Tomorrow’s column a few hours early

Duluth School Board District 2 candidate Harry Welty speaks during a candidate forum sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune and the Duluth Chamber of Commerce. The forum was Sept. 24 at the Duluth Playhouse Family Theater at the Depot in Duluth. (Clint Austin /

Candidate’s View Column: Look back to move Duluth public schools forward
Written By: Harry Welty | Oct 16th 2019 –

Ten years after the Supreme Court legalized “separate but equal,” my grandmother rode her horse to an all-white Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kan. Fifty-six years later, the Supreme Court ruled that Monroe, now a segregated all-black school, was unconstitutional. The court ruled that even if white and black schools were treated equally, forbidding black children from attending schools with white children treated them as inferiors.

Three years after Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education, I attended another all-white elementary near Monroe. In the first week of school, 100 black children from segregated schools were shepherded into our classrooms. Five years later, I was one of 14 white children in a sixth-grade class with 17 minority students. As the Supreme Court had hoped, I was vaccinated against any thought that I was superior to my black classmates.

My social DNA was formed in that integrated school, but my school’s integration was the exception. Over the years to follow, our nation’s schools re-segregated. When my dad was offered a job teaching law in Mankato, Minn., I found myself in an unfamiliar sea of white children.

Nevertheless, the issue of equity had taken root and came with me to Minnesota. In 1968, the year Martin Luther King was assassinated, I slept in a room with the first black student ever enrolled at Mankato High School. Bedru, an Ethiopian exchange student — and a Muslim to boot — was our family’s guest for the year.

I moved to Duluth to teach in another all-white Minnesota school 45 years ago and learned Duluth’s dirty secret. A 1920 lynching kept black Americans away until the Cold War gave Duluth a military base.

Among my Red Plan warnings was its uneven division of Duluth. It would re-segregate an integrated district. Along with this it traded 100 teachers ($10 million annually) for new buildings. Today, Duluth is not only more segregated, it endures overcrowded classrooms.

No one can fix our schools in 500 words, but I have spilled millions of words on this subject into a blog after retiring from my first eight years on the Duluth School Board. Since then I’ve served four more years. I’m once again offering my considerable experience to Duluth.

As bleak as our school’s current situation may seem, there is an opportunity to restore our schools with a new superintendent and School Board. We can have schools that rival the best public schooling Duluth has ever offered — despite the Red Plan’s bond repayments.

As we work toward this new birth, we must remember the rising of the oceans, the land’s parching, paving and flooding, and a sixth extinction that all are coming with climate change. Our children must be prepared.

I read that Duluth’s St. Mark’s church, founded by freed slaves, is inspired by the African principle, “Sankofa,” which means “to look back in order to move forward.” If I am elected to a fourth term on Nov. 5, that is the spirit I will bring to the Duluth School Board.

Harry Welty is a candidate to represent District 2 on the Duluth School Board. The seat is up for election on Nov. 5. He wrote this at the request of the News Tribune Opinion page.

Dr. Kirby’s column is something of a laundry list. He didn’t miss anything and you can read his comments in the Tribune here. By the way, The Doctor’s wife, a fellow general practitioner, oversaw the nurse who gave Claudia and I flu shots at the Mt. Royal Medical Center today.

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details – Part 2

Day 2 Woodland hills in a flurry Friday Nite Lights, all the girls I knew pep fest alikum

I only lasted till ten in the evening at the bar we alums first gathered at. As young people swarmed into the main room I had decided a good night’s sleep made more sense than a late night carousing which, frankly none of my old classmates seemed all that interested in. I would spend most of Friday sealed up in my hotel but I did venture out once. I headed to Woodland Hills. This is the cemetery where my Dad was interred 32 years ago and where I took my Mother’s ashes 27 years later. This was the first time I saw both their names on the bronze marker. With a whipping wind carrying a bit of snow from North Dakota I blinked away a couple tears, kissed my fingers and placed them on their grave. The surrounding hills were full of autumnal colors as they were when my Father was laid to rest. He loved fall colors and I remember trips he took us on in Kansas when we were little to view the sugar maples in Hiawatha and Olathe.

A tour was offered of Mankato “West” which was sundered six years after I graduated when my Sister’s graduating class found itself divided. Half of her classmates attended a newly build Mankato East High School. Today even with ninth graders added to West’s attendance it is a smaller school that it was in 1969. Where my graduating class was 454 (although the number varied depending on which 69 grad you talked to)
The class of 2019 was only 278. It was also larger than the graduating class in the eastern school. If the other three classes were similar then there were only a little over 1000 kids at Mankato West. The total enrollment of three classes in 1969 was probably closer to 1500 students.

