After the Civil War 2 – “Little Billy Gronseth from Morgan Park”

That’s how Superintendent Gronseth described himself to me when he introduced himself to me after the last School Board meeting. He was puzzled and a little hurt that I had not yet taken up his offer to candidates to meet with them. Self effacement (a form of modesty) is an attractive quality.

Having survived the primary without much campaigning in the number 2 position I thought the time had come to meet “little Billy.” We were both big mysteries to each other. Bill knew me as the wild man who used voodoo and wanted to sow confusion in the School System and as the implacable enemy of the many who chose him to be the assistant Superintendent. I knew Bill only as the man chosen by my nemesis and the man who was obviously in line for the job after the Board hired a disastrously ill prepared replacement for that nemesis.

We laughed a lot as we shared stories. I did comment that I’d gotten along famously with Dr. Dixon on my first meeting with him shortly after he had been hired but before he’d embarked on the Red Plan. Caution is always well advised in cases of match making.

In addition to the voodoo experience he was interested to know what I’d meant by saying my actions would confuse the public. I told him that was the worst example of the Trib taking something I’d said and wringing the wrong conclusion from them. It was an early skirmish in the Red Plan and even my own Let Duluth Vote allies were appalled. I couldn’t even defend myself at the time because I was quoted correctly. I gave the reporter grief for it. I have long conversations on them to avoid just that kind of misinformation giving them lots of quote possiblities but with the purpose of making sure they understand what I’m thinking. In this case the quote was accurate but an instance of missing the point I was trying to get straight. It was a little like the time President Ford who had been in Congress though much of the Cold War said that the Russians did not run Poland. He was crucified for it as though he had said that Poland was completely free from Soviet control.

That’s when I was first told by a Reporter that it was editors not reporters that wrote the headlines. Grrrrrrrrrr. Its how editors assure people buy their newspapers. Its how I assure that my “eight loyal readers” (my tired old joke) keep coming back to the blog. The Interesting is sometimes the enemy of the Accurate.

It was only an hour-long meeting and I told the Superintendent that if I got elected we’d have time to plumb much further. I told him I’d already formed two impressions. The first was his self description “little Billy…” I told him that I took it as a sense of humility which I assured him I found very positive. I also told him his asking me about my voodoo ceremony right after my vague comment that I knew he didn’t always smile as much as he has been smiling lately suggested to me that either he or his friends read my blog. He smiled and admitted to having other’s alert him to my blog’s pot shots.

I told Gronseth that when I was on the Board one superintendent always made sure to show the board members the biweekly ranting of Teacher Union President Frank Wanner and how much I appreciated getting it. I also joked that Supt. Almanza stopped handing them out leaving me in the dark. By that time Almanza was well aware that I was publishing them in my old website and challenging Wanner’s assertions. Gronseth said that Frank was still lobbing his grenades. That’s not how he put it. Lobbing is my word. When I showed the Superintendent my current handout he read it and said it reminded him of Wanner’s style. I laughed.

The flyer has at least one mistake that I’ll have to own up to in a later post and in some way address before handing more of them out. In fact, I got a sense of a number of contentions of mine that are a little off base. I’ll talk about them in later posts as well.

Bill told me a couple of things about myself that I found very interesting. He’s a slight man and that does not give any hint of his having the heft to run something as fractious as the Duluth School System. That’s deceptive. Right after high school he was given a management position in the retail clothing industry tasked with going around to troubled franchises and reorganizing them. I asked him how old he was when he fired his first employee. Answer, 18! I’ve never fired anyone.

That job was a natural fit for Bill because of the turn in his families fortunes when he was very young two years old I think. His father who ran a service station in Morgan Park was broadsided by a drunk when he was riding a snow mobile. He must have been nearly killed. Bill said that over the next few years he went through endless operations. The number 25 sticks in my head. As a result his mother had to become a full time worker and she turned out to be a natural climbing up from insurance sales to real estate and her own business. When Bill’s father recovered sufficiently the family took over the Gambles store in Morgan Park and Bill worked the store in every capacity.

Bill’s older brothers always told him to go to college. His Mother hoped he would become a doctor. Eventually he enrolled in UMD intent on a pre-med education but switched his directions seven times until settling on an Education degree.

As for my and many other people’s suspicion that he was selected by Dr. Dixon to be his minion Bill shrugged that off. Dixon was all over the Red Plan and left the running of the District to Bill just as he had Bill Westholm and Joe Hill before Gronseth. Dixon got rid of previous assistant superintendents and handed their various jobs to Gronseth. I’ve always known that position had to be a handful and Gronseth says he was largely unaware of what all was going on with the Red Plan. Its only since Dixon’s departure that Gronseth has had to deal with it. That began when the School Board hired the not so Dr. Foster who never got around to getting a Minnesota Superintendent’s license. Foster had come to Duluth absolutely determined to know nothing about the Red Plan and with no intention of dealing with it. That alone made him unfit for the job and he was soon out of it. During that time Gronseth had to find out what the Red Plan meant and had little choice but to finish it off.

I can’t fault him for that. I can gnash my teeth over the friendly relationship he had with Dr. Dixon but that too is irrelevent to running the Duluth Schools. After all, to me Keith Dixon is an unrepentant liar and sociopath whose charisma conned the people of Duluth out of their vote, saddled them with a grandiose building plan and on and on and on………… Dixon is a subject Gronseth and I will simply have to agree to disagree with. If I’m elected we’ll both be too busy keeping the school system afloat to worry about this difference of opinion.

In this Gronseth is an optimist. He sees only good things for the future of the Schools where I see a great many shoals. Both attitudes will be needed in the pilot’s house.

If an when I get their I should be able to shuck off six years worth of paranoia about the Administration. I’ll gladly hand it off to my critics.

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