knee walls” I fashioned to hide the stuff. It will take me a week or more to move in and clean out my old office which will be given over to Claudia.

I know, I know. I’ve tantalized my eight loyal readers with the preceding post with no content yet. Its mostly written by I haven’t had the energy to do the proof reading. I suppose it will be a great disappointment to my eight loyal readers when it’s done. I’m not writing about national security issues here – just a bunch of dysfunctional, civic minded citizens caught up in a self-righteous slug fest.

I rarely suffer from writer’s block if anything I suffer more from Writeiarrhea. I occasionally start blog posts that don’t cut it or don’t go anywhere or wait in vain for me to return to them. Here are a bunch I saw as I looked at my blogs “dashboard” that are unlikely to be finished but which I haven’t had the heart to erase:

Walkin, Walkin, Walker to February 17, 2015
My Buddy who is a gadfly’s gadfly (to me) sent…

The Snowy Tuesday School Board meeting February 13, 2015
(no title) January 23, 2015

Claudia and I took a day off of sorts to…

Get out of Jail Free card? January 11, 2015

My better half knows what I’m contemplating and is a…

Thoughts on censorship January 10, 2015
As opposed to censureship. My daily reading includes Andrew Sullivan’s…

Having spent so much time on my knees they are stiff and sore. I decided to go out into the sun today and rake the back yard and pause for a few minutes to kick a hackysack around to limber them up. I’d already spent an hour in my basement after removing a portion of the things that are destined to be returned up three flight’s of stairs when the attic carpet is put in. The blog nagged at me while I worked but not too desperately. Heck, I’ve had a week of a full night sleeping. I owe it to a head slowly clearing as I’ve been making progress towards a summer of electioneering, court room drama and fundraising. One good night’s sleep is only a sign of making up on some sleep deprivation. A week’s worth of good night’s sleeping is a sign of approaching sanity.

Before I return to my house (I’ve got three attic window shades to install thanks to Claudia) I’ll just note that the two-and-a-half hour business meeting yesterday which we held immediately after the closed meeting on property sales was a model of business-like conversation. We even spoke rationally about some policy changes that are fraught with political time bombs. Like another recent meeting that was adult in tone we were missing Chair Judy Seliga-Punyko. A coincidence? Hmmmmm.

I’ll be back with much more soon. I’ll even write more MAJ posts. I haven’t even gotten to the martyrdom part of the story yet since I’ve been so busy with the background on all the Torquemadas.

My Dad’s Obituary

I began writing this a week ago. Might as well post it.

To wrap up the last little bit of my Mother’s estate I was advised by our attorney that he needed two items that would prove that my Father had died. I had neither his death certificate or his obituary.

Dad died 28 years ago just shy of his sixty-second birthday. That period of time was something of a bookend to the times I’m in now. We had just purchased a new home on 21st Ave East and moved in when my Father was failing and had no way to come up and take a look at it. I rented a VHS camcorder and had the family walk around our soon-to-be new home that summer so we could give him a video tour. VHS tapes have about a twenty year life and I haven’t seen that one since we made it. I wonder if it still exists?

At the same time I was trying to recover from having lost my third teaching job. That was a trifecta, lost job, dying father, new house. Two years ago, I was interviewed by the Trib’s education reporter as part of her coverage of the 2013 school board election and reflected on that time. I brought myself to tears thinking about the time, just before his passing, that my Dad told me he thought I had a will to fail. God, I hated to see him die thinking his oldest son was a failure.

I put in a call to Blue Earth County to ask that they send me the death certificate – cost $13, and the Mankato Public Library asking that their reference desk send me a copy of my father’s obituary. I had a bit of trouble understanding the librarian but I left the conversation fairly certain that they would email me the obituary, now on microfilm.

As I lay in bed this morning stewing about how to write the next Martyrdom (MAJ) column I got thinking back on the obituary I was trying to retrieve. I am a collector of such things and I didn’t seem to have it. That got me wondering if it had ever been written. I would have been the likely writer but I couldn’t recall writing it even though I was in Mankato at the time of my Father’s death.

I do have a vivid memory of writing a funeral oration for my Dad. The year before my Father had written a memory of his Mother’s life for her memorial service. I wanted to do something similar. I think I referred to that in a recent post, my staying up late cranking it out on a Mac Computer in the College’s library only to have the computer crash at about ten O’Clock as the library closed. But I don’t remember writing an obituary.

At my parent’s grave site last weekend I offered a similar but extemporaneous eulogy for my Mother. I had been thinking about what to say for a couple days. It contained many elements of things I’ve posted over the past years. The chief job was mentally editing it down to about twenty minutes and not missing any of the key junctures in her life that I thought her small circle of friends might like to know about. I told them I’m thinking about putting a small book of her life anecdotes and art work. That would be a more fulsome project. But what about Dad’s obituary?

I wrote more but this as good a place to end as any for now.

I’m still here

Fortunately, the news has been a little light on education related stories and we’ve gone a while without school board meetings. I’m grateful because that would have put a strain on me to upload more blog posts. As it is I’m closing in on a project I’ve been begging Claudia to let me do for better than a decade – turn our old fashioned attic into an office. The last week I’ve been busy every day with some aspect of the work. The last three days I’ve painted the walls and stained the new molding and caulked and primed and painted the stairway. My right shoulder feels like I’m suffering from repetitive rotator cuff displaysisa. I made that up but its long enough to cover the discomfort.

