Here’s a good place to start my Charter chats

My filing has gone well but it could go late into the night. If it were up to Claudia she would hire a construction dumpster and throw all my stuff away. She could probably fill it.

I’ve kept among other things all the minutes to the eight years worth of school board meetings I attended albeit by tearing them out of the half inch Board booklets that they came with. I began looking for one in particular and it comes from one of the few that I kept intact with the whole booklet.

Its from November 1997 when Frank Wanner threatened to target me for defeat in the 1999 election. I drew it and Frank’s threat on the Board booklet during the meeting. The threat came largely as a result of my support for the Edison Charter Schools. Ironically charter schools were the brainchild of a good Democratic Governor Rudy Perpich. They became a very sore point with public school teachers in Duluth. Its a good graphic introduction to the subject of charter schools which I’ll start on soon.

I’ve got the day to myself

And I intend to put it to use filing.

Claudia and my daughter are making a day of it in the Twin Cities to find a wedding dress. My daughter is a victim of the Princess Bride bankruptcy. She ordered a gown and put half down only to discover that the Bride had been locked out of her castle up on Decker Rd across from the Mall.

I’ve begun spreading out my files on the queen beds in two rooms and hope to make a serious dent in the paperwork. While I’m at it I’m attacking the small tasks that I find in the paper piles. I’ll have to stop for a special (if that’s the right word) school board meeting at three to pass judgement on a proposed expulsion of a student.

I think 709 is having a hard time with challenging kids now. I put in a call to a local resource for such kids and offered my services as a teacher or something. I’m hoping to get a clearer picture of just what the needs are related to them and just possibly insights on how our schools can do better by them.

Welcome back to the new readers who seem to be checking out my rebirth as a blogger. I’ve got a big series to post when I can dedicated the time to them on Charter Schools. I plan to cover a lot of territory and do it in bite sized bits. But first to filing.

Oh yeah, I didn’t have the courage to face Claudia with the news I’d put my name in for the City Council vacancy. I wasn’t sure I could even be allowed to serve both the School Board and the Council because twenty years ago local eccentric Davey Jones gave the town’s leading citizens a heart attack when he filed for to elective offices in the same election. As I recall the case went immediately to the State Supreme Court which ruled he could do both. I’ve always wondered if it was the most reasoned opinion they ever handed down. They are both part time jobs and although the idea of Davy occupying even one of them was rather awful to contemplate I saw no reason why local voters should not put a person in both positions. Maybe the Supreme Court would have allowed it if the candidate had gotten elected to one position and decided not to step down from the other.

Well, I think it would have been regarded as a kind of exhibitionism had I filed and probably justifiably.On the other hand I have always felt there is a vast gulf between our local governments that needs to be bridged. Shouldn’t more tax money be going into City infrastructure than our schools? Can’t the County Goverment and City work more cooperatively. How better to bridge that gulf than an elected official serving on both simultaneously? Well, that was my rationalization for thinking about applying.

I know that I’m putting a lot of time into the School Board and this first year will be a busy one. I’ve got the ego for two elective offices. I may not have the drive to do justice to both. Now if I were Teddy Roosevelt that wouldn’t be a problem. I’m up to his charge up San Juan Hill in the Doris Kearns Goodwin book. Just reading about him tires me out.

Sticks and Stones

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I said I wanted to write about Charter Schools. I even spent fifteen minutes at my Rockridge meeting talking about them this morning. But a piece of paper I’d jotted a dozen different subtopics on has gone missing. In my consternation I grabbed a snow shovel and spent better than an hour trimming away some of the snow and ice that has crept up on my home. Then I started thinking about an old friend and my Mom and a possible series of articles I could write about name calling from my own experience. I might collect them for a book or submit them to Duluth’s own Reader Weekly. Sadly the publisher of the Reader seems to be worried that my writing for his publication might put his publication in a fairness doctrine bind. Other School Board members might demand equal space. Oh well.

I’ll call my old buddy Joe. I got an email from him a week ago which I haven’t read yet.

It contains a long and dry exposition on the looming threat of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan as the US begins its withdrawal. It was published in a foreign service magazine. Joe should know what he’s writing about. He was a State Department economics expert who put in a couple years in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the worst of the IED years. I’m afraid his email is now on my backlog of things to attend to if I ever drain the swamp. Damn alligators.

