Category Archives: 2017 Sch. B. election

No plans for today except stuffing envelopes when I get a new flyer

The interview with the DNT Editorial Board…

…was very cordial. Loren Martell told me that he got almost an hour with them, much longer than expected. I got about forty minutes as someone else was waiting in the wings. I should have taken better mental notes but I recall their being two citizen representatives and Chuck Frederick and four other DNT operatives from the publisher down to an employee representative.

We began with a longish remembrance by Chuck and me of Jimmy Kimmel’s show thirteen years ago periodically following the quixotic attempt by a Duluth brick layer to build the biggest snow sculpture ever which he later ratcheted back to the biggest one in Duluth history. I got invited to offer a couple of observations as a recognized expert on the subject. And Chuck was there too. Kimmel sent Chuck an autographed picture of the event which an earlier story by Chuck in the Trib had prompted. I made Chuck promise to let me see it. I noted that back then Kimmel was infamous for frat type humor whereas he recently made a compelling speech about health care with the near loss of an infant son.

As my eight loyal readers know 38 minutes is hardly enough time to cover the millions of words I’ve spilled about the Duluth Schools here in the blog but it was a fun, fast, interview.

***

I decided to skip a fairly important presentation last night put on by the Minnesota Dept. of Education about the replacement to No Child Left Behind. It was partly because I am pooped out from so much gallivanting and partly because I had both grandsons over last night and their folks and family time seemed more important. You can read about what I missed in the Trib.

***

I’ll be at home with the boys this morning but before they woke up I went back through my China posts. Yesterday while I was at the Board meeting Claudia showed our youngest grandson and his Dad the recent NOVA episode about the Terracotta Army and the book she bought while we were there. Today she is going to the book club that lured her to the cruise we took. She’ll be offering her travelogue. My summary can be found in the China series and the last five or so have links to Facebook slideshows which are short but snappy with pictures I took of each of the locations we spent time visiting. I’d suggest reading from beginning to end which in the blog means from earliest (at the bottom) to most recent (at the end).

***

And we picked up our Chevy Traverse in Hinckley with its Serpentine system repaired and humming again. Now all we have to do is figure out how to deal with the intersection of 21st Av and 4th St. which will be plugged up for the next month on the major fix up being imposed on it. And I thought our traffic was loud!

When FLIKR begins cooperating with me again I’ll try posting a picture of all the trucks out front.

Back to the campaign

As I was traveling back home yesterday the Post Office called and left a message that the campaign material I dropped door to door on Thursday should not have touched, hung from or been stuck behind mail boxes. I promised I would adhere to this carefully from now on. It may be a challenge to find an alternative when screen doors are locked as I prefer to open them and close my materials into them.

Which made me worry about my failing to put a “Postage here” square in the corner lest donors forget to properly mail them. I bought a rubber stamp to do this and am going back to stamp the notice on all my stuffed envelopes.

Which made me think that the light hearted letter Mike Jaros signed for me might not have been informative enough. I copied my op ed piece in the News Tribune and ordered them to be printed and tri-folded. I’ll add them into the previously stuffed envelopes while stamping “postage here” on them as well.

Fortunately, Paypal alerted me that I had received some contributions through the Internet. A little bit more and I should be able to cover these unexpected costs. You can contribute below if you don’t want to wait for the possibility that I’ll reach your house before the campaign is over. Of 35,000 homes I’ll be lucky to get to one-third of them by November.

Feel free to help ……. and while your at it to get a set of snow sculture trading cards.

Begging the Chair’s Indulgence

I made one stop on the way to Duluth, Mankato, my residence from Junior High through college. I had hoped to have time to take my grandson to the hilltop where my folks, his great grandparents are buried. There wasn’t time for that if I was to get to last night’s monthly School Board meeting. I did, however, take him for a walk through Minneopa State Park. He experimented, as thousands had before him, carving some lines into the soft sandstone that bore witness to better than a century of love declarations. The Falls were lovely but sadly the Buffalo imported to the glacial stone debris below the old Seppman Grist Mill all remained hidden as we drove through. From thence on it was a rush to get to Duluth.

