Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Herd up”

From my Buddy:

See, which includes this interesting language:
For all the talk of Republicans who won’t vote for Trump, it’s quite likely that more than 90 percent will herd up.


The identification with political parties is a psychological attachment that often forms in childhood. We are not handcuffed to our party but the tie is tight and has become more so.
A Stanford research team studied the reaction of Republicans and Democrats to the prospect that their child might marry someone from the other political party. In 1960 — no problem. Only 5 percent (or less) reported being upset by the idea. Our new hyperpartisan world has introduced a very different reaction by 2010. Nearly a third of Democrats were irked and almost half of Republicans were unhappy.

“herd up”? We are ostensibly farther out of the jungle since 1960, but we are increasingly tribal?

It was funny when I was a kid in the 60″s watching Candid Camera. Its not so funny now:

A much wiser and more knowledgeble voice schools me on Reservation land

Your blog post yesterday about Fond du Lac is based on quite a bit of misinformation. If I may, I’d like to provide some information that might hopefully help clear things up.

The feds aren’t “allowing” the tribe to buy anything. The tribe is free to buy any property it wants to, just like anyone else. Case in point, they had already purchased the Carter Hotel quite some time ago without any approval required from anybody. They purchased the Sears building that now houses the casino in the same way. (A common misconception is that the city was involved with that sale, but it wasn’t. That was a private sale.)

In most cases, such off-reservation acquisitions are “fee land” (i.e., the tribe is the owner and they pay taxes on it). Fond du Lac owns fee land scattered throughout the region (much of it is actually undeveloped land that they purchased to preserve habitat). What the feds did, first with the Sears building and now with the Carter Hotel, was place the land into tribal trust. Fee-to-trust transfers are done at the sole discretion of the Department of the Interior. So, you’re correct when you say the city wasn’t engaging in charity by “letting” the tribe open a casino—but only because the city had absolutely no authority in the matter. City officials get very testy when this is pointed out, but it’s nonetheless true. I got confirmation of it straight from the Department of the Interior: Local governments, including Duluth, have never had any say whatsoever in tribal trust decisions.

On its face, that might not seem fair, but there are two important points to understanding what tribal trust is all about:
(1) Tribes don’t own trust land, including their reservation land. The federal government owns it and holds it in trust on behalf of the tribe. This is why tribes don’t pay taxes on trust land—because it’s owned by the feds, not by the tribe.

(2) Fee-to-trust transfers are mostly used Continue reading


Read the screed Here.

• Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will maintain permanent property tax income for the district.

Well Duh! Doesn’t Ed Mn know that Central has sat empty sucking up $170,000 every year in heating and maintenance for six years? We had one buyer who chickened out at the last minute and they only offered us 70% of what we were offered by Tischer Creek Building Corp.

As for the over-hyped permanent property tax income for the district of a modest development of $40 million it would amount to significantly less than 100 grand per year and that’s if the City didn’t grant a TIF District to a developer. In that case we would have to wait 20 years to see a cent from the developed property.

Does Ed Minn offer this kind of boneheaded financial advice to all of its affiliates?

Lets Get Real #4 – “Another value of belonging” to the teacher’s union

Until the President of the Teacher’s Union mass emailed this to her teachers the email coming in to the School Board was running over 85% in support of a sale. After this email went out prompting some teachers to write to us the support for a sale went down to a still overwhelming 70%. This letter only prompted about 40 of ISD 709’s teachers to write in to oppose the sale. That’s out of perhaps 600 teachers or less than ten percent. Not very impressive. Perhaps the other teachers were wondering which of several dozen teachers were about to be laid off due to next year’s budget cuts.

I will leave this “talking points” as it was sent out in this post. In the next post I will pick it apart.

As has been evident in so many Presidential campaigns fear mongering has proven a useful political tool.

BTW – I am pleased Bernie told her members to read this during their off duty hours.


From: Bernadette Burnham [DFT President]

To: Teachers Unit

Subject: Read during off duty hours~Fwd: for members and community – messaging about fiscal impact
If you have not yet written to the board, here are a few more talking points provided by our ED MN staff, sure appreciate all they have done for us the last couple days!

