Our little thing – 1

A quick search on Wikipedia tells me that “little” is not originally part of the Sicilian Mafia’s term for itself, “our thing” or “Cosa Nostra.” I’m not sure where the “little” came from but since I’m talking about our public school hierarchy here rather than organized crime its seems more appropriate and less threatening to insert the qualifier “little.” We educate children. We don’t put people’s feet into cement before tossing them over a bridge into a river. Although, come to think of it, IV Foster might beg to differ.

This is a topic I’ve covered before. To commence this post I began by entering the term “parking pass” into my search engine which led me to a post I recalled composing a few years back in which I made this assertion:

I have felt for a long time that there is an unhealthy favoritism riddling the Duluth Schools which I believe is corrosive. I’m just not sure that my corrosive criticism will make things better. I’ll try to stick to simple criticism from now on.

And this led me to the post preceding it which I began by grimly describing how our closest relatives, chimpanzees, reacted to perceived unfairness. Its always a surprise to jump back and read my old posts.

I had hoped I could continue on the Board for another four years to, among other things, shine a light on special treatment and thus make it crawl back into the dark recesses from which it leaked out. However, if anything, my recent campaign seems only to have emboldened the will of the insiders. Alanna Oswald did send an email to the Superintendent when she discovered that the staff at Lincoln Middle School were actively campaigning for the Superintendent’s candidates. Mr. Gronseth dutifully sent out a mass email explaining to the staff that they couldn’t work on company time. But it was hard not to take this as a bit of a wink wink. I was disappointed driving down Woodland Avenue not long after only to find a Rosie sign in the lawn of one of our top administrators. I know its hard to turn Rosie down but really. Was it that hard to invoke administrative neutrality?

You will have to pardon me as I collect my thoughts on this subject. They really are all over the place. For instance, I’m reminded of a jailed friend of Don Boyd that I once met in southern Minnesota for coffee. This was a decade ago when I was hot to write about Duluth’s role in one of Minnesota’s biggest political scandals. The gentleman had once been a boy wonder of state politics and was loudly touted as likely to become the next DFL Governor. Instead, he insisted, he had been traduced by a cabal of DFLer’s who saw him as an impediment to their champion’s future. He asked me what I thought of Al Franken’s chances of getting the DFL nomination for US Senate as he hoped Al would prevail. In yet another example of my poor powers of prognostication, I told him that I really didn’t think Minnesota would elect a guy who had played the part of a nebbish in Saturday Night Live skits. The ex con was disappointed to hear that because Al’s main challenger was the prosecutor who had sent him to Sandstone Prison.

Ah, but that’s a story for another day. The book that I’ve been reading to Claudia really has me comparing notes. The story it tells makes it seem miraculous that Germany didn’t win the war. It portrays the British spy agencies of World War II as amazingly inept. They were made up of best buddies from England’s elite schools who, like JFK’s Vietnam advisers, were so smart they were stupid.They looked out for their own while dropping hundreds of their poorly trained spies behind enemy lines for immediate capture, incarceration and trips to German death camps. And the Dutch and French resistance fighters aiding them lost ten fold more lives through the incompetence of the British higher echelons. These were the folks “helping” to pave the way for the Normandy Invasion all the while covering their own behinds. With friends like them who needed enemies?

Did I mention that I’ve been going through old school annuals at the public library recently? I’ve been impressed at the number of students from year’s past who now teach and run the Duluth School District. Reminds me a bit of MI6.

Our school administrators, of course, talked trusting past school boards into adopting the finances that have so crippled today’s ISD 709. The worst of them are long gone now; board members and administrators; but the urge to insulate the hierarchy from criticism lives on.

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