Budget talks at 709

I posted this headline last night after our Business Committee. Then I left the post blank to sleep on it.

I’m quoted in today’s DNT news story about our budget planning. Frankly, Jana Hollingsworth, the Trib’s education reporter, has offered up a much better explanation about our budget than I would have.

This is ironic because Jana was home with an illness and missed the Business Committee meeting. I encouraged her to watch the four hour meeting on the Internet later that night. I also sent Jana the budget that was sent to the School Board in advance of the meeting for her to peruse before she wrote her story.

The news is grim. We anticipate deep cuts. There is good news. Our administration’s recommendations for next year’s budget bend over backwards to avoid making cuts to classrooms. Everything else is at great risk.

Reading Jana’s story I discovered something else that was not obvious to me during the meeting. The recommended budget suggests that we spend $150,000 more in Western Duluth to catch up with our spending in our eastern schools. Its not enough and we won’t be able to afford a seven-hour-day out west with all the cuts heading our way. None-the-less, its something.

We have another two months to determine the final budget and we are waiting to see what the state legislature and the Governor agree on. I’m not hopeful.

More books I’m reading

I’m not sure where I read Richard Rubin’s promo/review of the PBS series on the Great War but its conclusion mentioned several of the books he had written of which two were about the Great War. That has been a subject of great fascination for me since childhood but it was another of his books that caught my attention. The review had a convenient link (which I can not immediately find) to his first book chronicling how he took his Ivy League History degree and got a job back in the 1980’s reporting on local sports for a Mississippi backwater newspaper. Confederacy of Silence : A True Tale of the New Old South is a New York Jewish kids memory of learning about the race issue in Mississippi in the modern era.

I sensed a kindred spirit so I checked out this books on the Great War. One particularly intrigued me. Mr.Rubin wrote a book about wandering over those the French battlefields: Back Over There. I could think of nothing to better prepare me for a similar expedition. I did mention the idea to Claudia. She told me to check it out. I ordered the book.

I would much rather spend this summer reading up on history than going door to door campaigning for the School Board. I’ll have to do both so if I must give up something it will just have to be sleep.

And for now the books are split between turn of the century American politics and China. One of the big fat Chinese histories I’ve been reading to Claudia started sounding a bit repetitive so I pulled a book that had been collecting dust to try out. It’s a “charming” tale about they young Mao Tse-Tung. That’s how one reviewer described it. And it is, which is a bit surprising considering Mao’s blood drenched record.

I found the paperback a quarter century ago and the title was irresistible to me: Mao Tse-tung and I were Beggars. Back in the day I paid $1.95 for it. Amazon lists it for $30.00. It was written by a student who went with his younger colleague, Mao, on a sight-seeing tour of China in the teens of the Twentieth Century.

The beginning of the book describes a headstrong boy who nags his resistant father into letting him go to primary school. Mao’s friend, the author of the book, describes how a hulking 15-year old Mao, looking every bit the peasant that he was, barged into the new primary academy for boys half his age and pleaded to be allowed to learn despite heckling he endured from the much smaller students.

The original book was published in 1959 when I was nine years old. That was ten years after Mao and company took over the mainland and the same year that Fidel Castro was posing as not necessarily a commie in his take over of Cuba. Like Donald Trump Fidel had imagined a career playing for the New York Yankees so he didn’t seem like too big a threat. He had his own set of fans who, like Mao’s biographer, did their best to allay American fears.

Speaking of threats, I sure hope the Chinese don’t treat me like a United Airlines passenger when I arrive. I’ve read they are burning up the Internet with outrage over this example of what they consider profiling.

singing with positivitity

Loren Martell has once again covered our latest School Board meeting in the Reader. I make a couple of his paragraphs:

Mr. Welty referenced a story in the “bygones” section of the Duluth News Tribune about the State test results from 1997. The paper apparently reported, according to member Welty, that 20 years ago “81% of Duluth’s ninth graders had reached math skills suitable for the adult world, and 87% of our ninth graders had achieved reading skills that were necessary for the adult world…So my challenge to you (addressing Tawnyea Lake, the district’s Director of Assessment, Evaluation and Performance) would be this: if you could find some reference to these test results…and see if there is some way to let us know how our ninth graders are doing by these particular measurements, I would appreciate it…”

