Category Archives: Education

Pardon me while I commit the crime of looking backwards

I found this story from a few days ago in the Trib unsurprising: https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/education/4760757-School-construction-process-faulted-in-Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Education was recently criticized for not offering advice to school districts about the merit and costs of their building plans. Every School Board must take their building plans to the Department of Education for “review and comment.” This process took place for a very long time as we critics of the Red Plan took our concerns to the MDE.

The MDE strongly hinted to us in private that the Red Plan was deeply flawed largely due to its intention to use our General Fund (classroom operating monies) to pay for the building bonds. But damn them they were loathe to publicly call our School Board’s decision into doubt.

After the damage was done I ran across numerous MDE staff that shook their heads (in private) at the Duluth process for good reason. I can think of no good reason for them to have refrained from offering us an honest analysis. They let the Children of Duluth down.

My “community engagement letter”

The DNT will not print regular letters to the editor that have appeared elsewhere. However, Forum Communications will take advertising and now charges for publishing political letter to the editors, endorsements etc. I have been annoyed with this since the practice was announced a couple years ago although, I have to admit it has thinned out such regular endorsement letters from a couple candidates who begged tons of their friends to submit them.

A few days ago I posted a link to the letter my friend Kathy Bogan sent the Trib taking them to task for endorsing an “uncivil” Loren Martell. I believe that is a very unfair charge although, knowing Kathy, I don’t think she means to be unfair. But the Trib’s editors told me I couldn’t reply until November 17th over a week after the election. I opted instead for their community engagement letter AKA as an ad to make more revenue. Fair enough, but dammit, Half an hour ago their website told me I was going to get a confirmation email that would let me send in my letter. I’m still waiting for for the website I was referred to to sent me a notification that I am in their system. Its been 45 minutes and its still not in my email in box. Just in case I never get my “community engagement letter” in the doggoned Trib here it is. As a “paid” letter I guess there is no harm in my sharing it on my blog.

Here it is:

My friend, Kathy Bogan, criticized the editors of the Tribune for endorsing my friend, Loren Martell, in his fifth campaign for a school board seat.

I have known both Kathy and Loren for a long time during our school district’s tumultuous past. Kathy is an ardent caretaker of our children. Loren is the embodiment of speaking truth to power.

Kathy has called Loren’s justified critiques of school board members uncivil. Having faced unhappy citizen’s myself while on the school board, I see things differently. I have always asked myself, “if we can’t feel passionate about our children what can we feel passionate about?”

Loren Martell was humiliated by our school board during the Red Plan wars when his microphone was shut off during his allotted three minutes and he was handcuffed by a guard when the Board grew impatient with his criticism. Rather than fold under this coercion Loren dedicated the last decade to watching his tormentors like a hawk and scrupulously reporting on their work (including mine) in the alternative press.

I agree with the editors who endorsed Loren, saying that it was time he was elected to the Duluth School Board. I’d go farther. I believe that if there is any justice in the world Loren should serve on our school board. He will serve with distinction and humility. It is rare for someone with Loren’s keen insight on the complicated finances of public education or the duties of a public servant to offer themselves to voters.

I believe Ms. Bogan will come to see this in Loren as I have seen it in Loren for the last decade. Loren will do this, if for no other reason, than to honor the memory of his late wife, a dedicated high school art teacher.

Paid political letter

I’ve had a cordial email exchange with the Trib’s editorial page editor, Chuck Frederick.

He told me first that my letter about Kathy Bogan and Loren Martell couldn’t run until November 17 – after the thirty day delay and over a week after the election.

I told him that it was a damn shame my Op-Ed that they asked me to contribute would count against me.

He said he’d check with the entire Editorial Board but didn’t hold out much hope that they would go along with an early letter…..but, in a follow up email he reminded me of the Trib’s paid-for-political-letters. I’d forgotten that option…..which I have never felt very good about. But. I am nothing if not pragmatic. I asked Chuck to send my letter to the folks in that Department and have them contact me for payment.

I felt a little like our pathetic president negotiating with a dictator and letting them call all the shots…..but what else could I do? Chuck also reminded me that I could blog it but really! My circulation only compares favorably in terms of intelligence not volume compared to the Trib.

