Painting early

Blogging, School Boarding, and History Reading are all taking a momentary backseat to summer homework as in painting my home’s trim. I have probably spent thirty hours on ladders scraping and painting so far and am probably about 40% done. I don’t plan to do it all this summer. I got the front and back done a few years ago so I’m mostly working on the sides of the house where old paint had/has begun to flake off. I’ve also put in ten hours painting our church’s parlor. My plan is to get these tedious tasks out of the way in this cooler part of the summer so I can attend to the other stuff as things heat up.

I also have a way of adding interesting projects to my to do list. Yesterday I read the Trib’s account of an author trying to tempt Hollywood into producing a movie based on his screenplay of Duluth’s infamous Lynching. Its a subject I’ve commented on previously. Today he plans to have folks audition for a “teaser” movie of a pivotal scene to take to potential investors. I gave him a call and plan on heading over to read for a part. I’d take a non speaking role gladly. I’ll have to start painting soon before the sun gets too high to finish today’s portion. It may rain tomorrow so I want to cover bare wood with a first coat while it is clement.

I have put a stub of a blog post preceding this one. (I do that when time is short to force myself to write about stuff. It doesn’t always work. I did it a couple weeks ago and still haven’t returned to four such stubs. If I ever get them finished I’ll make a note of it in future posts with links to the finished product.) “Ouropia” will include two emails taking issue with me when I say the Red Plan didn’t cause all our problems. I don’t view the replies as a contradiction so much as part of a more nuanced picture of where ISD 709 stands. I’d hate to have us elect a Donald Trump-like school board based on nonsense much as Britain has voted itself out of the European Union based on pie in the sky promises which are all being retracted now after the damage has been done. No one has a monopoly on the Truth. I noticed the “cogent” letter written by Greg Sandbulte and commented on by me was challenged by a Mr. Jim Lyttle. I do agree with one line from Mr. Lyttle when he says:

“When the teachers’ union stops being defensive and starts to understand the real answers to that question, all of the children of Duluth will benefit.”

I would enlarge the circle to say that the defensiveness can be found in the School Board, some elements of our school administration, and some folks who have been embarrassed that the Red Plan has proven not to be a panacea for all our District’s ills.

Yesterday a little bit of my Israel trip came back to me which a quick review of my blog’s search engine revealed I had not mentioned previously. That was my obligatory visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s holocaust memorial. I bought three books after touring the memorial. They were all published by Yad Vashem and are not generally available outside of its premises or website. One was a book written by Otto Weiss, And God Saw That It Was Bad. I’m a sucker for books that seem to be aimed at children by authors and illustrators who endured terrible historic events. This book was written in the concentration camp at the Terezin Ghetto. It was used by the Nazi’s as a Potemkin Village to fool the world into thinking Jews were treated humanely. The book makes clear it was hardly that. Weiss wrote the book as a gift to his wife and its story was illustrated by his daughter another guest of the Nazis. As the Title makes clear it was bad at Terezin when God pays it a visit.

I didn’t bring the book back with me because one of our peacemakers on the tour had lost family members at Terezin. After I read it I gave it to her as a remembrance before returning to Minnesota. A couple weeks ago I went online and ordered anothe copy. It has joined the books Maus 1 and 2.


I’m not the only person in Duluth finding it hard to get past the Red Plan.

I got two emails about it from supporters of mine who were not satisfied with Jennifer’s analysis that we have other problems in River City besides the Red Plan. Still, I have to agree with Jennifer that it is a great oversimplification on my part to blame all our problems on the Red Plan.

Jennifer went on to say this:

“Personally, I was really affected by what Brandon Clokey had to say. People of color have been made to feel like outsiders here for generations.”

Yesterday, Tuesday June 28th, I auditioned for a part in a “teaser” about the infamous 1920 lynching in Duluth. Heck, I may get to play an incorrigible racist. I’ve learned a few things about the consequences of that event over the years. A lynching taking place so far north of the Mason-Dixon line helped drive then U of M student Roy Wilkins to the NAACP where he became one of the major architechs of the legal challenges to Jim Crow which also led to my being in a sixth grade classroom which had as many black kids in it as white kids in the newly integrated Topeka, Kansas schools.

