The Trump massacres begin

Faced with an Attorney General who refused to enforce what she regarded as an illegal order Donald Trump fired her.

Funny but Trump’s AG nominee, Jeff Sessions, asked her two years ago if she would be willing to stand up to any illegal directives from then President Barack Obama and she said she would. I found this on Reddit where my Jabba showed up yesterday.

Coincidentally, as I was listening to NPR this morning I retrieved a document in my attic work room and glanced over at this old newspaper which I kept and pinned up to a bulletin board.

Its about the Saturday Night Massacre the last time a Republican President fired the AG for not following his orders.

My “Buddy” has been trash talking me today about my “pissing and moaning” on my blog. I guess if I had a big audience like Rush Limbaugh my Buddy might concede that my complaints might be considered “efficacious” if by that one means effective in terms of the number of people reached regardless of the accuracy of the information disseminated. Its true that the 403 people who visited my blog yesterday are a drop in the Limbaugh bucket. At least my drop is composed of water not Limbaugh’s “warm bucket” full.

Oh, and you might note the conclusion of the prayer of St. Francis covering part of the paper. Our church choir sings the John Rutter song using these lyrics regularly. I supposed you could argue about its efficacy too.

What’s up with Rockridge?

It hasn’t hit the press yet but Rockridge neighbors all know about it already. There was a meeting with them today. I sent a suggestion in that there be an open house to welcome everyone to the school if and when it takes on a new educational function. The word got out to M_________ and I was sent this email today:

From: “M________”
To: “harrywelty”
Sent: 30-Jan-2017 03:25:16 +0000
Subject: RE: School Sales

Were you aware of this scheme of the Supt. to bus Woodland Hills kids to Rock Ridge? I hear it’s been under consideration, behind closed doors< for several months. Why the secrecy? We were told that this building was so dilapidated that it was cheaper to close it than fix it. What has changed, or was nothing true about the Red Plan? I don't think this is a good idea. M_______,

Here’s my reply to M__________


The state has an obligation to educate Woodland Hills kids. Perhaps Woodland Hills could find another District to do this but ISD 709 has had a relationship with them for ages. They bought the Cobb elementary school from us even before I was on the School board twenty years ago. It is old and expensive. We now lease it from them and they use the lease money to keep it in good repair. Its coming to the end of its useful life and they want to charge us a lot more so that they can fix it up. Or we can send their kids to a newer facility that may not require so much repair costs. That might be Rockridge, an empty school that has cost us money to keep warm and repaired since the Red Plan.

As for the secrecy. I don’t think its that big a deal. They needed more money and angled for us to pay them more lease money than we want to pay. We suggested Rockridge as an alternate site. I don’t think the secrecy is particularly helpful and I can vouch that paranoia makes people difficult to work with because they won’t trust you. The residents of the Rockridge site have scotched the one solid offer we had for a sale and they could scuttle this one too. I hope that doesn’t happen. They would like a school and Woodland Hills is a school with troubled kids that they have excellent success turning around and educating. At the end of the school day the kids will leave the school and go back to their campus in upper woodland.

Whether this will be a better financial deal for us I don’t know. It was a building whose sale the Red Planners were counting on to help pay off bonds. One more part of the Red Plan’s financing shot to hell.


Jabba the Hit

My Son texted me a while ago which is a rare occurrence. He told me that Jabba the Hutt had 35,000 “up votes” on Reddit. Its almost 40,000 now with 821 comments. I guess that’s good.

I was afraid the old coot would melt while I was in Denver but a cold wave saved his bacon the day after I left. Now its snowing and I’m thinking he needs a companion. Hmmmmmmm.

Jabba is an old friend. He came by our place two years ago in a different medium for our Church’s trunk or treat. Here’s a pic.:

I read a lot of the comments on Reddit. Apparently there are a lot of delivery drivers checking on its trending stories. A lot of them chimed in to say we were good tippers when we order a pizza.

Oh, and KBJR TV just sent a photographer to get a little history on the big guy tonight.

Sticks and Stones, Pt. 3 washing my mouth out with soap

My Buddy accuses me of being prissy when I complain about his emails. Well, I just want to assure my readers that my family doesn’t consider me so. In fact, I wrote a lengthy goodbye letter to my Uncle Frank in which I spent a lot of time talking about his older brother, my Father, who died 30 years ago at the tender age of 62 which I’ve already surpassed by four years.