Because of radon gas in the buildings nether regions our tour was limited to the top three floors. Continue reading

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details part 1

Prologue. My parents didn’t attend their high school reunions, My wife doesn’t. Three fourths of my living classmates from 1969 didn’t return. I did as I believe I have for the most of them ending in a 0.

Junior High wasn’t horrible but I was a new kid with a funny accent in the middle school years where all the grade school cliques pretty much kept me to myself. I was a tall gangling gymnast but even here I wasn’t that close to my fellow North Mankato Jr. High classmates. I was sent on an athletic bus with the swimmers who practiced at the high school pool while we gymnasts were sent to another junior high to make up a team large enough to field a team for dual meets. There was precisely one dual meet each year with the third junior high in Mankato which had a larger program.

So, when my parents moved out of their cracker box rental at the beginning of my tenth grade High School career suddenly I was plunged into a school with three merging junior highs and ample opportunity to break out of my rut. Continue reading

“Some people will do anything to win the sympathy vote.”

That was the first thing I told Alanna Oswald this morning when I walked into her busy room in St. Luke’s ICU. Unbeknownst to me last Tuesday, when I noticed she was missing from the School Board’s Business Committee meeting, she was a day away from death’s door shaking in her bed from what she thought was a concussion. She was wrong. She was in a state of toxic shock from a runaway infection.

The next evening, the day before I left for my fiftieth High School reunion in Mankato, she rallied enough to send me a text that she had just had half of St. Luke’s emergency staff vacuuming out the poisons in her system which would cost her more than a pound of flesh. She had not yet turned a corner that she let me know might finish her off. Not believing what she told me I asked if she would like me to visit her the next morning on my way out of town. She said yes. I called into the emergency room at a quarter to ten on Thursday and was told she was being attended to and to wait for fifteen minutes and call back. I got an hour of French practice in the waiting room between calls to see if the staff was finished fussing with her. I gave up the ghost the last time I was told it might be another twenty minutes. I stopped an hour out of town to see if she had responded to my text apology before leaving St. Lukes. She had. And her wry wit was fully in tact.

So today, after another bout of texting last night, she told me to come and visit. I got more gruesome details than I probably needed to know but all with the joking soldierly banter of someone at a dressing station having a shrapnel filled arm amputated. Alanna is a pretty jolly fatalist and she at least still had all appendages. She has been told she will be hospitalized for another seven days. She said she was going for a record ICU stay. She will not be at tonight’s school board meeting.

I told Alanna about our candidate’s East High School PTA meeting last night where UMD’s Mary Owen came and read a short statement. It to was full of good humor. Although no one was able to speak for Alanna her absence was more eloquent than any of the candidate’s answering questions.

It was a small crowd of nineteen according to someone reporting back to Alanna. I hadn’t counted attendance in the Media Center and because everyone was spread out I had guessed the number to be double that. In any event, the three remaining candidates were peppered with a steady stream of questions. Judy Seliga Punyko, who knows something about the Board, sent in a question asking the candidates to tell what they had done for the School Board. I was the last candidate to answer so, as the others spoke, I made up a list of a dozen things I had done. I was only able to get through a third of the list in my minute and half response time. Rosie Loeffler Kemp was present too as her former campaign chair, John Schwetman, raced through his answer like a Ronco popeil knife seller at the state fair. He had helped support previous levy campaigns and had kids in the schools.

I was first up in the two minute summation department and with my Symphony Chorus rehearsal five minutes off I stood up and explained my hurry to leave along with parting thoughts. I got unexpected applause as I left the Library. Maybe they were glad to see the back of me. At least that’s the sort of thing I rattled off to Alanna today during my visit. I just wanted to keep it light.

So true. People who suffered under Obama were hostages to planet Fox

8 years of suffering under Barack Obama

The sentence I hear most from well-meaning, conservative friends since President Trump’s election is this: “We suffered 8 years under Barack Obama.”

Fair enough. Let’s take a look.

The day Obama took office, the Dow closed at 7,949 points. Eight years later, the Dow had almost tripled. Continue reading

1st more business


When the electrical power to my house is restored I will post the picture of the Trib’s correction of their claim I released an unredacted report to the public. (Our house is being rewired as a safety precaution.)

I looked for it on the editorial pages where I was bashed in a tepid endorsement of my rival for the office. I didn’t expect the correction to undo whatever damage the faulty editorial did to me but, on reflection, I rarely look for corrections. I am sure I’m not alone.