Another Value of Belonging

Begin forwarded message:

Subject: for members and community – messaging about fiscal impact
Date: March 30, 2016 at 4:45:09 PM CDT
To: [Bernadette Burnham]

Here are some new talking points for your members and community supporters:

• Edison charter school’s growth ambitions will cost Duluth’s public schools at least $4 million to $5 million by 2020. Competitive advantages gained by operating Edison’s high school at the Central site mean that future Duluth school board members could be grappling with a loss exceeding $7 million by 2020.

• If the district sells Central High to Tischer Creek, the $14.2 million in one-time money from the sale will be gone in eight to 10 years.

• Based on a conservative estimate projecting a loss of 700 students to the charter by 2021-22, Duluth school board members should prepare for larger class sizes, catastrophic cuts and additional school closings in those years.

• Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will maintain permanent property tax income for the district.

• Enrollment losses will be a harsh reality for Duluth if the school board does not swiftly and boldly refocus its work on bringing parents, students, educators and the community together in the work of strengthening Duluth’s public schools.

• Let’s reject false choices and short-sighted promises and move toward uniting the community behind real and sustainable improvements, like creating more full-service community schools. The success of this model has shown that by working together, diverse stakeholders can reinvigorate Duluth’s schools from the bottom up. Through community engagement and participatory school improvement, Duluth can retain and attract new students and families for generations to come.

The reality: Money from Central sale will disappear within a decade
Edison charter school’s growth ambitions will cost Duluth’s public schools at least $4 million to $5 million by 2020. And if the district sells Central High to Tischer Creek, the $14.2 million in one-time money from the sale will be gone in eight to 10 years.
Based on a conservative estimate projecting a loss of 700 students to the charter by 2021-22, Duluth school board members should prepare for larger class sizes, catastrophic cuts and additional school closings in those years.
Using the Minnesota Department of Education’s interactive revenue projection model in their website’s data center, the math is simple and clear. The sale of the Central High School site to Tischer Creek will not pay off.
Edison charter school’s stated goal for new enrollment is 660 students. If they acquire Central, a cheaper and more centrally located site, the school will grow faster and have more flexibility to spend money on programs and services to compete with Duluth’s public schools. These advantages mean that future Duluth school board members could be grappling with a loss exceeding $7 million by 2020.
School board members should vote to maintain the current policy prohibiting the sale of the Central High site to a competitor. Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will, at a minimum, maintain permanent property tax income for the district.
Children are not commodities. Competition in education is not equivalent to competition in the private sector. Charter school competition has accelerated public school closings around the state and the country, creating winners and losers.
Enrollment losses will be a harsh reality for Duluth if the school board does not swiftly and boldly refocus its work on bringing parents, students, educators and the community together in the work of strengthening Duluth’s public schools. Let’s reject false choices and short-sighted promises and move toward uniting the community behind real and sustainable improvements, like creating more full-service community schools. The success of this model has shown that by working together, diverse stakeholders can reinvigorate Duluth’s schools from the bottom up.

Let’s get real #1 – Has that ship sailed?

This is a sort of a morning-after-the-crisis post. It will be the first of several more posts to come examining the recent nonsense manufactured by people with hidden agendas or smothered in cluelessness.

All of these posts will have at their heart (my heart) the question above: Has the DPSA ship truly sailed off to Snowflake?

The answer is Probably. I resent how quickly our school board and the Edison critics smashed their bottles of champagne on its hull. The hasty decision denied our community the three or four weeks available to think this important issue through. Instead, the insiders of ISD 709 rushed to kill the project, albeit with a brief episode of transparancy, to push the Central offer’s head back in the Jack-in-the-box.

My proposal that we enter negotiations Thursday night was meant to keep everybody’s options open. The four Board members who voted to prevent negotiations had their minds made up in advance to shut down any further discussion. I’d like to bring the subject up again and state law gives three board members the right to call a meeting. I just don’t know if the DPSA Board could stand any more public brow beating. It would be much simpler for them to quietly build their new high school at Snowflake and be done with ISD 709. I view that as a lost opportunity for Duluth to ends its public schools civil wars.