I wrote and sent the letter when I was under the impression Uncle Frank was unwilling to have family pay a call on him before he went to the great beyond. So, I wanted to tell him about how his brother’s oldest son, me, saw Daniel Welty. I included a several paragraph description of Dad’s cussing:

After my college years, I learned about one of Dad’s tactics for a good defense – swearing. I’ve already mentioned his invocation of blue beard in the face of detour signs. Well, in about fifth grade I took up some pretty serious swearing thus honoring my Father by imitation. This continued until I skinned my knee in the alley behind Mulvane while walking home with Mom. I kicked up such a torrent of wretchedness that Mom was terribly embarrassed. All our neighbors rushed to their fences to see who had just died. That night Dad told me the secret to swearing. Only swear when you want people to know you mean it because if you do it too promiscuously no one will ever pay attention to you.

What I didn’t know was that Dad did not always adhere to his own good advice. When I was a Phi Delt pledge a rotund active, Denny, who promised to hook me up with girls who would do anything I wanted, asked me confidentially if my Dad “talked like that at home?” While I declined his offer of female companionship I did ask Denny what he meant by Dad’s talking at home.

Denny exclaimed, “Does he swear like that at home?”

“Yes,” I affirmed.

It turned out that there were a lot of football players and jocks in Dad’s Business Law classes and Dad felt that a healthy blast of profanity would keep them from challenging him. I never quite understood this but college profs are a different breed. One of Mankato State’s Psych professors went to our little Congregational church. Dad told me that Professor Kansler pulled down his pants in class to reveal polka dotted briefs. He followed this gymnastics by chanting the “ef” word repeatedly for a couple minutes “to teach the class about desensitization.” I kinda wish I’d been there to witness this spectacle but Dad offered me plenty of his own layman’s psychology – at no charge – to help me make my way in the world.

It turns out that my family is right. My example has not always been the best. My cousin told me how I got her in trouble on a visit to Colorado. Apparently she picked up some of my new and unfamiliar vocabulary and tried it out at home. She got what for and said my embarassed Dad had to take me to a room and do the same. Except that no one could hear me getting what for.

I had to admit to my cousin that I couldn’t recall this family trauma. Had I gotten a good what-foring I’m sure I would have remembered. I did tell her, however, that I remembered my Mother washing my mouth out with soap when I was a first grader. I’m sure I picked up my vocabulary just like the kid did in Jean Shepherd’s Christmas Story.

Like a lot of free advice my Dad’s advice on cussing was sound – even if he didn’t practice it as faithfully as he could have. Ditto for me. And by the way those recent studies that suggest intelligent people swear more…….I regard them with a healthy skepticism.

Sticks and Stones, Pt. 2 the cute pink hats

“Hair on fire.” That’s the subject of the morning talk show I woke up to. Trump supporters are up in defensive arms because they think Anti-Trump forces’ hair is on fire because of a half a dozen Executive Orders and gag orders issued by our new “not my” President. And of course, the “not my” is a state of mind not law. That too has the Trumpers fuming.

How the “Lock her up” crowd can, in good conscience, complain that their man isn’t being treated fairly is easy to understand. As my seven year old grandson told the congregation during Children’s time yesterday his Mom told him that sometimes life is not fair. Except that, I find it entirely understandable, “fair” if you will. Folks who saw Trump insist that Obama wasn’t born in America are now calling Trump a racist. In physics we’d say that “every action causes an equal and opposite reaction.”

I have gently panned the civility movement in Duluth on numerous occasions in the blog. Not that civility is a bad thing. It helped nurture American democracy. I have never complained about good manners but the civility movement can sometimes be seen to be motivated by the winners who want the losers to shut up. “How dare you complain about our beating you.”

Some of the Pro Red Planners who thought I was a spoil sport when the Red Plan got built were themselves deeply grieved by the US Supreme Court’s reversal of the Florida court decision to hand the state’s electoral votes to Al Gore. A similar cohort of people, which includes me, are not happy about the way Donald Trump won the Presidency. If his campaign wasn’t a “hair on fire” campaign I don’t know what else you’d call it.

Trump’s victory has already moved me to march in two protest marches for the first time in 45 years and I’m considering a third – the Scientist March in Washington DC. I think the least objectionable thing Trump critics could do considering his campaign rhetoric is march peacefully with critical placards. The challenge will be to corral those who want to throw ef bombs or worse.

