My Christmas Puzzles

My serious puzzle to work out is the adventure of beginning a clean slate with a new school board come January. I won’t be at that first meeting. As I told Nora Sandstad at a long postponed lunchdate this week I decided last summer that my wife’s invitation to join her theology study in Israel in January would take precedence for me to my chance to build a new and more generous school board.

While I am working on that big puzzle I have four more to work on for Christmas. Here are three of them.

Every year I try to buy a puzzle while traveling that represents ……. I have to pick up my grandsons for our weekly “Wacky Wednesday”…….I’ll finish this tonight.

From today’s DNT coverage of the Duluth Schools

It was good to see the Trib’s Education reporter back covering yesterday’s Education Committee meeting. She’s back after having recently delivered a prospective new student for the Duluth Schools. The Trib’s story covers the critical issue of our Reserve funds which have shrunk to a week’s worth of cushion should we face financial calamity. That means we have one week’s worth of spending in the bank. If we have to cover an unexpected expense or even an expected expense we will have to borrow money and pay interest to our lender. Not good!

When I was first on the School Board we had a year’s worth, not a week’s worth, of spending in our reserve fund. Ask yourself, as we board members will be asking ourselves, how we can address the concerns of our East High School teachers with so few resources available to alleviate their problem.

An email today from East High teachers

For now I’ll refrain from commentary:

Dear School Board Member,

The East building stewards are following up with a Meet and Confer that took place as the school year was starting. We continue to be concerned about class size at East and encourage you to review the data.

Before school started on August 28th the Union Stewards at East hosted a Meet and Confer meeting with Superintendent Gronseth and Assistant Superintendent Starzecki regarding class size. Presently there are over 1,564 students enrolled for the 2015-2016 school year (as of 12/7/15). Throughout this process we have worked closely with our building administrator and were hopeful that additional FTE could be secured for East that would address the areas of concern. These areas are referred to as hot spots and highlight the overcrowded classes. As building stewards and classroom teachers we are advocating for smaller class sizes. Recently, math intervention courses were eliminated to use building FTE to reduce class sizes in math. The need for additional FTE to meet this need was brought up at the August meeting to avert having to cancel courses that could help reduce learning gaps. There continues to be a need for additional FTE and support at East where the enrollment is quite large.

When the levy was passed one of the key focus areas was reducing class size. Our data from the last 5 years would indicate this has not happened at East. We encourage you to review the data and ask for your support to funnel funding into the classroom.

Thank you for your time and commitment to serve as a school board member.

The following data generated on August 20th provides a breakdown of classes by size over 30:

Classes 31-34 143
Classes 35-39 121
Classes 40 and over 37

In other words:
Sections over 30: 307
Sections 35 and over: 158
Sections over 40: 37

Hot Spots at East
Although there are large class sizes in a number of content areas, the following are the content areas with CONSISTENTLY LARGE classes:
Math
Science
Physical Ed

Not-so-easy to see hot spots
Team taught classes (where some are sitting over 30 students with 16 on IEPs)

Other actions taken/elements in play
Conflicts (so some students are not scheduled or are scheduled in study halls even though they initially registered for courses)
Combining of mediums sized classes” and because the combined class it too large, bumping out students
Other FTE adjustments that have had adverse impacts on remaining courses (switching courses to other course and then having to distribute the students across the existing classes)

Larger class sizes or disrupted scheduling in reaction to overloaded classes may drive student to PSEO or may make it more difficult to retain students in the margin (increasing our drop-out rate/widening the achievement gap).

Respectfully submitted East building stewards,

Gayle Franckowiak, Greg Jones, Catherine Nachbar

Back to Reality

I’ve taken a break from regular blogging to refresh myself and to get my bearings for a soon-to-be new school board. I have explained previously that my commentary about other board members, especially my passing on their quotes or paraphrases, has led to hurt feelings and worse. I backed off from such commentary for about six months after winning my own election to the School Board in 2013 from November of that year until the following spring until I deduced that I was being treated less than fairly. I have also said that I was censured in December for my blogging and not for my premature disclosure of the Central selling price. By then my blog was a source of embarrassment for my fellow board mates.

Although the new Board has yet to be seated I can assure my eight loyal readers that my early confidence in the new school board seems to be justified. I have met with one of the newly elected board members who was sort of keeping distance from me and we found much to compare notes about. School Board personalities and politics did not rear its ugly head, however, so that remains to be tested at a later date.

