Re: Snake in the Grass Post/email

Here’s a well written take on the snake in the grass email I just posted.

It comes from a voter who has my lawnsigns in the yard. Like me the writer has real sympathy for the fellow who beat the crap out of me. I will never blame any Duluth voter who votes against the levies for either a feeling of betrayal or for voting to stop what they see as the School District’s taxation excess. I simply can’t. In a post following this I will quote from this post to make my case for voting for the levies: In the meantime, I leave you with a defense of the snake in the grass email:

Good Evening Harry,
I read the blog or maybe I should say the rant you published this morning. My initial reaction was this guy is crazed. So, I read it again and then again and again. Aside from the unnecessary degrading of your position, which I think he is just plain wrong about, I began to see the level of frustration and much of what is said is not just vile hatred, but really conveys much of what many of us “older fixed income” folks are feeling.

I know you were an adamant opponent of the red plan so I don’t see those myopic views were shared by you.

I think I mentioned to you that I want to see you win one of the at-large seats, but that I couldn’t get behind either of the tax levies. Since that time, I have found myself growing more committed to a NO vote on the levies.

I, like the writer, am particularly insulted by the “It’s for the kids” banner, this is a thinly veiled attempt at making parents feel guilty, and anyone who has looked at the schools realizes that most of what was done was about facilities, corporate greed and ego; and nothing more. I am kind of with the writer regarding letting the board and the administration lie in the mess they created. I can’t vote for Art Johnston, but if I could I would. He has had the guts to stand up to Johnson Controls, the School Board and the Administration and I noticed it was very lonely for him, but his fortitude is immense.

Our families just cannot afford any more. Maybe the State will step in and force the levy, but that’s good. I personally hope there is not a corner of the state that isn’t aware of Duluth’s folly.

I am also hopeful that Hermantown rejects the bonding issue they are facing now. Johnson Controls cannot be trusted and the people of Hermantown will also wind up with a monster tax bill.

If I listen to the candidates for school board I hear just more of the foolishness the last boards have spewed. It seems we just don’t learn and throwing good money after bad is not the answer.

Now the Board seems poised to resist selling Central High School to the Edison School. Central High School must remain a high school, that site is not suited for anything else. They are terrified of Edison proving that Central was a perfect site. It is being disguised as “competition” the Duluth Schools don’t want because they will lose students to Edison. Well, we need the millions the real estate will bring, and, by the way, since when is competition bad? Anyone who has ever run a business can tell you, competition is the lifeblood of creativity; it causes businesses (schools) to get better. Duluth Schools are failing in their mission. Only 70% of our students graduate, only 27% of Native Americans graduate and only 40% of our African American students graduate. Nice record huh? So, we are failing, yet the School Board and the Administration want to hold the residents of Duluth to a flawed program. Why does Edison succeed? Do we really want to know? Or do we just keep going with the same philosophy protecting our shortcomings and failures by sophist arguments. We’ve had enough of that garbage.

During my primary years, I went to a small school. Two classes of about 8-10 students in each class. A single teacher taught one grade then said, “Take out your books and do the lessons.” She then moved to the other side of the room and taught another grade. This back and forth went on for the entire school day. No gym, no tennis courts, no football field, no baseball field, no soccer fields, not basketball courts and no hockey rinks. I remember the school very well, but I do not remember that any of the kids ever noticed that the grounds or school was inadequate. It was what was going on in the classroom; how inspiring was the teacher, how rich was the learning experience. In the early 90’s I had the opportunity to go to Sweden for business. My Swedish partners in Stockholm were very informed about the schools and the history of Sweden; one of my partners was a former schoolteacher and was more than willing to share the history, culture and geography of the Nordic countries. I was there for 10 days and had a marvelous experience and education. One day I was taken into Old Stockholm to view the way things were hundreds of years ago. Old Stockholm, was then, still a thriving business community with the historical castle as a centerpiece. I was querying my hosts about various things and happened on some school kids in a courtyard. When I asked where they went to school he pointed to a building, which he then described it as in the 500-year-old category. I can remember acting extremely surprised and he remarked that the Europeans just couldn’t understand the Americans. I began to think of the institutions and schools of Europe and realized how old these buildings are. Buildings are not important, teachers are, programs are; inspiration and curiosity is what drives learning and creativity, not buildings. Now we have buildings and nothing else. My granddaughter attends East High School and is very disappointed with her education. It is pathetic! Teachers have no time to teach or facilitate research or industry. They can’t even answer a student’s question, they are angry, and it shows. So, we failed our students and now we want more money to try to do it right again. Our students do not live in the world we are planning for them, they know it and it is part of the negative equation in education right now. Who will trust them? If they didn’t get it right going in, why should any taxpayer trust that they will a second time?

I have no confidence in the same people that engineered the Red Plan. The Duluth News Tribune, The Chamber of Commerce, the Duluth Teachers Union, Building Trades, prominent citizens who are members of the community whose disposable incomes can easily absorb the costs of the plan.
I am not as pessimistic about the future of the schools and their ability to get past this nightmare, as the writer, but I get his anger, I get his frustration and I get his passion to turn the system upside down. I get it!

I watched the At Large candidates, at the forum at Valentinis earlier this month and most of the candidate pretty much dodged the big questions. Annie Harala doesn’t know, Rosie, dodged issues, Joseph Matthes, and David Bolgrien had some good stuff to say, but my gut tells me it is the establishment all over again, Nancy Nilsen is totally unqualified based on her position with the Red Plan even if she touts her financial background; something is wrong with her claim, Henry Banks had some really positive things to say, and I liked his passion, but when it came to the properties for sale, I saw an intransient position and that troubles me personally. Only Art Johnston said it like it is, and while you have issues with Art I think your goals could easily coalesce. We need to stop the personality stuff and focus on solutions. If we really want to “do something for the kids” stuff the personal stuff where it belongs and Git-R-Done! It is too easy to just go to the counting room and get more money. There is a solution short of the levy increases and the board and administration need to roll up their sleeves and get creative. The procrustean bed the board and the administration has built for themselves needs to be retired and some innovative ideas need to be advanced. There is always a solution, even if in the beginning, we can’t see it.

We all have to lead our personal lives that way. Being retired, I know I can’t just go for a loan (that I can’t pay back) or ask my family for money, I’m not a kid anymore, my parents are dead, my friends are dead, my children have to manage their own affairs. I have to figure it out. I have no choice!

And I submit, neither the board nor the administration has a choice!