A messenger from ISD 709 replies to a whistle blower

Nobody likes a whistle blower, except me.

These emails which I received yesterday need a serious preface.

These are the last two emails between Michelle Porter of our Human Resources Office and an outcast teacher candidate, Alanna Oswald. Very Coincidentally, these are both former students of mine.

About Michelle,

I taught her in 84-85 at Washington Junior High (now closed). I didn’t recall her upon meeting her again to get my photo taken for my ISD 709 ID, as I only taught one year at the school. She, however, remembered me. I apologized for whatever mistakes I made teaching her class. That’s my standard line with former students. She laughed and kindly lied telling me I was OK as far as she could remember. I really liked meeting her again thirty years on. She’s just the kind of person I want in our HR Department.

About Alanna,

I taught her sometime between 1985-87 at Morgan Park Junior High (now closed). I have a slightly better memory of her but only slightly. Perhaps it was aided by being at MP for two years and not just one. She spells out her impressive credentials in her email that Michelle has been tasked to dismiss as inadequate for the job being posted.

Alanna, offers an apology to Michelle and says that she understands that Michelle is only the messenger. They used to kill messengers of bad tidings in the old days. Alanna is not vindictive even while she remains a nail that stands too tall and in danger of being hammered down.

Alanna has committed at least two crimes in the last two years. One, she informed the Minnesota Dept. of Education that while they were pumping a million dollars into Laura MacArthur Elementary, Laura Mac was dispensing to a considerable degree with the teaching of state mandated subjects other than math and reading. This so embarrassed the MDE that it punished Duluth by requiring that it “align all its curriculum and do it yesterday. Yesterday was last Summer. I think they even have given us some money to do this. As punishments go it was very rewarding. Since then the Superintendent has begun recreating a Curriculum Department that Supt. Dixon had dismantled at more general fund dollars went to pay for building bonds. That Duluth scrapped this vital District apparatus was a little short of breathtaking.

Alana’s second crime was being unwilling to sneak around while ratting out the District. Who the hell does she think she is? Me!

My readers will no doubt find my enthusiasm for Alanna unsurprising. In fact, I’ve asked her several times to consider running for the School Board. The resume in her email is only a shadow of the skills and knowledge she possesses. A lot of the educational gobbledygook that drives me nuts she understands very well. I could use a good interpreter on the School Board. She is a regular participant in MDE functions and serves on MDE statewide committees.

When I was reintroduced to Alanna I found out about a personal history that floored me. Her mother committing suicide when she was a kid at Morgan Park was just the tip of the iceberg. It was the sort of beginning that destroys some people’s spirits or makes them resilient and thick skinned. Alanna is the latter. I wouldn’t put diplomacy high on her list of character flaws but I would say she has the remarkable humility to acknowledge that she doesn’t know everything. She also is generous with her praise. When I asked her if I could post her email and this commentary she agreed. To my question about what I might add she said this:

“The only thing I would add, if I was the writer, is that the teachers in the district while I was attending junior high and Denfeld were the people who helped raise me and helped hold me together when it all could have fallen apart.”

Alanna makes an unnamed appearance in the New’s Tribune’s big Thursday story about the Minnesota test results. She is the parent who told the MDE that the District wasn’t teaching all the required subjects. The MDE must have believed her because as a result they forced the alignment on the District that our teachers labored to correct all Summer.

This is a sore point with our administration. The much-lauded principal of Laura Mac, who has every reason to savor his school’s success bristled at the suggestion that science wasn’t being taught at Laura Mac. There is a lot of he said/she said in the differences between them but the fact is that Nathan Glockle and Alanna’s tussle have made the District a better place. He resurrected Lazarus Alanna got the District to put its Curriculum Department in order under the watchful eye of the Minnesota Dept. of Education.

I have heard that genius or some such thing is the ability to hold too contradictory thoughts in your head at the same time. I see the intense focus on just two subjects as a precursor to Laura Mac’s success and hope for these students long after they leave that school for middle school and high school. I see Alanna’s insistence on the teaching of history and science and social studies as precursors to giving students an appreciation for the world they live in. The contest between these two made our schools better.

