I have my favorites but there is no one I listened to who does not promise to be a great improvement on all the departing board members.
By the way, my buddy sent me the critical sentence in the story explaining that all of the candidates agreed that they wouldn’t have voted to remove Art Johnston. He told me it would make me chortle. In fact, hearing the replies to this question did give me a great sense of satisfaction.
I don’t usually pay much attention when candidates complain about their lawnsigns being tampered with. However, I’m not so sure that Alanna Oswald’s many lost and stolen signs are all that random. There seems to be a whisper campaign meant to discredit this remarkable young woman going on and some even more ruthless skulduggery is possible as well.
Someone vandalized one of her lawnsigns in a most disgusting way last night. I asked her to forward a picture of the damage to me. If anyone would like to put up one of her lawnsigns send me an email at email@example.com.
There will be others but today’s forum for school board candidates really was the “The” where the school board is concerned. 52 people were in the audience. It was a very good forum which sadly the Editorial Board of the Tribune can be counted on to butcher. So, I’ll offer some observations of my own including the little invisible things worth mentioning. This will take two posts. (Meanwhile the “Thou Shall Not…” post preceding this is also still in progress)
First, all of these six candidates will be heads and shoulders above the three departing school board members.
I sensed that they all listened as intently to the Q’s and A’s as I did and I was heartened when Dr. David Kirby said he had learned a great deal from listening to everyone over the hour and half of the forum. I was even more heartened when he made a beeline to talk to Loren Martell who I have no doubt the Doctor’s allies have made a boogeyman. Loren was superlative, soft spoken, demonstrating a deep understanding of the finance, politics and history of the District as no one else could except for Alanna Oswald. And Loren generously offered Alanna a huge and well deserved compliment for her key role in making our District comply with the State by insuring that we no longer cheat our children out of the full curriculum just to ensure that they pass mandated tests.
I did not see a camera at this forum which would be a shame if this means that there will be no public broadcast. If it is made available online, I will post a link to it.
At the end of the meeting, before I realized I was already fifteen minutes late getting our car back to Claudia, Renee VanNett came over very cordially and said it was about time for us to get together over a cup of coffee. This made Renee the first of the three candidates supported by Rosie, Annie and Judy to make this sort of overture and I was very pleased.
I scratched a lot of notes down with a pen borrowed from Henry Banks and crammed notes on two sheets of paper that were already filled with text. I’ll have difficulty reconstructing everything the candidates spoke about but there were a couple of concerns that need mentioning. That post will come up eventually but I’ve got a lot of other posts I’m working on as well.
I fled the building at a gallop, tie flying over my shoulder, when I realized how late I was. Claudia couldn’t leave our house for the drive to her Twin City’s seminary classes until I was back. That’s because we have a sick grandchild to take care of today. That means I won’t have this lovely sunny day to pass out Alanna’s literature and put up more of her lawnsigns.
I’m glad Art is dropping his lawsuit and I’m delighted that we will have three new school board members. With any luck the people of Duluth will soon see what a high functioning school board can do. But we will still be left with the School Board ethics policy of an extremely low functioning, back biting, school board. Its a policy that proclaims that we can get rid of any member who deigns to tell the public any dirty little truth that the board majority wants hushed up or that sheds any light on the Board’s grubby workings.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been warned either through our stellar attorneys or through our Human Relations Officers that I am treading on private data. Yes we have custody of lots of personnel files that has information that deserves protection from prying eyes. Its violation has cost a few police officers their jobs when their curiosity has got the better of them and they decided to peruse state arrest records to learn about their girlfriends.
But revealing the often benign contents of a personnel file is not a hanging offense that automatically results in a firing. In Minnesota there is a provision that allows a fine of up to $15,000 to be levied against someone who reveals private data. I don’t know how often this fine has been levied at its maximum. I’m sure some blabbermouths have gotten little more than a hand slap. Now, however, our school board has passed a new ethics policy which gives them the right to remove Art or me from the School Board if we share any information with the public that they want to keep hushed up. The lengths they’ve gone to enforce silence have been extreme.
