Any new readers to this column may not know that I was a sometimes controversial member of the Duluth Board for twelve of the last 24 years. Loren Martell, the Reader columnist who has doggedly replaced and excelled the News Tribune as the chronicler of the Board, took my advice from a year ago and listened in on the tapes of closed School Board meetings about the 2017 Contract negotiations. As he explains in this week’s column these are kept confidential until the negotiations for all our bargaining units are completed. Afterwards, they are available to the public. Until Loren the only people who ever listened to them were members of the various unions who wanted to get ideas for the next round of negotiations.
Loren summarized the three closed meetings we conducted my last year on the School Board. I was amused that he recorded the bickering between me and my fellow board member, Annie Harala, in the second meeting. She was probably in fifth grade during my most challenging contract negotiations which took place in 1997 when Duluth’s teachers were hellbent on a strike. Her mother, a former teacher’s union negotiator, likely shared her prejudices about me with her school board daughter. Here’s Loren quoting us verbatim:
The middle meeting, 5/31/17, was held so that Administration could get the go-ahead for negotiating four years (two, two-year) of contracts with teachers. Friction between some Board members grew fairly intense, when Superintendent Gronseth mentioned that teacher representatives had expressed concern about comments member Welty had posted on his blog about the negotiations.
Member Harala dressed Welty down with the most pointed ire: “We want our negotiations to go well, and we don’t want what happened, historically, the last time you were on the Board, when you had to quit being Chair and the voodoo doll and all of that stuff–we don’t need that! What we want to do is move forward and have healthy conversations with our staff…”
“I will operate the way I think makes the most sense for me.” Mr. Welty responded. “I’m quite familiar with what took place in the past and make no apologies for it. I probably prevented a strike.”
“That’s fine.” Harala shot back. “We’re not moving towards that (a strike.) You were the leader at that time; it didn’t work. And now you don’t have that leadership role on our Board.”
Mr. Welty fired back: “Well, you’re speaking as though you have a great deal of knowledge about what took place at those negotiations a long time ago, and you were in third grade at the time.”
“Excuse me! I would ask that you not use such age-ist comments!”
I’ll make an age-ist comment about this internecine squabbling. It’s probably getting pretty old, so I’ll move on.
Years ago I explained that dramatic negotiation in my old Website. Snowbizz.com. I titled the lengthy story “Who do the Voodoo? I do.” It’s a fifteen minute read unless you follow all the links I embedded in it. (many of them may no longer work twenty years after I wrote this). Reading everything could take an afternoon.