I met Joe when I was a peripheral kid in junior high. A friend, my only school friend in junior high, talked me into joining the school’s gymnastic team and since I could do a handspring I thought that was just the ticket for me. I lettered in gymnastics several years in a row along with track once or twice making me one of the letteringest kids in North Mankato Junior High. (It was really Garfield Junior but everyone had forgotten the poor martyred President’s name by 1964.) Continue reading


Darn it. I’m way to garrulous for my own good. I spent 2 hours and 40 minutes talking with seven folks who are concerned about the Rockridge School and its possible sale for who knows what? Its the “who knows what?” that has them concerned.

There isn’t much we didn’t talk about related to a potential sale. I told them from the outset that my chief concern was for the Duluth Public Schools which might interfere with their desire to keep their neighborhood from being despoiled. The more we (ISD 709) can make the better off our finances and the more likely that a lot more stuff will get crammed into the site’s 17 acres than they want.

I don’t think they have to worry too much in large part because they are not taking anything for granted but they did seem to think that the School Board members hadn’t been too communicative with them and were grateful that I would grace their meeting. Heck, I got free coffee and a chocolate chip cookie out of it. I’m good.

A Papa sandwich…

…tries to get motivated for the day.

Soon I hope to hunker down and file the growing piles of data in my office that are growing like mildew. I didn’t get the best night’s sleep. Grandson Jake crawled into bed with us at 3. He had to pat me on the head to wake me up. Its fun to snuggle but he’s a boy who hates being covered up whereas I love having warming blankets to keep me at sleep. Consequently he snuggled up to me forcing me to the edge of the bed for the remaining hours of the night. An hour later our ginger cat with the stub tail, Moloch, took advantage of the fact we leave our bedroom door open on the nights when the grandsons are here to hop up on our bed and slept at my feet opposite Jake. After two wakeful hours I did manage to start a dream for a few minutes just before waking.

I might have kicked old Moloch out of bed had it not been for our having two of his teeth removed yesterday at the vet. They had abscessed and I felt sorry for him. He’s demanding cat and always wants food but yesterday we had to starve him to promote healing. It will take a couple days to set him right.

So this morning I kidded Jakey that I was a Papa sandwich all night because he refuses to put on covers at night and instead steals heat from any poor soul who happens to be sharing his bed. Jakey liked the idea of a Papa sandwich and of sharing being the bread that sandwiched me in with Moloch.

Just remembering my unsleeping early morning is making me drowsy. I hope I perk up to get some filing done…..and some blogging on the question of charter schools.

My “Corrections” recommendation for the DNT

This morning the Trib corrected a small item in one of its Charter School Stories from yesterday. To wit:

A Wednesday page C1 story about charter school growth in Duluth, “Charter schools enjoy enrollment boost,” misstated the number of students that left the Duluth school district since last year. The 2012-13 enrollment figure the number was based on, which included early childhood students, was an official Oct. 1 count from the Minnesota Department of Education. The official final count from the state for the same date this year is not yet available and will not reflect the final enrollment for the year.
The News Tribune regrets the errors.

This is really a technical correction and not all that big a deal. I saw it on the inside front page of my paper but it got me wondering where I’d find it on the Online DNT. I just typed in “corrections” on their site’s search function and it popped up. I suspect that hardly anyone looks for the corrections on the inside front page and even fewer people look for corrections at the online site. They do probably search for education related articles and so for a week or more after the paper hits the Web people will be reading the stories not knowing that a correction has been made. I’d suggest that the Websters at the DNT start putting corrections directly at the end of the stories corrected rather than in an unvisited niche on their website.


Today Jana Hollingsworth had tons of stories on charter schools in the DNT. Its a subject well worth discussing and for many more reasons than the possible sale of Central High to Edison.

I’ll hold my fire tonight and try for a good night’s sleep. If you can’t wait to see what I’ve said about Charters and more specifically Edison before just press the links in this sentence.

Here are Jana’s stories:

Minnesota ranked first in charter school report

Duluth charter schools now enroll 14% of district’s students

I could write all day about this topic. Perhaps tomorrow I will. But first I’ll have to meet with neighbors of our empty Rockridge School at Perkins East tomorrow and face likely lobbying to put their neighborhood’s tranquil sleepiness above the needs of the Duluth Schools.

Oh, and to remind my eight loyals (yesterday I topped 500 because I’d started blogging again) just what unneeded hurdles this district faces Jana also wrote about our multitudinous snow days and the pain they will inflict as well.