I did make my grandson take a break from his cell phone to read something I’d written years earlier about my move to Mankato. I told him writing was my way of carving lines in the sandstone to be remembered .

Before cresting the hill to descend to Lake Superior I called Claudia and asked her to order hoagies for me to gulp down so I get to the School Board meeting on time. I had about twenty minutes to change cloths and find my board agenda. I missed the roll call and the Pledge of Allegiance but got to the Board meeting in time to congratulate the East Cheerleaders for good works which I just missed hearing about. At least my handshakes were on time. My other eclipsing colleague, Art Johnston, who had a better view than me in Casper, Wyoming, was still in transit home.

Summer meetings can be short. At the beginning of the Education Committee Report from last Tuesday the Board was congratulated on finishing it up in an hour and fifteen minutes. My being in Colorado that day probably helped speed things along. I would drag out this night’s meeting to an hour and a half by launching into a story from my travels to make a point. It might have been five minutes longer had the Chair and the Clerk not objected to my story telling. They were not in the mood for a raconteur. I launched into a prologue to express my concern that recent budget cuts to the Curriculum Department and the many initiatives undertaken to improve teaching might fall seriously short. But veering into the example of my travels with too much on my mind leading me to sit on a flimsy water bottle in my back pocket elicited only impatience. I did beg for the Chair’s indulgence considering that our’s would be a short meeting but gave up in the face of a crowd eager to go home early. My three minutes of prologue start at the 48 minute point and end with my concession and cutting to the chase. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wDG8dKpA_U&t=42s

Candidate Welty’s view

It’s Online here with the headline: Incumbent’s View: Red Plan fight isn’t over; funds needed for classrooms.

This is my text in full:

I have much to be modest about when asking Duluth voters for a fourth term on the Duluth School Board. My determination to bring about equity, my candor, and my experience are, however, something I value deeply and which I think recommend my continuing service.

I ran four years ago determined to make the Red Plan a thing of the past. To my shock, my inquiries for public data, to lay old questions to rest, were met with fury, stonewalling, and, finally, hysteria. And the Red Plan was never dead. For 10 years, Duluth School Board majorities refused to acknowledge that their financing of the Red Plan would loot locally levied property taxes from the classroom for decades to come.

Twenty years ago, in 1997, my second year as a School Board member, Duluth school property taxes were $23 million; $9 million of this was for debt servicing, and $14 million went to the classroom. Today, local school property taxes are $31 million. But this year’s Red Plan debt servicing takes $28.7 million, leaving only $2.5 million for the classroom. That is $11.5 million less for our classrooms despite an $8 million property tax increase.

If you care to do the math, our average teacher costs $90,000 per year. I will leave it to others to explain the insistence of some that the Red Plan is over.

What is not over is the loss of $11.5 million for the classrooms each year at a time when our district is expected to meet the needs of a growing poor and minority student population desperate for teacher contact time in order to bridge an infamous learning gap.

Like it or not, Duluth now has a nearly half billion-dollar investment in new schools to protect. Our board has refused good offers to sell derelict buildings, even though such sales were made a critical part of the Red Plan’s financing.

I will do what I deem necessary to raise the funds we need to educate our children. I will, to the best of my ability, hold true to my conviction that voters should be offered referendums to raise the necessary funds. However, if given no alternative, voters must know that I may decide to vote to raise additional taxes even if the public has soured on providing them.

I can hardly blame the public. Ten years ago, district residents were denied a referendum on the Red Plan, and this was just after our state Legislature placed a heavier property tax burden on more modest homes than on those of the more affluent.

Not every child can do what Abraham Lincoln did: educate themselves beyond a meager few years of an elementary education to the law, to Congress, to the presidency, and to the rescue of the American nation. What Lincoln would have given to have been educated in the Duluth public schools!

We owe it to our children to remember President Lincoln’s words: “with malice toward none.”

Let’s give our children an education we can be proud of.

Harry Welty is a candidate for an At Large seat on the Duluth School Board.

Fallout from the John Ramos column

Here’s WDIO’s story about the teacher union’s endorsement.