Furthermore, we not only have turned down a shot in the arm that would have served us well for several years we, the ISD 709 School Board are taking a great gamble. We need to find a buyer in the next year. If we don’t find one I will personally remind voters in the 2018 election who killed the goose who offered us a golden egg and allowed us to sink deep into a financial black hole.

First I need to make one things clear. Today’s Duluth School Board is fantastic compared to the one recently retired.

I called Chair Harala this week and asked her to meet with me. This was something that was no longer possible in the last year of the old school board. Annie agreed as I expected she would. Annie is the first Chair since before the Keith Dixon Era to pay the slightest attention to fairness in Board discussions. Annie and I had a good discussion although not without some tension. We bit our lips and stuck to business. She told me I had a good heart and I probably assured her that she did too. I left assured that we would have an open discussion that evening. Annie more than made good on her promise to keep it open.

Annie let me know that such discussions would end if I shot my mouth (or blog) off about them. I don’t blame her. I will push that button a little by noting she thought I was guilty of “ageism.”

I don’t deny it exactly but I would put it another way. I am guilty of experiencism. I do think my experience counts for something although I hope I’m not too condescending about it. If its true that we learn from our mistakes I must be one of the smartest people in Minnesota.

I have more experience with ISD 709 than the rest of our Board. Alanna Oswald, David Kirby and Nora Sandstad have to serve nine more months before they have a single year’s worth of experience on our Board. Annie and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp have 4 combined years on our school board. Art Johnston has served 6 years. I have served ten years so that its my ten years to the rest of the Board’s ten years. It goes deeper than that. David, Nora, Alanna and I have teaching degrees. Alanna has a masters degree to my bachelor’s Degree but she was my student when she was in “Junior High.” I first began running for the School Board when Annie was a second grader in my son’s class. David Kirby has a PhD in Education and, as he told me, “taught principals how to be principals.” But he has not been an Educator since he became a family practice doctor. He arrived in Duluth twenty years ago to my 42 years in the city. I was voting to allow the Edison schools to set up shop back then before his children were born let alone enrolled in Duluth’s schools. Nora Sandstad also left teaching to earn a law degree.

As for knowing Duluth I’ve got by far the longest residency. I began knocking on doors when I ran for public office in 1976. There is not a part of town or the school district I haven’t door knocked many times. Furthermore, if anyone wants to access ISD 709’s history they have the public library’s online newspaper database and my blog, slanted though it may be.

I will freely admit to suffering from “experiencism” and maybe even being insufferable in the process. I hope, however, that most visitors to my blog have concluded that my main purpose in writing it is to keep the dealings of the Duluth Schools transparent and understandable.

Now on to Representative Simonson’s efforts to clip the wings of the Duluth Public School Academy.

Swords/Plowshares 30 – How did the DPSA get here in the first place?


The letter sent to the Duluth School Board today by the Superintendent of Schools back in 1996:

School Board Members,

I would like to first thank you for your work on the board, it is too often thankless. Lost in the discussion regarding Central High School is the reason Edison is here in the first place. In 1996 Minnesota first tested eighth graders in reading and math. Duluth didn’t do so well. In fact, 2/3 of the state’s 300 plus school districts outperformed Duluth in basic reading and 3/4 outperformed Duluth in basic math. In light of those results and a 25% dropout rate plus the
achievement gaps between white, minority, higher and lower income students, the nine member school board unanimously decided to try and do something about it. Minnesota charter school legislation had recently been enacted and the school board had turned down two weak proposals. Inevitably there would be a charter school but rather than weak proposals they proactively sought the best research based charter school focused on Duluth’s needs. They went nationwide requesting proposals for a research, results, accountability based charter school. Local teachers were asked to submit a proposal, they chose not to. Edison was selected from all applicants. Edison introduced to Duluth a longer school day, a longer school year, all day every day kindergarten, before and after school child care, current technology, and well researched curricula and instruction. The Duluth Edison public charter school has operated successfully for 19 years with waiting lists in most grades. The for profit argument is mute in that the Northstar and Raleigh Academies are now independent of Edison. The school board policy in question was enacted specifically to block Edison’s purchase of school buildings. Prior to Edison the school board had no such policy and willingly sold Lowell school to the Christian Academy and Lakeside to the St. Michael’s school.