The other thing worth remembering is that that lynching chased African Americans out of Duluth. In other small industrial towns to our east in Wisconsin like Racine there was a significant black population but not in Duluth. Most blacks packed up and left and they didn’t come back in any serious numbers until the Cold War led to the build up of the Air Force in Duluth. That brought black military families to Duluth but they departed again when the Air Base was ratcheted back shortly after I moved to Duluth in the 1970’s. The first house my wife and I bought in the Lincoln Park neighborhood had been owned by a black military family who had left in the retreat.

I wrote the text on the Snowbizz webpage back in about 2000, sixteen years ago, and mentioned then that Duluth’s black population was creeping back up. Today it is reflected in our schools and stands at about 8% of our total student population. That’s almost the national percentage of African-Americans. And yet, as Jennifer’s Zenith story noted, we have done an absolutely execrable job hiring minority teachers. I’m aware of one particularly embarrassing instance when a gifted black administrator was chased out of our schools at the behest of some of our most beloved community leaders. That was just as I was taking up office as a returned school board member.

So, is that the Red Plan’s fault. Nope.

But as I said, it is an aggravating factor. Sadly, we are not yet a colorblind world and suspensions and dropping out has taken a much greater toll on minority children.

Here are two of the emails that Jennifer’s email provoked. I don’t think they undermine Jennifer’s observations but they are both valid critiques of the Red Plan whose aftermath we have yet to get past.

First came this under the subject heading “Respectfully disagree:”

The Red Plan is the root of all things evil!
The board is stuck repairing the devastation left in the wake of JCI’s extreme makeover. And where is JCI now?

Well, their profits are so large they are in Ireland to escape taxes.

Just think of all the time and energy spent trying to stay above water, deciding what to cut. And just imagine if a more moderate proposal as suggested by LDV had been chosen? Updated buildings as well as time and money for forward looking educational programming.

Positive energy and focus[?] Just can’t happen when Duluth is strapped by the terrible mistake of the past, the Red Plan.

And there was this which is directed at how a non minority child was affected by the Red Plan’s turmoil and staff distraction:

Hi Harry,

The only issue I have with the writer from the Zenith is, bullying was rampant due to the Red Plan. The year Woodland and Ordean kids were housed at Woodland is the year that my friend’s son Gregg Nugent , then in the 6th grade, sustained a concussion and was brought by ambulance to the hospital after being smashed up against a set of lockers. Off and on until his sophomore he was bullied due to the district inability to control this issue. On September 24th of his sophomore year he was bullied again, came home and took his life. I blame the Red Plan , large class sizes, not enough counselors for the number of students and the district for not doing enough to solve this problem. Gregg’s death is a direct cause of the Red Plan fiasco.

The Board has to own this.

And, by the way:

The issue of student suicides has been close to the students at East high since Gregg’s death. That was clear at a recent School Board meeting. As for the unwillingness of some School Board members “to own this” I mentioned this anecdote in the referenced post:

“At the end of the meeting one Board member interrupted a conversation that Mr. Frederickson, Alanna Oswald and I were having and told Spencer with dismissive authority that school’s were not responsible for children’s suicides.”

My Red Plan myopia

From today’s email inbox:

From: “Zenith City Weekly”
To: “Harrywelty”
Sent: Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:50:48 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Thanks for the plug!

So, would ISD 709 still have the highest racial disparity in graduation rates in the country if it weren’t for the Red Plan? Honestly, I think that’s a big oversimplification.

The Red Plan isn’t responsible for why our teachers are 96% white. The Red Plan isn’t responsible for why black and Indian students are getting a disproportionate amount of the discipline. The Red Plan isn’t responsible for racial bullying that student after student after student reports is rampant, but ignored by staff. The Red Plan isn’t responsible for why other cultures are not taught by people who have lived that culture, or for why a family of color may not feel exactly safe showing up to a Think Kids meeting and saying things that white people don’t want to hear.

I think the Red Plan is as much an excuse as the state’s party line that the achievement gap is caused by high curriculum standards (which (a) is kinda racist when you think about it, and (b) was reported by MPR, not by us—

I’m not claiming I have the answers. (I wish I did!) But Brenna found a good variety of sources who suggested a whole variety of ways to initiate some change. Personally, I was really affected by what Brandon Clokey had to say. People of color have been made to feel like outsiders here for generations.