I am doing what I can to fight the negativity. I brought my grandsons to meet the family of our new CFO, Doug Hasler, Wednesday night. They’ve been in town scouting for houses and Doug invited the Board members over for an ice cream social at the home they were staying at down on Park Point. (Ahem, Denfeld attendance area)

I sang a couple bars of Gary Indiana with Mrs. Hassler when I learned it was her hometown. They’re all Hoosiers. Then I chided her for not forcing her kids to see the Meredith Wilson musical, Music Man, that features the song.

My grandsons ate their fill of ice cream and happily played fooseball down in the basement while we Board members explained the finer points of collecting agates to Doug’s older kids.

PS. our Grandsons enjoyed the Music Man when they saw it with us and Jacob asked me to sing Till there was You a couple times before bed…….of course, he also liked me to sing him songs about people getting killed – Joe Hill, Tom Dooley, Frankie and Johnny.

Principles before Principals – The rush to war

I’m two days late mentioning the centenary of America’s entry into World War 1. For the next 20 or so months I’ll be reminding myself of my Grandfather’s service in that war. Maybe I’ll even write a book about him which will cover the subject. I just peaked into the news clippings I printed out from Newspaper.com earlier in the year and the first mention of his joining the service that I found was August 11th of 1917 in the Salina Evening Journal. Two weeks later the Topeka Daily Capital published a story that should have made the folks at Great Bend, Kansas burst their buttons with pride. The Capital reports that, “Every man on the teaching staff last year with the exception of the City Superintendent has been accepted in one of the two training camps.” Among the new volunteers was my Grandfather George S. Robb.

That had not been my Grandfather’s prewar plan. There was a short announcement in the Salina Daily Union a month earlier on June 4. “Mr.[George]Robb taught in the Iola High school the past season and will be the principal of the Great Bend high school next year.”

All the books I’ve been reading to Claudia about China must have put her travel bug into high gear. We’re still a hundred days before we fly off to China but she asked me where we ought to go next. I teased her about getting ahead of ourselves but it occurs to me that I’ve always wanted to tromp around the battlefields near Sechault, France. September of 2018 would be the hundredth anniversary of the actions at that village that led to the awarding of his Congressional Medal of Honor. That would be a sweet little trip.

An ounce of prevention

I’m just shy of half way through Destiny of the Republic. Garfield has had one bit of luck before derangement wins the day. His self-appointed tormentor Senator Conkling, a preening bully of a man, has just overplayed his hand right out of the United States Senate. What should be the path to well deserved reform and fame for the President will soon give way to what I found when I moved to North Mankato in 1963. Oblivion.

That fall I began three ignominious years at Garfield Junior High. No one called it that. It was always “North Mankato Junior High” the martyred President having been all but forgotten in the intervening 84 years. Within three months of my enrollment a fourth President would be assassinated.

Destiny has done a wonderful job of describing Garfield’s addled assassin Charles Guiteau. The Congress had made Garfield all the new President all the more vulnerable by cutting the Secret Service’s budget by half shortly before Garfield took office. Their job wasn’t to protect the President anyway back then. They were set up to go after counterfeiters.

Lincoln had been murdered fifteen years before. William McKinley would be murdered twenty years later and Teddy Roosevelt would be saved the same fate when a fat little speech in his breast pocket stopped a bullet not long afterwards. It was a bad run of luck for Republican Presidents.

I mentioned the importance of perspective in the last post. I am annoyed by the vast unexpected sums that are being required to protect our new President and his globe hopping family. There has been a whole raft of news stories on that subject. I have little choice but to support what it takes to keep our President safe. I’m pinning my hopes on impeachment but until then I am relying on Seth Meyers.

