…These are the 14 Questions from the DFL screening committee and my answers to them:
2017 Screening Committee Questions, City of Duluth DFL
In this questionnaire, we are asking the same questions of all candidates for a given office. When we
conduct the follow-up, in-person screening, questions can, of course, depend on a candidate’s initial
answers on this questionnaire.
SCHOOL BOARD (indicate office you are seeking): At-Large____X____ 2 nd _______ 3 rd________
1.Why are you seeking the DFL endorsement?
I wish to serve my fourth term on the Duluth School Board as a Democrat.
2. Have you been endorsed, or screened for endorsement for any other political parties, groups, or
organizations? If so, who?
I was endorsed by Republicans for the legislature in 1976, 1978 and ran against the endorsed Republican for the legislature in 2002. I parted company with the GOP when I began my blog www.lincolndemocrat.com in 2006.
3. Will you commit to using union materials and services for your campaign when possible? (Will
you support union represented members of staff in the Duluth public schools and work with
them to enhance our public education?)
I like union bugs. And yes, I will continue to work cooperatively with school district staff as I always have for the betterment of our schools.
4. What do you consider the top three priorities for the Duluth Schools right now? Please place in
order of priority and state your plan to work on them.
1.Hiring more teachers to reduce class size.
HOW: Keep our expenses low. Win back the trust of voters and use that trust to pass an increased operational levy referendum. Renegotiate the Red Plan Bonds which are taking an unconscionable $3.4 million out of our classrooms annually.
2. Make sure that our schools with large “free and reduced lunch” populations are treated fairly and equitably.
HOW: Begin by making sure Compensatory Ed funds follow the children for whom they are meant into their schools. Make sure that the course offerings at all secondary schools are equally attractive and lure open enrolled students back into our schools.
3. Treat our staff and public responsibly, with respect and expect the best from everyone connected to our schools.
HOW: By setting such an example myself.
5. How do you see yourself working with other School Board Members? What evidence can you
give us of your ability to build coalitions to meet common goals?
I speak respectfully, with considerable thought and keep an even temper but not at the expense of ignoring an injustice. After an unconscionable attempt to void an election and slander a colleague I defended him for a year and half with all my wit and strength, and yet, after the coup attempt failed I resumed working harmoniously with the Board members on the other side. Those who have attended our meetings for the past year and a half have seen me work quite collegially with the current Board just as I do with teachers and administrative staff. My mother always told me that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
6. What are your thoughts about the reasons for the ongoing achievement gap between schools in the
There are so many directions to point fingers I despair of the ink it would take to fully expound on this. If I were to break this down to its fundamental parts I would have to say 1. American voters have not yet decided to give all children an even educational break but have sought cheap and failing solutions. 2. Too many of us think that it makes more sense to put someone in jail than give them the start they need in life. This is simply wrong headed.
I have written thousands of words about this on my blog, usually under the category of civil rights, education and often with the word “equity” embedded in my posts.
In Duluth’s case our straightened finances are a big part of this. We have failed to persuade voters to pass the large referendums we need. Also, previous boards made a catastrophic decision to spend $6 million a year to pay off Red Plan bonds with money that belongs in the classroom. We still spend $3.4 million annually on bonds – a loss of almost 40 teachers. Furthermore, the Red Plan divided the population of Duluth into rich and poor and white and minority. We should come up with creative, non-coercive ways to better mix our student populations.
6. What will you do to address the significantly different outcomes for the children who are served in
our public schools?
Make sure funding is equitable. Recruit and retain minority teachers. Do my best to make more dollars available for the classroom. Give the teachers the staff development they need to better teach. Be honest with all parties connected to the schools.
7. How will you work to build relationships with and advocate for underrepresented and/or
marginalized communities in Duluth?
I am a longtime advocate for minorities. I worked hard to elect and reelect the School Board’s first African American member, Mary Cameron, over four election cycles. I keep in communications with Duluth’s African American community. I read voluminously of history about the minority experience in American history and have done so since high school almost 50 years ago.
8. What can the District do to address bullying within our schools?
Treat all people and parties with respect from the School Board on down to hourly workers and children.
9. What is your position on charter schools?
They will not go away and do not constitute the threat to public education that vouchers do. Because the Public Schools have been put in the position of needing votes to pass operational levy referendums it’s best not to alienate the Charter voting public with counterproductive antagonism.
10. Do you favor some sort of merit/performance-based pay for teachers? How would you evaluate
I don’t object to such funding but recognize that teacher evaluations can be subjective and merit pay could be used as a stick as well as a carrot . Nevertheless, there is a million dollar pot of money in the State that Duluth could apply for. I would hope our teachers would work with the administration to set up a fair system of distributing merit pay to take advantage of this additional financing. We have a long history in the Duluth Schools of letting teachers, administrators and Board members work together to solve common problems.
11. The Duluth DFL expects that our endorsed candidates will be running as a team. Will you
commit to publicly supporting and campaigning cooperatively with the other DFL-endorsed
Yes. That is how political parties are expected to operate.
12. Will you abide by the endorsement of the convention and cease your campaign if someone else
I will follow the honorable example of DFL Governors Rolvaag, Perpich and Dayton.
14. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about why we should recommend you for
If you visit my blog you will see that I write with considerable force, candor and direct much deserved criticism at the Republican Party to which I once belonged. The GOP has undermined decades worth of sensible government for small minded, greedy and petty goals. Hillary Clinton was not wrong to talk of a “vast right wing conspiracy.” I blame the Republican Party for Trump’s presidency. Today the Democratic Party is the only party which has room for my generally liberal and moderate views. You asked me in an earlier question if I valued coalitions. I do. Without them governing is not possible. I can’t wait for the Democratic Party to grab the reins of power in Washington D.C.. Sadly, I can imagine that not happening.