I’m one of those people who grew up here. Would you believe (and this is embarrassing to admit) I didn’t know Indians were REAL when I was being educated in the Duluth schools? We live in ceded territory, but in my young mind, they were as mythical as unicorns. In second grade, I remember coloring a picture of the “first Thanksgiving”—or, at least, white people’s fictional version thereof—and the teacher telling me to “color the Indians with the red crayon.” They looked like they’d had an unfortunate encounter with a vat of Christmas icing. And this wasn’t all that long ago. I was in second grade in 1978.

No, the Red Plan is just an excuse. You know how Alcoholics Anonymous talks about a “searching and fearless moral inventory”? Well, we need to do some searching and fearless moral inventory of the ways in which Duluth is a hostile, unwelcoming place for a whole lot of people. The achievement gap is just the tip of a big, ugly iceberg.

Jennifer Martin-Romme

To which I replied:

You are right Jennifer”

My blaming the Red Plan for the learning gap is a great oversimplification. On the other hand, to the extent that we have put more children in classrooms it makes it that much easier not to pay them as much attention as they may need. Call it an aggravating factor.

I will post this as a little corrective to my Red Plan myopia and make sure my readers know it was the article’s editor, not its author, that did the correcting.


Will 709 still be able to refinance our Bonds and get a 3% savings?

Loren Martell’s column written before yesterday’s stunning Brexit vote noted that our Bond Advisers warned us that the economy was fickle. Today the stock markets are about to take a steep plunge. What will this mean for the municipal bond market? It couldn’t get much lower than it currently is which makes a reduction in interest rates possible. If it begins to rise I think ISD 709 will find refinancing our bonds untenable. If stocks become less attractive investors may want to hedge their bets by moving to municipal bonds or avoid them all together. The switch could be almost immediate and I can’t predict the consequences.

In addition to soiling our own community the World is busy turning upside down while Donald Trump cheers it on from his Scottish Castle. (Vultures always live it up when an elephant dies) My Buddy sent me this cheering email:

For those of you who are looking for a tall building from which to jump.

While the majority of forecasters see less impact in the U.S. than in Europe, the consequences for American investors could be severe, as Brexit’s passage joins a host of other threats that have weighed on equities. Profits are falling, valuations are the highest in a decade and the U.S. just reported the worst hiring since September 2010.

More on Effluent Creek

Duluth’s Alternative Press keeps digging into ISD 709. This comes from this month’s Zenith:

“In Duluth, 87 percent of white students graduated in 2015 compared to 66 percent of Latino students, 62 percent of African–American students, and 52 percent of American Indian students—placing Duluth dead last in the state that’s already dead last in the nation. (There are some year–to–year variations in the data, with one ethnic group or another jumping a point or two above last place, but the overall trend is unmistakable.)”

One can’t help but wonder if we’d be dead last in the nation had we decided not to gamble $70 million general fund dollars on the Long Range Facilities Plan.

Without a paddle

Loren Martell describes our recent meeting with our bond advisers and explains the arcane rules which demonstrated that the past school boards have left us stranded up Effluent creek without any paddles. I know it was previous Boards because Loren caught Nora Sandstad’s declaration of same:

Art Johnston asked our financial advisers who put us in this position:

“Did you actually think we could affort $70 million out of the General Fund? Do you actually think any school district could afford to pay $70 million out of its General Fund?”

Said our Bond advisor:

“That’s not my call. I can’t answer that question.”

Retorted Art:

“Who’s call was it? Somebody did this.”

Loren continues:

Member Sandstad didn’t turn her microphone on, but correctly answered the question, loud enough for everyone to hear: “The Board.”

Oops! The Reader has yet to put Loren’s article on its webpage. Until they do you will have to pick up a paper copy.