While I was in flight back to Duluth, WDSM’s Brad Bennett, an ex Duluth School Board member, was engaged in a spirited 5-minute discussion with an agitated listener who bashed Art Johnston and the writer of a recent Reader column John Ramos. It starts at the 35 minute point in the 2nd hour.

My eight loyal readers have ample evidence of my thoughts about Art Johnston and the travesty of “justice” he endured at the hands of the School Board of 2014-15. The listener bashing Art and John suggested that it was no surprise that information in the Reader was unreliable.

I’ve always considered John Ramos to be an exceptionally careful reporter. Of the Ramos column in question at the Reader I only read one bit of inadequate information besides the failure to include Jill Lofald in the list of candidate attendees at the Endorsement screening. John reports that the attempt (travesty) to remove Art and invalidate his lawful election cost $43,000. It was far closer to costing taxpayers $200,000. As for the “tens of thousands” it cost Art to defend himself and those election results – it was closer to $75,000.

Brad and I go waaaay back. When I became Board Chair in 1998 Brad encouraged me to require that the School Board start saying the Pledge of Allegiance to begin school board meetings because he knew one of the new board members elected in the 1997 election was an atheist and resisted saying the Pledge with its mention of “under God.” She had also been worried that she might be asked to place her hand on a Bible for her swearing in as a new board member. We don’t do that.

At some point in Brad’s subsequent Radio talk show career he started calling me “AC-DC,” and “Madman Welty.” He was referring generally to my wavering support of the Republican party. “AC-DC” is a term suggesting both gay and straight proclivities. I was not very pleased with Brad’s teasing/taunting so I wrote a column in the Reader which demonstrated that Brad himself was all too human during his stint on the School Board. His wife at the time told me she would never forgive me for it. (Sorry, but some of the links in that column have gone bad over the last 15 years. One of them had the photo of a wrecked ISD 709 car)

Brad is a big boy and never, to my knowledge, disparaged me for my “payback.” In fact, we went on to have spirited debates over other issues which also made it to my space on the Internet.

Estes Park

Welty family reunions have most often converged on Estes Park, Colorado in a valley surrounded by foothills and the Rockies. One of my first memories was seeing Damn Yankees at a Drive in Theater when I was ten or so. Love the scene with canibals putting missionaries in a soup pot. Ten years later we saw Anne of a Thousand Days in the tiny downtown theater.

Its always been a tourist Mecca and even my cousins are astonished at its carpeting of new housing developments. The general level of material wealth is worth comparing to what I saw in China. Even if China’s GNP overtakes that of the United States they won’t likely match such places at Estes which has a hundred years headstart in developing creature comforts.

Its impressive rock architecture like this that helps give the community its ambiance:

And roving herds of elk overrunning gardens that seperate it from other locales:

An employee of the Stanley Hotel was busy shooing this bull away from the grounds along with his harem when our family stopped by for cocktails. The Stanley was the inspiration of Stephen King’s “The Shining.”

Much of what I’ve said of Estes could be said of Duluth as well at least as compared to China. Unlike the expanding Chinese Cities ours spread out into single family homes. The Chinese are expanding up as well but into apartment generic blocks.

As with our trip to China a few weeks ago national news was hard to ignore. As always Seth Meyers is a wonderful antidote. I loved this piece of his.

I also enjoyed Facebooking my weekend and appreciated my freedom to do so after being frozen out of Facebook while in China. Furthermore my reunion saw the first time that I wasn’t with my wife during our anniversary. Claudia was with two very handsome boys in the Dells and our anniversary communications were all Facebooked.

I’ll be heading home in a couple hours and to a birthday party for one of those boys. I’ll be taking him to the path of the total eclipse on Sunday and I bought eclipse sun glasses at the Visitors Center at Rocky Mountain National Park. Its been a busy August and from reports I got while in Colorado from back home School Board politics are heating up. I’ll start going door to door soon but I know that voters don’t pay much attention to local elections until Labor Day.

Candidate Martell’s view

Very thoughtful.

Loren has strongly suggested that the insiders in one local political party have a particularly heavy responsibility for leading the Duluth School District into its Red Plan disaster. I have suggested that these candidates substitute management and inadaquate finance with poms poms.

