Some startling conclusions drawn by an analysis of ISD 709 Property Sales

My conclusions are drawn from a modest six page report which was sent to the School Board. I have pulled back the report itself at the author’s request.

There is an easy answer to all the parents and students who want to save the Zero hour. In fact for almost the next four-plus years there is a means by which we can eliminate much of and maybe most of our future budget shortfalls and eliminate further cuts to ISD 709’s programs. Four years of stability may stop the mass exodus of our students. The solution for the next four years will be voted up or down on Monday night but the explanation for this has been made very clear by an expert.
I’m going to tempt fate and explain the five page analysis this attorney has provided our School Board relating to our property sales to date and our financial open spigot that will cost us over $3 million is budget cuts next school year.

One portion of the Red Plan’s twenty year costs, $43,345,000 million dollars worth, is being paid off with the sales of unwanted school buildings. Not all of this cost was expected to come from building sales, only about $27 million dollars worth of it. The rest of the payments would come from somewhere else. Bankers are smart. They have back up collateral for our buildings just in case they didn’t sell. That back up collateral is called the General Fund which I would prefer to call the classroom fund. You know. That’s where we get money for the zero hour and for social workers and lots of other good things.

And guess what? We failed to sell $27 million dollars worth of buildings by 2012 which is what ISD 709’s leaders planned on. How much has ISD sold to date? Answer, $3,600,000. That’s $23 million less than we thought we would have sold it for four years ago.

So that means that the bankers are being paid off with General Fund dollars. Next year when we cut the zero hour we will have to pay the Red Plan bankers $3.37 million dollars because we haven’t sold any school facilities. And we will have to pay it the next year and the next year and the next year until the year 2032 by which time I will no longer be 65 but I will be 81. Some of you reading this will be dead.

By coincidence next year ISD 709 is facing a $3.3 million dollar cut. Note that this is almost the same as the $3.37 we will be paying bankers because we have sold no buildings. If only we could sell a building.

This analysis doesn’t end here. It calculates how much it has cost the taxpayers to subsidize the developers who are buying our old schools. This information is fascinating. The analysis includes in these “subsidies” the money ISD 709 planned to make on sales but failed to achieve. Now, before you have a heart attack remember that some of these subsidies are by the City of Duluth in the form of TIF Districts, not just the school district, and includes a few miscellaneous other entities. To sell $3.1 million dollars of old schools it has cost taxpayers $17.1 million dollars in lost revenue. So much for the argument that we are putting our old schools back on the tax rolls. They are one hell of a tax burden.

There is one other shocker in this report. Its author explains over the past five years since Central High School was closed (You knew I was going to say Central didn’t you?) Yes, over the past five years ISD 709 has spent over $4 million dollars on the Central Property. The analysis totes up these expenses on its last page. And remember, according to the Ramsland and Vigen report with the likely demolition of Central High, the value of the 77 acres is only about $7 million dollars. That’s eye popping.

That seven million dollars, or whatever we sell Central for, will put a small dent in what we owe the banks if and when we sell it. As the Ramsland and Vigen report makes clear the best price we could get for the sale of Central is to some entity that would keep it as a school. And guess what? Someone wants to buy Central as a school. A school mostly for Duluth taxpayers who helped pay to build and maintain Central High for decades. And that someone is willing to pay the Duluth School District $14.2 million dollars or more than double the price almost anyone else will likely offer for the site and it will do it today – cash on the barrel head.

How far would that cash go? Well we face recurring $3.3 million dollar payments for the Red Plan because of our unsold schools. Every year for the next sixteen years those payments will continue. If the Duluth School Board sold Central to be used by the DPSA, which will build a school anyway somewhere else, the $14.2 million dollars they pay ISD 709 will cover 4.3 years of Red Plan payments making severe budget cuts unnecessary until such time as the District can get back on its feet and slow down the loss of unhappy students.

I am stalling a bit, sorry

The last few posts have been fun digressions which are helping me pass the time while I try to address the second big question I asked in the post that revealed that our White Elephant on the Hill is probably only worth $7 million dollars. That question is how desperately do we need to sell that building?

The answer is, we are very desperate. We need to stop the flood of children out of ISD 709 and do it today. A couple hours ago a parent sent me this information to my school board email address:

Hi Harry

thanks of getting the hearing on mon.

late this wk the district sent emails to students saying they were eliminating zero hour in the high schools. were you aware of this?

this will make many students have to choose between music and language

this should put a new twist on the edison sale debate


Geez. No kidding! I wrote them back explaining that I mentioned this very cut in my upcoming Monday column in the News Trib.