The electricity is back on. Couple thoughts:

I’m not pleased that the correction of an untrue factual criticism of me in a column justifying an endorsement of my rival is so paltry. After faulting the old School Board chair for letting a potential danger to our children be placed next to the Superintendent without sharing this information with the other school board members the Trib now feels the sole objection to my election – my release of the price tag for a Central sale is worse. It is evidence of my “divisiveness.” In other words whistle blowers can’t be trusted. How Trumpian.

Furthermore, while there was a small chance my mistake could have cost the district the Central sale it didn’t. Chuck, when he left a message, told me that saying the sale fell though after I released the information was not wrong. True. However, the Trib left the implication of cause and effect to stand. I can only hope most readers can remember the truth of things and conclude the Trib was peddling Fake News.

That said, I’m hoping most folks don’t get past the first few paragraphs which were not kind to the former Chairman.

Look for my op-ed piece on Thursday. It will probably be side by side with the old Chairman’s sales pitch. I’m very pleased with my 500 words.

1st some Political business

I crashed at midnight with an UN-proof-read post. I intend to crank out 4 more posts on the power of American public schools that so many Republicans seem intent on destroying. But first, a couple School Board posts that need addressing.

I got a call this morning from a friend who was worried that the many visible double signs I put up (Welty Oswald) before heading to my reunion might hurt Alanna Oswald’s chances of reelection.

He was worried that Republicans who detest me for badmouthing Trump wouldn’t vote for Alanna. I acknowledged that this might happen. However, I would wager that the greater threat to Alanna would come from the pro-Red planners who have never forgiven me for being a naysayer.

I am content to go back to these yards and put some separation between our signs but I would guess that where my archest critics are concerned the damage is already done. If they wish to vote for a lesser candidate that is their choice and Alanna is innocent of my enthusiasm for her.

The glory that is public education – through the eyes of a fellow who experienced it.

I should begin this by acknowledging that before I left town I paid a call on St. Lukes Hospital. Alanna Oswald had texted me the night before that she had an advanced sepsis that when discovered led to her immediate hospitalization. “Flesh eating” seemed to be the operative word and she would be hospitalized for weeks to try to clean it all out. I asked her if I could stop by the next morning and Alanna assented. but when I got there I was told to wait another fifteen minutes then another ten then another twenty and when I was told another twenty I realized that seeing Alanna was not in the cards. A team of folks were busy removing the sepsis. I headed south after texting my good wishes and regrets. Alanna explained just how dire her situation was in a text back and then she posted her situation on Facebook.

I’ve said before that Alanna is the best and or smartest Duluth school board member I’ve known over the past forty years. She’s young to me. She was my student thirty years ago. I fervently hope she mends and gets to serve out another four-year term. The drive south was a somber one for me.

My fiftieth high school reunion was extended by a day so I missed church this morning and joined the reunion’s organizing committee for one last gathering under a canopy of fall colors in the Minnesota River Valley. At this moment when I should be hopping into bed I’m instead thinking that it would be nice to write a series of posts. Something on the order of a day’s experience and a lesson learned. What I have come away with is the glory that has been the American public school system. If it has fallen in esteem I can’t help but think it has something to do with the paranoid impulse to close the doors on people who are seen to be not like “us.” Us, being of course, white folks.

There were about 160 of us gathered on Saturday night. If forty percent were spouses that meant that we had close to a hundred classmates gathered. Considering fifty of us have passed from this mortal coil that meant that a quarter of the 400 remaining Scarlets attended on this penultimate night of the reunion.

One of the things that occurred to me and to many others of us during the festivities was our memory that during our Homecomings we always saw our fiftieth anniversary predecessors at the pep fest honoring their return to the old Alma mater. They always seemed so old and frail and we, by contrast, felt quite able. Perhaps we looked as frail to the kids in the bleachers looking down at us or just maybe vast improvements in hip replacements, heart surgery and the like really did give us vigor our predecessors would have been astonished by. For folks on the cusp of age 70 we looked pretty damned good. And we were a pretty smart collection of people. Over the next couple days I learned much about what had happened to kids I left behind.

A couple things. Public School can be cruel. For me High School was a wonderful change from my Junior high school years. Some of those I would most have liked to catch up with did not enjoy my experience. I suspect a lot of folks reviewing their old albums are used to gushy praises. If I can believe my notices I was a fun person and one who was a little bit weird. A lot of girls said I was sweet which I take as code for not dangerous. And I wasn’t dangerous. At least not in that way.