Confirmation of my comments about desegregation…

…in the column found in the previous post.

When I get my News Tribune delivered to my door I check several things that I can’t easily find when I’m traveling and look online for the DNT. They include Dear Abby and the Bygone’s section. I was intrigued that yesterday’s bygones coincidentally confirmed my history of Duluth’s Schools integration with a summary of a forty year old Trib Story:

As always, this is a snippet. There is much more to the story than this.

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 / caustin@duluthnews.com)

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.

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

Rough notes

I’m not fussy about perfection which explains my comfort with the last post’s state – unpolished. Its an attitude that I think is useful to show students who too often think mistakes are some sort of blemish. They are great teaching opportunities….the same way that, theoretically at least, there are no stupid questions. I suspect a lot of missing homework stems from kids fear of showing their mistakes. I hated to write thank you cards after Christmas for the same reason.

I’m sure a lot of my readers remember times when they felt humiliated being called on by a teacher and not knowing an answer or worse yet being called to a blackboard and flubbing a math problem. Feigned indifference is one method of hiding this embarrassment. I remember a classmate of mine passing around his all-F report card in homeroom as though it was some sort of prize. I found out later (from a truly awful teacher) that the kid had the second highest IQ among my 454 classmates. If our President was not such an arrogant ignoramus his tweet flubs could be endearing.

My eight loyal readers have grown accustomed to my sporadic proof reading, tolerating it like an unmowed lawn next door. I trust that the contents I offer makes it worthwhile for them to come back for more. This post is meant to be a heads up to the new readers who check out lincolndemocrat every time I run for office.

I didn’t stick up more lawnsigns yesterday because it was too damp for my taste. This morning its still gray outside but I spent an hour in my garage yesterday putting the signs on bent up old stands. I’ll try to put up a few more today.

Oh, and I finished all my paperwork for substitute teaching. Now I have to study some online classes on how to sub in the Duluth schools these days. I got some hints from Paul Sandholm at the KBJR studios yesterday before we taped a school board candidate session for Sunday’s morning line up. Paul also told me that the Tribune’s and the Chamber of Commerce’s taping went horribly awry last week and the video was unwatchable. That was true not only for the school board candidates but for the Mayoral and City council races too.

Like students everywhere the Trib and the Chamber are only human.

What I just sent to the Strib

1. A headshot in the highest photo resolution possible.

2. The link to your campaign website. Facebook Page: Harry Welty Givem Helty and WWW.Givemhellharry.org and WWW.lincolndemocrat.com

3. A short bio (roughly 50 words) – it could help to look at our 2018 guide linked above for examples.

Harry Welty, Age 67, history teacher, snow sculptor, blogger, frequent candidate for public office has served three terms on the Duluth School Board. Married to Claudia he has a son and daughter who graduated from Duluth’s schools. He has more opinions than you can shake a stick at and he can juggle.

4. Answers to the following three questions (using 50 or fewer words for each response):
…..1. Why should voters elect you?

So that voters can have the confidence that someone who understands school finance, the Red Plan, education law, the value of public education, the management role of a school board and the importance of teachers is sitting on what today is a pretty inexperienced Duluth School Board.

…..2. In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing Duluth Public Schools?

1st. That equity is not enough. Every child should be tended to carefully for twelve years of schooling no matter the shortcomings they bring to school. 2nd. That teachers should be given all the support they need. 3rd That the public is treated with openness and complete honesty.

…..3. What is your solution to that top issue?

In fifty words? Starting with a new Superintendent show respect to every employee of the district and expect the best from them and have them reciprocate this ethos to the students in their classrooms and to parents. Make every precious dollar in our budget work to maximum effect.

The dilemma of a writer, The advantage of a blogger

The editors of the Duluth News Trib gave school board candidates a heads-up two weeks ago that we could send them a 500 word column for their paper for this year’s school board campaign. I sat on it for a while then woke up one night and cranked out a piece with lots of suggestions for the District. Last night I woke up with a rather different approach to a column and pounded a different one into my cell with my index finger. This morning I went over it a couple times not remembering that once formerly 700-word-columns had shrunk down by 200 words in these leaner and meaner days of journalism.