Speaking of which, the Woman’s marchers were pretty well behaved events and the marchers were rightly proud of it. Locally 1,400 adult marchers paraded through the sky-walk with homemade signs. One of them made me wince a bit. It had the familiar diagram of a woman’s reproductive tract with a slogan borrowed from an M.C. Hammer song. One word was altered so that it became one of the objectionable words on the District’s power point slide. That’s not the same as blocking a highway but the word was not calculated to win people over to the cause.

In other cities some luminaries did throw ef bombs. One such was the Madonnald er Madonna. She also was widely accused of saying she wanted to bomb the White House. That’s not quite how she put it but it gives ammunition to the other side.

Sticks and Stones, Pt. 1 the unspeakable

I’ve been looking forward to Loren Martell’s take on our January School Board meeting. The only truly objectionable thing about it was its length. We Board members behaved ourselves exceptionally well although we did get a tad tiresome and long winded. Our new Chairman, Dr. David Kirby, ran things in good humor and fairly and bent over a bit to make sure the static minority didn’t get run over.

Loren has made it a habit of beginning his columns as our PR person, Katie Kaufman, would like – with a glowing account of the good stories that begin each Board meeting. This time it took up about half his column in part because we Board members did little to be ashamed or embarrassed about. There were three issues that Loren covered. One related to our attempt to push good health. One devoted to mulch. (I don’t intend to belabor that one here) And finally, the issue referred to in Loren’s headline: “Vile Words.”

I recommend you read Loren’s coverage if mine doesn’t quite satisfy. Simply put, our staff composed a presentation which included a power point slide with a list of the aforementioned vile words. They were words hurled at a trans-gendered student over the course of a school year in another district. I’m grateful to Loren for quoting my restrained and careful thoughts about their inclusion on a power point slide. Poor Loren had to listen to me at the meeting and then once again on a recording to get it down right. I showed such probity:

“Member Welty partially echoed member Johnston’s concerns: ‘If this particular slide is to be used as part of our outreach to the community, beyond the professionals who I trust will approach these words with the sensitivity they need, I would be concerned. I have not seen a school district document like I’m looking at now.’ He questioned the possible “counter-productivity” of using such words.”

On the list were two words I almost never use; the “n” word and the “c” word. As for the others that I’m less fussy about…….I’ll write two posts following this tomorrow. One concerns the “c” words use among other things at the recent Duluth Women’s March and the other concerns my reminiscences while meeting with my Uncle Frank last week in Denver.

It was suggested at the meeting that candor demands that one must not shy away from the words themselves lest we allow them to have too much power over us or, to the contrary, that in listing them publicly we will make them commonplace and risk making it easy for others to use them in common parlance. My objection was not quite either of these. I fretted that putting them on a District document might raise hackles from those who find the words particularly offensive. I’m not one, if you can believe this, to court controversy gratuitously. (that’s fifty cent language for “unnecessarily.”)

So there will be a Sticks and Stones #2 and #3 tomorrow. I hope you enjoy them. They will be every bit as gratuitous as anything else I’ve ever posted on Lincolndemocrat.

and a followup to the last post

At the last Minnesota School Board’s conference several of Duluth’s school board members ran into a number of the ex JCI “consultants” who helped force the Red Plan down Duluth’s throats. Some had all left Johnson Controls in disgust.

Meanwhile, Michael David, who led much of the Red Plan has also gone his merry way as well continuing his own personal consulting juggernaut through Minnesota Schools. After he broke from JCI I discovered that he and his partner had donated $10,000 to help pass a referendum in the School District that Keith Dixon moved onto after leaving Duluth. No doubt with all his Red Plan earnings that was a cheap way to repay Dr. Dixon. And who knows. Dixon would have put in a good word for him if Centennial had decided it needed to build more schools.

This City Pages story lists outrageous percentages being paid to sub contractors. Funny thing is that these outrageous percentages for the Prior Lake Project and others pales compared to the highway robbery percentages paid out to JCI in the Red Plan.

JCI’s satan’s spawn, M David, has struck again – in Prior Lake

From this month’s City Pages: A consultant sinks its talons into Prior Lake schools for very big money:

…….The business of public education has spawned a specialized kind of vendor. They’re called construction services managers. They serve as consultants, assessing facilities operations and planning for future needs.