I’m almost at a loss to explain the obvious – that the emperor has no clothes. The three board members who retired should have been aware of this for crying out loud but they retired from the Board spouting the old line that the Red Plan had led to massive savings. I wish our Finance people would explain this to our Board but we still have this nonsense designation we call “savings” which is nothing more than millions of dollars of cuts to our program and staff. Its like describing starvation as a “diet.”

I just wrote another helpful soul this about what I would do with the proceeds of the sale of Central:

An important part of that answer relates to the District adverts for the Red Plan suggesting that half of it would be paid for by savings, efficiences etc. That, of course, is bullshit and we are still drawing money out of the General fund to pay off debt service. (BTW I for one do not want to put the Central sale money into Debt retirement. I would rather ask voters for their permission to do it when I run for reelection. In the meantime I’d like to use the Central sale money to shore up our offerings for a few years to stop the loss of students.) But that’s beside the point of what I need to tell the Board members.

Meanwhile, as I struggle to give the four members of the Board my analysis I’ve finally figured out how to show you the nonsense documents that our District used to hype the idea that the Red Plan was largely paid for by “savings” and putting an end to “inefficiencies.” No, No, No. It was paid for by classroom cuts and teacher layoffs. The imminent loss of the zero hour is just the latest victim of this flim flam…….Oh how to convince the doubting Thomases that this is true. Woe is me. Woe is me.

Check here for the three documents. And as you peruse them remember the old slogan, “WHEN YOU SPEND LOTS OF MONEY AT OUR STORE THINK HOW MUCH MONEY YOU WILL BE SAVING!!!!!!!”

This one is my favorite:

Thanks for that

I am meeting so many smart people as a member of the Duluth School Board.

One just sent me this observation about the bill Rep. Simonson has introduced to the House in hopes of attracting someone, anyone, other than the Duluth Public Schools Academy to buy our White Elephant up on the hill:

“Simonson’s bill only provides a sales tax exemption on building materials from June 30, 2016 until January 1, 2018. This means that unless there is a very motivated developer [with] fully developed plans and the ability to break ground later this summer, the sales tax exemption is worth virtually nothing, because just like Bluestone, any redevelopment of Central (that would include demolition and a lot of new utilities and infrastructure) would be phased in over many years. Assuming Simonson’s bill is passed this year, I highly doubt a developer would purchase Central on the assumption that the 2017 legislature would extend this authorization, especially if a developer has already purchased the land.”

From the ? Department

From: “My Buddy”

Subject: Pondering pronouns: Are ‘he’ and ‘she’ giving way to ‘they’? –

Oh, labels. The use of “Mx.”, looms?

. . . nonsexist language reform has been markedly successful in making job terms more gender-neutral, noting a not so distant past when there were firemen, stewardesses, policemen and chairmen. Today, we refer to firefighters, flight attendants, police officers and committee chairs without missing a beat.

They could be men. They could be women. They could be theys.


One indication of how quickly change can happen these days came late last year when the Times used a new courtesy title, Mx., when quoting a bookstore employee named Senia Hardwick. It clearly wasn’t the Times’ idea, describing Hardwick as someone “who prefers not to be assigned a gender — and also insists on the gender-neutral Mx. in place of Ms. or Mr.”

I commented back to my Buddy:

If I was reading the Times article out-loud how would I “pronoun”ce that?

Singin with Councilor Anderson

I had four glorious hours of something fun. My daughter went with me over to St. Scholastica’s Mitchell Auditorum today and spent the day singing four choral pieces for the MPR Bring the Sing. Close to 200 others showed up and we were recorded perhaps for later listening along with some area choirs and then we accompanied Gaelynn Lee in the song that won her NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.

No politics, just good old singing. I sat with Duluth’s new City Councilor Gary Anderson who I’ve developed a pretty cordial relationship with. He has a great mellow voice but I chided him when I found out he isn’t currently singing with any choirs. It was a small world because he recognized one of our church’s former youth choir members who now sings with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. There were folks from all over who traveled to Duluth. We sounded great.