The school board candidates are now out with their campaign lit highlighting their DFL endorsements:

Blogging while pissed off

Its a terrible thing to do but I’m pissed off. In an hour I will go to a memorial for my uncle Frank but I made the terrible mistake of taking two calls from home – hour long calls to talk about the Duluth School District. If I don’t get the frustration that’s in my heart out now I’ll be in no decent frame of mind to send my Uncle off to the great beyhond.

The second call was from a school board member from long ago in another district. This Board member’s contention is that laws have changed – What’s done is done – that bitching about the past is not helpful and – that where my figures are concerned “figures never lie but liars figure.”

No wonder I’m a little aggitated. Here in brief is what I explained.

A. Ten years ago the people of Duluth were lied to and told the Red Plan would pay for itself and other words to that effect and that taxes would hardly go up at all.

B. When the spending got started and it became apparent that the promisess were smoke and mirrors they began tweaking the District’s finances by taking ten million out of the classroom to pay off bonds that should have been paid for with ten million new dollars annually taxed to pay off the facilities bond payments.

C. Our taxes went up ten million dollars when they should have gone up $20 million but instead we pulled ten million dollars each year out of our “21st Century schools.”

D. I didn’t say this to my caller but there is a new response to these dreadful shennanigans that’s been going on for five or six years. Calls to elect school board members who will not harp about the past and the cheating of today’s students but to paper over the education crimes and to be cheerleaders of “positivity.”

Screw the pom poms. We should tell the truth.

If I’m elected voters better understand that as unfair, foolish and duplicitous as the Red Plan funding was (which I fought for a decade) I will likely vote to increase the taxes the Red Planners should have raised had they been honest and showed some backbone.

WHEW!!!!! Now I’m ready for you Uncle Frank. All those New Yorker cartoons you used to enjoy about human foibles are so so true.

Candidate Krivogorsky’s View

Bogdana (her Ukranian birth name) Krivogorsky has been Americanized since she immigrated to the US at age 15. She goes by Dana (pronounced Donna) now. She left at the strong urging of her grandfather who saw the former Soviet Union crumbling and wanted a better more secure future for his granddaughter. She arrived a little too late to lose her charming slavic accent. Multilinguist, Mike Jaros, told me her name meant something like God’s gift.

I know Dana’s background because her claim to have met with all School Board members was certainly true in my case. She, along with Loren Martell, are the most reliable and dogged meeting attenders usually hanging on our every word from beginning to meeting’s end three to four hours later. If course, it goes without saying that Loren is the record holder having started his listening posts about the time I flamed out after Let Duluth Vote’s legal challenge to the imposition of the Red Plan without a vote sputtered and died. That was 2010.

Furthermore, Dana brought an interesting proposal to our “Special” Board meeting on Monday before I left Duluth for my Colorado family reunion. She spoke at the beginning of the meeting. By the way this is the video I was unable to find in the previous post.

Dana suggested that we bring some auditors in to see what we can do to clean up the finances that have been so damaging. And by the way it turns out that microbiologist Dana has a formidible Mother, Victoria, who teaches advanced accounting and auditing at San Diego State University. I have a sneaking sense that Dana spoke with her mother before speaking to us. Considering the financial wrecking ball that the Red Plan has been to our schools I welcome Dana’s recommendation.

Her opinion piece in today’s Tribune is full of good general recommendations.

It looks like the Trib is publishing in our think pieces alphabetically by candidate’s last name. If so, mine will show up on Saturday.

On the backs of our teachers and children

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwuyk9KM7A4

Much to my annoyance this link takes you to the video of yesterday’s School Board’s special meeting that won’t play for me. That’s where we reauthorized bonding for $3 million in construction that would mostly have been unnecessary if we had simply sold Rockridge Elementary to a “competitor” Many Rivers Academy or sold them Nettleton which still sits empty on the market. Instead we were forced to spend a lot of money on this school to educate the non residential students from Woodland Hills (now the “Hills”). We had to reauthorize it because we are asking the city to let Rockridge be used as a school again after asking them to take away that zoning so we could sell the building to pay off part of the Red Plan.

The Hills simply sold our old Cobb school to Many Rivers so we lost a buyer and Many Rivers got one of our old schools anyway.

