Category Archives: 2015 School Board

Hmmmm. Put up lawnsigns or write for my blog?

I have scads of thoughts to spill out but I’ve decided that Lincolndemocrat’s 450 daily viewers of late pales before the tens of thousands of eyes that pass by lawnsigns on our streets.

I did write a 1200 word rough draft post about the visit of the Supreme Court but, I haven’t got time to proof read it. It may never be posted.

The Trib has endorsed two more school board candidates. Oh I have lots to say about that. Maybe tonight. I’ll summarize here:

David Kirby got the nod for the District two seat as he “shines.” It mentioned his ability to work with all sorts of people. Well, he hasn’t called me back to meet me over coffee. Meanwhile Charles Obige seems to shine too but just not as brightly. Charles gladly met me long before I had any intention of helping him. That’s better evidence of an open mind and heart.

The Trib endorsed Nora Sandstad. As Loren Martell told me she’s right out of Central Casting. But Loren’s column out-shown every other school board candidate’s and took me by surprise with its simple elegant accuracy.

He began:

During candidate forums, my opponent in the 3rd District School Board race sincerely has recited a long wish list for Independent School District 709. She says she will lower class sizes, encourage more physical education and art, restore the music program to what it once was, introduce more language classes, bring back seven periods to the high schools and more.

I don’t doubt Nora Sandstad’s sincerity. I want the same list she wants. A lot of people do. If it was as easy as just wishing for it, everything on the list already would have happened.

What I bring to the table is a creative mind, always rooted in pragmatism. I will wring every bit of good out of the real things I have to work with. For too long, we’ve been led by wishers and dreamers. The entire Red Plan was a wish list with no truth to all its glittery promises. If I had been on the board, the Red Plan contracts never would have been signed.

My warnings concerning the long-range facilities plan were valid, but I won’t flaunt all the evidence. I’ll just wonder why anyone would continue following the side that has been so clearly wrong.

I will confirm the problem that the dreamer, Nora Sandstad, faces. When I was on the Board in 1997 (I’d get more recent data but the 5-2 majority never wanted me rooting around the District’s old records) we levied $22 million in property taxes. $20 million went to the classroom. $2 million went to paying off old building bonds. Today we only put about $10 million of local property taxes into the classroom not the $20 million of 1997. At $90,000 per teacher, per year that’s a loss of 111 teachers. And some of you wonder why our classrooms are so crowded.

But the Red Plan brought our overall levy up each year from that $22 million to $33 million. Today $21 million, not $2 million goes to paying off building bond debt – Red Plan building bond debt. The school board of the recent past was too scared to raise an additional $10 million dollars to pay for their half billion dollar building project so they just borrowed half the cost from the classroom

Good luck Mrs. Sandstad recovering that money for the classroom.

I don’t know if the Duluth Reader put my letter to the editor in today’s Reader but I’ll leave it here for the realists to digest. It goes a long way to explain why, as the Tribune’s editors point out, Loren Martell has sometimes shown flashes of anger at school board meetings:

I don’t have to tell regular readers of the Duluth Reader that they have a ringside seat to the School Board when they catch Loren Martell’s reviews of every school board meeting. Now feel free to take what I am about to ask of you with a grain of salt. I have, after all, been censured by our School Board. That was for telling the public that our attorneys warned us how god awful expensive and ugly any attempt to remove Art Johnston would be. If there was anything they hated more than that advice it was me sharing it with the public.

So, here’s what I ask of you, Loren Martell’s faithful readers. Tell the readers of that other Duluth Paper, the Duluth News Tribune, what a blessing it would be to have the decent, fair minded, insightful and literate Loren Martell on our school board. Now I suppose you can take Loren with a grain of salt like the Tribune’s editors have. The Chairman of the School Board once had him handcuffed at the public’s podium when he shut the microphone off on Loren. I, however, consider that a mark of honor.

It’s not hard to email a letter to the Trib. Just Google “letters to the editor Duluth News Tribune” and send them your 200 words of support for the most knowledgeable candidate running this season. Or, sit back and watch as the folks who tried to remove Art Johnston, censured the two of us and put Loren in handcuffs do their best to perpetuate more of their kind on the Duluth School Board.

Nothing snide please! Be “civil” and tell the truth – Loren Martell would be a godsend for Duluth’s dysfunctional school board.

A fine editorial

This is the most heartening editorial I’ve read about the Duluth Schools in the News Tribune for many years. As I told Alanna Oswald, “It restores my faith in humanity.”

Like others in the Duluth school district, Alanna Oswald has noted with growing consternation the number of Duluth students choosing to enroll elsewhere. The potential for an even greater loss of student population as a result of the proposed opening of an Edison high school has been just as worrisome.

“The only option is to make our schools better,” Oswald wrote during a campaign season that has seen her grow stronger as a candidate. With that commitment, she has become the best choice for voters Nov. 3 in the race for an At Large seat on the Duluth School Board.

The editors of the Trib did what I expect them to do. They did the work of good reporters. I’ll humbly add that they made a better case for Alanna in this editorial than I have in a dozen posts in Lincolndemocrat.