For instance, when we interviewed the handpicked attorney, Mary Rice, to investigate Art Johnston’s conduct last December (That was the meeting where I made an ass out of myself trying to pantomime Art Johnston’s much ballyhooed “shove.”) I was hamstrung by Chair Miernicki and our attorney Kevin Rupp. Together they did everything in their power to prevent me from asking frank questions of investigator Rice. I wanted to mention Art Johnston’s wife/girlfriend/lover/spouse/partner in my questions and kept being advised that this was dangerous territory because it violated data privacy laws. Hell, Jane Bushey’s name, picture and story had been on the front page of the Duluth News Tribune. It was hardly private anymore. Even so, I was advised not to mention her name. I then asked if I could get Jane’s permission to mention her name. In no time she sent me a slip of paper giving me her blessing. Even this was too much for my minders.
Don’t be fooled. My mentioning Jane Bushey was not the real issue. The name they didn’t want uttered was Jane Bushey’s boss, Cheryl Lien. There. Now I’ve done it! According to our new ethics policy – the unconstitutional one that Art has chosen not to contest in court – this makes me subject to removal by our School Board.
The District’s chief aim though this entire nightmare has been hide the District’s doings while fussing about how dangerous Art Johnston has been. Sadly, a lot of people in Duluth, including the editors of the Duluth News Tribune and at least one candidate have fallen for this claptrap. Now that the court case is in our rear-view mirror I will put this sordid little episode under a microscope.
Thou shalt not rat out our friends is a school board commandment I intend to violate often over the next week or two. Here’s a good visual of the commandment in action. I posted this heavily blacked out page from the “Rice Report” on my blog last fall. It’s so thoroughly redacted the CIA couldn’t figure out what Art Johnston’s crimes were.
Like so much else in the Art Johnston saga, this was simply another attempt to hide behind the law and keep all the damning evidence obscured.
This summer when Cheryl Lien requested a continuance of her leave of absence from the District so that she could hold on to the possibility of getting her job back her dear friend Chair Mike Miernicki defended her. That’s because Art and I proposed that her name be removed from the list of leaves to be extended. Mike said, “This is a well thought-of educator, a Goldfine Gold Star winner.” True enough. But this Gold Star educator also gave the Duluth Schools a year-and-a-half long donnybrook that has led to the humiliation of the entire school board. This not the first time Cheryl Lien’s dark side has made an ugly appearance. I got a sneak peak at it when I was serving on the School Board twelve years ago. If I spill those beans I’m subjecting myself to removal from the Board.
Ah the hell with it. Half of the Denfeld neighborhood already knows about this, and besides, the truth is its own reward. That will be part two tomorrow.
I’ll have a lot to say about this tomorrow morning.
While I’m chewing on this let me just say this:
My colleagues tried to get rid of Art as though he was a non tenured teacher on probation and not a colleague who had been elected by the voters of his District. They censured me because I revealed to the public our attorneys warning of great turmoil and expense with no guarantee of ultimate success. After they censured me they ignored our attorney and spent up to a quarter million dollars to remove Art leading to the discrediting of the entire Board. Three of the board members who inflicted censure and pain decided not to run for reelection in the face of community displeasure. One tried to find a way to get an extra year on the Board without having to face voters.
They relied on the testimony of a known liar despite my warning that this would be a mistake. They turned their back on appeals for peace. Their only solace was bleeding Art Johnston dry financially.
It may sound like I have little but contempt for my colleagues. In fact, I have only pity for them.
They have left us with a new ethics policy every bit as unconstitutional as the one the Judge hearing our case found fault with. It targets me specifically. If I tell the whole story they claim the right to remove me from the school board. I guess I don’t blame them for wanting to shut me up. Nothing that can be written about the last year and a half is flattering to anyone……..except possibly, Art Johnston. Art still has a strong case not withstanding the positive spin from attorney Skelten. I’m personally grateful that he is letting it drop – No thanks to the Duluth School Board’s majority.
I’ve mentioned the Loeffler-Kemps political activities rather often of late. I can’t help but wonder if daughter, Rachel, who was one of only three AFSCME members to hand out endorsements for the School Board seats without interviewing candidates was also present at the “unanimous” vote to bar Mayor Don Ness from ever entering the Labor Temple’s Wellstone Hall. If so, I wonder if she’s ignoring her Mother’s constant refrain to be positive. Then again, maybe that positivity is only required when the public is watching.