BTW – was pleased to read about Gary’s participation in the embarrassing “retreat” of our City Councilors who picked apart their missing colleague Jay Fosle. John Ramos wrote a cringe worthy description of the production in which Anderson is one of the few participants who doesn’t sound like a buzzard slurping up a dead carcass. (In one of my emails today I urged my fellow school board members to hold such a “retreat” so that we could get to know each other better. I would hope we would conduct ourselves less disgracefully than some of our City Councilors.)

The jovial Memphis bred conductor Tesfa Xzgyllayomgbaloough (some damned African name) encouraged us at one point to get out our cell phones and take pictures of the occasion to share on Facebook. I took one but then nervously looked back at my music to make sure I wasn’t making any mistakes.

Gary Anderson pulled out cell and took a selfie of the two of us. Maybe he’ll post it on Facebook. We haven’t friended ourselves so I’ll never know if he has the courage or temerity to be seen in my company online or not.

Report on the value of Central to the SB

Report on the value of Central

The most important considerations for the sale of our Central Property are 1. what we can sell it for, and 2. the financial impact on the District for failing to sell it. This email addresses the first question and to that end I am attaching the report that gives us the best idea of the Central property’s value.

The last serious appraisal of the Central site by Ramsland and Vigen was conducted in 2006. On page 11 it lists a “value-in-use” for Central of $30.3 million. This figure was used to justify not selling the Central to the Duluth Public Schools Academy. But that value is carefully explained as the value of a working school to ISD 709 which is what Central was in 2006. There is another figure on page 11 that was a more realistic sales price for the entire property $13.7million. You can find it listed on the chart on page 11 under “Alternate Use Value.”But even this turns out to be an unrealistic sales price for the property. It is the land value of Central that makes it sellable and the “land value” is listed as $8 million in the chart. As for the three buildings you can derive their value by subtracting the land value from the Alternate use value or $13.7 million minus $8 million. The three buildings were thus assigned a value of $5.7 million dollars ten years ago while they were still functioning as schools.

The report explains on page 2 “The alternate use analysis might be considered a worst case scenario. It is noted that there was no attempt to estimate the cost to raze any of the buildings for the purposes of reusing or to maximize an alternate land value…”

We have been given an estimate of the cost to raze Central by our facilities manager that ranges from $1 to $2 million dollars. Assuming that there are no buyers who want these three school buildings we will likely have to raze the building ourselves or subtract a minimum of $1 million for demolition from our asking price. In 2006 at the height of a national home building boom the land value would have been in the neighborhood of $7 million dollars.

The City recently rezoned parts of the sellable property at the site to be kept as nature trails which further reduces the land’s value.

And there is more to consider. A 2014 Report on potential development on the Central site paid for by DEDA and prepared by Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. offers additional insights on the land. It notes on pages 14 that some sellable portions of the land should not be developed further reducing the land’s value. The report says, “The wooded acres along the perimeter of the site minimize erosion of the hillside by keeping the soil in place and capturing storm water runoff. This plan recommends maintaining this area as much as possible.” It continues on page 15, “In 2012, a large storm event caused massive flooding and damage in Duluth and highlighted the City’s unique storm water management issues.” Thus building on some portions of the Central site increase the flood threat below the hill and should be discouraged.

Mr. Vigen told me that the values placed on Central are “salvage” values. He mentioned that the building has also been stripped since its closing of cabinets and possibly other valuables that further diminish its value.

He has told me that he would be happy to explain the report to the Board Monday in a closed meeting should we hold it. I have explained that we may choose to do all our talking publicly so there is no guarantee that Mr. Vigen will address us although he plans to attend the meeting.

I’m going off to sing at St. Scholastica in half and hour. I’ll try to set up a link to this report later this weekend.

The first of several emails to the SB related to info on a Central Sale

Board members,

I have promised Annie to do my utmost to get the information that I find so compelling to you at least 24 hours in advance of our Board meeting. I will attempt to make this documentation available to readers of my blog as well and also bind them together in a document to be passed out to the public at our Monday Board meeting.

Before I begin this undertaking I want to give you a short prologue that may explain in part why I can be such a pain in the ass. It’s the sort of information I would share if our Board ever held a “retreat” for board members to get to know one another. It’s something previous Boards might have benefited from over the course of the last traumatic decade.