Lean on me

An email I recieved today:

Hi Harry,

I read your blog earlier when you asked not to be judged for spelling errors and typos because you’re busy, have a lot to write, and write quickly. Fair enough. But your most recent post misspells Cheryl Lien’s name every time you write it. That seems to be more mean spirited than a typo could explain. Without even discussing the content of your post, you undermine your writing integrity with carelessness like that.

This friend is absolutely correct. I just checked the post and I misspelled “Lien” every time it came up in the post. The darned thing is that even my blog’s spell checker underlined my mispellings and I did not catch it.

I appreciate the note and even more the forgiving nature regarding my excuse, lame though it is, for typos. This, however, was a typo. I’d like to shrug it off as the old i before e problem but that would be a little glib of me. I mispelled the name wrong the first time I typed it and continued to do so. Frankly, the post’s content is far more hurtful than the misspelling. I know that.

So did the School Board when I warned them fifteen months ago that if they didn’t rethink the direction they were taking I’d have no other option than to write frankly about this sorry episode. Instead I was censured for my blogging and not my mistake of revealing the ten million sales price of Central. Then the Board compounded their vengeful act by changing their Ethics policy giving them the power to remove me should I ever actually tell my readers what I know.

Thou Shalt Not Rat Out Our Friends“ Part 4

This series of posts begins here:

Twelve years sped by, a couple of superintendents came and went, a half billion school building plan became reality, and a succession of heavily pro Red Plan school board majorities were elected to run roughshod over the pro referendum minorities. Superintendents catering to the majority cultivated subordinates who in some cases disdained the Red Plan’s naysayers. There was an attempt to remove the first naysayer, Gary Glass, but Dr. Keith Dixon who probably brought news of this possibility seems to have thought better of this divisive ploy. Glass is joined for his last two years on the Board by Art Johnston but both remain eunuchs by a five to two vote ratio. Then Art Johnston must forge on for the next two years as alone as Gary Glass had been in his first two years.

As Art faces reelection he becomes the subject of numerous letters-to-the-editor reviling him for not being a good sport when he is constantly denied the data he requests about the Red Plan. Before the filings take place one of the administration’s most ardent loyalists, Cheryl Lien, draws a bead on him.

Cheryl, (the subject of the original Post 2 in this series – since removed) has never been shrinking violet. One former Denfeld student told me that when she swept down the hallways kids stepped aside. One of her fans at East told me two things about Mrs. Lien. First, that she displayed great compassion for students in need. Lien had taken him under her wing when his family life fell apart and helped him get through it. But second, he conceded that she was driven and could be ruthless. Those aren’t his exact words but I think they are close enough.

Art believes that some of our administrators were urged to keep their distance from him. One administrator who told him she was advised to avoid him also told Art the following story as the 2013 campaign drew to a close.

In about May, preceding the candidate filings, the principals union held a gathering at Valentini’s Restaurant and invited Superintendent Gronseth to be their guest. According to Leea Powers, who I found to be calm, rationale and very smart, the Superintendent asked his principals who would find someone to run against Art Johnston.

“I’ve got It covered.” Cheryl Lien volunteered. She had found a young candidate with the magical last name of Minnesota’s longest serving Governor Perpich who would run against Art. If this took place as described it is stunning. I’ve written before about how Duluth Administrators handled school board elections. It wasn’t generally encouraged.

Administrators, especially the Board appointed Superintendent, put their careers on the line when they interfere in school board politics. There is no doubt that exchange like this took place because it was confirmed by Cheryl Lien’s own supervisor, Laurie Knapp, East High School’s long time principal.

Investigator Mary Rice, who interviewed all the principals at this meeting, chose to take a different interpretation than the one offered by Leea Powers, whom Rice characterized as being a “disgruntled” employee. Rice’s preferred interpretation of this event is that Lien’s comment was made in jest. If so, the levity was missed by Leea Powers who had already been told that Art Johnston was persona non grata as far as the Superintendent was concerned.

If Cheryl Lien was joking at the beginning of the election season she wasn’t joking by its conclusion. Many School Board watchers, including me, thought that Art Johnston was toast. He had been assaulted with several bitter letters to the editor accusing him of poor behavior during school board meetings. He had a strong opponent backed by many administration supporters in the PTA. It was, however, a different challenger facing Art than the one Mrs. Lien had taken credit for finding at her union meeting.

Cheryl Lien insisted that it was merely a coincidence that she chose Election Day, 2013, to warn Art Johnston’s partner, Jane Bushey, that she would be keeping a close watch over her in the coming year. Coincidence or not, Jane Bushey took the dreadful message to heart. She began keeping a diary of her interactions with Assistant Principal Lien and kept them up to date until the fateful East High graduation at the conclusion of the school year.

Next: Thou Shalt Not – Part 5

My Buddy nudges me on the previous post

Harry:

From http://lincolndemocrat.com/?p=15171:

“Now if we could just figure out how to tempt some of the 800 extra Duluth East kids to Denfeld to even up the school populations we’d have an even bigger improvement in safety.”

However, as I said to you on September 17, regarding which I have not received a response:

However, I am similarly critical about the decision of the district to have an east high school and a west high school, instead of just one high school “ especially considering that the district had one relatively new facility that was centrally located. Who deserves blame for that? Marshall School functions with such a central location; why couldn’t the public school district?

A lot of water over the dam.