Rosie’s Sharp Elbows

Rosie Loeffler-Kemp has been our Clerk for the past year- and-a-half meaning that she shares the private meetings with the Superintendent that determine our Board agendas which have been so controversial since I got elected in 2013. At our Tuesday meeting when three of us kvetched about not getting satisfactory information on the budget beforehand Rosie suggested that our many questions puzzled her because she had been given all the information she needed. Well, of course, some of my colleagues kvetched again after the meeting that Rosie is always cosseted with the powers-that-be getting all the questions she has answered before we meet in committee.

Shortly before the old School Board accused Art Johnston of assault on the Superintendent I had suggested to my new colleague Rosie that we ought to go out for coffee and talk and she was agreeable to this. Needless to say the horrors that followed over the next year put an end to such a meeting. Since Art routed the old Board in Court I’ve never brought the subject up with Rosie again.

Alanna Oswald who has pushed replacing the mulch from the very beginning of her service, even before she was seated, got a thank you note from one of the Lester Park parents who was quite aware that Alanna had spearheaded this soon to be implemented change. The writer asked Alanna to pass thanks onto Art and me as we were given similar credit even though we were more skeptical of the replacement at first. The writer was well aware that Alanna’s motion for the District to get cracking was replaced by a more vague motion written by Rosie. This replacement allowed Rosie to take credit for the change despite her previous deference to Administrative reluctance to make a change. From the thank you:

“I saw Rosie hijack your amendment and if anybody asks we will be certain they know who was really the one pushing this. It takes ALOT for any incumbent in any position to earn my vote for reelection especially this early in their term but you have done it.”

A month earlier after our May school board meeting I helped Marci Stromgren carry out the camera that she faithfully brings to record our meetings. She asked me to wait while she stepped outside the Board room to talk to an administrator in the hallway. She came back hot and bothered because Rosie elbowed her aside because she had a more pressing conversation to take up with the administrator. Marci, no shrinking violet, was taken aback. As she groused about her treatment my friend Tim joined us. I just laughed. All three of us have had Rosie elbow us aside. I told Marcie the story about Rosie’s treatment of Tim and then told her my elbow story. I had been to Homecroft school this spring to read. When I went to one of my rooms at the assigned time Rosie hurried up behind me, elbowed me aside telling me she had to read in the class as she hustled through the door past me. I was dumbstuck. I hung around Homecroft for another hour and read to the class after lunch hour.

Tuesday’s meeting was a long one. At one point Art was speaking at length about the budget and mentioning how his requests for budget information had not been provided to him. That was one of a number of reasons that three of us voted against the 2016-17 budget. He was a little long winded and one of the Board members growing tired of Art thrust her chin out and stared at the ceiling until Art was through.

Art is not the only long winded speaker. I get plenty of chances to pontificate myself. But for me the slowest part of the meeting was listening to Rosie give the report of the Education Committee that she chairs. I began marking every “uh” or “um” that Rosie uttered in groups of five. I didn’t start for a few minutes but before she was through I had marked just short of a hundred of them. I felt a little like a prisoner in solitary confinement marking time on the cell wall.

I wish Rosie had stuck around to hear me read my favorite read out loud book “Me First” about Pinkerton the Pig who always wanted to be first until he met a wise witch. The thank yous I get from school kids often picture her.

A ladyslipper by any other name

This Post Title was just a cheap way of letting me upload another bucolic image onto my blog. I took the picture yesterday as Claudia and I were tromping around Jay Cooke State Park. I took photos of some interesting insects too.

I spent the morning setting up ladders and buying materials to paint the eves and windows of my house this summer. I could have continued through the afternoon but passing up a chance to stroll the northwoods when given a chance on a lovely day outweighed my guilt for house neglect. I have all summer and I’m not going to be running for the legislature.

In fact, I was so into summer I forgot all about yesterday’s school board meeting until Art Johnston called me as I was driving back to Duluth from Carlton.

Today’s Trib story covered the latest issue of import – replacing our rubber tire mulch. The resistance by administration loyalists melted away at our last Monday’s meeting so voting to change the stuff was already settled and last night’s vote was a mere formality. Still, for the past week we have been receiving eloquent email appeals from a raft of new concerned parents unhappy that their children come home from school looking like chimney sweeps. I’ve been meaning to post some of them but I haven’t even taken the time to reply to them as I’ve poured my energy into reading history. I’ll just say that the $400,000 cost of mulch replacement is the cheapest way we can demonstrate to discouraged parents that their fears for their children’s health, whether justified by science or not, mean something to this school board.