I made that point in a more business-like fashion at the meeting which I thought made a nice contrast with yesterday’s informal video chat that I appended to the previous post.

Our finances drive me nuts. After my soliloquy the only non candidate/non employee witness at our meeting said he wished that the two folks he had spoken to a short time ago had heard the meeting. They had insisted that ISD 709 had to fix up the old schools because they had never been taken cared for. This trope took on two silly myths. First, that old School Board’s neglected their duty to fix up the Duluth schools. Second, that having allowed them to become decrepit there was nothing we could do but spend half a billion dollars on the Red Plan.

What the last ten year’s worth of School Boards did was insist that they were going to save us half the cost of new schools with energy savings and efficiencies. That was nonsense. As my trading cards make clear, and as I have suggested for the last ten years, all they did was fire teachers to pay for new schools. Today we only put $2.5 million of our $31 million dollars of property taxes into the classroom. Twenty years ago we put $14 million of $23.5 million into the classrooms. 137 teachers were let go to pay for those buildings. Now we are borrowing more because of a policy that handcuffs common fiscal sense.

I’m heading off to the airport in ten minutes to fly to a family reunion in Colorado for the next four days. But I’m taking my computer. I may want to add some more posts while I’m away. I have one in mind about one of the genius’s who made it possible to pay for the Red Plan on the backs of our children. I think I’ll title it Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Hoheisel. I’ll have to be careful though. He likes to threaten to sue people.

Stuff it!

I face long hours stuffing envelopes to deliver door to door around Duluth. They are both information sharing and fund raising and they are the most fun I’ve ever seen in campaign literature. I got immediately bored and it occurred to me to show what its like to stuff envelopes and while I videoed myself.

I laughed at the ridiculous but true things I said about the Duluth Schools for ten minutes until I had to quit to go to Sunday dinner with my daughter’s family. The grandsons were going to get to eat two of the fish they caught yesterday. Here’s Uncle Craig helping take a fish off the hook. Both boys caught three. I only caught one. They were very happy about this.

And here’s a ten minute video of me stuffing envelopes and laughing, ruefully, at my own jokes about the plight of the Duluth Public Schools.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6al15bThfs

If you don’t want to wait for me to put one of these invitations in your door to donate for snow sculpture trading cards you’d better order them online here: http://www.weltyforschoolboard.com/

Oh, and its 500 envelopes stuffed 9,500 to go……..and 10,000 door to stick them in before I order the next 10,000 envelopes.

Swan song with the school board

An email sent to all Duluth school board candidates this week:

Thank you all for participating! 

This Northland Issues will air Sunday, August 27th @ 7:30a on CBS 3. 

Kevin

Barbara Reyelts, who is retiring after a long run at KBJR conducted one last interview with school board candidates. I have some insights on what took place that I may share after it airs.

Each of us got five minutes with Barb with our competitors. Barb divided the 5 of us in the At large race up 2 and 3. I was paired with Sally Trnka. Dana, Loren and Josh were together. Barb said we were split up alphabetically by our last name.

I joked with Barb beforehand that we were her “swan song.”

Big Boo Boo

I made quite a fuss in this recent post about our lost ISD 709 students (30% of the total students we could be educating) only being lost do to “open enrollment” to neihboring Districts. In that post I incorrectly explained, “By the way, Open Enrollment DOES NOT INCLUDE ENROLLMENT IN CHARTER SCHOOLS!!!!! That’s extra.”

I was sooooooo wrong. I am prone to such mistakes when I hastily review old info without reading it carefully. It turns out that charter school students are the bulk of the students 709 has lost.

Ironically, the Red Plan was partly motivated by the hope that our new schools would lure the charter students back in the system. But in the complicated game of chess for enrollment it did not occur to the Duluth School Board that state law permitted our Charters from using state money to build their own new school. So, the Red Plan did help drive more students to Charters because of a chaotic transition from old schools to new schools.

But the fact remains – I WAS IN ERROR.

Trust me. It won’t be my last mistake.