[Your Buddy]

To which I responded:

Yeah. A lot of water over the damn alright……pun intended.

Buddy, your question about a central location for a high school is a good one and I’ve written about it before on the blog. I don’t respond to all of your emails because……well…..I have a life to live. Its not for want of a willingness to reply.

Our task now is to make sure that the decisions we can’t undo don’t further compromise kids out west.

Harry

Meanwhile, I’m over the moon too. My Buddy sent me this link to some very cool pictures of the Apollo landings on the Moon in honor of the Lunar Eclipse Sunday Night. Claudia and I watched it battle the clouds in Duluth until its blood red phase.

I remember bicycling around Mankato, Minnesota, back in 1969 while stealing glances up at the moon when we first landed astronauts there.

A 10 minute explanation of this blog for new readers

I have ten minutes till I have to pick someone up for Church so here goes.

About 150 more people are paying a call on Lincoln Democrat daily now than at the beginning of the year. There will be close to 4,000 occasional readers of the blog this month. I presume, although I could be wrong, that most are Duluth residents. Some like me. Some detest me. Most are the folks who are the semi-wonks who follow the school board and want to know what’s happening in the schools. More are peeking at the blog now because of the looming election just 40 days away.

This post is meant to explain to my new readers things I’ve explained to old readers before. So, old readers, bear with me.

I am only fussy about making my ideas clear not submitting to an English teacher for a grade on grammer or spelling.
The last post was written up in one session and I’m sure, as with all such posts, when I review it for corrections I’ll wince at obvious mistakes. I may not take the time to improve it because my regular readers know by now that I can turn out a pretty polished piece of prose when I want to. In that respect looking at some of my posts is rather like looking at my snow sculptures a day or two before I’m finally finished with them. They are rough drafts that I may not get around to correcting. I’m busy.

Over the next forty days I’ll be doing my best to support a couple candidates for the school board. If you are reading this once or twice a week you know who I’m supporting and why. We need a new school board focused on education. Yesterday’s three posts in one is a reminder to all my readers that these and many more educational issues are what we should be focusing on not a feud between school board members.

That said, I am determined to explain to all my readers just how stupid and nasty the fight has been. Its a fight that is seven years old and frankly, I think the people of Duluth should know just how the institutional side has carried out this fight. I’ve written much about “Character Assassination.” When I resume writing about this current history – that I hope will soon be past history – I’ll detail what I’ve seen and witnessed. That’s because I wish to help rehabilitate Art Johnston’s character in the eyes of folks who have wanted to believe all the stories about how awful he has been.

I have been working harder to polish up my pieces for the new eyes reading over the blog but I won’t always make time to do this. I have a family that I’m giving more priority to than I have in the past. If you don’t like my typos, tough. Pay attention to the content.

Time to go and pick up my fellow parishioner. Adios.

Correction – Alanna has a deeper resume than I said

I mentioned that Alanna Oswald is beginning her second year on the Minnesota Dept. of Ed. state-wide Title One Committee. Actually she is beginning her fifth year on the Title I committee at MDE.

No wonder the MDE staff has gotten to know her and appreciate her smarts and credibility.

And further I said Art Johnston tagged along with her as her guest at the meeting. Wrong again, Art is actually a new member of the Committee and is beginning his first year on it. I did say, didn’t I, that this involves the tricky process of overseeing tens, if not hundreds, of millions of federal monies in Minnesota destined to help poorer kids? In our District this constitutes a large chunk of the 9% of our general fund that comes from Federal sources.

I don’t know how Art finds time to do these things since he’s had to work feverishly for last year taking on freelance engineering projects to pay off his now $74,000 in legal fees imposed on him by our school board majority.

If the tone of my last post was just a little brittle it reflects my outrage for this terrible miscarriage of justice which distracted us from our real job – educating our children.

My loyal reader challenges me

Loyal Reader:

Not to repeat Art’s Cassandra-like warnings, but…..is this worth the repercussions of revealing the contents of a closed meeting?

I mean, the shit will hit the fan if you do this, and will it even really help Art? Those who will believe it already believe Art, and those who don’t believe Art aren’t going to believe this anyway.

I admire your commitment to transparency. Truly I do. It’s rare to find an elected official who really WANTS the public to know what government is doing. But this is going to get you in a lot of trouble (fines, maybe, or a lawsuit — a real reason to kick you off the board).

Is it worth it?

Me:

Yes. The truth is its own reward or to paraphrase John 8:32 The truth will set you free. Today John Boehner resigned from the Congress. He’s free. I admire his decision and suspect it was prompted in large part by listening to Pope Francis yesterday call on Congress to behave itself.

When I was checking out the Bible verse that this paraphrase was based on I also saw a waggish riposte: The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

It’s hard to imagine a more miserable experience than being on this school board since the Duluth East Graduation in 2014. I’ve been sitting on what I feel to be the real story and been rebuffed in my attempts to make peace with the warmongers on the Duluth School Board. I’m so galled that they have poisoned so many people against Art Johnston that quite frankly I would regard their removing me from the Board as a badge of honor.

At this moment one of the candidates for the school board keeps reminding us that one or maybe two board members have been the fount of all our problems. I am quite willing to serve with this candidate but I’ll be damned if he will take office in ignorance of the other side of the story.