The other issue of great import was our similarly preordained approval of our ISD 709 budget. This led to some testy interactions between the school board in a meeting that lasted much longer than any of us expected. Early on in our discussion I explained that, for a host of reasons that I won’t outline now because I’m eager to start today’s painting, I would not join the majority in approving it. Sure enough it passed on a 4 – 3 vote.

I started the meeting by learning from a long time Board watcher that a proposal we would be considering last night to proceed with some debt refinancing might lead us to spend three million more for the Red Plan rather than save us 3% on the cost of $85 million in bond repayments. I had a moment to ask our Bond Rep about this and he was momentarily flummoxed leading me to suspect the proposal was a fraud. Before I had the chance to ask him more I heard Chair Harala call the meeting to order and had to swiftly excuse myself to hurry to join the roll call. Needless to say as I waited for the discussion of the overall Budget to proceed I was in a gloomy mood about the Bond repayments. It took two hours before we got to either discussion and they preceded the vote on the mulch replacement. Ah the poor parents in the audience awaiting salvation. What a long dreary night it was for them. The half dozen who stuck the meeting out gave us hearty applause when we finally ended what had been, for some of them, a two year lobbying effort.

I pumped Steven Pumper our bond advisor for assurance that the bond repayment would lead to a 3% savings and not a $3 million cost and after a long circuitous answer he gave the Board that assurance. It passed unanimously.

As for the overall budget discussion. That grew lengthy and led to Member Sandstad moving that we vote immediately (moving the previous question) rather than let some of us who had had our mike lights on for several minutes partake in the discussion. Her motion was ruled to pass after a 4-3 vote…….until Art Johnston pointed out that to suppress discussion it takes a two-thirds vote. Chair Harala needed a few minutes to consult Robert’s Rules to confirm that aspect of Parliamentary Procedure. A short time later after a tired Chair Harala called on me she muttered under her breath, “Here we go again.” Unfortunately for her she had her microphone on and I took umbrage to her expression of weariness. I’ll have to watch that portion of our meeting when it turns up on youtube to see just how ugly we got.

I fixed myself a ham sandwich when I got home at ten after the meeting. At least I had a pretty picture of our state flower to post this morning to remember the friendlier elements of a long yesterday.


I just saw this Red Admiral taking a drink from our Japanese Lilac. Nice to know I haven’t wrecked everything garden-wise after desecrating my front yard with random passes at a prolific weed a week ago with the herbicide Roundup. I wish I’d just burned an emoji into the lawn then it would have looked like I had done it on purpose.

I was painting our church’s parlor last week when I confessed to our chair of the Facilities Committee that the brown grass was not winter kill but the herbicide roundup. I’d joked at first that it was because of nematodes. I’d gotten that excuse from a homeowner up in Duluth Heights who told me back in 1976 that his brown lawn was the result of the nasty little worms. I was going door to door for a campaign to unseat Rep. Mike Jaros. On Sunday I was rewarded for my honesty when my friend called out that I’d be happy to help other’s do the same after our church service was over. I shook my head violently and told everyone that it was nematodes.

It turned out that Claudia only suggested using it to keep weeds from growing on our brick patio. The instructions had been very specific telling me that any plant that it got sprayed on would be toast. Guess I should have taken their word for it. Now I’m trying to plant new grass seeds on the wreckage without digging it up first. Fool’s errand no doubt.

Belatedly I decided to try to identify just what that pesky little broadleaf is that sprouts everywhere. It turns out to be an invasive called Creeping Bellfower.

I’d never made the connection between the low lying green leaves in the grass and the tall flowers that can rise up to overtop my spirea bushes. After reading a handful of testimonials I can sympathize with all the others who have attempted to eradicate the pretty little flowers. Die, Die, Die.

Olive’s Egg

This is Olive’s Egg. It was an impulse buy I couldn’t resist while we were shepherding our grandson’s around St. Paul’s Como Park Zoo.