But these companies don’t just consult. They parlay their expertise into managing the very work they say is needed, providing incentive for them to urge as much building as possible. They oversee refurbishments and new construction from planning to completion, collecting fees with each move.

Some districts separate consulting from construction management. In 2010, Wayzata summoned public bids to assess its facilities. Nine firms applied, with Wold Architects and Engineers securing the $78,000 contract.

Wold would later earn Wayzata’s architectural and engineering work, but the firm had to reapply for that job. Kraus-Anderson would score the construction manager contract.

School board member Melissa Enger has often stood alone in questioning the wisdom of the district’s contract with Nexus Solutions.

By contrast, Prior Lake seemed to do as little as possible to protect its money.

Instead of putting out a public request for consulting proposals, the district used word-of-mouth, admits business director Julie Cink.

ICS Consulting of Blaine had other public school clients, including Shakopee, Fairmont, and Pequot Lakes. It offered to evaluate Prior Lake for a lump sum not to exceed $19,000.

The company also proposed to take on the role of “program manager,” overseeing everything from engineering to construction. It again pitched a lump fee based on the total budget, which would later be estimated to fall somewhere between $3 and $5 million.

There are advantages to having one firm handle both roles. The upside is cohesion from start to finish. But the risk is an incentive to increase costs.

Nexus wasn’t officially a company in the spring of 2012. It wouldn’t register with the Minnesota Secretary of State until June.

Its principals, Michael David and Brent Jones, had parted ways with their longtime employer, Johnson Controls, where they amassed decades of experience in energy use and facilities management. They’d been part of Johnson’s team overseeing Duluth’s ambitious school plan.

By all accounts, the $315 million project on the North Shore was a show. Duluth needed to slim its existing buildings, renovate others, and build anew. The result, according to projections, would be stable financial footing by way of $122 million in savings over 18 years.

Johnson’s promises of savings fell woefully short. They were compounded by budget overruns, increased fees, and money for unbudgeted expenses like temporary heating and additional personnel.

What was originally a $296 million plan ballooned by $19 million.

But Duluth’s pain proved Johnson’s gain. According to the district’s director of business services, Johnson received almost $57 million for its work — with nearly $45 million coming in various fees.

“Our schools were supposed to be in good shape for decades, is how it was presented by Johnson Controls and the people supporting the plan,” says Sharla Gardner, a former Duluth city councilwoman.

“If it was possible to do again, I know there’s no way, no way at all, the community would choose the same. The new buildings are nice, I will say that. But at what cost? It hasn’t been worth the dollars or the harm it’s done.”

Duluth’s lessons would be lost 220 miles to the south.

No one seems willing to say how Nexus discovered Prior Lake, or vice versa. What is known is that Nexus pitched itself as the total package. For $95,000, the company would assess Prior Lake’s needs.

The bid came in at $76,000 more than ICS’. It also came with the “understanding” that Nexus would also be contracted “for all professional services required to implement this work.”

In other words, ICS had offered a $19,000 first date. Nexus was proposing a multimillion-dollar marriage, with a lot more strings attached.

Nexus also pitched fees seemingly well above what other districts were paying. Architectural services came in at almost 8 percent. Engineering, close to 9 percent. Construction management, nearly 6 percent.

Compare these with what Wayzata schools paid. In 2014, voters approved a $109 million building and technology funding referendum. According to Finance Director Jim Westrum, Wold Architects and Engineers fixed fees averaged out to be about 6.5 percent. Kraus-Anderson, the construction services manager, earned slightly more than 2 percent. It also agreed to a cap “for site services and fees” that wouldn’t “exceed $2,120,205.”

Edina found cheaper work as well…………

A followup to the last post

I will encourage the parents who have offered to help replace the tire mulch in Duluth’s school playgrounds to consider a less back breaking alternative. Lobby the State legislature in the next couple months to excuse the Duluth Schools from a law preventing us from using our “capital” reserves for mulch replacement before our playgrounds are considered to be in need of repair.

What will need to be done.

l. We need the help of our area legislators to author a bill that will make this change possible.

2. We will need to send a bus or two full of Duluth parents to lobby legislators for the change.

3. We need both houses to pass the law before this year’s session ends. If its done soon enough the Duluth School Board will be able to act without any threat to classroom spending.