August blogging, campaigning, and family life

I’ve had an uptick in visitors since I resumed blogging after my return from China. There will be much more to add as the school board campaign kicks into gear but as I’ve told candidates for the School Board people still have summer on their minds and tearing their attention away to what comes after Labor Day will not be easy. I have already done more early campaigning than I’ve done in years preparing campaign materials coaching other candidates etc. And my summer, or rather my family’s summer, is not yet over.

Yesterday my brother-in-law showed up for a long weekend primed to take my grandsons fishing. I did manage to pick up my first 10,000 flyers yesterday but as I look at my calendar for August I’ll only have Monday to pass them out before flying to Colorado on Tuesday after the Business Committee meeting. I’m heading to a family reunion in the Rockies for a remembrance of my Uncle Frank who died a few days after I left him in Denver last January. Then on Saturday or Sunday following my return I’m going to take my oldest grandson on a trip to wherever it is cloud free to watch the eclipse. We are determined to enjoy it for all of its 2 minutes and forty seconds of totality. I am very psyched for this trip with him. It was looking like I’d have to go solo as other folks in my family have important things on their calendar that will keep them in town. The Tan Man loves science and I’ve charged him to do some research before we leave.

It will only be after our return, August 22nd or so, that I’ll be able be able to pass out the bulk of those ten thousand flyers. Hopefully I’ll be able to double that if my fundraising kicks in. I am almost resolved to stop spending any more of my money on this campaign. I care deeply about remaining on the School Board now that some semblance of sanity has taken hold of it but I don’t like the idea of buying the darned office.

I think there will be a surprise coming up. The Superintendent has forecast that is going to be an ugly campaign but dogged Art Johnston has made unending inquiries and I think he has finally uncovered a fuller explanation for why Dixon’s Duluth School Board unwittingly took $11.5 million local dollars out of the classroom leaving them a shambles.

All that is yet to come so I hope my eight loyal readers will forgive this teaser and my next break away from keeping them informed about the doings of the Duluth Schools.

I think this campaign will finally be rational. If I’m right, it will pit the School Board’s constitutional duty to act as management against a long recent tradition of school boards ineptly trying to sweep embarassments under the rug in a lame excuse for salesmanship.

Small World

Shepherding my grandsons around I forgot to check my calendar this morning. No problem. Memorial Blood Bank called to ask why I was late for my 92nd pint contribution. They told me it was OK if I showed up half an hour late. I hurried over and saw that someone had just signed in five minutes before I arrived before being handed the new form about iron deficiency.

I was hustled through the Q and A and blood pressure test and when I sat down to share myself I saw that the 10:30 donation was Deanna Gronseth, the Superintendent’s better half. We greeted each other and I joked about how it had been “long time no see.” She had, in fact, been one of the fourteen teachers at the Tuesday candidate screening committee.

Deanna has both feet in public education. She is a member of the Hermantown School Board and like Sarah Dixon, the wife of her husband’s mentor, she has an office just a stone’s throw from the Superintendent on the second floor of Old Central. She’s been sitting through a lot of our recent school board meetings this year so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see her at the Screening.

Her’s was one of the last small groups that I had my four minute session with and as I recall I was asked about the evaluation of employees. I told Deanna that I believed a healthy school system would treat its staff with respect and give them the freedom to experiment and make mistakes. I repeated the mantra about students learning from their mistakes a couple times that evening and I believe the same goes for our employees. I said that staff who were worried about being blamed and who refused to stretch to their limit would be unlikely to become very successful. Looking over one’s back makes forward thinking difficult.

I teased Deanna at the blood bank that if she hadn’t had a head start I’d have raced her to finish my donation first. When she ducked out into the rainy day I was holding my arm up compressing my inner elbow and being asked what color bandage I wanted. It looked like I was waving to her. I chose red.

Batting 0 for 7

“On behalf of the DFT screening committee I want to thank you for spending the time with us last night to share your views and your vision for our school district as a candidate. You have not received our endorsement, however we hope that should you succeed as a candidate that we would be able to have a good working relationship.”

This was the email I just received after interviewing for the endorsement of the Duluth Federation of Teachers. I had no illusions about the possibility of an endorsement although I did my best to make a case for my candidacy. I wanted the DFT endorsement committee to have no doubt that they turned their back on the best candidate for the Duluth School Board. While a couple of the seven candidates to appear before them groused that they did not expect to get the endorsement I simply told the teachers that I had asked for their endorsement seven previous times and never won it even though I would welcome the endorsement.