On the other hand, Nathan is in the inner circle and Alanna, talented as she is, has been branded a troublemaker. Currently, the inner circle is doing everything in its power to punish her for her crimes.

I have no use for using the wheels of bureaucracy to penalize folks who think outside the box. If Alanna doesn’t get a job she will have plenty of time to campaign next year for that school board seat I’ve encouraged her to try for. I promised to help her raise campaign funds.
Here’s the email Alanna received from the HR Dept. after her third or fourth inquiry concerning a job she is applied for:

On Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 11:25 AM, michelle.porter@isd709.org(Michelle Porter) wrote:

Dear Alanna Oswald,

Thank you for applying for the position of Diversity Integration Specialist Systems-American Indian Focus. After further review of your applications and any other documents submitted, you do not meet the minimum qualifications of the position. The minimum qualification for this position as stated in the posting are “requires a minimum of a baccalaureate degree in education, social science, human services or a closely-related field and at least one year experience successfully working with American Indian youth in a school or community agency setting…”

Please watch our website at www.isd709.orgfor other postings that meet your qualification. Good luck in your career search.

Here is Alanna’s reply to this institutional brush off in which she addresses me and other folks receiving her reply to the HR Dept.:

Human Resources Department
Duluth Public Schools
On Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 11:59 AM, Alanna Oswald wrote:


Thank you for the response. I am in awe of how this comes about, as you are the one who contacted me about this job interview. I know you are the messenger. I also know I was picked through the application process without a name attached to me. Whoever told you to type up this reason obviously just needed a reason to let me know.

For those included on this email that do not know the history, Michelle told me last Thursday I was awarded an interview for the Diversity Integration Specialist Position 30hrs/wk. I did not get the email she told me to expect on Monday, and when I inquired why, the response she forwarded to me is below my words. The reason is purely fictitious, as most of you are sure to recognize.

I have a Master’s Degree in Education from the College of St. Scholastica. I have over 3 years of working with current Integration Specialists with their caseloads of students., I have 5+ years of teaching experience with Native American students AND all minority populations. I have worked with the Native American community 2+ years during the Race, Culture, and Achievement Gap pursuits in the district, and advocating for them in the 7+ years ever since. I have been interviewed for Integration Specialist Positions before, losing out to people of color in efforts to hire a more colorful, community reflective staff, without holding a grudge knowing this is needed. This is why I waited until the 3rd reposting of this job before applying. I would already be an integration specialist, if Ron Hagland had his way. I didn’t apply for the initial ISpec jobs on time because I know they were meant for persons of color. When Ron asked the day after the postings closed if I applied and I said no, he fought to get me into the candidate pool because he wanted me to be one of them. I was denied. I have glowing recommendations from prominent Native Americans Ron Hagland, and Dr. Bob Powless, as being a wonderful advocate for the Native American Community. I have worked tirelessly for underrepresented populations in my 10-year journey in education at all levels, from individual to community to state. These are detailed in my application, and impressed the application review committee enough to determine I was worthy of an interview… BEFORE my name was attached to it, as application reviews do not include names. Discrimination is what it is called. I am worse than having no one for a job in the district’s eyes it appears.

I more than meet the minimum requirements. This reasoning is biased, but a reason is needed as to why Alanna Oswald is not going to be given an opportunity. Its only the students who are losing out, as I would work tirelessly to help them succeed in a culturally oppressive system. This is a shame, and shameful of the district.

I may explore what legal options I have. This appears it would be breaking many employment laws. I’m sorry to vent to you, Michelle. This is meant for the much bigger names included on this email.

And by the way, I was in the process of writing my response to today’s newspaper article about MacArthur when I was interrupted by this email. When you read that, know this email has no affect on that email.

Alanna Oswald

Gosh, We need more folks like this on the School Board! Students who know how necessary it is to keep asking questions.

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