There are many speed bumps ahead for the new board. I’ll post two such bumps following this. I’ll offer no answers because none will be easily available to us. The simple fact is that as tall as these bumps are they will be infinitely higher if we don’t have a sensible board. It is my strong belief that the next school board will focus on solutions to these difficult problems far more closely than the wounded egos of each member. Keep your fingers crossed that my prediction pans out.

One year ago today

My Mother, Georganne Robb Welty, died one year ago today. Well, I was ten minutes late posting this. She died on the Fifth of December.

The night of her death I felt compelled to crank out about 2,000 hastily drafted words about that day which ended up being very special to me. For the last year I have meant to go back and polish up that work. Today I finally managed it. She was very much on my mind that month as Christmas neared. I featured her Christmas ornaments for most of my December posts. I put her ornaments up again a couple days ago in our sun room. More than anyone else she gets the credit, or blame, for my snow sculptures. She always wanted me to be an artist.

Hidden motivations behind some of my posts

I don’t get that many email comments about my blog posts so I do value my Buddy’s retorts even though he frequently beats me up.

I was taken to task over my comments relating to police relations with the black community in “Driving While Black.”

In addition to the crapweasel comments impugning 99% of all politicians he sent me a couple on the distressing execution of a Chicago teenager. This one came today as a simple link to the New York Times editorial on the subject. The events put Chicago’s “men in blue” in a very bad light which is a little surprising when it comes to my buddy. I sort of think he wanted me to see how President Obama’s old Chief of Staff, now Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has so shamefully conducted himself in this matter. If so, then the Men in Blue are only collateral damage. Its just one more way my Buddy can remind me that Democrats are not necessarily all angels.

My Buddy sent me this response to my Crapweasle post:

Of what relevance was the source “conservative”or “liberal” from which Michelle Malkin’s comment was pulled? Isn’t a (more or less) valid observation, a more or less valid observation? Further, are there more “conservative”pundits than “liberal”pundits, which justified your reference to the genesis of her comment as having been from a “legion”of “conservative”pundits?
You didn’t know that numerous Democrats apparently voted “to turn their backs on the Syrians during the Christmas Season? See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/house-democrats-refugee-bill_564e5101e4b0258edb30ca4e.

As for lawyer jokes, what do lawyers use for birth control? Their personalities.

[your Buddy]

My eight loyal readers who may often wonder what motivates me might find my reply to my Buddy informative. This is it:

Great joke.

As for the political orientation of Malkin it was not critical to her argument but it was a convenient data point for me to mention for my political ends. I suspect that I am distrusted, in particular, by local DFL activists. I enjoy confounding them with potshots directed against folks in the other party they consider villainous. I like the thought that they end up agreeing with me no matter how grudgingly. It’s even worth all the potshots I get from you about my not being even handed.

I am keen to telegraph my constant irritation with the GOP to this crowd because they pay a lot of attention to the public schools. They had a huge turnout in this last election and they are ardently anti- Art Johnston especially in my back yard.

Ironically, I don’t think my GOP bashing hurts me with Republicans because I don’t think they tend to read my blog but they give me some credit for being a skeptic about spending and taxation.

My suspicions may be way off and I don’t conduct polling to know the effect of my blog on readers. I write a little intuitively.

I don’t think I have ever put that motivation into words before but it has been a long standing goal of mine to keep the XXX XXXXXX crowd at bay. XX has a passel of pals that detest me and they always put up my foe’s lawnsigns. There is a line in the New Testament about showing kindness to your enemies to drive them nuts and set their hair on fire. I like that.

Harry

Note: My paraphrase of Romans 12:20 is a little off. Hair isn’t mentioned.

A modest December update

Better than a week ago I jotted down ten or twelve posts I wanted to write for my blog on a sheet of paper. Most of them were harmless but I’m torn between getting off to a good start with the new school board and getting things off my chest. This blog is my public diary and there is nothing I find more annoying than to go back to see that some detail of the past was not jotted down for posterity because I was on hiatus. That is particularly true of my first year fighting for a right to vote on the Red Plan and organizing Let Duluth Vote. I have only my current memories of those now distant events but I don’t have my thoughts of that moment. I’m often surprised to read what I wrote when I go back to old posts and I trust their accuracy more than my memory.

I will say that I’m delighted that the two new board members I’ve not had a chance to meet with have generously agreed to meet with me soon. We’ve even set a date. I will probably not write about that meeting or what we discuss – at least not in any depth – because I meant what I told Dr. Kirby when I saw him campaigning at Chester Bowl last October. I told him that I expected that we would be “boon companions” should he be elected. I can’t blame him if he was skeptical of that prediction but I meant it. Not blogging about what we talk about is my stab at building up some trust between us.