Why do I blog so addictively? In my first years on the Duluth School Board as our Administration drove the creation of a charter school I visited my little sister in the Twin Cities. She was a new teacher herself and told me that she had met a couple teachers from Duluth who were aware of me. She shocked me when she told me they both hated me. I tried to get my sister to acknowledge that she was exaggerating but she told me she wasn’t. From that point on I was determined to find some means of explaining myself on the Internet without being defined through the Newspaper or the Teacher’s Newsletter. Two years later I began doing that on a web page

After I left the Board I reluctantly was asked to comment on a huge building plan that inexplicably, to me, was imposed on Duluth without a public referendum. My leadership of Let Duluth Vote was a surprise to me. It was the most intense experience I have ever endured publicly and lasted several years. It coincided with the birth of my blog and an increasingly tight lipped school board. Now that I am back on the Board I feel an obligation to be as transparent as I felt the school board’s of the Red Plan Era should have been.

Finally, my fight for a referendum for the Red plan coincided with a war that blew my extended family apart. Some of you recall that my censure was postponed in 2014 because of my Mother’s death in December. My Mother had been in my care for six years after a killing legal fight with my sister. We had once been very close. One of her sons is my namesake. Yes, that’s right there’s another one of me running around Minnesota.

I have had little contact with my sister since a drawn out court room battle that I “won.” I have often wondered whether I would have had the emotional resources to settle my family’s conflict amicably if I had not been so preoccupied leading Let Duluth Vote. Two weeks ago there was a massive earthquake in Ecuador and at least one American was killed. My sister is living there now. I never called my namesake to ask if his Mother, my sister, was OK.

Life is not fair. Sometimes your only option is to be a pain in the ass. The only thing that salves my conscience is to be achingly honest. I understand that the vote I want on the sale of Central is not likely to change. I will be content to lose the vote again by the same margin but you must understand that I will only accept that decision after it has been fully aired before the people who elected us to office.


Re: the TMI post and Parliamentary Procedure

My Dad, a lawyer, who sat through lots of college meetings told me his simple rule about the often knotty questions raised by Parliamentary procedure. If there seems to be no dissent on what a body of people wishes to do a Chair can always say (to invite objections) “if there are no objections we will………followed by whatever the unanimous group wants to do. This works best on simple things like an adjournment for a potty break or a suspension of rules to do something uncontroversial. If someone objects a vote can be taken and debated while bloated members of the body cross their legs so as not to pee in their slacks while the debate drags on.

I told this to Art Johnston once and he strongly disagreed that this is proper procedure.

I’ve just bought the unabridged 11th edition to Robert’s Rules so I’ll be able to look this up myself but as a matter of fact a majority can pretty much do whatever the hell it is that they want to do…….ultimately.

Parliamentary Procedure does however protect the minority’s right to kick up a fuss. No measure can be killed without some discussion as proper voting procedure must be followed…..unless its the Duluth School Board from 2014-15 or any previous Duluth School Board that had Art and/or Gary Glass serving on it. That is changing in our new school board……so far. Which reminds me of a tiresome joke I heard Steve McQueen tell Yul Brynner in the movie Magnificent Seven. It went something like this:

A cowboy who was paying a visit to Kansas City wanted to check out the tall buildings so he climbed up a towering seven story hotel. As he was looking over the roof he lost his balance and tumbled over. All the people sitting at windows along his route heard him say as he passed by, “so far so good,” “so far so good.”

TMI (probably) on Monday’s meeting

This is a short explanation of a continuing email exchange between me and Business Director Hanson.

With gritted teeth Annie and I are trying to negotiate how the Monday meeting will be run and ordered. Annie’s understanding is that although other’s have called the meeting and set the agenda she, per board policy, has the sole right to set the agenda. She wants it set up differently than Alanna, Art and I have ordered it. She called me to tell me she wanted to, had to, change it. We had a long conversation which left me in doubt as to her intentions. I decided to follow up with a call to our Finance man Bill Hanson as Annie suggested. Mr. Hanson is no parliamentarian. As you saw in a recent post Mr. Hanson did not seem inclined to allow us to hold the meeting we called. So much hinges on trust. Its a commodity that has been in short supply on our School Board for the last ten years. I will not happily allow a majority of four board members to short circuit our meeting. Before the current minority accepts any changes to our agenda we must be assured that we are not being set up to be shut down. Thus, the following series of emails. First its me to Bill Hanson the school board and others following my phone call with Chair Harala:

Harry Welty
3:23 PM (14 hours ago)

to william, School, William, Jana
Bill, Thank you again for reconsidering your memo.