I didn’t believe the little sign by the two ostrich eggs in the Zoo’s shop that explained that they were eggs laid by the Zoo’s ostrich Olive that had been blown out by zoo staff. They were marked at less than twenty dollars. I picked them up and they were solid like porcelain and remarkably heavy with a tiny hole where the yolk had been sucked out. I bought it as well as a sisal bowl to make sure it didn’t roll off any surface on which I would place it. The price seemed so reasonable for a bit of exotica.

I am not immune to impulse buys but I’m generally reasonably resistant to them. I also bought a 1000 piece puzzle of Tutankhamun’s mask at the Science Museum. (It tied in with our visit to the Mummy exhibit) Buying puzzles on trips has become a habit over the past decade for putting together at Christmas Time. I didn’t find a puzzle in Israel so this will represent my travels this year when we all get together in December. These objects were the culmination of a busy buying week which started last week when we took our grandson’s to the Duluth Depot to see the replica funeral car that carried Abraham Lincoln from Washington DC to his final resting place at Springfield, Illinois. I had meant to write about it last week in one of four posts I never got around to. So far they rest as incomplete stubs a few posts back of this one.

There was a Duluth Public Library book sale across the street and we decided to go over to see if there were any good books to buy and to find something about Abraham to read to our grandsons. While Claudia searched the children’s section for Lincolnalia I perused the history books on sale. I found two paperbacks for a buck apiece and bought them much to the annoyance of one of the folks at the change table who groused that I wasn’t taking nearly enough books away. Both were about the origins of the Civil War. One on the Gold Rush’s role and the other on the conflict on the Kansas/Missouri border. I later bought a third book about the California Earthquake by Simon Winchester to get change for my parking meter.

I don’t consider book buying history books to be an impulse buy. The first book I dived into was the one on California. It had a fascinating first chapter………….more to come. Church now. Completion and editing later.

That first chapter told about the killing of an anti-slavery US Senator by a pro-slavery California Supreme Court Justice in a duel. The author Leonard Richards is a Californian and he’d never heard of this fact as a school kid. He’s a pretty prolific author and even wrote a book I think I was interested to by on the life of former President John Quincy Adams when he was later elected to serve a couple decades in the US House of Representatives. It was nominated for a Pulitzer.

History is a labyrinth and when you go down one corridor you pass up entrances to many others and that has consumed much of the past two weeks for me. I’m also dipping further into the Pulizer winner American Lion about Andrew Jackson. In many ways the war against Slavery began in earnest with Jackson, the slave owner, and his outflanking of his Vice President John C. Calhoun the champion of State’s Rights. I blame the latter for the take no prisoner stance of the GOP on that issue – unless. that is, some State veers dangerously towards gun regulation. By the way Lincoln based much of his legal argument against Secession on Andrew Jackson the long time opponent of his hero Henry Clay.

In resuming that book I ran across the name Bancroft and got lost in a Wikipedia search for a couple hours leading to the namesake of the Bancroft Prize. That led me to his book Slave Trading in the Old South and a book “The Beginnings of the Bible Belt Southern Cross” and another about how slavery and modern capitalism were inextricably linked.

I ordered them all. God knows where I’ll find room for them on my bookshelves let alone time to read them all.

The sum of my bookish endeavors has had one salutary result. My Grandson’s know I revere Honest Abe. The little one had his grandmother read two books in a row about him after our visit to the funeral car and the library and he bought me a walking Abe Lincoln Head for Father’s Day. The older one spent hours making me a Perler Bead Lincoln.

As it said on my old Business Card “Those who do not know the past are condemned to repeat it.” I hope I do better by my grandsons than I did by their Uncle who I swear turned up his nose at all the social sciences to teach me a lesson. Learning about the past can be a drag. At lease my son didn’t call for a boycott of the new version of the Television Series “Roots.”

What a Dogg!


Dear Readers,

There is a movie out based on a book I haven’t read. Its about the relationship between Thomas Wolfe, a protean American writer I’ve never read, and his editor Max Perkins. Its called Genius. It’s based on a book that sounds more interesting than the only review of the movie I’ve read leads me to believe the movie will be.

