Gangrene Pt. 4 – My colorful vocabulary

I took it on the chin twice in letters to today’s Duluth News Tribune. I much admire this letter from a Stowe teacher who takes offense at my saying gangrene is spreading from west to east in Duluth:

According to Harry Welty and his Oct. 24 Candidate’s View column in the News Tribune (“School Board needs honest improvement”), “Now gangrene is spreading east from western Duluth. Our children are bused to other schools and test scores in western schools are in the single digits.”

The gangrene statement is downright appalling. I can’t believe anyone would make such an ignorant statement, let alone a person seeking to represent our community as a School Board member.

Also, the test-scores statement was incorrect. The single-digit numbers were not our students’ test scores. The single-digit number was a combination score given by the state after it calculated our growth, proficiency and achievement-gap reduction (between subgroups) as related to our performance on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. While that score is not where we want to be, the fact remains Welty either twisted the facts or he does not understand Minnesota Department of Education’s process of reporting school progress.

It is not in anyone’s best interest to have a representative who is divisive and uninformed.

First let me acknowledge that the letter writer is correct. The single digits I have referred to are not exactly test scores. They are the state’s appraisal of where we rank, or in her case, where Stowe school ranks among all schools. Like previous bureaucratic state crusades [eg.the nearly incomprehensible OBE (Outcome Based Education) that nearly pushed my son to get a GED] the new testing required by Minnesota requires crystal balls and a Doctorate in Education to understand. Still, for those poor souls who have neither of these to guide them what they see is a single digit ranking.

I know that Stowe classes are godawful crowded. One parent introduced me to her first or third grade daughter and told me there were 33 students in her Stowe Classroom. This is why parents are abandoning the Duluth Schools and that abandonment, not the teaching that Stowe teachers are attempting to offer in their overcrowded classrooms is the gangrene I refer to.

As I knocked on a door opposite Stowe I turned around to see a high school kid coming home wearing his Proctor Rails Jersey. “I just go to school where my friends do,” he told me when I said I was hoping to get him back to the ISD 709 schools.

This teacher is a great advocate of her school. We need that fierce pride and I do not mind that its fury was directed at me. It would, however, be put at better use by focusing on Johnson Controls. It would, however, be better focused on what Johnson Controls wrought. For their $85 million in earnings they drove 1,700 students away from ISD 709 schools. They got 180 teacher laid off. They oversaw a constant shuffling of students and faculty in their mad rush to get all 15 of their jobs done lickety split. These actions left this teacher’s class grossly overcrowded. One East student who’s bullying was probably overlooked by frantic staff during those mad days committed suicide in September. That bit of gangrene was in eastern Duluth not Western Duluth.

I learned some powerful vocabulary words from Mrs. Jones in my seventh grade English class. Among the vocabulary words I recall are Weimaraner, deshabille, cadaverous. I learned gangrene elsewhere but I learned from Mrs. Jones the importance of using vocabulary that clearly expressed my thoughts. So, just in case there are any doubts about what I mean by gangrene spreading through Western Duluth, this is its origin. A greedy, duplicitous, litigious Fortune 100 company ( 67 on Fortune Magazines top 100 ranking) with more employees than Duluth has Citizens reaped an unconscionable reward while impoverishing the school system I’ve been powerless to protect for the past six years.

Gangrene can be reversed like all infections. Art Johnston hopes to get some of this excessive payment back into the Duluth School budget. I do too. For Stowe School.

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