Next – Thou Shalt Not 4

The MSBA Area meeting

Last night one of the regional meetings for the statewide Minnesota School Board Association met at Cloquet’s Municipal Building. I attended these gatherings every year in my first stint on the Duluth School Board. Back then I was the only board member to attend. The Fall meetings precede the MSBA’s Legislative Assembly gathering in December. Art Johnston and I both put our names in to become delegates as did retiring Board Chair Judy Seliga-Punyko. Five other board members from around Northeast Minnesota did the same and every School Board member from northeastern Minnesota can vote for their choices to the Assembly. Four delegates will be selected. The candidates who don’t get elected all stand a good chance to be seated at the actual Assembly if those who are elected decide not to attend.

This year’s Assembly won’t have much to look forward to in terms of legislation because the next session of the legislature is devoted to passing bonding bills. Cities and Counties will scramble for state money to fix parks, municipal buildings and compete with state government interests. Legislators will take credit for getting state money for their localities and no one will much care about the statutes of the Land of ten thousand laws.

Art and I however, want to push a law that was introduced into last year’s legislature by DFL Senator Terri Bonoff. It would take away the right of School Boards to remove a school board member that they didn’t like thus negating the elections that put them into office. The law got many sponsors and Art and I lobbied for it in a couple visits to St. Paul. It would, of course, make a fiasco like the one we’ve just experienced in Duluth impossible. It would require a real crime to remove an office holder something like embezzlement or child abuse and not simply asking too many embarrassing questions or expressing frustration when denied public data.

Art Johnston had already spent the day at the Minnesota State Department of Education as the guest of board candidate Alanna Oswald. She is beginning her second year on the State’s Title One Committee that oversees the expenditure of tens of million of Federal Dollars that support the poorest children in Minnesota’s Schools.

Rep. Mary Murphy was at our evening meeting. She is currently the longest serving Representative on the Education Finance Committee having been in St. Paul for something like 34 years. As a Democrat she is in the minority but she is treated more generously by the Republicans than almost any other Democrat in the legislature. She gave us a summary of her long climb to the top and lamented her lowly status in her first years. Those were the years that I often substituted in her classes at Central High School.

I have always taken the MSBA seriously and look forward to the educational sessions at their statewide conference in January. I have written about the last two I attended on the blog.

Continue reading

Out for blood? – an email exchange on the Thou Shalt Not series

I woke yesterday morning to find an urgent plea in my email. One of my eight loyal readers was crushed that they missed the post I wrote about Cheryl Lein’s past misdeeds. My reader told me that every five minutes that day they kept pushing the refresh key hoping to read what I had promised to write about this ancient offense.

As I said, I don’t particularly care if anyone who did catch the post – in its four brief hours online – prints it out and passes it around. But to honor Art’s request I told this anxious and disappointed loyal reader that I would send the full text to them on the condition they promised never to leak it. I trust them. I sent it on but asked them for their opinion by writing:

One of the folks who saw it online before I replaced it told me this made me look like I was out for blood. Of course, I am. But, is that how it strikes you?

This is their response to the forbidden post and my question about its being blood thirsty: Continue reading

Thou Shalt Not Rat Out Our Friends – Part 3

Notwithstanding Art’s request that I take down that post about old news I’ve decided that this is a story that needs to be told to clear the air and erase wrong-headed preconceptions about Art Johnston. After all, I’m in this too. If I’m protecting a raving lunitic my judgement must be called into question. So, for now, consider that I am primarily defending my steadfast support for Art Johnston.

To that end there is one paragraph from the last post that I will bring back to life as it deals squarely with the main contention of this series of posts. That contention? There was a concerted effort by a great many people to bend the truth to portray Art Johnston as a man who should be removed from office. This idea will not die as long as folks like Annie Harala, the only witness to the complete “assault,” continue to maintain that there sure as heck was an assault and if only the public knew what she knew they too would want Art Johnston removed from the Board.

Well, before my readers join Annie at the hips I want to talk about the year Art Johnston suffered through leading up to the fateful East Graduation ceremony. East High School Assistant Principal Cheryl Lein had everything to do with this.

This is the paragraph I’d like folks to concentrate on before I go any further:

“I will now share one more vivid detail for no reason other than my indignation that “Investigator” Mary Rice told the School Board I had been vague about what exactly had happened all those years ago. Rice told us this when I asked her if she, as an attorney, would trust a witness, who was a known liar. I guess my alleged vagueness gave Mary Rice an excuse to evade my question.”

Mary Rice was a critical actor in informing Duluth that Art Johnston was bad news. Its worth remembering that the only evidence that the School Board brought to Federal Court to defend its decision to remove Art Johnston was Mary Rice’s report.

It’s also worth remembering that the District’s case foundered when it became apparent that Judge Davis didn’t accord Mary Rice’s report much weight. He went through all the claims against Art point by point and made it clear that every single one of them was based on an unconstitutional abridgment of Art’s free speech rights. I had been dismissive of the Rice report from the moment I first read it.

I may have more to say about this later tonight so stay tuned.

Next in the Thou Shalt Not series: Out for Blood?