I am a little envious of Wolfe having an editor. I crank out a lot of verbs and adjectives myself. I tossed in protean in the first sentence here without quite having its proper definition in my head. I was thinking it meant copious and grandiose but its closer to ever changing and fluid. Sadly, I am my own editor. And since coming back from Israel in January I’ve attempted to be a more careful editor working hard to stamp out typos and lazily constructed sentences.

That may be part of the reason I’ve slowed my output in the past week. It could also be that a recent controversy has blown over or that its summer or that I want to attend to other writing projects or that a week ago running across the name Bancroft in the Meacham book on Andrew Jackson pulled me into a a search for more history books that I have since ordered online. Reading is a great way to escape from writing while also putting ideas for blog posts in my head. Whatever combination of reasons I’m leaving to take my grandsons to the Minnesota Science Museum in fifteen minuets (never trust spell check) to see the exhibition on Mummies. So, sorry. I’ve got nothing for you and those recent posts I started will just have to sit unattended to until I get back.

When I do resume maybe I will tell you how not to use the herbicide Roundup. Please close your eyes when driving past my front yard.

The Mulch is coming

It became apparent at yesterday’s lengthy Business Committee meeting that there will be new mulch placed on our school playgrounds next year or the year after. No Board member objected to this. I should further explain this but I have to read the Education Committee Agenda and documents for today’s meeting first.

Our third public high school

Alanna Oswald weighs in on the last post:

“Harbor City International School has been in existence since 2002, and educated 220 students in grades 9-12 last year. This is 1/4 the size of Denfeld.

THIS is the third public high school. Edison would be a fourth public high school.”

RE: my comments on Mr. Sandbulte’s op ed piece – No one asked me if Harbor City could have a high school.

Not getting over our charter schools

A friend and long time supporter of the Red Plan, Greg Sandbulte, wrote a cogent argument against the Duluth Public Schools Academy being able to take advantage of state law to build a third high school in Duluth:

But, in my view, the DPSA board is far too narrow an interest group to decide on behalf of Duluth and its citizens whether, after decades of difficult discussions leading to the painful decision to reduce from three to two public high schools in Duluth, we should now go back to having a third public high school.

Greg was probably one of my allies twelve years ago when I argued that we should only have two high schools in Duluth. However, his side chose to close one high school under the cloak of a quarter billion dollar remake of every school in the District. I only wanted to close one high school to be able to put $1.5 million dollars into high school programming. When Greg’s plan soared to a half billion cost, counting interest, and caused teacher layoffs and large class sizes it inadvertently made competing schools more attractive. The consequence? Dissatisfied ISD 709 families have sought out other schools.

The DPSA is simply taking advantage of the law written by Minnesota’s legislature just as the Old School Board took advantage of statutory vagueness to push ahead without a public referendum on the biggest single school building plan in state history.

An old Let Duluth Voter sent me a reaction to Mr.Sandbulte’s op ed piece under the subject heading, “Too Funny.”

And another tactic to keep Edison down, only families attending can decide about a H.S. and the ones not attending who do not want another school find fault with that. They’ve never felt slighted before but now want in.
Are Meyers-Wilkins parents welcome to make decisions at Congdon PTA meetings? Maybe Denfeld families should have had a say in the $6mil East Stadium?

But at least the article ends with a chuckle, Sandbulte credentials are he served on LRFP committee!! Who was allowed on that little select group? In fact those specially appointed pro-RP folks made decisions costing about a half billion dollars without a vote!!

I still stand by my last column in the Trib. I’d like to get past the Red Plan and the development of Duluth’s charter schools or as I put it in my column:

“I voted to end two ancient wars, one over charters and one over the Red Plan and its calamitous aftermath. I voted to begin an era of respect and cooperation and to regain the community’s respect for our School Board.”

As the proverbial “they” say, Hindsight is twenty-twenty.

Seismic waves

I got another email “letter” from Donald Trump telling me that if he’s elected there will never be another mass shooting in the US again by a conflicted, self loathing, gay Muslim, who supports both Isis and their bitter enemies Hamas unlike the traitor and non-American infiltrator Barack Obama. (OK, OK, I’ve taken some liberties with his wording. He wants more money anyway since he’s reneging on his promise to self fund………Yeah, yeah, yeah, he didn’t say that either.)