The interview took a little over two hours and we were asked to extemporaneously answer the same 12 questions we had already answered in print. (I’ll post my written answers at the end of this post.) I’m not sure how many times I’ve actually asked for the endorsement. I vaguely recall not being in town in 2013. Neither did I ask for the endorsement in 2003 after filing but but quickly deciding I didn’t really want a third term and ending my campaign.

The quirky interview process had all seven candidates present answer the first four questions in turn with all the teachers present. The next eight questions were asked by small groups of two or three teachers, in separate rooms, of single candidates, in four minute sessions. Each small session came with an explanation that the teachers were forbidden to ask additional questions. (It would have been unfair to the candidates who wouldn’t get to answer them.)

At one of these sessions I was told that if I had questions of the teachers it would be OK for me to ask them and so I did. This is the question I posed: “I don’t want you to give me the answer to this question but I’d like you to consider it after the endorsement process. I’d like you to ask yourself why it is unlikely that I will get an endorsement from the DFT.”

I told them that I had my theories. I didn’t share them in that four minutes but here they are: The simple answer is that I have supported the development of Charter Schools in Duluth but I think that this is too simple. I suspect that I was not endorsed for a more potent set of reasons, to wit: I’m not afraid of the teacher’s union. I have defied them during a near strike. I have publically debated one of their Presidents. I am resistant to rolling over during labor negotiations. I know where the bodies are buried and finally, the State Teacher’s Union directs local unions to keep pushing for more benefits than their district’s can afford as a way to pressure state legislators to provide more funds for school districts which always plead poverty and blame the legislature. And that’s hogwash. Duluth regularly receives about 70% of its revenue from the state.

We all collected back together for a surprise 13th question. I think it might have been here that I referred to my campaign “trading cards.” (I left a few of them in the DFT office – as little Trojan Horses. This one didn’t make cur for my trading cards. ) I told the teachers that for the past fifteen years the DFT had consistently elected the friendliest board members possible – although “supine” might be a fairer description. I pointed out that the result of this was that in April the DNT reported that 30% of Duluth students had open enrolled out of the District. By the way, Open Enrollment DOES NOT INCLUDE ENROLLMENT IN CHARTER SCHOOLS!!!!! That’s extra. (NOTE – the last two sentences are incorrect.) Additionally, and even worse, I pointed out that in the wake of the Red Plan which the DFT supported as it intimidated teacher critics into silence our District now spends $11.5 million less of its property taxes in their classrooms with mortifying consequences. I asked them if it wasn’t possible that electing board members who championed the unions, instead of taking on the role of management that is a school board’s constitutional charge, wasn’t the chief reason for our classroom overcrowding and the loss of hundreds of teachers.

I’ll let my eight loyal readers ponder that as well.

I explained all this to Claudia this morning and she made me do a little math and simplify the horror story of the last twelve years.
This is how she thought I should explain our situation:

Twenty years ago we spent over 60% of our $23 million property taxes in the classroom. Today we spend less than 10% of our $31 million in property taxes in the classroom. That’s $11.5 million less for our classrooms or, alternatively, 128 fewer members of the DFT to help bridge our yawning learning gap.

Here are my written answers to the DFT questions: Continue reading

On being up to my neck in alligators…

…and trying to remember that I came to drain the swamp.

I worked overtime before leaving for China to get all my projects tidied away so that when I got back I could have a running start on my school board campaign. On my return home I walked up to my office, after mowing an overgrown lawn, and found a pristine environment. I would so like to keep it that way but my head keeps finding new tasks which accrete little piles of debris which act like magnets for more debris.