Think Kids

I plan to start attending the District’s Think Kids meetings. I don’t expect them to give me much in new insights to add to forty years of dancing with public schools and ours in particular. I did see what appeared to be two civilians on the News tonight with a half dozen District folks at the Denfeld meeting.

It hadn’t snowed and it was a balmy twenty degrees. Unless the numbers change in the next few meetings I think I’ll conclude that sometimes people can just be meetinged out. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. I think it may mean that they want the folks in charge to simply turn on the ignition and take the car out of the garage.

I saw Art Johnston and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp at the meeting. Good for them.

Republican rebirth?

Our former Governor, Tim Pawlenty, who seemed pained to throw red meat at the Republicans he was courting in his failed bid for the Presidential nomination now shows in his retiring years that the red meat has turned rancid.

According to Don Davis’s Capitol Chatter Pawlenty said this:

“The Republican Party, I think, is going to need newer leadership, more dynamic leadership and leadership that’s genuinely interested in earning the support of those groups (it now does not serve) and has policies and the ability to go out and market and earn the support of those groups,” he told USA Today. –

Many months ago my eight loyal readers must have been astonished when I wrote that I might once again begin attending Republican precinct caucuses. After eight years attending DFL caucuses and being impressed at how much the Democrats venerated Abraham Lincoln. I think I need to return with some of the Democrats yeasty Lincoln starter to see if I can bake a little sourdough once again in the Grand Old Party.

Goodness knows I don’t expect to be greeted with open arms after six years of expressing my dismay with Republicans. Don’t believe me? Just check the endless posts in “God’s Own Party” (619 posts) or “Good Republicans.” (132 posts)

After twenty years of being maligned for being a RINO I think it may be time to put my alleged horn to use.

More news stories I’m giving short shrift to

I wasn’t particularly concerned about this story which explains that a recent test being required of teachers to prove they are educated may be scrapped.

For one reason Minnesota still has pretty good success graduating kids. Obviously our teachers are not generally stupid or hideous as this story makes clear.

Our public school graduates have the third highest test scores in math and our state has the second highest raking among the states in high school graduates.

I hope I’m not being too cavalier.

Bully Pulpit and Bully Books

I abandoned reading books through much of my school board campaign and that largely meant history books. But I’m always looking for good books and I told Claudia of one book that would make a good Christmas Gift while I bought a good read aloud book for her that I noticed at Barnes and Nobles. The book for me (honestly they were both for me) was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bully Pulpit about Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. The book for Claudia was Bill Bryson’s One Summer America, 1927. I’m 200 pages in the former and a little bit further along in the latter. Together they are 1200 pages of gloriously reported history.

I loved Kearns Goodwin’s Eleanor and Franklin and more recently her book on Lincoln Team of Rivals. She covers history the way both my Mother and Father would have appreciated. My Dad would have been interested in the backstory my Mother would have found the personal stories compelling.

With the second Roosevelts the story was about the anguish that Eleanor felt as the mission to make a better America during the Depression disintegrated in the face of surviving a world war. With the book on Lincoln it was about how Lincoln made a team of the political rivals who all thought him a joke to win another war of survival.

The latest Kearns Goodwin Book is equally about Teddy and his good friend William Howard Taft who nearly came to blows when Taft, a moon, disappointed Teddy Roosevelt’s sun. In Goodwin’s hands both men come alive and have grown in my estimation. Although I knew the Roosevelt biography pretty well its fleshed out here and now, even only a third of the way along I know a lot more about Taft than that he had to have a humungous bathtub to fit his 300 lb frame.

There is something of a third character in the book that is every bit as interesting the press, specifically the reporters Teddy famously dubbed the “muckrakers.” Thank God for them and Thank God for Teddy even if the great Republican thinker of today Glenn Beck regards Teddy as a communist for letting government try to keep rat parts out of our canned food.

The Bryson book was a bit of a surprise to me. I read “A Sunburned Country” at my Brother’s recommendation because its about Australia and he said he laughed his way through it. It was one of a dozen books I read in 2010 and 2011 in preparation for our expedition to the Antipodes.Bill Bryson is a kid from Iowa who moved to Great Britain where he now resides and who writes ironical travelogues. He wrote a great book about growing up in Iowa in the fifties and sixties called “the Thunderbolt Kid.” His books often leave us in stitches and 1927 has as well.