Fafinski Mark & Johnson

I couldn’t help but notice the law firm that would be representing UMD’s former women’s athletic coaches in their pending Title 9 lawsuit.

Some of my readers may recognize the name from a previous blog entry. The Board’s hired gun who “investigated” Art Johnston was one of Fafinski’s legal partners, Mary Rice. Only in the case of Art, Ms. Rice was busy manufacturing and embellishing excuses for his unconstitutional removal.

I’m not all that surprised that this firm is well aware of the means by which large institutions, like UMD, can mistreat people. It’s just ironic that having helped hog tie Art Johnston for the offense, Fafinski can just as easily switch over to defense.

As they say, Justice is blind. So is the law.

God help me – I’m candid

One after another of Duluth’s six school board candidate’s have spoken in praise of transparency. I like the talk. I want to see the walk.

So, will today’s candidates for the school board turn the Duluth Schools around? I don’t know but I completely agree with the Tribune’s editors that there is hope based on the forum they spoke at yesterday. I’d take any of them, even Dr. David Kirby who seems most wedded to Judy Seliga-Punyko’s vengeful actions, over today’s school board members.

That appraisal of Dr. Kirby is about as candid as it gets, just short of brutality. I think voters ought to keep my observation in mind because I know they are as sick of the current school board (including me no doubt) as I am. The only difference is that I’ve had to endure it up close day by day including a dubious motion of censure. A new Judy Seliga-Punyko is the last thing we need.

I’ve been just as candid in appraising the Tribune’s passive aggressive side taking. They routinely listened to, and gave comfort to, our now departing Board members over Art Johnston. One member of the editorial board walked out on a meeting with Art. The editors begged Art to admit that he was a violent, racist by resigning from the Board. They ridiculed Art when the Board dropped its attempt to remove him while squandering a quarter-of-a-million dollars on their vendetta.

And I heaped abuse on the editors when they slammed one of the two best candidates in the field in what appeared to me to be retaliation against me for my criticism of the editors. I’d like to think my blog criticism got them to reevaluate their pettiness because the reporters especially have accorded Alanna Oswald the respect she deserves. Even today’s editorial was a welcome change in that it lauded all six candidates equally for their vows to get along with each other.

But I can’t let the editorial off Scott free. It expressed doubts that Art’s dismissal of his suit had a genuine constitutional issue. In case any of them are reading this let me explain it again as I did yesterday.

The Trib’s editors wrongly described our new ethics policy as having been a “model policy” written by the Minnesota School Board Association. In fact the attorneys for Judy Seliga-Punyko’s School Board inserted poison pill language into the model language giving the Board the right to remove Art, me, or any other Board member for the release of private data. After what I posted yesterday and will post again today I am now subject to removal. Then again, the editors of the Duluth News Tribune may not fully understand the essence of our Constitution’s First Amendment based on their misunderstanding of the word “defamation.

But my biting the elephant’s leg is no more helpful to our school’s future than the elephant’s editors picking on my favorite school board candidate. I’m ready to call a truce. I hope the Tribune’s editors are too. I share their enthusiasm for this year’s crop of hopeful and cooperative sounding school board candidates.

Art’s brief press release demonstrating . . .

. . . his attorney’s contention that our ethic’s policy is as unconstitutional as it was when he first challenged the school board’s failed attempt to remove him from office.

I have voluntarily dismissed my lawsuit against the Duluth School Board after the Board failed to remove me, and dropped their attempt at removal.

This matter is far from settled as the Duluth School Board majority has failed to revise the Code of Ethics, and overtly threatens to remove any elected school board member, and even candidates, if they speak about issues. I may need to resort to legal action again, if the school board majority does not change their ways.

This action by the Duluth School Board has come at an enormous legal cost; and at a cost of the school board of ignoring financial, academic, and leadership issues at our school.

And I may have to resort to a lawsuit if the Board attempts to remove me for my Thou Shalt Not series.

Thou Shalt Not Rat Out Our Friends – Part 2

This story begins with Part one.

Cheryl Lien is a very good teacher. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX taken out at Art Johnston’s request XXXXXXXXXXX

MRS. LIEN HAS BEEN GIVEN A REPRIEVE BY A MOST UNUSUAL BENEFACTOR. AS YOU CAN SEE THERE ISN’T MUCH LEFT OF THIS ORIGINAL POST. ALL THAT IS LEFT IS THE FIRST SENTENCE AND THE LAST CLAUSE OF THE CONCLUDING SENTENCE. I TOOK THE REST OUT AT ART JOHNSTON’S REQUEST. HE CALLED ME AT CHURCH CHOIR PRACTICE TONIGHT AND TOLD ME HE DIDN’T WANT ME TO FACE A LAWSUIT FROM CHERYL LIEN FOR DEFAMATION.

I CAN HARDLY BELIEVE HOW IRONIC THIS IS. CHERYL LEIN FORMED A SURVEILLANCE GROUP TO SPY ON ART AND HIS PARTNER. SHE GOT MIXED UP INTELLIGENCE AND USED IT TO SET OUR VINDICTIVE SCHOOL BOARD OFF ON A QUARTER MILLION DOLLAR WITCH HUNT ACCUSING ART OF RACISM, VIOLENCE AND ALL MANNER OF HORSESHIT. TO THIS DAY PEOPLE LIKE OUR GOOD DR. KIRBY BELIEVE THIS CRAP AND ARE GOING AROUND IN THE PRESS BLAMING ART FOR ALL THE PROBLEMS OF OUR GOD FORSAKEN SCHOOL BOARD. I WANT SO BADLY TO NIP THIS IN THE BUD BUT ART IS STOPPING ME.