We are heading out of town today with grandkids but the electrician will be here to give us lighting for the weekend. Carpet comes early next week and once it is in I can clean out all the rooms that I’ve stuffed attic related storage in. I’ve been hurrying to beat the carpet layers. The stain is a lot easier to put on pre carpet.

I’ve been taking boring pictures of the process from beginning to end for my wife’s brother in law who retired to volunteer nearly full time with Habitat for Humanity. He’s helped build forty houses or so. He likes this kind of stuff and requested more pictures. I’ve put them all on Facebook for my handful of family and friends so that their eyes can glaze over.

I’m winding lots of distractions down. My Mother’s estate is a month from being settled. I just need her last income tax refund, a conservator’s bond refund, a division of “mineral” assets she inherited from her father and a final payment of legal expenses. That requires a death certificate from my father. She’s out of my closet thank goodness but its a damn shame I can’t write a book about her life in art. Instead I’ll be working on an expose of the School Board. Maybe I’ll just print out my blog. I’m still catching grief for shedding a tiny ray of light on our recent closed meeting. Maybe I’ll be censured again. If so, this time I wouldn’t vote for it.

I’m filing this under Harry’s Diary. Its just to let my eight loyal readers know I haven’t fallen off the edge of the world…….not yet.

Commands from Olympus

Chair Seliga-Punyko sends her greetings:

Harry,

It has come to my attention that you have been publicly sharing private confidential data on your blog that was discussed in the 3/24/15 closed session. Releasing confidential questions and information about consequences is a violation of state law with regards to private data. As a representative of the public, having inappropriate information and language or violating laws about private data is unacceptable.

This was previously addressed through censure and needs to be removed from your blog immediately.

Judy

Confidentiality Notice: This E-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply E-mail and destroy all copies of the original message.

I salute back:

Chair Seliga-Punyko,

You have been misinformed about my post of March 25th. The extent of my reporting on the closed meeting was to refer to a question asked by a member of the School Board. As you recall when we embarked on our investigation of Art Johnston we determined that School Board members were not subject to the same data privacy rules as our district’s employees and students.

This is the extent of my reporting on that closed hearing:

“Young Annie Harala asked one question of District officials at our closed meeting yesterday. Were the students subject to expulsion remorseful for their actions? I’ll only say that the response was what the person putting such a question might hope for.”

Excepting the question and the questioner everything else contained in these three sentences had already been aired publicly in Duluth’s newspaper of record, to wit: We held a closed meeting. We passed a resolution of expulsion directed at two students. All of this was public knowledge. Furthermore our resolution was public data. Only the identities and actions of the subjects of our resolution were covered by Minnesota’s data privacy law. These I did not reveal.

Yours cordially,
Harry

Bless you Mike Jaros

I was very pleased to see that a couple letters to the editor appeared while I was busy tending to family business over the weekend. They took a very different tack than a Mr. Keller who wrote a couple weeks back that Art Johnston was draining money from our children by defending his free speech rights. NO, NO, NO. Its the School Board that is violating Art’s free speech in a travesty of justice.

The first letter took the majority to task for harassing Art Johnston for asking questions that should be asked:

It’s time for all School Board members to have the integrity to ask such questions. It seems a judicious time to stop harassing a board member for raising these questions.

Then Mike Jaros weighed in with a full fledged rebuttal of Mr. Keller’s arguments. Here’s Mike’s letter in its entirety:

Reader’s View: School district continues to waste taxpayer money
Posted on Mar 29, 2015 at 8:33 p.m.

A letter March 15 claimed School Board member Art Johnston’s lawsuit will cost the district money that could have been used for children’s education. Why didn’t the letter state that when our school district hired a Twin Cities law firm to investigate Johnston it also cost our children?

The district spent $315 million plus interest on new schools, which was too much. It could have remodeled solid old buildings.

I am not against taxing and spending, as I am a liberal. But I am against wasteful spending, such as with the Red Plan, as conceived by Johnson Controls of Milwaukee. I tried to correct that mistake in St. Paul in 2007 and 2008 with a bill to require a referendum first. But Johnson Controls hired a former Republican legislator and revenue commissioner-turned-lobbyist, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he would veto my bill.

I lost and had to go on because that is the way the democratic system works.

What I cannot understand is how our superintendent and former School Board chairman are using hired guns and lawyers and even a retired judge to go after Johnston. Why didn’t they call law enforcement if they felt threatened during the incident for which Johnston was investigated? Probably because they didn’t have a case. It also seems they went after Johnston’s lady, a school district employee.

Sounds like what Vice President Dick Cheney did to Valerie Plame when ambassador Joe Wilson, her husband, said Saddam Hussein didn’t have nuclear weapons in 2003.

I chaired three committees in the Minnesota House and some members were difficult. But I never even imagined cutting them off when they wanted to say something with which I didn’t agree. Free speech protects even those who may be wrong. We should expect more from our most educated people.

Mike Jaros
Duluth

The writer represented District 7B in the Minnesota Legislature for more than 30 years, resigning in 2008.