Mark Myles



These are the Key sentences in the email sent to the Board re: the Central Sale on March 25th

Sell emails are bolded 14…… Don’t sell emails are italicized 1

SF – We are in favor of selling the former Central High School to Edison Charter School. It is a school and can still be used as a school, without the need to tear everything down and haul it away to a landfill and scar up the land with more construction, and without the need to clear more land and cut down more trees to build a new school in another location.

LK – While it’s obviously too late to turn back the clock and undo the shortsighted closing of Central, this sale will help to put the mistake behind the board. ….. Every time I drive by the barricaded entrance to Central I wince at the misguided decision. With the Edison plan, it’s hopeful that the building will return to its intended use.

CK – …this location and building is the perfect place for a school. Too bad the school board could not see that truth before building Lincoln in such a remote location.

GN – Until today, I have never written an email or given my opinion to an elected person…. Continue reading

Quick comments about last night’s SB mtg.

Number one: No Duluth News Tribune reporters were present. I’m not sure if that’s a first at a school board meeting. Then again, their lead ed reporter just had a new baby girl. Congrats Jana.

Number two: It was, as has been the case for the past five or six board meetings, business-like and even friendly. So much for past overblown complaints about Art Johnston’s demeanor.

Number three: Only candidate, Alanna Oswald, sat through it all as she has every board meeting this summer with one exception. That was when she interviewed with the DFT endorsement committee. What happened with the DFT? Here’s a clue. I told Alanna I’ve never gotten a DFT endorsement and I’ve won three of my seven campaigns for the School Board. At least it wasn’t a vile and contaminated process like the AFSCME endorsement.

Number four: We had a long but important discussion of our student test results. Continue reading

a refreshingly unplanned letter to the editor

While I was away in Florida a message was left on my cell phone telling me that the caller was about to put a Charles Obije lawnsign in my yard. I called back and left my own message telling them not to do this – at least not yet. I explained that I have been waiting for three or four weeks for another 2nd District candidate to call and set up a get together with me. Dr. Kirby seemed a bit surprised when I called him to request that we meet over coffee. He is being pushed by board members who I have been at odds with and I have commented on that in the blog. But except for that support I’ve held my comments to the things Dr. Kirby has said in the Tribune for instance, his conviction that their are just one or two board members who cause most of the School Board’s problems.

I have actually put calls out to two school board contenters being promoted by my adversaries but both have kept a ten-foot-pole’s distance between themselves and me. As I will be on the Board for at least two more years their reluctance to talk with me now leaves me to worry that their promises to make sure the new board gets along are just so much lip service. If they won’t talk to me now why should they talk to me after they are elected? At this point I’m being on my best behavior for diplomacy’s sake. If they proceed to follow in their advocates footsteps I’ll be even more likely to hold tight to my cudgel for fear of getting censured again – for speaking plainly and honestly.

Charles Obije, on the other hand, was happy to sit down and have a cup of coffee with me. I offered him lots of advice, for instance, I suggested that he plan to be his own man if elected. I wonder if other candidates are getting that advice from their partisans or forming secret alliances and ententes like the Europeans did before getting sucked into World War 1?

I read a couple of letters to the editor yesterday from the usual suspects, long in the tooth political types, extolling the virtue of a school board candidate. Blah, Blah, Blah. Its the kind of stuff that campaign’s manufacture like confetti to create the illusion of a groundswell of support. Today there was a rather different a letter which, unless it was very craftily conceived, was a refreshing departure from canned canards.

If its for real a Lakeside resident saw Charles Obije while he was campaigning and went over and asked him what he was up to. She liked what she heard and planned to vote for him. She seemed to especially like the idea of having a school board that wasn’t at each other’s throats.