The lobbying could be very effective if we tell each legislator in person these simple points. A. – Such a change in the law will not affect the State’s spending one whit but only the spending of capital funds in the Duluth School Dstrict. B. This is the ultimate example of “local control” and honoring the will of the voters in Duluth. Both of these arguments will be especially effective with Republicans who have taken the majority in both the House and the Senate.

In the face of these arguments the possibility that tire mulch is not toxic will drop away. As long as its Duluth paying for it St. Paul shouldn’t object very much. As for the voters of Duluth. If they are assured that mulch replacement will not put any further strains on our classrooms I think the Duluth School board will be forgiven for showing an “abundance of caution.”

One of many emails concerning rubber tire mulch

Jan 18 (9 days ago)

to Art, anne.harala, david.kirby, rosalie, alanna.oswald, Nora, me

Thank you for sharing these slides. I will read through them when I have more time and I will share the information with parents at Myers Wilkins. The summary of data you provided above really helps to put the budget into perspective. I hope that you will communicate this with the larger public.

I attended the meeting last night not to undo the work of DPHP or to undermine the mothers from Lowell, or to confuse board members, but to ease my conscience.

I wrote the Literature Review that helped to convince you and the public to take our group seriously and then I was taken to task by someone with far more expertise than anyone I know on the subject. She read my report and reviewed the articles I cited and accused me of having confirmation bias. As someone who teaches students at UMD how to conduct responsible primary and secondary research, I realized that I had not heeded my own advice to “weigh the evidence and then carefully consider: could someone else use the same evidence to draw the opposite conclusion?” That was when I realized that yes, they could. It helps to explain why the product remains unregulated.

It has also helped me to realize that being a responsible researcher is not always compatible with being a successful activist.

I am not saying that the fears around the mulch are unfounded- but I wanted to establish that replacing the mulch might not be as urgent as I originally thought.

I am very pleased with last night’s outcome. I applaud the Board for choosing EWF and rejecting another tire waste product and for requesting multiple bids that will consider different timelines and numbers of playgrounds.

My reply:

Thank you ***** for your work,

I find it impossible to fault anyone willing to be so open about their research and willing to acknowledge the possibility of “confirmation bias” in their “activism.”

I have always been and remain skeptical of the danger of toxicity in our tire mulch. That said, I also understand that once fears are raised they are hard to stamp out – witness the crusade to avoid childhood vaccinations.

Even though the early research has not yet shown a threat of toxicity and even though we can’t anticipate that future studies will confirm this I can’t completely ignore the alarm that the threat of toxicity has raised locally. I will ultimately make up my mind based on several factors. 1. worries of future enrollment losses due to families who feel the District has not been supportive. 2. the threat of removing operational money from the classroom for this “capital” expenditure. If the latter can be avoided it will be easier for me to vote to change out the tire mulch.

Because the bids will take roughly 90 days to be returned and because they may allow us to spread costs out over two or three years I have some time to ponder this expenditure. l will also be encouraging parents to lobby the legislature to change a law that prevents us from tapping into our capital moneys for the mulch replacement before the playgrounds are considered to be in need of it.

I understand that some parents have been unhappy to hear your apparent change of heart but that only confirms your sincerity and scrupulousness. Science is under threat from many sides these days so much so that I’m thinking about traveling to Washington D.C. for the protest march in defense of scientists.

If I should vote to replace the mulch before its due date it will not be because I was pushed by your earliest concerns which you had every right and even the responsibility to share with us. It will be based on a rational calculation about what is best for the District and the peace of mind of our families.


Harry Welty

Selling Nettleton Elementary

The Trib has caught on to and reported the several offers for the empty Nettleton school which the school board has received. Although the Administration has suggested we are hemmed in and must accept the offer mentioned in today’s story on ethical grounds the Board has yet to vote on the offer. Meanwhile another offer, slightly more generous, was made by Many Rivers Montessori, was made shortly afterwards, and runs afoul of our controversial policy not to sell an old school to a “competitor.”

The Board will be asked to make a decision soon and I suspect there will be discussions about “good faith” offers the policy and the ISD 709 budget.

Shall We Dance?

I figure that I have several audiences of this blog. The one that is preeminent to me is – me. It’s not just the “Harry’s Diary” entries its all of them. I suspect some readers are interested in what I disclose about myself too although I doubt that this is a huge percentage. Interestingly, I know of no family members who read my blog. Another group would be people who are interested to know that is happening in the school district. This may be the largest group. Another group might be folks who have discovered a different voice on the subject of politics in general.