Snakepits

I was desperate not to sit at home all day and read and a Park Point walk beckoned. It was a little breezy on the shore when I started so I moved to the inland trail and found this little garter snake. I think this is only the second time since I moved to Duluth 43 years ago that I’ve seen a snake. I found a redbelly snake with my kids up by the Pigeon River when they were little. I think I took a picture, or tried to, of that one as well.

I know gartersnakes are not uncommon because Claudia told me Minnesota Power had troubles at sub stations when garters overwintered in them in huge groups and occasionally slithered into the works and shorted out whole neighborhoods.

Speaking of snake-pits the latest history of Republicans, Destiny of the Republic describes the war between “Stalwarts” and “Halfbreeds.” The halfbreeds were sort of the equivalent of today’s RINO’s and like them their nickname wasn’t one of their choosing. While both sides of the party were ungenerous to the South the Stalwarts were all big business and Spoils system oriented.

The Halfbreeds would ebb and wane they gravitated towards all manner of populist parties in the decades ahead but in 1880 when the Party nominated James Garfield it was the Halfbreeds who had the upper hand. I should have been so lucky.

This is a ripping good book and its author, Candice Millard, also wrote another highly regarded book that I’ve often thought would be interesting to read, “The River of Doubt.” That one is about Teddy Roosevelt’s near suicidal exploration of a tributary of the Amazon after he lost the 1912 three way race that put Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the Oval Office. As my eight loyal readers no doubt recall I’m in the midst of reading books about the politics of my Grandfather’s youth. I have wondered for years whether my Grandfather supported the liberalish Teddy Roosevelt or William H. Taft who the conservatives found more acceptable in that race. I have my suspicions but I’m looking for something definitive – maybe I’ll find it in the many letters I copied and brought back from the Kansas Historical Society but have yet to dig into.

Reading these books is helping me put the 2016 election in perspective. My early years during the Cold War were a time of relative restraint once Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy was humiliated out of politics. There is something in people that drives them to divide themselves up and blow their differences of opinion out of all proportion.

A few days ago I reread the 22nd Amendment to check on the limits of Presidents. I couldn’t recall if it only forbade Presidents from serving a consecutive third term or any third term. I was wondering if Obama could serve a non-consecutive term like Grover Cleveland did after our four years of Trump are over. Sadly, that’s it for Obama. The Republicans who were outraged by FDR’s 4 consecutive terms got the 22nd Amendment passed in March 24, 1947, two years after Franklin Roosevelt’s death.

What I’ve learned from my recent reading is how often presidents in my Grandfather’s Era flirted with a third term. Teddy did, Wilson did and Ulysses S. Grant was willing to serve a third term as well. Lots of Republicans in the Reagan years wished the 22nd Amendment had never passed.

False Memories

I finished yet another book today, Mr. Speaker. Its the second book covering American politics leading up to my very Republican Grandfather’s adulthood.

Thomas Reed is described by some as one of the most important politicians that American’s have never heard of. He was a loyal Republican (hence the tie to my Grandfather) and he is famous for fixing the House of Representatives which had descended into a long Era of gridlock following the Civil War. In many ways the two political parties have changed markedly since then. Reed for his part resigned because he opposed the Spanish American War. That put him at odds with most of America at the time and his own Republicans.

I was interested in his expertise with Parliamentary procedure which is something that was missing at School Board meetings in my first couple of years back on the School Board. On Deck, Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard about the assassinated James Garfield, which will probably be followed by Karl Rove’s history of “the first modern presidential campaign” in 1896 that elected William McKinley who also was stopped by an assassin’s bullet.

Oh, and I almost forgot the title of this post – “False memories.” I wrote a couple of years ago that I’d first read about Thomas Reed in John Kennedy’s 1955 classic “Profiles in Courage.” As I finished Grant’s book on Reed today I was very curious to reread what JFK had to say about Reed’s courage. I found the paperback I’d re-read in 1995 (its on my reading list) and discovered in its heavily yellow-markered and separating pages that JFK made no mention of Reed in Profiles. I checked the index – nada. I skimmed a couple chapters of that Era to see if he was mentioned. No way.

Dammit!