I’m going to lay off campaigning tomorrow and write about the last four days. Claudia decided to stay home and that was a gift to me because it gave me a chance to devote my time to some serious catching up with people I liked and had not seen in decades. I have given it some thought and the following subjects might be worthy of elaboration. But that will be tomorrow’s work

Day 1 National Guard. Wallpaper, Judy the latest chapters

Day 2 Woodland hills in a flurry, Friday Nite Lights, all the girls I knew

Day 3 The fallen, Age of Aquarius, ADHD

Day 4 a reverie in the woods, My first date

Back to my default self and 50 years later

What is a lie? Is an untruth a lie if it is spoken with conviction?

After a day of being wrung out over the Trib’s characterization of me being (As Trump would put it) a “leaker,” I am back to my default analytical mode. Yesterday’s string of six posts had an unwieldy title as it was. A more accurate and more unwieldly title could have been “IF THE DNT EDITORS HADN’T POORLY MISCHARACTURIZED ME IN THEIR EDITORIAL….PARTS 1-6.”

Had the Editors given it a little more thought they might have come up with a more charitable analysis of my occasional dropping of hints about what is actually going on in our School Board and District. They could have called me a whistle-blower. Instead they took the tack that the White House is holding fast to that anyone who points out Presidential duplicity, greed or stupidity is committing treason.

On the other hand the Trib made excellent and somewhat unexpected endorsements. Alanna Oswald was a cinch. They first endorsed her rival four years ago and then thought better of it after the primary. This year’s endoresment simply cemented her status as a worthy candidate. And today the Trib did the right thing. As I’ve told many over the past few campaigns, “if there is any justice in the world Loren Martell would get elected.” As the Trib’s editors note this is his fifth attempt at the Board after four defeats. If Loren is elected he will have bested me. I lost three times before finally winning a School Board seat.

The responsibility of the School Board is a management responsibility. Alanna and Loren understand that after twelve years of School Board members being cheerleaders for superintendents who only selectively told them what they needed to know which in many cases was not enough. David Kirby fell into this habit as well as the Trib’s editorial endorsement of him made clear. His board was forced to pay Art Johnston $55,000 to buy him off of his complaints about having been left in the dark over and over again by Bill Gronseth’s administration.

I like people. Bill came over to chat with me at this week’s Business committee meeting. I was cordial back to him. There is no need for nastiness. But I’ve always been honest and Bill has thrice seen my very bland assessments of him during the School Board’s evaluation of him. Each time I made it clear that treating Board members differently was not acceptable. Bill has done that in spades. Alanna confirmed that yet again when we spoke after her first every Cabinet and Board agenda setting meeting. Bill made clear that it was the Chairman’s call on whether to tell other Board members the details of the District. To which I can only say “SAY WHAT?” Truly since the days of Supt. Keith Dixon “all board members are equal but some board members are more equal than others” to paraphrase Animal Farm.

Its in line with what Bill told me privately when I first joined his Board. He viewed his job as protecting the School District from Board members…….that means he viewed his job as protecting the School District from the citizens, voters and taxpayers. Cordial or not I’ll be glad to see Bill Gronseth’s back. And I hope to serve with Alanna and Loren as we search out a worthy Superintendent for our schools.

BTW I’m heading out of town today to visit my old high school chums for a 50’th reunion. Claudia is staying behind because she is very much a person of today not the past and not my past. She’s accompanied me to my previous reunions. I’m looking forward to it. My high school experience was great after a really lousy Junior high immersion into white Minnesota. That experience has provided me with several humorous remembrances in my Not Eudora column. I’m like my Mother. I find people endlessly fascinating. I’m looking forward to finding out what happened next to my high school acquaintances, at least those who bother to come back. The ones who don’t come back, often because they had lousy memories, are the ones I’ll miss the most. High School can be cruel. I was lucky.

I don’t plan to blog much for the next couple of days but, who knows? I may wake up in the middle of the night with a brain burning to pour out more Lincolndemocrat drivel. Stay tuned.

If the DNT editors hadn’t lied about me in their editorial….Part 6

I’ve taken a step back. If I lose because of the Trib’s falsehoods I think Duluth will suffer just as it did when Forum Columnist Ralph Doty called me horrid things three days before the 2007 election preventing me from joining a slim majority of Board members willing to walk back the ruinous Red Plan. I never mind losing fair and square. The Trib is not playing fair and square. But, instead of fulminating I sent this email to Chuck Frederick for his consideration. His integrity depends on how he responds. I was tempted to go with guns blazing but have chosen instead my Mother’s admonition “Honey catches more flies than vinegar.” Honestly, I know of no one who has had much trouble with me other than arrogant fellow School Board members.