Because I receive so little feedback I just don’t know. I don’t know which audience I have disappointed the mosy by my recent blog drought. As I indicated in recent posts I’m preoccupied with what may very well turn out to be my last meeting with my Uncle. I just haven’t had the concentration to write and edit posts even on subjects of great interest to me. I am setting aside some time tonight and tomorrow morning to blog a little but I can’t guarantee which of my audiences will be pleased. This post is about family.

I have had a marvelous time with my Uncle and his family for the past three days. Tomorrow will be my last before I fly home to Duluth on Saturday. The tone for this mini reunion was set within moments of stepping into Uncle Frank’s home and shaking his hand and launching into some time tested family joshing. He was flat on his back in his new permanent bedroom in the living room. If he wasn’t pleased as punch to see me he is one heck of an actor. I was certainly glad to see him and see him in good spirits.

Here’s what Uncle Frank can see from his Denver apartment.

I came in part to interview my Uncle about family history. So far I’ve taken seven dense pages worth of notes including on a long forbidden topic – his service in Korea. He has also given me some nice anecdotes on the subject of my Grandfather, George Robb. They were neighbors briefly before Frank went off to war.

Now, on to the dance. My cousin Devin shared a memory with me which led to another one from his Mother, my Aunt Shalah. They both told me about my Father’s dancing and reminded me of my experience with Dad on that subject.

1st – Devin took a while to find his way as a young man. After a less than middling public school experience some advisor suggested that he consider veterinary medicine. He likes animals. As a kid he loved the books of Gerald Durrell about that author’s quirky love of animals which blossomed on the Greek Island of Corfu. Some of you will jump and say you have just been watching that story unfold on Public Television.

Devin wrote an admiring letter to Mr. Durrell who ran a private zoo on Britain’s Jerrsey island which is so close to the French coast that the Nazi’s captured and held it all through the 2nd World War. Durrell offered my cousin a job working on the island and, by coincidence, my parents decided to take a European trip with my sister that summer. They added Jersey to their itinerary and after getting the Island tour they took Devin to the French mainland for a little exploration which ended most unexpectedly at a ballroom. Devin told me he was astonished at what an accomplished ballroom dancers my parents were.

2nd – Now I must share the link to a column I wrote long ago about my experience with my Father vis-à-vis dancing You really must read it before continuing to my Aunt’s recollection –

I mean it. Don’t go any further until you follow the link above and read that old reminiscence.

3rd – Finally, Aunt Shalah set me straight. In the late 1940’s Dad came back to Kansas from the navy and enrolled in college. He was as enthusiastic about dancing as he had been in high school. He regularly attended college dances. My Aunt Shalah said that there was a collection of about eight young lady friends who clustered together at these dances where my Father was a regular and avid dancer.

Sadly, none of the young ladies were eager to dance with Dan Welty – a second time. They would warily keep their eyes open for him lest he stride into their midst. Properly alerted some of them would try to make their escape to the powder room. Hiding rarely worked for long.

My Father was universally regarded as a terrible dancer. He would suddenly move in a different direction without advance warning or take two steps where one would have been called for. And he so wanted to dance with every girl. Seldom did the members of this clutch of maidens evade a trip to the ballroom floor with my father.

The significance of this story has little to do with dancing, however. It has everything to do with my current mania for collecting family stories. Its significance? Never rely on a single source in your pursuit of the truth. You may be Trumped.

US Education Amway style

AFT President Randi Weingarten visited Lincoln Middle School yesterday. I would have been tempted to stop by had I been paying attention. I’m not sure I was notified of the visit because I haven’t been reading all my District related email lately. I did a mass mailing related to mulch about two weeks ago and haven’t been reading much more than the subject headings of new email since.

I’m not much into rubbing shoulders with big shots but there was one American Federation of Teachers President whose visit to Duluth I’ve always regetted missing. His name was Al Shanker and he wasn’t always the apple of my eye. I see I’ve mentioned him three times over the past decade in the blog.

Once a bitter foe of Ronald Reagan’s the two became buds and championed similar efforts to improve public education through something called charter schools which were intended to eliminate bureaucracy and be more child centered. Over the past forty years a lot has happened to that movement and its a very mixed bag.