On that $7.4 million

Board member Alanna Oswald asked our Administration about the $7.4 million extra for the Duluth Schools that Lt. Gov. Smith told the DNT that the Governor has written into his Education Bill.

The answer in short is that the Governor’s budget is still a moving target yet to be worked out with the Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature. If there is that much in the the Governor’s budget for Duluth (probably over a two year period) it certainly is not meant to cover the Red Plan’s unanticipated costs.

Supt. Gronseth suggested that any increase in the base funding for schools would end up being somewhere between a 1.25% or 1.5% annual increase. That sounds like a lot less than $7.4 million so I don’t think anyone is confident that Lt. Governor Smith’s good news is anything we can count on. If we get what the Lt. Governor suggests that would be fine with me.

Dayton’s money for Duluth’s Schools

From an email from a friend from my Let Duluth Vote days:

From the Lt Gov letter:

“Our budget proposal would provide Duluth public schools an additional $7.4 million in funding to hold down class sizes, maintain facilities, and expand access to early learning. ”

Its a shame the State has to give Duluth money for the first two items, those are basic responsibilities of any district.

How would Duluthians feel say if Rochester gussied up all their schools and then received State tax dollars because they couldn’t keep up their new schools?

If all districts receive the same money then fine but otherwise it is a bailout of some bad, very bad decisions.

Here was my email reply:

Interesting. I can’t disagree with you. I hadn’t seen the letter but it’s what Art [Johnston] has been telling me we should be asking for because the state didn’t perform it’s due diligence overseeing the Red Plan.

Selfishly, for 709’s future, I can’t disagree. But I never saw that being in the cards. Even now I find it hard to believe that a GOP legislature will let that go into effect.

One last thought. $7 million would be nice but it’s a pittance compared to the annual bite the Red Plan’s theft from our general fund encumbers us with.

Chinese Bibliophiles

Again. A weekend with plenty of thinking and very little posting. Actually on Friday I spent a couple hours writing in an attempt to tie my reading on China today with America’s Gilded Age that I’ve also been reading about. One quick take away – plutocrats were a dime a dozen in both times and places. Another take away. American Government was in shambles. Is that true of one party China today? There certainly is a lot of order in Confucian China but there is much that is also unsettled. Anyway, I spent another couple hours tinkering with Friday’s work on Saturday before shelving it. I might post a vastly shrunken post on it later.

As for the rest of Saturday. I devoted it to China.

I long ago discovered that China was the other half of world history. I have a good handle on everything else but the Chinese language makes it hard for Chinese names to take seed in my brain.

I began keeping track of my serious book reading in 1979 when I read by far the largest number of books in a single year -30 of them. I’m not sure I’ve ever read as much as ten books in subsequent years. I occasionally bought books on China but I rarely got around to reading them. I got 53 pages into “A Short History of the Chinese People.” Taking it out again Saturday to see what I had previously yellowed out with a marker I found this:

“…Wang succeeded in cornering almost all the gold in circulation both within the empire and abroad. Even faraway Rome felt the drain, Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) prohibiting the wearing of silk because it was bought with Roman gold.”

I spent a couple hours on Saturday beginning Chinese for Dummies and finally understand the tonal system of Mandarin that I had mistakenly thought was strictly pitch based as in Do-Ray-Me. Time will tell how far I much I will pick up in the 107 days before I travel east. I finished reading the Osnos book to Claudia and began a book by Frank Ching I’d bought twenty years ago but through which I’d never gotten further than the prologue. I bought it for $4.98 on a remainder pile because it looked interesting. Indeed it is. Unlike the last two books on China in the 2000’s, Ching got in on China at the opening of China immediately after Mao as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