On the subject of “reconsideration” I’ve just gotten a call from Annie. We had a lengthy discussion about what would constitute our agenda and about parliamentary procedure.

I told Annie I had reservations about tampering with the agenda although I did not object to skipping item 3 requiring the Administration to make a presentation.

Annie suggested that it might be alright to go into executive closed session after public comment but felt that our resolution would, as I understood her, not be permissible without a vote of renewal. Annie told me she got this advice from an MSBA parliamentarian. I told her I would call the MSBA on Monday myself. Because I can doubt that the Board will allow the full discussion we three expect such a vote is objectionable. Furthermore, notwithstanding Chair Harala’s conviction that only the chair can set an agenda I would only agree to changes that would fullfill the spirit of the meeting Alanna, Art and I have called. Annie was being helpful while we talked but couldn’t quite explain the changes she envisions to my satisfaction.

In any event I would like you, to the best of your abilities, to explain to me what exactly your understanding of the parliamentary rule is and how you expect Annie and the majority to enforce it. I can’t guarantee that I’ll agree with you or whoever it was at the MSBA that advised Annie over the phone.

Also, I have promised Annie that the new information, which was not apparent at the time of our vote on negotiations, will be provided to the board prior to the Monday meeting. Its rather a lot to compile but I agreed to do my best to get it emailed out 24 hours prior to our Monday meeting – Sunday night.

So, again, Please explain the procedure you anticipate our Board following and its legal and or parliamentary underpinnings.

Next comes a “clarification” from Mr. Hanson:

william hanson
4:45 PM (12 hours ago)

to me, School, William
I would say that the published agenda would provide the best reference
for any plan for the meeting. I know Robert’s has particular rules
for reconsidering items that have been previously decided, but I would
refer you to Chair Harala for any additional thoughts that she has.

Finally, Art Johnston, the parlimentary expert on the Board makes this skeptical reply:

Art Johnston
2:48 AM (2 hours ago)

to william, me, School, William
MSBA has never had a parliamentarian in the past. If this has changed, please let me know who they have hired, or on contract.

A peek at some of my preparation for Monday’s meeting


I am in the process of putting together the information I will forward to school board members for our Monday meeting. I want your analysis of our debt to be part of that which could also include the property taxes levied on the properties we have sold in the past (which is only of interest because so many of the Board members have used the phrase “returning our property to the tax rolls” as a justification for denying a sale of Central to Edison)

I have promised Annie Harala to get as much of the “compelling” (my word) information to the Board that argues for a sale before Monday. If you are able to put your information into a small report I could forward to the School Board via email I would greatly appreciate it. I’m trying to live up to a 24 hour in advance of the 6:30 Monday meeting deadline. Annie is legitimately concerned that the Board members will not have enough time to digest this information if it is dropped at their feet on the night of the meeting.

I also intend to put everything I forward to the Board together in a handout for people who attend the meeting. It will be a fat little document when it is all put together. I might put a lot of it on the blog as well if I have time this weekend.

It would be my hope that you would be willing to explain our financing at that Board meeting either in a closed session or publicly during a question and answer session after public comment.


To: “”
Cc: “”, “”
Sent: Sat, 30 Apr 2016 05:21:25 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Facilities Management Building was old Fire Hall No. 1?


[I]………………………………………………………………………. will also touch base with you about the documents you have.

The graphic is interesting. What this graph is supposed to say, but really doesn’t, is that the property sales, annual operating savings, utility rebates and grants are supposed to be earmarked to go into a designated account in the general fund reserves. Those three revenue streams, along with investment earnings on the amounts on deposit in the designated account, are pledged first, to make payment on the 2009B, (and now 2010D, and 2012B COPs); and second, to reduce the levy on the 2009A COPs; and third, to reduce the levy on the 2008B COPs. Since 2009A and 2008B are supported by a 100% debt service levy, the only effect a lack of property sales or operational savings has on this debt, is that the board does not get to reduce the debt service levy those issues when it certifies the levy. This is why I have spent most of my focus on 2009B, 2010D and 2012B, because none of them have a debt service levy, so when those pledged revenues do not exist, the money comes from operations, because you can use operations to pay for debt, but you cannot use money in a debt service account to pay for operations until the debt for which the money has been pledged has been paid off.

Please Disregard my Previous Memo

A clarification just received:

william hanson
2:03 PM (4 minutes ago)

to School, Kerry, William
Please disregard my previous memo. The statute makes no distinction
for weekend days. As a result, the three day notice requirement can
be met.
I apologize for the confusion


To which I replied:

Thank you Mr. Hanson.