I HAVE ONLY TOLD ART’S SIDE OF THE STORY IN DRIBS AND DRABS TO DATE. I WANT TO COUNTER THE PERSECUTORS WHO SUCCEEDED IN NAILING HIS REPUTATION TO THE CROSS AND THE EDITORS WHO SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER BUT STILL TRUMPETED THE WRONGHEADED OPINION THAT ART WAS THE PROBLEM AND OUGHT TO JUST GO AWAY.

TO SAY I’M A LITTLE DISMAYED TO HAVE ART REQUEST I TAKE THIS POST DOWN IS PUTTING IT MILDLY. I FELT LIKE I WAS CLEANSING MYSELF WRITING IT. I KNOW THE DEFAMATION LAWS WELL ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT I’M PROTECTED FROM CONVICTION IF NOT LEGAL HARASSMENT BY 1. HAVING TOLD THE TRUTH AND 2. TELLING IT WITHOUT MALICE. WITHDRAWING IT LIKE THIS MEANS THAT THE POSSE OF ART JOHNSTON HATERS CAN CONTINUE TO SPIT ON HIS REPUTATION.

BEFORE I GUTTED IT THIS POST WAS UP FOR ABOUT SIX HOURS. JUDGING BY MY STATS I SUSPECT IT HAS BEEN READ BY ABOUT 100 PEOPLE. IF ONE OF THEM PRINTED IT OUT IT MAY SHOW UP SOMEWHERE ELSE. ITS SAID THAT NOTHING ON THE INTERNET EVER DISAPPEARS. I WOULDN’T MIND IF IT DID TURN UP. THIS POST WAS ABOUT A VERY UGLY EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF ART JOHNSTON’S PERSECUTOR. TAKING IT DOWN IS UNDESERVED GOOD FORTUNE FOR ART’S TORMENTOR.

ART WANTS IT DOWN BECAUSE HE SEES IN THE TRIB’S COVERAGE OF THE SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION THE FAINT POSSIBILITY OF SOME REASONABLE COVERAGE. I HAVE MY DOUBTS. I SAW WHAT CHUCK FREDERICK DID TO THE SUPERLATIVE ALANNA OSWALD BECAUSE HE WAS MAD AT ME. FORTUNATELY, I HAVE MORE FAITH IN THE TRIB’S ACTUAL REPORTERS.

NEITHER DO I HAVE ANY FAITH IN THE GROUPIES OF THE SCHOOL BOARD MAJORITY. THEY ARE BENT OUT OF SHAPE BECAUSE ART AND I HAVE HAD THE TEMERITY TO POINT OUT WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT THEIR HALF BILLION DOLLAR RED PLAN HAS BEEN. I YEARN TO CONFRONT THEM WITH THE OUTRAGES THEIR HEROES HAVE FORCED ON OUR CHILDREN, OUR SCHOOLS AND THIS COMMUNITY. GOSH, I KNOW THIS MAKES ME SOUND AS VENOMOUS AS ART’S DETRACTORS BUT I HONESTLY LOOK AT IT AS SIMPLE JUSTICE – LIKE THE JEWISH PEOPLE WHO WILL FORGIVE BUT NEVER FORGET.

I JUST SANG MY GRANDSONS TO SLEEP WITH THIS VERSE FROM “I’D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING:

I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace through out the land

IT’S A LOVELY SENTIMENT BUT IT SEEMS SO NAIVE WHEN I CONSIDER HOW OUR SCHOOL BOARD HAS ACTED OVER THE PAST YEAR AND A HALF.

MY WIFE HAS JUST HELPED PRESENT THE WONDERFUL TOUCHSTONE AWARDS FOR ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE MADE DULUTH AND THE SURROUNDING AREA A BETTER PLACE. SHE WOULD BE APPALLED BY MY HEART’S DESIRE TO EXPOSE THE SEEDY TRUTH THAT ART JOHNSTON HAS BEEN THE VICTIM OF THE SELF RIGHTEOUS AND NOT THE VILLAIN THEY HAVE CALLED HIM FOR YEARS.

OK, ART. I’VE PULLED THIS POST FOR NOW BUT I’M FEELING VERY ORNERY. I DARE ANYONE TO RAISE THE CHANT AGAIN THAT ART JOHNSTON IS THE BAD GUY ON THE SCHOOL BOARD. FRANKLY, HE’S DWARFED IN THAT DEPARTMENT BY MOST OF THE REST OF US.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX taken out at Art Johnston’s request XXXXXXXXXXX that didn’t make it consensual.