But I had written a 640 word essay. I had to cut 140 words from it. Such is the life of a writer. Well, before I trim my column down to size I’m going to share the original with my eight loyal readers. In a week or two you will be able to see whether I was able to preserve the sentiments in my column before I began whittling away at it.

This is a writer’s dilemma but its not one for a blogger. There is one risk. The Trib often warns people who submit something to them that they will not publish anything that was submitted to a rival publication. (That wasn’t expressed in my email invite however) I think they would be hard pressed to call my blog a rival publication. Its strictly not for profit and besides that, by the time I trim one fourth of this verbiage away the Trib will be hard pressed to claim that I made the original column public before they got hold of it. Stay tuned and see how well my message translates to newsprint after its blovia-ectomy.

Looking Back to Move Duluth’s Schools Forward Continue reading

This Facebook post begs a reply

I intend to provide it but not tonight. I’m bushed.

Well, Well, Well. Someone has a sense of decency. This was taken down not long ago.

As I went about my business over the weekend I gave this post a lot of thoughts which now, apparently, no longer need much elaboration.

I will, however, enumerate a couple starting with this observation. Such posts are designed to undermine. Two years ago I endured two separate Facebook attacks which I felt had to be addressed. I replied to one such attack and the owner of the Facebook account removed my comments. The other Facebook attack was hidden behind the curtains of a group that sealed itself off from a general audience.

As for this since deleted attack it was based on guilt by association. Alanna, my former student who as a parent stuck her neck out to criticize the District as it shortchanged western Duluth students was reduced to being my buddy. My crime of not promising to roll over and play dead in the event of a teacher’s strike in a Union questionnaire was attached to “my buddy.”

All Alanna had to do was show that she answered one question on a Union questionnaire the opposite of me. She did. The accusation of being associated with me was withdrawn. That’s just as well because the fellow running against Alanna boasted that he had been the campaign chairman of two school board members who have caught hell in the last month. That may be an even worse association.

What was the question I gave such an unpardonable answer to? Now that the post is down I’m not sure anyone cares but… if you do. Continue reading

Strike, Strike, Strike

The Students who are striking today…as opposed to those sneaking out and pretending to…have read that in a decade or so it may be too late to roll back or stop Global Warming. Their families and future might be as bleak as North America is becoming for birds.

The powers that have shaped their curriculum have not managed to teach them that all is well and not to let anything trouble their pretty little heads.

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/education/4661386-Its-our-future-Duluth-students-organize-climate-strike

Students in Duluth will meet at Duluth’s City Hall at 11:30 AM this morning. I would join them were it not for my being scheduled to serve lunch at the Damiano Center. If you can take my place please join them and show your support for humankind’s future.

If bad news is better than no news maybe the Duluth Schools will be OK

Last night I got positively no sleep other than a quick doze for an hour at about 5:30 AM. I was awash in thoughts, enjoyable thoughts, much to my annoyance since the sleeplessness they cause puts me at risk of dementia. So, I was wide awake at 7:00 AM when I got up to prepare for today. I had another day of painting window casings at church waiting for me followed by putting up new storm windows. We had gotten so much work done the day before I had hopes of retiring the job for the year today. We only have 14 of 96 storms left to put up. No such luck. We’ll be putting them up tomorrow morning if the rain holds off.

I had to tell my work crew that I would be leaving them to go and film a five minute campaign intro speech at City Hall. This is where the office of Public Access Cable TV is. thinking about what I might say is part of what kept me up the previous night and I had an outline in my mind. I added a prologue to it after scanning a longish email from a friend who also couldn’t sleep last night. In her email she second guessed all my posts and my campaign. I only found it ten minutes before I had to the work crew so I had her concerns on my mind as I drove to City Hall. Her email was helpful. I added a prologue mentioning the difficulties facing ISD 709 and I compared myself to Elizabeth Warren – she of the many plans.

I had also gotten the idea of setting up my cell phone to record whatever I ended up saying at PACT. I did all that and was back at church in about an hour, by which time the rain had put an end to the window work. We found other tasks to accomplish and after lunch together I came home after promising that I’d go back if the rain ended. It did stop I went back to work until after 5. By that time tonight’s school board meeting was only an hour away.