At my feet, as I type, is one of dozens of DNT clippings that I meant to blog about. Its the story from November 16th about shifting enrollments between area school districts. There are two new constants that the new school board must deal with. First, we’ve lost 15% of our enrollment (probably permanently) to other Districts since the Red Plan began to materialize. Second, we’ve dedicated roughly $10 million dollars which used to be available for the classroom from the local property tax levy to paying off building bonds. I have no objection to having the School Board shower Duluth with lots of positivity. But, I will not be a party to this positivity if we refuse to acknowledge the deep trench we dug for ourselves. If we are honest about that I will search for a good backhoe to fill the trench in.

I need to file my latest clippings in my ever growing clipping file which I’ve been keeping for twenty years. I’ll get that and some other organizational work done today although I also have grandparenting duty. My oldest grandson came down with a fever yesterday and I will be hosting him for the day. He’s sitting in my comfy new rocker in the office reading at the moment. This weekend I’ll be heading down to the Twin Cities to participate in the Minnesota School Board’s delegate assembly. We will be looking through a couple hundred possible resolutions that once whittled down will form our wish list for the State legislature. Art Johnston and I have a resolution which would alter the law that seemingly gives school boards the arbitrary power to undo elections in order to rid themselves of unpopular school board members. I don’t think we will get our resolution passed this time around but we’ll offer it up again next year.

Too bad we got so little snow yesterday. I actually have an idea for a snow sculpture. I think the children passing my home in their school buses will like it.

Crapweasels

More Un-Vetted Refugees Coming to Minnesota?

After ISIS terrorists killed 130 people and injured 352 more in Paris in coordinated attacks just this month, serious questions are being asked about Syrian refugees now being welcomed to the United States. One of the organizers of the Paris attacks entered the European Union under refugee status and another had fought with ISIS in Syria according to The London Telegraph.
President Obama has committed to resettle 10,000 more Syrian refugees in the United States, despite serious concerns about the vetting process of those being relocated.
FBI Director James Comey has said that it’s “impossible to vet every single Syrian Refugee.”
While 27 state governors have so-far voiced objection to resettling un-vetted (or poorly vetted) Syrian refugees in their home states, Governor Mark Dayton calls that “grandstanding” and appears prepared to welcome them to Minnesota with open arms. US Senators from Minnesota, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar agree.
At a recent NAACP event, Governor Dayton said to those attending who questioned bringing more Syrian Refugees to Minnesota at this time, “If you are that intolerant, that much of a racist and a bigot, then find another state, [you] really should go somewhere else.”
And Senator Franken said that we must “do part of our job like the rest of the international community to take in refugees.
Senator Klobuchar said, “I will say these are legally vetted, screened refugees that would come in. And they can actually fill some of the jobs that we have available in states like mine, where we have lower unemployment rates.”

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I can’t head into the Christmas season without thinking about the challenges to peace on Earth. I have avoided pleas to blog about the Duluth Schools in hopes of the dawning of a new Era but my mind is always roving over the news events of the day beyond Duluth’s borders. Sometimes, as with this unwelcome email request for me to donate to a Republican cause it comes right into my computer inbox.

My Buddy recently “twitted” me about politicians (which would also include elected school board members) being “crapweasels.” The comment was pulled from one of the legion of “conservative” pundits, Michelle Malkin, who said 99% of all politicians are “crapweasels.” I replied by asking if a pundit like Michelle, who bent over backward not to offend her readers by avoiding the whole truth, couldn’t be considered a crapweasel too. My Buddy agreed that a pundit, even one coining such an expressive pejorative, could be a crapweasel. I thanked my Buddy for his agreement and said we crapweasels wore Michelle’s designation with pride. (not unlike lawyers who like to tell lawyer jokes) Didja hear the one about why Lawyers never sue sharks? Professional courtesy.

I certainly think the Republicans grubbing for money to protect us from Syrian refugee/jihadists have earned Michelle’s appelation. Why, it was only a few weeks ago that Republican congressman were waving the picture of a drowned child, Aylan Kurdi, in front of television cameras to condemn President Obama. Now they want to turn their backs on the Syrians during the Christmas Season.

I googled for some of the pictures of the crapweasels who recently waved pictures of the drowned Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, in front of television cameras. I found this short note from the Albany Times Union showing how pols of both parties spoke out of both sides of their crapweasely mouths regarding Syrian refugees.

Here’s a Democratic politician being a crapweasel. I could have posted a picture of a Republican waving little Aylan Kurdi’s picture around but my Buddy might have accused me of being bigoted toward my old political party.

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