If this book is a travelogue it more time travel than anything else. My parents and in laws all got their start about this time. My Dad was born two years before, my father in law was born in May as this summer dawned and my Mom was conceived during the summer. The most famous event of the spring/summer was Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic. Throw in poisoned liquor, Babe Ruth, Al Capone and a tightly woven narrative interlocking these characters and more and the year comes alive in the humorist’s hands. It helps that humor is a great way to get past the serious story that the author wants to get across.

Both of these books have led me to lots of sleepless nights where I imagine teaching history again in high school classrooms. I once tried to get my old school board to give me an OK to substitute teach only to have them soundly turn down my request. The reasons for saying no had to do with conflict of interest (having two sources of ISD 709 income), liabilities should a school board member blow up a classroom, and I think for some of my colleagues a certain amount of disdain. One of my old colleagues once acidly told me “you are no teacher.” As with warnings that I couldn’t possibly win a political campaign, I’ve mostly found such cautions motivational.

I keep thinking of ways to inveigle my way into a teaching position again. I think it would be great fun to teach with a classroom full of cell phones.

Worst Case Scenario

I got an email from a reporter who reads my blog much to my satisfaction. My comments about the threat of the legislature imposing on Duluth taxpayers the burden for paying off the vast financial hole of our local Duluth Teacher’s Retirement pension caught this journalist’s attention because they seemed at variance with Jay Stoffel’s comments. Jay for twenty years was the Duluth fund’s manager but a few weeks ago he took over the much larger statewide TRA fund. (which sends my Mother a monthly check thanks to my Dad’s long service teaching at Mankato State College the name of which seems to change every fifteen years or so.)

Our SB Chairman Mike Miernicki has little fear that such a burden will fall on local taxpayer’s shoulders. Art Johnston, ever vigilant, has been warning of this potential threat. Because its imposition by the legislature would dwarf the recently passed levies I’m looking at it like a caged tiger behind a door with a faulty lock.

Our greatest protection should be State Senator Tom Bakk. The ambitious Bakk has a huge district that contains a portion of Duluth. He has been chair of the tax committee and is the current boss of the state senate. No such bill should get passed him but I have no interest in signing off on a teacher’s contract until I know for certain that this terrible calamity is forestalled. How could such a calamity come about?

Here’s a worst case scenario:

The Democrats were quite bold after the Republicans were routed in the last election and fixed things with significant tax increases. Taxes are of course red meat for Republicans. The GOP has already started pointing accusing fingers at the DFL to woo voters back. We are long past the halcyon days of bipartisan support for things like the Minnesota Miracle.

Imagine that a newly invigorated, tax fighting Republican party emerges in Minnesota in this year’s election when Barack Obama faces a national backlash. At the moment pollsters are telling us it looks like the Democrats nationally are under threat of losing the Senate to the GOP when that looked unlikely but a year ago. In Minnesota much hangs on the Democrats reelecting the fairly bright but rather odd Mark Dayton Governor. At the moment there is no well known Republican on the horizon to challenge him. There are a lot of lesser lights in the hunt for a nomination but its too early to know whether any of these candidates will take off.

It doesn’t bode well for Dayton or the DFL that Duluth’s own Yvonne Prettner Solon is abandoning ship as Lt. Governor. No one can be sure that any public explanations for her departure is truly accurate because she will not want to undermine Dayton. Nonetheless she may smell Dayton’s blood and she may wish to escape the ignominy of losing an election.

If the Democrats start to panic I’m not certain that they would risk the public’s ire by pouring sixty million state tax dollars into the teacher’s pensions to cover Duluth’s shortfall. Already one Republican legislator on the pension board is making a stink about it. For years Republicans, with good reason, pointed to excesses in DFL spending for Northern Minnesota. I can imagine them playing that card again to a receptive public and I can imagine the DFL legislators cowering and deciding to hold off on shoring up the pension fund for Duluth teachers until after the election. But if this should happen and the GOP takes over one house of the legislature after the election what are the chances that Duluth could get a pension fund fix? I wouldn’t be sanguine about our prospects.

It appears to me that our salvation is, as in that old Elvis song, Now or Never. Tom Bakk can save his constituents in Duluth from a massive tax hike unless he finds it inconvenient for his future political ambitions. Someone better start sending him letters and email.

4AM – Eighteen Below Zero

And I woke up with a couple posts in my head. At least I got a solid four hours sleep.