Having been confined to my house for the past three days left me raring to go. My right eye was still dialated but I decided folks would be more intrigued than terrorized if I knocked on their doors. I cut off half of some clip-on sunglasses and passed out Alanna’s flyers and lawnsigns. I found four takers in the morning for signs and then joined Alanna in the afternoon and we stuck up another four or five.
Then we ran across someone who made our day. It was a parent who had emailed all the Board members and candidates. It turned out that within minutes of receiving this email Alanna replied. This is something a number of the Board members still have not done nearly three weeks later.
The parent told us that some comments from Board members had left a bad taste, especially from Rosie Loeffler-Kemp. Rosie said she was disappointed with the parent. Then the parent told me that my blog has been a major source of information. I admitted that I’d written about this parent’s concerns without taking sides but that proved not to be a problem. At least my blog posts showed some concern without brushing it off.
After this the parent took seven of Alanna’s lawnsigns to put up around town. Not a bad day’s work for a pirate.
The vacuity of the Duluth News Tribune’s editorial board is only matched by the excellence of School Board candidate Alanna Oswald. I haven’t seen any candidate run for the School Board who can match her for her insights on public education in the forty odd years I’ve been watching school board races. That might even include Dr. Wheat who was an Education professor that served on our board in the late Sixties while his son Leonard was a guest in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. BTW Board member Wheat was an opinionated man who, as I understand it, gave his colleagues heartburn. They should have voted to kick him off the Board, of course, or at least censured him like our Board would.
I noticed in recent emails that Alanna has taken to putting her educational credentials (by way of the abbreviation M.S.T.) after her name on her emails. It stands for Master of Science in Teaching. I’m positively delighted. Its proof of her deep training and belies her unassuming, unpretentious attitude. She’s no show off but she deserves to be accorded the respect of an educational elder despite her relatively youthful 42 years. I think this signals a new and positive assertion of her confidence in her professional knowledge. Did I say I think she is the brightest light to run for the school board since I got to Duluth?
She always has her eye out on what’s going on in education and she regularly sends me emails to keep me abreast of the topic. I recently was pleased to share her thoughts on “teacher powered schools.” Alanna Owsald M.S.T. just sent me an email pointing out that Minnesota school administrators were going to have a convention in Duluth at the DECC where one of their central topics will be on the subject. This is the announcement she shared with me:
Tuesday 9:45 – 10:45 am
Split Rock 1 Teacher Powered Schools
Presented by Robert Wedl, Senior Associate Education Evolving; Mark Schmitz, CEO, Resource Training & Solutions; Lisa Snyder, Superintendent, Lakeville Area Public Schools; and Lars Johnson, Associate, Education Evolving
Education|Evolving is leading a national effort on this notion that by empowering teachers we get new models of schools and better results with learning. Nothing new there. But, what is new is that in the Teacher Powered Schools effort, the District Board and the teacher union actually give teachers real power…over the school model and curriculum, who gets to teach at the school, what the work rules are, what the budget will be spent on, whether there will be a principal and if so who that will be, etc. The Board has a contract relationship with the school as to the results the site will produce…or it cannot continue. It is an “in-district charter” kind of school. It not only changes the role of the teachers and union but also the role of the central office. Teachers in Staples-Motley designed and are now implementing a career academy called Connections High School that is teacher-powered. Impact Academy in Lakeville is a personalized learning elementary school developed and led by teachers. Education Evolving will discuss assistance available as well as a legislative appropriation.
Tomorrow at 8AM the Duluth Tribune will be one of the hosts for a series of candidate “debates” at the Underground Theater at Duluth’s Depot. They are open to anyone interested in attending and tomorrow’s session will have the six school board candidates. Other races will be covered in later debates.
Our school board’s paranoia about audiences has now thoroughly infected the Duluth News Tribune. They will have police present to assure no one messes with their political debates for this year’s candidates. If you come you will be safe. I know because Alanna shared the email she was sent by the Trib:
See the bolder portion below.
Seriously? Police presence? What am I suppose to be scared of? Am I safe going to a candidate forum?
Why in the world would this be included in an email to candidates and the chamber?
Am I just that naive about politics in Duluth?
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Chuck Frederick
Date: Friday, September 18, 2015
Subject: Details About the Candidate Forums
To: All candidates
No outbursts from the audience (or among the candidates) will be tolerated. The Speak Your Peace Initiative is participating to encourage civil proceedings. Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay has been made aware of these forums; police presence is at his discretion.