Yesterday I could have worked on that debris but a call from Art Johnston Sunday night made me change my plans. Art had gotten tied up and would be unable to attend a pre-school-year conference of the Minnesota School Board Association he’d signed up for. Our District had paid a couple hundred bucks for him to sign up and he hoped I could make use of it. Its emphasis was to be “equity” and so I had been strongly inclined to go but weeks ago I was afraid my August would be so busy/chaotic I didn’t dare do so. But yesterday was empty on my calendar so I hopped in the car at 6 AM and trusted I could sweet talk myself into being Art when I arrived at 8:30 for registration. (A text to the superintendent requesting a little help even ended up with me getting my own name tag with my own name on it)

I’m very glad I went. A wise and funny speaker, Willow Sweeney, gave my day a boost and got me thinking. It got me thinking about a confession I wanted to write as a belated apology to my son. But I still have to finish editing a 500 word piece the DNT requested I send them regarding my campaign. I still have two more posts on China I’d like to write just to finish my modest report to the blog. And I’m monitoring the printing of my campaign fundraising letter which I will be delivering door to door in coming days. It will be contained in an envelope addressed to my house with a letter from my Chair Mike Jaros and one sample of my “trading cards.” There is no way I’ll get to all 30,000 houses in the District so if you want to make a contribution (and receive a full deck of trading cards) you better go to my campaign website to order before you die of old age.

By the way, I took some of those cards to the MSBA conference thinking they could serve as my new “business card.” I ended up only passing out a few. A half dozen went to African American board members and administrators. Their numbers are soaring over their numbers twenty years ago when I went with Mary Cameron to similar conferences. I’d judge they constituted a magnificent .016% of yesterday’s attendees. That is a ten fold improvement over what was closer to a .0016% twenty years ago. As one black superintendent told me when I gave him my card “people of color” would need to count on people like me (colorless I guess) for support on the equity front because there just weren’t all that many of them in positions of power in good old Minnesota.

By the way, the latest scores for the MCA’s came out (its THE test for the education gap between have and have not students) and Duluth’s numbers were at best mama hu hu. They had been announced earlier in the day and Alanna showed them to me in her conference papers in a very appropriate red ink. Our richest elementary school was heads above our poorest schools. Was that all the result of drawing from a richer population of parents or was it possible that the $300,000 they get each year from the Compensatory Ed money based on our “free and reduced lunch” population gave them an extra hard to justify jolt?

That’s what this election should be all about.

As for my room; I’ve got spending to record in my ledger and a campaign finance report to fill out and letters to stuff once I pick up them up from the print shop and lawnsigns to put together and some meetings to attend and another 8 News Tribs to go through from my vacation and and, and, and…..

That Civil Engineer who gave me grief in Memorial Park on Saturday about spending a million dollars to get rid of the rubber tire mulch asked me show him a bunch of my snow sculpture cards. “How do you find time to do these? He asked incredulously. I explained I had gotten pretty fast and that I did have 30 years to make them. “But what do you do that gives you time to build these?” he persisted. I surrendered and confessed that I married well, and a look of comprehension passed over his face. Not approval mind you. Just comprehension.

Trying to justify myself has always been the grain of sand in my oyster shell. Perhaps three sentences from the campaign literature side of my trading cards help justify my indolence. They explain something no one else in town has noticed about the property taxes we pour into our public schools. It reads:

Twenty years ago, 1997, local taxes were $23 million – $9M for debt service, $14M for classrooms. Today taxes are $31 million – $28.7M for Red Plan debt service, $2.5M for classrooms. That’s $11.5 million less for classrooms despite an $8M property tax increase!

At yesterday’s MSBA conference I only handed out my trading cards to one non minority attendee – Tom Melcher. Tom is the Department of Education’s top finance man. He has gotten to know me and my complaints about Duluth’s Red Plan so well that he said, “Hi Harry,” when I approached him. After his lucid presentation about the legislature’s changes to this year’s state education financing I gave him a card. (Maybe it was the one with Godzilla and Barney) I told Tom I would be getting in touch with him for his thoughts on its revelations. I’m looking for something, anything, to remedy the crimes of stupidity that took so much money away from Duluth’s children. Only $2.5 million from local taxes available for the classroom! That’s shameful and if our modest operational levy isn’t renewed none of our property taxes will go to pay for actual education. It will all have been dedicated to paying for beautiful new buildings. Well, the Beijing’s Olympic’s had very nice buildings too.

Look at them now. Or look at Brazil’s abandoned Olympic venues.

I wonder if their builders just tell everyone to move on?