Today will be the seventh, if I’m counting right, snow or cold weather day that the Duluth Public Schools have closed. For me this has caused some aggravating delays getting to a dozen projects of personal interest. Yesterday, for instance Claudia and I woke up with two little boys who otherwise would have been at their own homes. The night before I had dropped off my daughter’s car, which had been refusing to start in the morning, at a garage where the battery could be replaced so that she could get to work on her own. Because the boys are delightful and because I made up my mind in recent years that family comes first in my “retirement” years this has not caused me any particular grief. It just means that at times other projects, like putting the world back together, are pushed to the backburner. As I type this my office looks like a tornado hit it. I’ve got stacks of papers everywhere that need filing so that when their time comes for my attention I’ll be able to find them without creating new stacks of paper.

To the left is the bill for my Mother’s care that I have to check out. I finally got to it a month late only to find her insurer required me to send them my power of attorney documentation. That had been filed away a couple years ago so I had to stop and locate that to scan and turn into pdf’s for transmittal. By the time I got to it, after other weather related interruptions, it was probably too late in the day for the person I sent it to to call me back as I had requested. So there it sits part of the damn clutter. I just sighed heavily thinking about it. That tells you all you need to know about all the other clutter keeping it company on every level surface within reach of my keyboard.

I did get one thing done yesterday. I spoke to a school administrator for a couple of hours. The cold weather slowed him up and I had to wait for half an hour at a local restaurant to commence a long overdue conversation. I’d forewarned Supt. Gronseth the week before that I would do this and it was his turn to sigh at my inquisitiveness. There are some protocols that he’d like to enforce about going through him to get to his subordinates that I appreciate. As Mr. Gronseth said most School Board members have no idea how much the idea how terrified staff are at being grilled by a school board member. We are a little like those proverbial elephants flattening the grass. One of my long term subbing jobs thirty years ago happened because an Albrook School Board member had it in for the popular and competent science teacher that was untenured. The science teacher got the axe and the kids got a history teacher to teach their math and science for a couple months. When I was offered the job for the rest of the year I declined despite the paycheck. It wasn’t fair to the kids. Perhaps the students eventually got someone who was properly trained, perhaps they didn’t. If not it was thanks to the ass who got elected to reign terror on the Superintendent.

I’m not very dedicated to terrorism. I simply wanted to reestablish a good working relationship with someone I once got along with famously before the Red Plans imposition and yet do so with candor not overlooking our having been on opposite sides of the recent elephant fight. I think I succeeded.

8 loyal readers plus

I’ve talked about my eight loyal readers for years. On the occasions when I’ve mentioned my actual visitors the number is a little higher. It always rises when I raise hell and blog consistently and declines when the tryptophan kicks in. Looking at the nearly complete month of January stats during which I all but ceased blogging the loyal readers seem to be averaging 158 a day. These good folks check in regularly to see if I’ve posted any more nonsense. On several days over the past two silent months I’ve been strongly inclined to post but generally backed off. However, I enjoyed blogging so much last night that I risked not falling asleep which is generally what happens after an hour of writing facing this bright computer screen. But since I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night anyway recently with my brain kicking into a wakeful overdrive I’m not so sure its all that much worse to look into the computer before bedtime. It beats lying restlessly in bed.

I’ll be leaving for Rosie’s workshops in a few minutes so I won’t get the half dozen posts that are on my mind started. Most are prompted by today’s stories in the DNT and Budgeteer. I’d also like to comment on two smashing history books I’m reading at the moment. I might have started that earlier but Claudia drafted me to make a poster for Duluth’s Olympian Anna Ringsred who is heading to Sochi for speed skating. She’s a little sweetheart and has been speed skating for ten years or more. Her supporters from our church, Glen Avon Presbyterian, will be posing after church tomorrow for a poster filled picture to put on facebook wishing her well and offering our prayers. We are all aware of the terrorist threats which have been made to embarrass the prestige of Russia.

I’ve got a good day’s worth of thoughts to spit out. I think I’ll abbreviate it under the post titles DNT Bits or something like that. Maybe then I can keep the typing down to a couple hours.

Run Silent Run Deep no more

I am not a fan of ignorance. This blog is not a fount of truth but it is a fountain of my opinions and as my campaign sign said “honesty is the best policy.”

Honesty can, however, be a dangerous policy. I’ll be living the “gangrene” comment about our western schools down for some time. I don’t regret saying it. I regret that it was construed by some as my having no hope for a cure.