MY Reply to being told we can’t hold a meeting

The Board is notified that three of us can not call a school board meeting on Monday:

william hanson
12:44 PM (1 hour ago)

to William, School, Kerry
School Board members,

FYI, this proposed meeting on Monday would not meet the three
(business) day public notice requirement as we have previously
interpreted it for meetings of the board. A meeting for Monday would
have had to be posted on Thursday.

My Reply

Mr. Hanson,

However the District has “interpreted” this law in the past the interpretation flies in the face of the language in Minnesota Statute 123B.09,Subd. 6. which reads:

Meetings. A majority of the voting members of the board shall constitute a quorum. No contract shall be made or authorized, except at a regular meeting of the Board or at a special meeting at which all members are present or of which all members have had notice. SPECIAL MEETINGS MAY BE CALLED BY the Chair or Clerk or ANY THREE MEMBERS UPON NOTICE MAILED TO EACH MEMBER AT LEAST THREE DAYS PRIOR THERETO.


Your interpretation of this statute fails on several counts.

1. Today is Friday which is four days before the Monday meeting. There is no mention of “business days” which exclude Saturday or Sunday in the count. Furthermore, the statute requires that the notices be “mailed to each member” three days prior thereto. I put the notices in the mail at the Mount Royal Post office yesterday, Thursday, which is three business days in advance of the Monday meeting. But note again, that “business days” are not alluded to in the operating statute. If the Business Office has mailed out notices in the past not counting weekends that has only been its “practice.” It does not require three board members to follow the Business Office’s example.

2. In addition to the notice by mail we emailed the notice today to all school board members and the Administration which, again, is three days in advance of Monday’s date. However, the statute does not say anything about email being required. Our emailing it was simply a courtesy to board members and staff.

3. And on that score, I recall being called by Human Resource Director, Tim Sworsky, on the Friday before the Monday meeting at which I was censured. The email notice may have been sent out on Thursday but I had not read it. The call was made to me late Friday afternoon so I had barely two business day’s notice of my imminent censure. You will note that the Thursday email notifying me of my censure meeting was the same day of the week we mailed out our notice to Board members calling next Monday’s meeting – three business days but five days considering the weekend. I would hate to think that your interpretation of state statute is different for meetings called to censure school board members than it is under statute for three school board members to call a special meeting.

4. At no place in this statute is there any mention of the requirement of a “posting” of the meeting. In any event, the members of the school board do not control the District’s website. However, I did tell the Superintendent’s Executive Secretary of our intention to hold a meeting earlier this week. I would hate to think that this last minute quibbling about the District’s past practice is an attempt to violate state statute by our District Administration although I am aware that some Board members may not be happy about our legal calling of this meeting.

I suggest that the Administration post the meeting as soon as possible on the website as the media and the public have all been alerted by three members of the School Board, required by statute, about this meeting. I hope you insure that the public speaker system is set up and the doors are unlocked as well.

Yours cordially,

Harry Welty
Member of the Duluth School Board

Maybe I should take this opportunity to ask Mr. Hanson to expunge my censure. I would except that I am far too proud of it to let the School Board take it away from me.

Mulch on the Op Ed page today

The Editors of the Trib weighed in on the issue of rubber tire playground mulch today with a special emphasis urging the Board to pay attention to parents while noting a recent raw wound:

On March 31, over the protests and objections of those concerned parents and others, the district’s elected School Board voted not to waive policies prohibiting it from selling an abandoned school property to an entity that might reuse it as a school property. In other words, no selling to the competition. The vote slammed the door on a $14.2 million offer for the five-years-empty, hilltop Central High School campus, an offer that could have led to the high school being used again by Edison charter schools. Vocal and outspoken concerned parents — and, again, others — weren’t shy with their criticism of the vote. It continues to pour in.

I’ve written about mulch in several previous posts.

For me the decision to spend up to $400,000 for a complete replacement would be a lot easier if we had spare cash lying around. At this point the main reason would be to give parents peace of mind. This is an important consideration despite the absence of solid evidence of the rubber mulch’s threat to the children playing in it. Our District seems to be developing a reputation for putting parents off as a nuisance. We keep losing students and families. We need to stop the hemorrhaging.