His book is not about China as it is today, although that comes through, but about his research into his Chinese Ancestors who have published histories (that escaped the book burnings of the Cultural Revolution) going back to the time of the Norman Conquest of England just shy of 1000 years ago. He begins with the grave he discovered of one of his earliest ancestors Qin (Chin) Guan. As I read it I couldn’t help but wonder if he was tied in with another Chinese personage I’d once bought a book about Su Tungpo. I’d never read far into “The Gay Genius” when I bought it for ten bucks thirty years ago from Atlantic World Books on 209 E. Superior Street in Duluth. It has a glowing recommendation of Pearl S. Buck on its book jacket which probably enticed me to purchase it. Frank Ching using the pinyin system writes the poet’s name as Su Dongbo. Su was Mr. Ching’s Great Grandfather’s times 33 muse and mentor. I’ll have to traverse over 800 pages to cover both books but I’ve pushed on with Frank Ching’s largely because it will cover one family line through the last 900 years of Chinese History. Its my latest read-a-loud to Claudia.

If China is to surpass the American economy in my lifetime I owe it to my curious self to find out more about this behemoth. Its been on my radar for fifty years since I got into an argument with my Gymnastic’s coach after practice waiting for a bus home. He interfered in a debate I was having with my Sioux-Norwegian Gymnastic teammate who subsequently married a Korean woman (Or was she Chinese?) and went into the Foreign Service from which he recently retired.

Claudia and I are making a little room in a downstairs bookshelf for all these books. Her reading list includes three Amy Tan novels and Life and Death in Shanghai while mine includes The Rape of Nanking and the Sons of the Yellow Emperor about the Chinese “diaspora.” Somewhere I also have a book on the Ming Era fleet that traveled to Africa a few decades ahead of the Portuguese. And of course, there is Wild Swans which I read to Claudia a couple years ago.

City Pages has drawn a connection from Prior Lake’s soaking …

… to the pillaging of the Duluth Schools. Here’s a sample:

“Johnson Controls believes the revitalization can be accomplished in both a budget and tax-neutral manner,” read the January 24, 2006 letter signed by company execs Micheal J. David and Brent T. Jones. “… Johnson Controls has the wherewithal to guarantee the financial solution, in writing. By doing so, we enable you to move forward with little or no risk…

“Bottom line, the Duluth Public Schools is facing a once-in-a-generation opportunity and Johnson Controls can make it happen.”

Alanna Oswald was feeling it. The ’91 Denfeld grad and mother with two says the sales pitch was irresistible.

“I was all on board.… We were going to get brand new shiny buildings that more adequately addressed our children’s learning needs, and our taxes would go up a little bit,” says Oswald, who’d go on to become a Duluth school board member in 2015.

The massive overhaul would become known as the Red Plan. Johnson Controls would oversee it all, from planning to engineering. Construction began in 2009 and lasted into 2011.

But before it was all over, the Red Plan’s price tag would balloon to $315 million. Johnson’s fees, which were based on percentages, soared with it.

“I am somebody who tries to take my mask off.”

Today’s story about the Superintendent canceling his job search began with a post yesterday on his Facebook page. The Trib’s education reporter called me to ask me what I made of it. I promised her I’d take a look and call her back with my thoughts. She only quoted part of my response (my full comments are posted at the end) This is Superintendent Gronseth’s complete Facebook post:

Okay, well, so life in the public eye isn’t always easy. Sometimes I work really hard to make it seem like it is and many people who have shared their support for me have told me as much. So, just for the record, it can be difficult. Also, just for the record, I applied for positions while my contract was being discussed over the course of months–I got nervous and started looking. Yes. I applied for several and ended up a finalist in three of the nation-wide searches. Yes, I came in 2nd three times. I have withdrawn my name from other searches still in progress. Recently, at an event in Duluth, a woman who I know just a little, asked me why I kept interviewing in other places. After our chat, she said, well why don’t you just say that? And so here it is…But first I will say that my family has been a part of Duluth’s history for a long time since the 1890’s at least– as cobblers, grocers, bakers, real estate brokers, etc. I love the lake and the forest, and the change of seasons–and this will always be home and I truly do love it here. The people I get to work with from day to day are amazing. We are lucky to have so many knowledgeable, talented people in our schools. So the question remains, why would I want to leave it then? While others have suggested their own reasons, like more money, or larger districts, it really isn’t about that. It has been about joy, about positivity, about looking at challenges without dragging others down. Don’t get me wrong– I know it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. We have some big issues to tackle and looking at the data is a big part of it. My focus however, is on the solutions and the process to get there. When we continually focus on the negative, that is what sticks, when we continually look at solutions, things get done. We need to get some things turned around– we need to dig in, and make some pretty significant changes in our schools and our community. We need to have people who are focused on problem solving, on lifting up what is going right so we can do more of it, and less negativity, finger pointing, and shaming. For my part, I am going to start speaking more plainly. I am not going to work quite as hard to make it look easy. Things might get a little messier, but I am hopeful that the right people will step up and join me as champions for our kids, our schools, and our community.