After my election things changed. Now, instead of being a lone wolf I am part of a team. Eighteen years ago at my first election it was a team of nine. Now it is a team of seven. I have some advantages now that I did not enjoy after my first election. No other board member has had a longer relationship with the other members of the School Board than me. I substitute taught for Mike Miernicki 35 years ago. I got him out of a high school league controversy as a Board member twelve years ago (no, not the Randolph brouhaha). I’ve known Mike’s very good friend Bill Westholm since before my first election 18 years ago and attended seven Denfeld Graduations that he presided over in a row. I asked Judy Seliga-Punyko to run for the Board twice ten years ago. Then I ran against Judy unsuccessfully six years ago. Rosie Loeffler-Kemp was the President of the PTA during many of my years on the Board and before that she dropped by my house many times as a volunteer for Clean Water Action although she doesn’t seem to remember having done so. Annie Harala is my kid’s age. She attended Chester Park Elementary and went to the school carnivals whose games I organized for five years. I didn’t know Annie then but I did know her Mother a teacher in the Duluth Schools.

I’ve only known my erstwhile ally, Art Johnston, for five years when he became active in Let Duluth Vote. We were plaintiffs in Court together fighting the JCI/Red Plan contract. That gives me two more years of acquaintance with Art than other Board members have had.

Although I’ve disagreed with some of my new colleagues my attitude is that no one runs for the School Board to hurt kids or schools. I’ve kept my blog silent so as not to imperil my relations with six people I intend to work with as part of a happy united team. My default attitude toward people is friendship.

Unity was one of the sermons we heard at the recent annual conference of Minnesota School Board members. “A school board should not be uniform but it should be united.” All seven of us went to that conference a week ago. That astonished and pleased me. I never missed an MSBA conference when I was on the Board from 96 to 2003. I don’t recall ever having more than three Duluth Board members attend an MSBA conference with me back then.

We’ll have our work cut out for us in Duluth. The biggest shock I got in Minneapolis was seeing the MSBA legislative platform. It was calling for legislation to give the Duluth School Board the power to levy taxes to plug the hole in the DFTRA pension for our teachers. We will need to be unified with that kind of help from our brethren school board members across the state. As Ben Franklin told his fellow patriots,”We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

I will be coming out of my silent blogging and I hope my eight loyal readers come out of hibernation with me. There will be a tax on the truth while I am on the Board. Call it a diplomacy tax. I figure diplomacy will put a five percent tax on my candor. Who knows, I might even put my crossed fingers behind my back on occasion. But mostly this blog will take a broom to ignorance and stand back when I start shaking my rug.

Not out of the woods

One monthly School Board meeting down, 47 to go.

Actually its three meetings. One was a closed hour long meeting over teacher contract negotiations. Its been ten years since my last one. Mum’s the word of course but there has been a three month prologue that I can’t undo. I think I can say, reaffirm really, that none of the four elected candidates last November stressed that they wanted to spend any of the newly approved levy money to pay teachers more but they did pledge to hire more teachers.

The teachers are led by Frank Wanner who seems to have remained on the job like an ex president of a corporation for one more crack at negotiations as a CEO prior to full retirement. Frank’s era of labor leaders regarded higher salaries and benefits as the only goal worth going after. On that note I was quite satisfied with the story on the District’s projected budgets but dismayed by the headline.

The headline was not wrong: With budget surplus, Duluth School Board considers district’s financial future

The critical caveat showed up in the second paragraph: “But Bill Hanson, the district’s director of business services cautioned the School Board on Thursday, at its first budget meeting for the following year, that based on estimated revenue and expenditures, the district already will be at a deficit for the 2015-16 school year.”

In fact the projections for the end of my four year term on the Board showed a deficit projection of $9.6 million dollars. I won’t let that happen unless its over my dead body. I just have to hope the teacher’s negotiation team see the realities and do not try to disguise them from their membership. Among them:

A. The raises the teachers are calling for will make meaningful class reductions almost impossible.
B. The District’s last early settlement before waiting to see what the legislature would do caught us with our pants down since we failed to anticipate how chintzy the State legislature’s school funding would be. Most of the other districts in the state waited to see what St. Paul would do and got one year of zeroed out pay raises that Duluth missed out on.
C. There is a little matter of a legislature contemplating requiring Duluth taxpayers to bail out the teachers retirement plan at 15 million a year for God knows how long with annual tax increases that would be many times the size of the recently approved levies that skeptical voters barely passed. This legislation may not come to pass but if it did there would be Hell to pay.

No other current school board member has been through as many contract negotiations as me including one that nearly ended in a strike back in 1998. We will need ice water in our veins if we are to staunch our district’s bleeding and give our children the education they deserve.