Our guest, Mr. Kelly, from the Minnesota Dept of Health had no information suggesting that the mulch was hazardous but noted that there are several studies in play to research this question. They have yet to report results. Under any circumstances I think it would be prudent to wait until they report their findings. Coincidentally when I asked Kelly if the State was trying to insure that the mosquito breeding discarded tires in Minnesota were being used for mulch production he explained that he started his public service career in Minnesota helping get rid of the old tire stockpiles for environmental reasons.

We did have a long meeting but with no really new information except that the figure of $300,000 to $400,000 for the switch to wood mulch seemed to be more certain. It had been more speculative prior to this meeting. Parents have offered their help to keep costs down and I can imagine them knocking $100,000 off of the price tag. Still, we are facing $3 million in unpleasant cuts this year. Something else critical would have to give for us to pay for wood mulch.

I’m going to stick with my agnosticism on the subject for a while longer.

Its all Greek to Me, or Latin

Just typed that phrase in my search function and as I suspected discovered I’d used it in one title previously… I added “or Latin.”

I thought this was an interesting educational idea. Its about teaching elementary kids root words and suggests it can pay big dividends. I’ve always paid attention to them and never more so than when I happlessly took Spanish for a year in college. I found I could guess a lot of Spanish words from their Latin roots. Eg. verde (spring) and the English verdant.

For about a dozen years I was the pronouncer at our regional spelling bees. I see I’ve mentioned this several times through the years in the blog too. Kids were always asking for the use of words in sentences or their language of origin…that means root.


The title above is one good reason to reconsider the sale of Central. It is representative of the school board majority’s failure to grasp the full reality of the sale of Central. I’m grateful for Loren Martell’s close recording of and listening to our school board meetings and his capture of one of our colleague’s misconceptions. Loren is almost as windy as me when it comes to describing our Board decisions but his latest column the Duluth Reader is particularly good.

Here Loren teases out the truth:

“Like many other Duluthians, I’d been carrying around the misconception that the organization was a for-profit venture. The school currently contracts with a profit-seeking company called Edison Learning for business services like payroll, but intends to discontinue that relationship by the end of the fiscal year. I was surprised to learn, as I nosed about in this arena, that the company that leases property to Edison–Tischer Creek Building Company–is also nonprofit. I’d always assumed the leasing company had to be a for-profit, private venture. It isn’t true that Edison would be a ‘third, non-public high school.’ The organization is structured a bit differently than traditional public schools and is not unionized, but it is a free, public school.”

I have submitted my own op ed piece but to the News Tribune. It will run Monday and I’ve promised not put it in the blog until that date. I have not appeared in the Trib for quite some time although this particular op ed piece I wrote for them was my sixth attempt at one over the past couple weeks. Ultimately I focused on only one aspect of the debate. How not selling Central is a threat to ISD 709.

You will have to wait a couple days to read my discourse but I don’t think the Editorial Board would mind too much if I quoted my last sentence. It is:

“The public is welcome to hear our discussion and offer public comment.”



WHEREAS, Pursuant to District Policy 3195 –Disposal of School District Property, All property sold shall contain a deed restriction prohibiting the property’s future use as a school or other E-12 educational facility.

WHEREAS, Pursuant to District Policy 8120 –Disposal of School Board Properties, Property shall not be released without knowledge of its proposed utilization, and no property is to be released for the purpose or subsequent purpose of usage as a school other than ISD 709. By contract, such violation shall result in the property reverting back to ISD 709.

WHEREAS, In order to consider offers to purchase School District property for the utilization as a E-12 educational facility, the School Board must suspend District Policies 3195 and 8120.

WHEREAS, The School Board of ISD 709 has received a proposal for $14.2 million from Tischer Creek Duluth Building Co., a nonprofit entity affiliated with North Star and Raleigh Charter Schools, for the Central High School site.

WHEREAS, Incomplete information or misinformation was cited as reasons for voting in a certain way in the March 31 meeting.

WHEREAS, New information has surfaced that could potentially change reasons to vote a certain way including, but not limited to: Assessed values, realtor opinions and public opinions.

WHEREAS, the fact that the land value of the Central High School site was assessed at only $8 million in the 2006 evaluation by Ramsland and Vigen, Inc. This is the most recent property assessment, and was conducted during a peak in property values in Duluth.