Ms. Weingarten was visiting Lincoln to find out about its efforts to become a “Community School” like the Myers Wilkin school. Among the most notable thing teachers in such a school are asked to do is make home visits to make connections with their student’s families. Its an idea I thought made a lot of sense twenty years ago or even longer. I think I still have my copy of 36 Children somewhere that I read forty years ago. The Harvard educated teacher spent one year in a Harlem School. Of course, it takes a lifetime to make a difference. The one year is like slumming even if it resulted in a nice little book.

Brenda Vatthaur is one of the great principals we’ve hired into ISD 709 recently. She put on a presentation about Lincoln MS’s work at the MSBA convention a couple weeks ago which I attended. She’s been there more than a single year despite that first year nearly killing her. She recommended a couple books to read for those of us in her audience. I jotted down their names for future reference……if I ever find time.

The AFT President had a couple choice words to share about Trumps nominee to take over the Department of Education. Betsy DeVos is another billionaire having married into Amway royalty. The most troubling story I’ve read about her efforts at reform put her in the same category as the Koch Brothers who are using Citizens United to pummel politicians with their vast wealth. Don’t expect any cordial detente like the one between Reagan and Shanker with Secretary DeVos.

If I was a senator I wouldn’t vote for her to be the next Secretary of Education. I’m afraid she will push public education into another pyramid scheme like Amway. I once was approached to become an Amway slave to help it build its pyramid and make a fortune for its pharaohs.

And to be clear. Its not the charter schools I object to so much. Its vouchers, especially when the life is sucked out of public schools in order to justify replacing them with “for profits.”

Snow Sculpting was about my sixth priority this week

I moved it to number 4 because I’m leaving town tomorrow. I wanted to finish one while the balmy sculpting weather continues. It will be interesting to see how Jabba holds up through one more day forecast in the mid-thirties.

I had a lot to spout off about but the posts had to wait their turn behind more important obligations.

My top priority was angling to get an OK to visit my Uncle in Colorado. I got it by buttering him up with a letter and an old column I wrote about him a dozen years ago. It’s been a while since I last linked to this old column about my Uncle. My cousin said he enjoyed it when she read it to him. His arms went useless a month ago so he couldn’t hold it himself.

And here’s a link to another column of mine about a “spineless bastard” which is mentioned in the first column. This will have to tide my eight loyal readers over until tomorrow.

God Bless America

I just witnessed the storied peaceful transfer of power in our nation’s capitol. There were several thoughtful speeches and a recitation of the Beatitudes before Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” reprised his victory tour speech “I won. You lost.”

Commentators, somewhat taken aback, didn’t immediately know what to make of it but there is no doubt that his loyalist 30 percent were thrilled by his plain fourth grade speaking. For me, and a lot of other people, our new President’s speech was little like a forest of middle fingers.

God bless America.

Taking a drink under Niagara Falls

Every now and then I’ll write a post with references to the multiple issues and activities that consume me often to the point of keeping me from sleeping. The previous post was a riff on grappling with too much.

In keeping with the “priority” I mentioned in a previous post rather than filling in the last post’s outline I spent hours writing a farewell letter to my Uncle. I hope he will last long enough to read it. That may depend on the alacrity of the US Postal Service, (these days mailing it from Duluth adds an extra day to the delivery time. I may have to fax it to Denver.)

The act of creation takes time and yesterday I was paralyzed in the teeth of half a dozen subjects. That morning it was easier to go out and chop December’s ice off my sidewalks. I devoted the afternoon to family concerns but the other half dozen matters, mulch, the recent School Board Conference, School District attorneys, the presidential inauguration, appeals for snow sculpting etc. will not go away.

If you are keen read about matters related to the School Board and impatient for me to return to that subject let me suggest last Friday’s column, First Among Equals, by Loren Martell. He describes a School Board meeting that was a little more fraught than this Tuesday’s interminably long affair.

And as to this week’s meeting – since it has been explained (incorrectly) that we have approved rubber mulch replacement this summer despite a study saying rubber mulch poses no health risk (still debatable) you might watch some of the ninety minutes we spent at the last meeting deciding how to approach the turf replacement. Hint – its still not a done deal!


The Trib has covered one of what should be two of my top priorities today. That would be playground mulch. I’ve gotten a couple dozen emails on the subject and at tonight’s meeting we will make some sort of decision on how to proceed.

The other issue is our Budget and a comparrison of how it is distributed among our dozen schools. I’ve just printed out thirty sheets of PDF’s sent to me in advance of a 5PM meeting to be held in room 318 of Old Central. Feel free to drop by.