It was a slog so little to do taking ever so long. A second “special” meeting was held after the regular meeting to talk once again about how to select a replacement for Josh Gorham. I could only take about 45 minutes of that and came home wishing the board members had done a little talking with each other beforehand. They ran the meeting like they were walking on eggshells. Come to think of it, they were. The Western Equity Group and the NAACP were on their case from the public comment time on. The District is making news but not the kind it wants.

I introduced myself to the Trib’s Ed reporter for the first time. To my surprise it was almost like she knew me. Maybe she’s peeked at the blog, poor thing. Then I got an even bigger surprise. I was introduced to the New Minneapolis Star Trib reporter who-has-moved-to-Duluth to cover the Duluth Schools! That is an absolute first. We are now under the microscope of the entire state of Minnesota.

In the last few days I’ve been rethinking my aims. Trump is bloating up like a corpse in a scummy pond. After feeling the magic ball of the Saudies they felt secure in carving up a reporter into mince meat and have now so provoked Iran, with Trump’s blessing, that they have accused Iran of blowing up half of the Saudi’s oil production. Just what the world needs a firestorm aided an abetted by the smartest person on Earth who is only giving the Iranians a good reason to build a nuclear deterrent to Saudi Arabia.

I may challenge Pete Stauber but as this election gets closer I’m realizing I’m not finished with the School Board. We’ve hit bottom and there is no way to go but up. I’d love to be on that rocket while the Strib covers our recovery. Yeah, Trump world is the Apocalypse but maybe we can put on a lead coat to protect our children. I want to do the tailoring.

BTW – my four-not-five minutes at PAC TV was swell. I’ll put it up in a couple days and share it with you.

A much appreciated pat on the back

My first round of “book selling” fundraising was very disappointing. I was almost afraid to send out the same letter again to a different precinct. Because of the new Postal routing the earliest I can receive a donation or comment in my return envelopes is five days after I mail it out on Friday. Today was the fifth day and several donations “book purhases” came in and one check was bound with this postit note:

I can’t count on the school board to continue reminding voters that a board without me on it can be dysfunctional. I have to keep campaigning and selling enough books (fund raising) to pay to keep mailing out my campaign letters. And 10,000 District 2 voters will not be visiting this ridiculous blog. So, I’ll share the letter that at least one donor thought was a good one with anyone who stumbles into this post. Its followed by a donation button if any of you would care to see me back on the School Board.

*** Continue reading

“The answer is not Harry Welty”

As I was flipping through Facebook this morning I saw that someone posted the Trib’s story about the recent resignation of Josh Gorham. I couldn’t help but check the comments section and one fellow who I think is a shirt-tail relation to one of Duluth’s political families wrote simply. “Harry Welty is not the answer.”

I’m not sure what question his answer was addressing, transparency, cordiality, stamina etc., but I couldn’t help but reply so I asked him simply: “Why not?”

I’ll be interested to see if he replies.

When I was a school board member I always tried to reply to questions directed at me by email. Sometimes I got quite a lot of them.

Not a statement likely to suppress questions

Dear Members of the Media,

Effective immediately, I have resigned from the Duluth School Board. I made this decision as I have been compelled by ongoing circumstances to take steps to prioritize my health and well-being, family, and career.

Many personal factors informed my decision, however, I’d be remiss to not speak my peace to the general public that elected me. Life is too short and time with children is ever important to me. I made the choice to serve on the Duluth School Board because I wanted to be part of supporting a system that is focused on providing a vital service to the youth of our community.

The responsibility of the school board under the guidance of administration and board leadership to its community is to govern efficiently and lead effectively to provide for equitable education, resulting in high student achievement. Unfortunately, my experience in striving to provide accountability to educational equity has been met with what I perceive as a dismissive, maintain the status-quo approach.

My comments at a summer Education Committee (I believe in June) in response to the annual report on graduation rates and student test scores were: “Trying hard is not good enough.” The annual refrain from district leadership is: “We have improved, but it is still not acceptable.” Of course it is unacceptable, but where is the accountability and a sense of urgency?

My commentary does not reflect on school staff, principals, nor some of my board colleagues.

These are my comments for now. I would appreciate privacy moving forward.

Josh Gorham