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Thou shalt not Rat Out Our Friends “ Part 3 (I had planned to continue this tomorrow but I may not. In fact, Art asked me to remove this post. He wants me to curtail the telling of the story that will clear his name. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea)

Next: Thou Shalt Not Part 3

Thou Shalt Not Rat Out Our Friends – This is the post where Harry Welty opens himself to grounds for removal from the Duluth School Board

I’m glad Art is dropping his lawsuit and I’m delighted that we will have three new school board members. With any luck the people of Duluth will soon see what a high functioning school board can do. But we will still be left with the School Board ethics policy of an extremely low functioning, back biting, school board. Its a policy that proclaims that we can get rid of any member who deigns to tell the public any dirty little truth that the board majority wants hushed up or that sheds any light on the Board’s grubby workings.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been warned either through our stellar attorneys or through our Human Relations Officers that I am treading on private data. Yes we have custody of lots of personnel files that has information that deserves protection from prying eyes. Its violation has cost a few police officers their jobs when their curiosity has got the better of them and they decided to peruse state arrest records to learn about their girlfriends.

But revealing the often benign contents of a personnel file is not a hanging offense that automatically results in a firing. In Minnesota there is a provision that allows a fine of up to $15,000 to be levied against someone who reveals private data. I don’t know how often this fine has been levied at its maximum. I’m sure some blabbermouths have gotten little more than a hand slap. Now, however, our school board has passed a new ethics policy which gives them the right to remove Art or me from the School Board if we share any information with the public that they want to keep hushed up. The lengths they’ve gone to enforce silence have been extreme.

For instance, when we interviewed the handpicked attorney, Mary Rice, to investigate Art Johnston’s conduct last December (That was the meeting where I made an ass out of myself trying to pantomime Art Johnston’s much ballyhooed “shove.”) I was hamstrung by Chair Miernicki and our attorney Kevin Rupp. Together they did everything in their power to prevent me from asking frank questions of investigator Rice. I wanted to mention Art Johnston’s wife/girlfriend/lover/spouse/partner in my questions and kept being advised that this was dangerous territory because it violated data privacy laws. Hell, Jane Bushey’s name, picture and story had been on the front page of the Duluth News Tribune. It was hardly private anymore. Even so, I was advised not to mention her name. I then asked if I could get Jane’s permission to mention her name. In no time she sent me a slip of paper giving me her blessing. Even this was too much for my minders.

Don’t be fooled. My mentioning Jane Bushey was not the real issue. The name they didn’t want uttered was Jane Bushey’s boss, Cheryl Lien. There. Now I’ve done it! According to our new ethics policy – the unconstitutional one that Art has chosen not to contest in court – this makes me subject to removal by our School Board.

The District’s chief aim though this entire nightmare has been hide the District’s doings while fussing about how dangerous Art Johnston has been. Sadly, a lot of people in Duluth, including the editors of the Duluth News Tribune and at least one candidate have fallen for this claptrap. Now that the court case is in our rear-view mirror I will put this sordid little episode under a microscope.

Thou shalt not rat out our friends is a school board commandment I intend to violate often over the next week or two. Here’s a good visual of the commandment in action. I posted this heavily blacked out page from the “Rice Report” on my blog last fall. It’s so thoroughly redacted the CIA couldn’t figure out what Art Johnston’s crimes were.

Like so much else in the Art Johnston saga, this was simply another attempt to hide behind the law and keep all the damning evidence obscured.

This summer when Cheryl Lien requested a continuance of her leave of absence from the District so that she could hold on to the possibility of getting her job back her dear friend Chair Mike Miernicki defended her. That’s because Art and I proposed that her name be removed from the list of leaves to be extended. Mike said, “This is a well thought-of educator, a Goldfine Gold Star winner.” True enough. But this Gold Star educator also gave the Duluth Schools a year-and-a-half long donnybrook that has led to the humiliation of the entire school board. This not the first time Cheryl Lien’s dark side has made an ugly appearance. I got a sneak peak at it when I was serving on the School Board twelve years ago. If I spill those beans I’m subjecting myself to removal from the Board.

Ah the hell with it. Half of the Denfeld neighborhood already knows about this, and besides, the truth is its own reward. That will be part two tomorrow.

Next: Thou Shalt Not 2 (Removed at Art’s request but with some explanation)

Art Drops his lawsuit

The Trib’s report

I’ll have a lot to say about this tomorrow morning.

While I’m chewing on this let me just say this:

My colleagues tried to get rid of Art as though he was a non tenured teacher on probation and not a colleague who had been elected by the voters of his District. They censured me because I revealed to the public our attorneys warning of great turmoil and expense with no guarantee of ultimate success. After they censured me they ignored our attorney and spent up to a quarter million dollars to remove Art leading to the discrediting of the entire Board. Three of the board members who inflicted censure and pain decided not to run for reelection in the face of community displeasure. One tried to find a way to get an extra year on the Board without having to face voters.

They relied on the testimony of a known liar despite my warning that this would be a mistake. They turned their back on appeals for peace. Their only solace was bleeding Art Johnston dry financially.

It may sound like I have little but contempt for my colleagues. In fact, I have only pity for them.

They have left us with a new ethics policy every bit as unconstitutional as the one the Judge hearing our case found fault with. It targets me specifically. If I tell the whole story they claim the right to remove me from the school board. I guess I don’t blame them for wanting to shut me up. Nothing that can be written about the last year and a half is flattering to anyone……..except possibly, Art Johnston. Art still has a strong case not withstanding the positive spin from attorney Skelten. I’m personally grateful that he is letting it drop – No thanks to the Duluth School Board’s majority.