There are those that will tear this apart as well, and believe me to be disingenuous, but here it is– those who know me, know that I take my work seriously and that I care deeply about education.

After I called the Tribune back I spoke off the record for a few minutes while I composed my thoughts. This is what I said after going back “on record:”

I am somebody who tries to take my mask off. I believe in personal transparency and to the extent the superintendent is attempting to be very open about why he has been applying for other jobs, I appreciate his candor. But I do have some reservations about the implications of his message. I believe you can talk about awkward and difficult problems openly and candidly and those conversations don’t have to be regarded as “negativity.” He seems to believe discussions of difficult subjects shouldn’t take place at all, and not discussing them makes them go away. I believe he is wrong in thinking that. I am also troubled that his message seems to be an appeal to get new School Board members who will agree with him on the positivity angle. And if he is successful, the School Board will paper over problems, and that will only lead to a compounding of problems. I like the superintendent and I think he has the best interest of children at heart, and I am prepared to work with him if he continues on as leader of the school district. But I think he needs to examine my point of view with more openness to assure his success and the future success of the district.

And I will add something else. My first two years on the Duluth School Board were spent defending an honorable man accused of malicious and unsupported accusations that seemed intended to 1. humiliate him into quitting the board or 2. give the School Board majority political cover to overturn a recent election and remove him from office or 3. so blacken his reputation that he could not possibly win reelection in 2017.

The first two possibilities did not come to pass but the third has yet to be tested. My colleague, Art Johnston, will be running for reelection this year and we have yet to see if two year’s of taking a blow torch to Art causes him to lose reelection.

As to Supt. Gronseth’s post – I wish there had been more concern shown about “negativity” from 2014 to 2016 when someone else’s ox was being gored. Had some humanity been exercised at that time perhaps there would be a lot less less negativity today. The Superintendent is correct, “…life in the public eye isn’t always easy.”

PS. Anyone who would like to contribute to Art Johnston’s reelection can send me a check for the: “Johnston Volunteer Committee” and I’ll make sure he gets it. My address is:
Harry Welty
2101 E 4th St.
Duluth, MN 55812.

or send me an email telling me you’d like to help at: harrywelty@ charter.net. Sorry, but you will have to copy this and paste it into your browser.

Art will be in touch.

The Rape of Nanking

WDIO’s reporter, Julie Kruse, called me as I was adding another two books to “my reading list.” More on the books momentarily.

Today’s ongoing story in the Trib had caught Julie’s attention and the public’s apprehension about our superintendency has too. I gave her some background info and agreed to go on record so she and a cameraman zipped down for a quick interview. I had joked with her in advance that my inclination was to be more evasive than anything else and I tried to hew to that goal on camera.

I was wearing my wolf slippers when she came to the door and holding a stack of books on China. I explained I bought them the new feet with my grandsons at the Wisconsin Dells’ Great Wolf Water Park. Then I explained that I had gathered my books on China together to prepare for a summer trip to the same. Julie asked about the title “Rape of Nanking” which didn’t exactly sound like a travel guide.

The first of the books I entered on my old webpage was the one about the 1920 election. I powered through it and then today found the goodreads website which included almost 100 reviews from readers. Most enjoyed it as much as I did although a few quibbled about the gossipy things in it. Not me. I found FDR’s attempt to hush up the seamiest actions he took as Secretary of the Navy instructive. And when author, Pietrusza, commented archly that divorce rates had tripled in the decades leading up to 1920 so that by that date 1% of marriages had been sundered I appreciated that insight on the Era which was about to plunge into the Roaring Twenties.