I have not been perfect but you have done me an injustice. In your critique of me in your Kirby endorsement you passed on two falsehoods about me. The first I could call a half truth. I did indeed reveal, bone-headedly, the sale price of Central on my blog and there was always a chance that the buyers could have used that as an excuse to drop their offer. Except that they didn’t drop it because I’d revealed the sales price. They dropped it after a couple months before they had to lose any earnest money because the Central site was not economical for them. They also found greener pastures and built the apartment block on London Road below McDonalds. But your column says I was the reason the ten million sale didn’t go through. That was wrong. And ironically I voted for a much larger sales price in later years but was in the minority. David Kirby voted against that sale.

This is, however, not your most damaging false accusation. You state unequivocally that I released the unredacted Mary Rice report on Art Johnston thus revealing the names of private citizens. I knew that was baloney the minute I read it. I just had to confirm that Jana Hollingsworth and Jennifer Martin Romme of the shuttered Zenith Weekly didn’t get it from me. Jennifer got it but won’t tell who she got it from. It wasn’t me. And I did not have any remembrance of sending it to Jana. She just told me that she has no recollection of getting it from me. She no longer has access to her email from the Trib but she pulled up your column of November 1, 2014 berating me for putting the Central sale at jeopardy. You will find a link to this column at the end of this message.

Along with that accusation you wrote a number of other things suggestive of my having made private data public. But even in your 2014 column you don’t mention the full unredacted Mary Rice Report which gave the Board cover to kick Art off. I did comment widely about the column, but I recall being very careful not to disclose information about innocents with one exception which I agonized over for months before listing her name. It was the villain who told the Board that Art, (a board member of the NAACP) had used racist language. This was only one of a great many acts of villainy on her part. Other than her name I think you would be hard pressed to find anything that I released to the public that would embarrass anyone other than the School Board. I had no idea when you published this column in 2014 telling me to “keep it to myself” that you were making reference to the entire unredacted report. I don’t think you did either at the time but in the haze of four years you have remembered incorrectly that I released the whole damn thing and you said so in your attack on me in today’s endorsement.

We have fenced before and I haven’t always gotten your endorsement. But until now you have never defamed me with inaccuracies twenty days before an election. I don’t mind your endorsing David Kirby. I do mind your staining my reputation with falsehoods no matter how innocently you intended them.

I want only one thing from you – an honest walking back of the false allegations that accompanied your endorsement. You can call me divisive; but my heroes Washington and Lincoln fought wars over principles that we all honor today. I prefer thinking of myself as steadfast. I have not fought wars but I have abided by all the tenets in Duluth’s famed civility proclamation. I would wish for the same from you.

Here is your column from November 1st 2014.

You can see for yourself that the 2014 criticisms of me do not match your far more expansive comments today either with regard to my killing the Central Sale or of disclosing the full Mary Rice Report.
Knowing this now what are you going to do about it?
Harry Welty

If the DNT editors hadn’t lied about me in their editorial….Part 5

As I expected none of the twenty men in my church group mentioned the Trib’s editorial while we took a two hour tour of Superior, Wisconsin’s Amsoil production facility. On the way back my car load asked me how much it cost to maintain abandoned Central each year.

At the very end of our tour one fellow asked if Amsoil wasn’t originally Amzoil with a Z. That let to a fascinating story I’d not heard before which gives me considerable motivation.

Al Amatuzio was sued by Pennzoil over his product Amzoil name. The Z was Pennzoil’s according to their lawyers. Al was a man of principle and he fought the larger company for two years in court spending over a million dollars in the process. In the end he won the court case. As soon as he earned the Z he changed the name on his own to Amsoil with an S.

I just talked to the lawyer who won Art Johnston $55,000. We’re getting together.


I’m still sitting on my previous post’s contents. I actually managed to get three hours of sleep after reading the Trib’s shoddy journalism last night. I’ve already been in contact with an attorney. I have ample evidence of “malice” the critical ingredient any any defamation suit. Simple lies are not enough proof.

I’ll be busy with my church men’s group this morning. I suspect my friends will be embarrassed to let me know they read the editorial. If the shoe was on the other foot I’d feel just as awkward. I have twenty days to get the truth out before I face the second election that a Forum Newspaper sabotaged with lies about me. The first time was 2007 and my narrow defeat then made it possible for the Red Planners to have a narrow majority to puke out a bigger Red Plan. Thanks DNT.

There will be no thank you’s this election.

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