Medaling with the Superintendent

Perhaps its because I was a competitive swimmer but I’ve never gotten this picture out of my head of Mark Spitz who won seven gold medals at the Olympics when I was in college. So, after we concluded an hour long discussion of our students testing results at yesteray’s Education Committee, I got a chance to decorate the Superintendent in a similar fashion.

I was able to do this because we got another demonstration of the remarkable East High Robotics team, the Daredevils. They first showed us how they developed their pallet loading robot and let Annie Harala and I do the work of a single student to put the Robot to work. After the show and tell the students called on the Superintendent to accept the many awards they received last year. There were at least five medalions and they put all of them over Mr. Gronseth’s head like an Olympic Champion. Of course, we had to pose for pictures and after shouting that Bill looked like Michael Phelps I insisted on spreading the medals out a la Spitz for the photo shoot.

I just checked the ISD 709 website but couldn’t find the photo posted. It was, as someone else called out, a lot of bling.

Fiscal Sustainability – 2 -District Correspondence

Re: Fiscal Sustainability post. I received this comment in my District email box from a teacher friend:

XXXXXX 7:36 PM (17 hours ago)

Hi Harry, I am a regular reader of your blog, although I often disagree with …

Harry Welty

I replied thusly:

12:35 PM (36 minutes ago)


You are absolutely right. I have been meaning to mention this factor in relation to this increase.

I will note that traditionally the negotiators for the DFL have not been quick to mention this as it makes their case for salary increases more complicated.

Even so, the School Board needs to think strategically about its finances and explain to the public what is at stake. This Board doesn’t do either – think or go to the public. Hence too many kids in classes.


I like to think that my blog post EGO 1 preceding the EGO 2 post is a sufficient rebuttal to the writer who condemned my ego getting in the way of educating our children. Still, its gratifying to know that I apparently have other defenders out there. I was sent this email today concerning Mrs. Trowbridge’s indictment of Art and me.



Johnston, and now Welty, acts as if it’s OK to violate ethical guidelines, to expose confidential information and even to risk the sale of the Central High School property, all because they have cast themselves as “victims” and therefore rules don’t apply to them.

I don’t remember that you have acted as if it’s OK to risk the sale of the Central High School property all because you have cast yourself as a victim and therefore that pertinent rules didn’t apply to you. As I remember, you acknowledged that you inadvertently screwed up by divulging a proposed price for that property.

Gail Trowbridge represents herself as a professional writer (see, but I wonder whether she hasn’t thus screwed up by that jumble of a sentence that I quoted.

Art and me

I just mowed the lawn I’ve got a funeral memorial in a little over and hour and then Claudia and I are taking our grandson’s to the Wisconsin Dells to splash in a water park. The load of verbiage I’m carrying would take weeks to dispense and frankly, even if I was up to it I don’t have the time. Thus I will once again disappoint the 2,000 plus of you who have peeked at my blog over June.

I’ve been telling some folks recently that our Board members have been thinking with all the clarity of soldiers returning to home with PTSD. I got a couple years to recover from mine when I retired from the active fight against the Red Plan in 2010 as Art Johnston took up his lonely crusade for clarity.

At first he had Gary Glass with him but they were no match for a board majority that was still in musk oxen mode having formed a circle to keep the wolves out. For six years now the majority of the Board refused to ask questions almost as aggressively as they have asserted that their brilliant administrators were working miracles in the Duluth Public Schools. Perhaps its the PTSD that blinds them to classes of the high thirties in elementary schools and 40’s in our secondary schools.

A newly elected School Board has renewed the old practice of question asking but one are remains off limits, the Red Plan. This seems silly to me. The main perpetrators of the Red Plan are gone, Dixon, Wasson, Hustad, Grover etc. Furthermore, it is likely impossible to understand our crowded classes and lost music program without understanding the financing of the Red Plan. Finances have been particularly difficult subject to breach. We have one Board member who insisted for years that we were not taking any money from classroom operations to pay off Red Plan debt. And yet four straight years on her watch we transferred $6 million annually from operations to debt service.