More on this tomorrow.

And speaking of eating one’s brains…..

I’ve just uploaded Zombie Grandson to youtube. Youtube is now owned by Google and its busily processing the movie. If things work out I’ll have it up before the day is out.

Speaking of that ….. all of my uploads to youtube for the past ten years are now under the control of ISD 709 including Zombie Grandson. I am annoyed by this and when I just now read the message from Google that the Duluth School District has complete authority to remove everything I’ve uploaded to Youtube it did little to improve my attitude. Old board member friends of mine used to joke that our school board’s motto should be: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that someone isn’t out to get you.”

Youthful Annie Harala likes to give me regular digs when I explain that the the ISD 709 email system gives me heartburn. She’s a young dog and has no trouble navigating our online labyrinth.

After I got my District email address the District bought into a Google Product to organize everything. It made me start over in a system I was already far behind in figuring out. Somehow Google then swallowed my own Google material and merged it into ISD 709’s online data base. They practically own it.

I’m not really worried that anyone in the School District will tamper with what I have had on the Internet for years but I’m sure a number of insiders consider me a tad peevish and would cheer my comeuppance. If anyone wonders why I walk backwards through the hallways of our Administration building its because I find that to be the most efficient way to watch my back.

That Editorial Part 4 – How to fix what’s broken

Let’s be clear, Alanna Oswald is her own person. At no time were either Art Johnston or I aware of Alanna while we were trying to get a referendum on the Red Plan, or trying to design a more modest building program, or suing the District for offering a half billion building program without taking bids on it. All that time Alanna was busy being a mother and teaching.

However, like many sorely affected by the Red Plan’s consequences Alanna discovered that her children’s education was suffering as a result. Moving children about higgledy piggledy as construction took precedence over teaching and surreptitiously bleeding resources from the classroom to pay for it led to plummeting student achievement. This crisis was particularly acute in our western schools which always have been a little behind their eastern counterparts.

Alanna’s daughter was in one of these schools, Laura MacArthur. I will let Alanna speak for herself by introducing my readers to the brilliant and clear headed letter she sent to Minnesota’s Education Commissioner, Brenda Casselius. This was two years ago. Alanna also circulated it to every school board member shortly after I took office. This letter had positive and far reaching consequences for every child and teacher in the Duluth schools:

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Hello Brenda,

I have been to many meetings where you have talked, and you have given out your cell phone number. I put it in my iPhone for future reference, and now that I would rather be talking to you about this issue, my last update to my phone software deleted all my contacts! Ugh. So, let me preface this by saying it will be a LONG email, and if you prefer to speak about this, feel free to just jump to the bottom and use my cell phone number listed there to call me and we can talk about this. I am available nearly all day (up at 7 am and even up until midnight if you are lol). I will bold key thoughts so you can scan it to see if you would rather call and discuss this.

Here we go: Continue reading

Rosie’s ally accuses Loren Martell of being vitriolic

From a letter in today’s Duluth Reader by one of the paid staff that works with Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s husband in the Public Employees Union, AFSCME:

I respectfully request that Loren Martell recuse himself from editorial or staff positions while he conducts his campaign. While I have always appreciated the sophisticated level of political discourse that the Reader offers, particularly in regards to its endorsements. I have as long despaired of the level of insight Mr. Martell provides in his columns. Recognizing that in the current culture of journalism his brand of is often used to incite inflammatory response and rather than dialogue, I understand the Reader’s need to publish Mr. Martell, less than insightful rhetoric. I do believe that the discourse in our local elections requires far more reflection and complexity than Mr. Martel has provided. I think the integrity of our elections relies on the integrity of our media and that the Reader has by and large bucked the trend that has led to the national trend most recently exhibited on Fox paraded as a Republican Party debate. But in my opinion the Reader is in danger of becoming a part of the circus and indeed negligible in the local discourse on politics if Mr. Martel is allowed to continue to be a regular contributor, particularly while running for office. If Mr. Martel is going to be allowed to continue his regular column while running I respectfully request that the Reader recruit a voice to balance his vitriol.

Sincerely
Theresa O’Halloran-Johnson,
Duluth, Minnesota

The definition of vitriol is harsh, nasty criticism. I defy the author of the following letter to the Reader to provide a sample of any vitriol in Loren’s commentary. The most telling materiel in Loren’s columns comes in context from the mouths of the people he is describing. They are uttered at public meetings and can be verified by watching them on youtube. Loren listens to recordings over and over until he gets the quotes exactly right.

There is no doubt that there is an edge to Loren’s writing but it pales compared to the people he is shining a light on. They put Mr. Martell in handcuffs, literally, and then got the Duluth News Tribune to headline stories for a year calling Art Johnston a racist. Rosie herself went on local television last year to tell Duluth “The investigation was brought forward because of Art Johnston’s violent abusive and harassing and threatening behaviors.” Such bile goes far beyond mere vitriol and vitriol goes too far in describing Loren Martell’s insightful reporting.

Had the author merely complained that a candidate for public office was getting a freebie column after filing I would have been sympathetic.

Note: the poor sentence construction is either the work of the author or the Reader. It is not mine.