Its the first time I’ve read one of his emails but I was struck by his signature at the end. It looks like a seismograph’s reading of an earthquake. How apropos.

Donald J. Trump:

The real thing:

Friday’s grist for my mill

I will have an hour to blog before I go off to paint our church’s parlor. I’ve promised my thoughts on what it will take for Hillary to get my vote and I have the last four days worth of posts Monday-through-Thursday sitting incomplete as reminders to me of what was once on my mind. Maybe I’ll get to them on Saturday.

Today’s NPR story is the grist for my mill today especially in this week of graduations. Its headline: More Than 6 Million U.S. Students Are ‘Chronically Absent’. With all the other school board members I’ve been celebrating the kids who crossed the finish line of childhood with a high school diploma. Now they embark on the marathon of adulthood.

Since I graduated from college I’ve been more exercised about the kids who having been getting to this point. She told me she didn’t believe in hell. To her the only hell was the one that we create on Earth. She also told me that if there was a Hell she expected God to go there and save all its wretched people.

I was no god. Once I began teaching I didn’t have a clue what to do with kids who came into my classes knowing that school was going to let them down.

This was very much on my mind when I first began running for the school board in in the early 90’s. In one of my first three failed campaigns I was alerted by a couple of school counselors that our school administration was fudging graduation rates and downplaying dropouts. It led me to do some research and write what I called “The Dropout Report.” It begins:

“One out of five school children in Duluth do not graduate from school and the School District is doing little to improve this dropout rate. Furthermore, this 80 percent rate may be a low estimate. Existing evidence suggests that the graduation rate is, or has recently been, less than 80 per cent. The corresponding dropout rate is at least 20 percent and possibly greater. Except for a very few administrators, the School administration seems unaware that only 80 percent of our children graduate from Duluth’s public schools.”

This beginning is noteworthy. In both my report twenty-five years ago and in today’s NPR story the 20% dropout statistic hold steady. I have no idea what our graduation rate is today but I doubt that things got any better in Duluth as our elitists raced to eat up our general fund by pouring it into bigger and better school buildings. Our Denfeld faculty tried to tell us that kids were coming into their classes unprepared.

The first year I found myself back on the Board I immediately began volunteering with Lifehouse to get a look at the kids who were struggling and were most likely not to graduate. That gig fizzled out as our damned school board decided to turn its attention to removing Art Johnston who was far too preoccupied with the inattention paid out to kids in Western Duluth Schools. Art has always been dangerous as KBJR TV reported. He reminds me of the recent superhero movies where government attempts to shackle them because of all the mayhem they cause fighting the bad guys.

Maybe we can get back to kids now. A good first step would be to see if in the past twenty-five years Duluth has improved on its rate of graduation. The NPR report tells us that the first sign of a dropout is absenteeism. As the story says, even the best teacher can’t teach a student who isn’t in class. I’m sure that DFT President Burnham would agree with this.

Tuesday Graduations and “Me First”

Actually my first graduation of the week was 9AM Monday. It was for my kindergarten grandson. They passed out kleenex to parents coming to the ceremony….

For Tuesday I read to Homecroft classrooms and was back by popular demand.

My favorite story……ought to give it to a fellow school board member for elbowing

Monday’s COW

Its nice to find myself in the lead sentence of a DNT School Board story.

“Board member Harry Welty wanted to know the difference between the contingency fund and the general fund’s reserves, which last summer totaled less than $2 million.”

Contingency Fund vs. Reserve Fund

$1.6 million special ed costs once again misstated.


Refinancing our Bonds

OK, OK, OK, I’ll be a week late when I put this post to bed. I’ve just come from my fifth and final school graduation this week and circumstance never gave me the chance to keep up with my posts. I’m going to go to bed in half an hour or sooner and take a moment to read my nightly chapter in the Bible. I’m half way through First Chronicles. I missed my reading last night because I got home late from East’s Graduation. I am just putting together some posts to be written but not tomorrow. I will be painting the walls in our church tomorrow and then heading over to the blood bank in the afternoon to donate another pint of blood. But there’s is stuff to write about and I’m putting place holders in to put pressure on myself to elaborate when I can make the time……

So that’s all for this post tonight.