WHEREAS, The School Board of ISD 709 has adopted a civility resolution where we will show your evidence and share your reasoning.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT In order to fully investigate the offer, the School Board directs the Administration and School Board to initiate negotiations with Tisher Creek Duluth Building Co. to devise for the School Board’s consideration the most favorable mutual conditions for said sale including, but not limited to: provisions for enrollment caps, possible withholding of some parcels of the whole property from inclusion, potential joint usage of existing buildings, and an acceptable price for the purchase.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the School Board of Independent School District 709, St. Louis County, Minnesota shall suspend District Policies 3195 and 8120 in order to consider negotiating the current offer from Tischer Creek Duluth Building Co. for the Central High School site.

the School Board of Independent School District 709, St. Louis County, Minnesota shall have an agenda item on a special board meeting to be held preferably by May 9th but no later than the May 17th regular school board meeting on whether to sell the Central High School site to Tischer Creek Duluth Building Co.

Motion made by:__________________ Seconded by:__________________

Ayes:________Nays: __________

Motion [passes] [fails]

B-5-16-3364 May 2, 2016

Meeting next Monday at 6:30pm at Old Central

I just put this call in the mail and sent it to the Superintendent and the members of the Duluth School Board:

April 26, 2016

Chairperson Annie Harala
Clerk Rosie Loeffler-Kemp
Vice Chairperson David Kirby
Treasurer Nora Sandstad
Member Alanna Oswald
Member Harry Welty
Member Art Johnston
Superintendent William Gronseth

School Board
ISD 709, Duluth Public Schools
215 N. 1st. Av. East
Duluth, MN 55802

Dear School Board Members,

The undersigned Members of the School Board of ISD 709, Duluth Public Schools, hereby call a Special Meeting of the School Board of ISD 709 on Monday, May 2, at 6:30 pm at the boardroom at Historic Old Central High School. This is under authority of Minn. Statue 123B.09, Subd. 6.

The following shall be the agenda for this Special Meeting:
1. Call to Order
2. Roll Call
3. Presentation by the Superintendent on the Potential of Disposing of Central High School/STC Site, 800 East Central Entrance, Duluth, MN
4. Receiving of Public Comments Related to Property Disposal of Central High School/STC Site, 800 East Central Entrance, Duluth, MN
5. Resolution B-5-16-3363 -Executive (Closed) Session
6. Recess to Executive (Closed) Session -Discussion Related to PropertyDisposals [Minn. Stat. 13D.05, subd. 3.(c)] involving undisclosed sale negotiation items.
7. Reconvene to Special School Board Meeting
8. Questions and comments by the School Board concerning potential said sale.
9. Resolution B-5-16-3364 Directing the School District to Enter into negotiations with Tischer Creek Duluth Building Co. of Said Property and Suspension of Policies 3195 and 8120.
10. Adjournment

School Board Members, ISD 709:

Alanna Oswald, Harry Welty, Art Johnston

A much wiser and more knowledgeble voice schools me on Reservation land

Your blog post yesterday about Fond du Lac is based on quite a bit of misinformation. If I may, I’d like to provide some information that might hopefully help clear things up.

The feds aren’t “allowing” the tribe to buy anything. The tribe is free to buy any property it wants to, just like anyone else. Case in point, they had already purchased the Carter Hotel quite some time ago without any approval required from anybody. They purchased the Sears building that now houses the casino in the same way. (A common misconception is that the city was involved with that sale, but it wasn’t. That was a private sale.)

In most cases, such off-reservation acquisitions are “fee land” (i.e., the tribe is the owner and they pay taxes on it). Fond du Lac owns fee land scattered throughout the region (much of it is actually undeveloped land that they purchased to preserve habitat). What the feds did, first with the Sears building and now with the Carter Hotel, was place the land into tribal trust. Fee-to-trust transfers are done at the sole discretion of the Department of the Interior. So, you’re correct when you say the city wasn’t engaging in charity by “letting” the tribe open a casino—but only because the city had absolutely no authority in the matter. City officials get very testy when this is pointed out, but it’s nonetheless true. I got confirmation of it straight from the Department of the Interior: Local governments, including Duluth, have never had any say whatsoever in tribal trust decisions.

On its face, that might not seem fair, but there are two important points to understanding what tribal trust is all about:
(1) Tribes don’t own trust land, including their reservation land. The federal government owns it and holds it in trust on behalf of the tribe. This is why tribes don’t pay taxes on trust land—because it’s owned by the feds, not by the tribe.

(2) Fee-to-trust transfers are mostly used Continue reading