I’ve not gotten around to posting any more about the recent MSBA conference. Too bad.

What’s most on my mind is my ornery Uncle Frank who has made a few appearances in the blog and in my old Duluth Reader column.

Thirty years ago Uncle Frank came to Mankato to be with my Dad, his older brother, when my Dad was dying of cancer. Today its my Uncle Frank’s turn. His cancer has spread suddenly and he plans to take advantage of a new law in Colorado permitting sick Coloradans to die. He plans to pull the plug very soon and he’s not interested in taking calls. Damn! I just sent him a hundred pages of family docs and news stories so I could pry some good family stories out of him. (Was that stampede of horses that almost ran him over while he sat on his tricycle from a circus or the slaughter house?) I never got the chance to do that with my Dad. Now I’ve let Uncle Frank slip through my fingers.

I’d sure like to give him one last phone call for old time’s sake. Hell, I’d drive out to Colorado in a heartbeat. I could give a damn whether he can move his arms or has to be spoon fed. But I agree. Its his call.

And Uncle Frank. If you ever connect to the infernal Internet after you get to heaven……Yeah, I’m shedding a few tears right now.

My first march since 1973

I don’t do marches. My last two were during Vietnam. As a Freshman in 1969 I was one of many students who blocked the main intersection in Mankato, Minnesota, on Front and Main. I concluded afterward that inconveniencing so many people was a counterproductive way to make a statement.

I did participate in another march during which a thousand students and townspeople peacefully marched against the Vietnam War in 1972. It followed an impromptu march the day before during which students blocked State Highway 169. I had already made up my mind in 69 about counter-productivity so I stayed away. That decision was reinforced when I saw the drugged up kid who tried to kick me where it counts in junior high heading to the highway to enjoy some mayhem.

A lot of the hangers on at the highway left wine bottle and beer cans behind which were noted in press accounts that night as well as the holding up of an ambulance with a sick occupant.

As I noted I did participate in the next day’s peaceful march which terminated at the campus. Afterwards a couple thousand marchers seated themselves in the middle of the campus to hear speakers talk about the war. One group of protesters who were burned about the news coverage from the previous day stood up and began demanding that a Twin City reporter come to the stage and explain his embarrassing coverage of the beer bottles which offended the protesters dignity. A little shakily the reporter moved to the microphone and haltingly started to explain that he simply reported what he had seen. At this the howling band of idealists began screaming and shouting him down.

From the back of the audience I felt rage welling up inside me and I shouted at the top of my lungs “SHUT UP YOU SON OF A BITCHES AND LET THE MAN SPEAK.” Startled, they shut up. It was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.

Yesterday I participated in my second march in 45 years. It was for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.

I hadn’t planned on attending. Instead I was going to meet with a District employee to talk about matters affecting minority students, among other things. While I would be doing this Claudia had planned to take our older grandson with her to march in the MLK Jr. proceedings. I got to my meeting and discovered it had been canceled. A message had been left on my land line which I’ve gotten into the habit of ignoring in these cell phone days. So, I called Claudia and told her I’d meet her and my grandson at Washington Junior where the march was set to begin. Anxiety about Donald Trump and mild weather brought out a huge crowd. I’d guess there was about 700 or 800 people.

A lady next to me complimented me on my voice as we sang We Shall Overcome. I’m not sure what my grandson made of his grandparents shouting PEACE NOW! in cadence.

After a typically disorganized series of local NAACP speakers I was afraid of losing my Grandson’s interest. I leaned over to give him some sense of the importance of the event by telling him that when I was in second grade I was sent to the playground while black children were marched into our new integrated school holding their chairs and books from the Old segregated Buchanan Elementary School.

There was one very fine thing at the Auditorium. The Chief of the Superior Police was asked to speak and he was generous, helpful and reasonable. He mentioned that he had been hired in part by the NAACP’s local president three years earlier. In fact, the area police who helped lead the way for the march were out in very helpful force. I nodded to retired officer and retired Human Rights Officer Bob Grytdahl who was sitting a few seats from mine.

One of the nice ironies of the march was that there were more white marchers than minority marchers. Another nice irony was that we passed many minority marchers who were probably surprised to see us having not planned to march themselves. As a once-in-a-great-while marcher myself I have to say feeling obligated to protest isn’t my strong suite either.