Apparently the Finance Office never wanted to correct her fiscal myopia because she has never recanted her financial ignorance. Art and Harry Welty are a threat to a clearer understanding of our district’s iffy finances. For months I’ve moaned about the document shown to me briefly last January that projected a $13.7 million deficit when I run for reelection in 2017. At no point has the Finance Dept. attempted to assure me that this will be averted.

David Bolgrien who ran against Art Johnston last year (perhaps at the urging of one of our assistant principals) met with me over coffee at a point when I despaired of ever getting along with Art. I was at that point officially neutral about who the western fourth District should elect. David disparaged the days of the “Harry, Gary and Art show.” I suspect that is how the entire Move Forward Duluth crowd talked for years. There is a great desire to get over the Red Plan but to my way of thinking that is leading folks to ignore the elephant in the room. Why is Denfeld in ferment? If you can’t examine the history of the Red Plan it will remain a mystery. If you can’t get honest, practical explanations for the current finances of the District it will remain a mystery. However, the real mystery to me is how the majority of the current school board has come to the conclusion that it must remove one of the question askers and on such pathetic grounds.

I think its worth understanding how a $19 million change order that renegotiates Johnson Controls earning from 14% to 25% can be authorized without a vote of the entire school board. But asking such a question, even after receiving a warning from the State Auditor that such an action is unwarranted, is apparently verboten.

As long as Art Johnston wants to ask the same questions that I have I will be his ally no matter how sullen he gets when he is denied the information he requests. As long as there are 40 kids in our high school classrooms I’ll keep asking why? That’s why I’m quite confident that if the current school board refuses to ask those questions it will be replaced in the 2015 election with a Board that is every bit as curious about the answer as me. I expect that to be the case even if this Board dim wittedly wastes tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers to find some pathetic justifican to remove Art Johnston.

I confidently predict that only death will prevent Art Johnston from serving out a third four-year term on the Duluth School Board.

As always I have a lot more to add. Ah, but I’ve got grandkids to vacation with. Ta ta.

Nugget 2. Martell quotes me

I’m indebted to Loren Martell for writing a review in the Reader Weekly of the most critical school board meeting I’ll have attended in the four years of my service on the Board. Because it wasn’t our monthly meeting we didn’t video tape it for later posting on Youtube.

I’d forgotten the Superintendent’s description of Bill Hanson’s financial forecast as being a “worst case scenario.” Of course it will be even worse with the acceptance of even more pay for our staff than the forecast outlined.

I’m not positive but I think Loren quoted me not from comments made from the meeting but from a little speech I’d planned to give a couple weeks earlier. I didn’t give that speech since I’m trying to bite my tongue and stay positive but I’m glad Loren publicized them: As Loren reported (although the quotation marks aren’t as orderly as I’d like) I wrote:

“If a contract is brought to us that I view as destructive to the District and our children, I will make that case in public with particular ardor. We were given a ten-minute preview of our future in January during our first budget meeting. The year I will be facing the voters again [2017-18] we have a projected $13.7 million deficit… I worked very hard to persuade people we would be in a dire situation if we did not add $1.8 million with that levy [approved by voters last fall] so we could try to keep our classrooms from getting any more crowded than they are, 40 to 50 kids in some of the high school classes. You cannot teach that way. So if this is, indeed, “Treat Our Teachers Decent Week,” accepting a contract which is going to cram more kids into the classrooms is no way to treat them decently.

“I would point out, or at least amend,” Welty went on, “what Member Loeffler-Kemp pointed out: We did talk about [contract] parameters, but we could not fully realize what the next four years was holding in store for us when we set the parameters.” He said the District would “hire 13, 14, or 15 teachers with the [levy] money the voters authorized” but then “have to lay off twice that many” due to an increasing deficit. He finished by deploring the lack of information Board members have to work with: “I’ve been trying to have a discussion about our fiscal future for a month and have only received three very slender pieces of paper from our business office that give us no clue as to how we end up $13 million in debt.”

The superintendent and Board chair did not deny that the doomsday deficit numbers Member Welty referenced were indeed the projected estimates of the district’s finance department, but argued this was a “worst-case” scenario.