I also added the book by Evan Osnos about China’s Age of Ambition to the list even though I still have about 50 pages to finish. Claudia and I have been tearing through it and it has taken some darker turns in the last couple of chapters. Among my unread Chinese related books was “Ancestors” by Frank Ching. I bought it on sale twenty years ago but it looks like just the book to take me back a thousand years into Chinese History. And last night I reread the prologue to Mr. Speaker so I’ll revisit that book about America’s Gilded Age.

All of these books are fodder to help me understand why we are the way we are today. From the preface of Mr. Speaker:

“The party labels of Reed’s day may seem now as if they were stuck on backwards. At that time, the GOP was the party of active government, the Democratic party, the champion of Laissez-faire. The Republicans’s sage was Alexander Hamilton the Democrats’ Thomas Jefferson. The Republicans condemned the Democrats for their parsimony with public funds, the Democrats arraigned the Republicans for their waste and extravagance. …..and what…constituted extravagance in federal spending? …a building to house the overcrowded collection of the Library of Congress.”

As one tidbit to support this I’ll note a news story from the Gilded Age which I found online last year. It mentioned my Republican Grandfather, Thomas Robb, and his neighbors taking the Santa Fe railroad to court for overcharging them. I know whose side Donald Trump would have taken.

Enrollment Chess

Today’s DNT article on a proposed expansion of the Wrenshall schools opens up all sorts of questions that demonstrate the difficulties for Minnesota’s schools. Rudy Perpich opened up a Pandora’s Box with both his Charter School’s and Open Enrollment innovations. He had been a long-time Hibbing School Board member before he got to St. Paul (he wanted to use his tenure in Hibbing to bump up his state pension when he left office) and he wanted to shake up public schools from their complacency.

School Districts and their politically vulnerable school board members have to weigh all sorts of imponderables before making big decisions involving taxes and referendums. Wrenshall schools are becoming overcrowded and the Board wants to hold a referendum to expand and update facilities. Some locals are against the fix up and taxes.

At present 100 Duluth kids are filling out Wrenshall’s student body. That is a trend that predates the Red Plan but which was also inflated by the Red Plan. The Wrenshall voters ought to ask themselves whether those Duluth students might leave them if they don’t fix up their schools. However, the question being asked in Wrenshall now seems to be whether they will spend all that money and then see the Duluth students leave anyway. Put another way will they be throwing good money after bad?

They have only to look at the Duluth Red Plan experience to see a similar result. The Keith Dixon led Duluth School Board gambled half a billion dollars on their great new schools attracting students back from the Charter Schools. Instead, the Red Plan caused a student diaspora. I think Loren Martell’s recent column suggested that Duluth lost 4,000 students after the Red Plan. Who can blame Wrenshall voters for being skittish?

Wrenshall has also been in the news when the Carlton District petitioned to consolidate with Wrenshall and it turned up its nose to a union with its smaller suffering neighbor. That too was a calculation. I’ll be honest. I’d love to have both schools send more of their students to Duluth especially the students that the Red Plan drove out of our District.

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Yesterday in threadbare detail

Yesterday I finished a couple more chapters in my 1920 book, did my Sing thing and then attended the Clayton Jackson McGhie Dinner at Greysolon Plaza.

I learned in the book that women had the right to vote in four Eastern States until 1807, which I couldn’t recall having heard before. It was part of the background in the 1920 book which had a marvelous twenty-page chapter describing how the Woman’s voting amendment passed a couple months before the November Presidential Election.

At the Sing thing I saw a recently retired school board member. We both did a superlative job of avoiding eye contact with one another.

At CJM I sat next to a current Board member who proceeded to chat me up for the first time in three years of our serving together.

I also exchanged a big hug with my old now school board ally, Mary Cameron. We were once thick as thieves until our differences over the Red Plan clouded our former alliance. We’ve gotten over that and I couldn’t be happier about it.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."