Sheesh. Talk about an abundance of caution!
I guess they are afraid that civility will escape without a police presence to reign it in.
From the Labor World by way of Perfect Duluth Day. Mayor Ness is forbidden to enter the Labor Temple’s Wellstone Hall for life based on a unanimous vote of unions in Duluth. He crossed a picket line to attend a Rotary Meeting.
What I’d like to know is whether I should be banned for life too because I bought a couple dozen Rotary Roses.
It’s often said that God doesn’t given anyone any more than they can handle. Well, back on Wednesday (Countdown day 49) She tested me. I woke up with intense pain in my right eye whenever I opened it. When I could finally endure a little light the poor little red thing shed tears copiously. I had a lot of plans for the day, which mostly got shelved, but somehow I managed to face the blue screen of my computer and cranked out that day’s blog offering.
Claudia was off most of the morning doing good deeds and I needed to get an idea for lawnsigns over to Loren Martell. He’s not always easy to reach by phone so I decided to drive over to his house and stick my suggestion in his back door. That proved to be quite a challenge made worse because I drove off without wearing sun glasses.
I parked a couple blocks away due to street construction and a bravely and half blindly way threaded my way on foot up his alley. I was in luck. Between brief winks I saw him heading toward his car and called out his name. It turned out he has a better idea for a sign but we had a long conversation about campaigning that he didn’t have time for while I kept my eyes shut. I’m afraid he found me a little unnerving. After I finally left him to make up his lost time, I made my way back home without mishap. (He called me later that night fearful that I was blind and I told him I was fine.)
I should have called a doctor there and then but I figured in my dimwitted manliness that it would all blow over so I’d wait to see how things were the next day. Somehow I slept through the night and woke up without the intense pain or light sensitivity but with cloudy vision in my right eye. I cranked out one hasty post with a promise to readers that I would proof read an edit it. I’m not sure I’ll keep that promise.The next day, Friday, I made a call for a Doctor’s appointment. Claudia, whose days in Human Resources makes her very savvy, told me I’d never get to an ophthalmologist without a family doctor’s intervention. Since my cloudy vision did seem fairly consequential I made an appointment as she advised.
Instead of politicking I mostly spent the day in waiting rooms. My morning’s appointment with a family practitioner led to a 1:45 appointment with an eye doctor in the early afternoon. I had enough time between doctor’s visits to show up and sling hash at the soup kitchen with my church crowd. I was in a pretty jovial mood and sang happily away as I served up pork loin and noodles with cream of mushroom soup.
Claudia picked me up and took me to the ophthalmologist in the Medical Arts building downtown at 1:45. The eyes were really having it that Friday. The waiting room was packed. Claudia told me that it was a little unsettling to see the other patients enter the exam rooms and disappear through our three hour stay. If I hadn’t been worried about going blind I might just have picked up and left. Everyone else present was worried about their vision to so I found myself sitting with a clutch of women trapped like me with dilated optics. After two hours I told my fellow waiters that we were at the point when we needed to start singing :A 100 bottles of beer on the wall.” That got a chuckle. Half an hour later I found myself waiting in a nearby exam room for another ten minutes with my fellow waiters down the hall waiting their turns. I softly sang “one hundred bottles of beer on the wall – One hundred bottles of beer.” A good laugh traveled up the hallway.
With a prescription in hand Claudia and I left for our next wait in the pharmacy. We were home by five and I began a regimen of antibiotic eye drops and dilating eye drops which will continue until late Monday when the Doctor will have another look to see if my poor infected cornea is on the mend. Oh, the political machinations continue but keeping up with them countdown style just hasn’t been in the cards. I ought to go back and touch up the last post but my head isn’t quite in the game.
Yesterday, Saturday, I helped my daughter pick four bushels of apples off of her tree and plan to spend this afternoon making cider. I’m not sacrificing family time in my dotage not even to save the Duluth Schools. I will say, however, that had I not been required to wear sunglasses in yesterday’s bright sunniness I would have been out asking neighbors to put up Alanna Oswald’s lawnsigns. I just couldn’t bring myself to go up to the doors of folks and ask their help while looking like a secret service agent. That would have been a little off putting.
My eyesight should be up to snuff soon enough so I won’t likely have to wear an eye patch. That’s sort of a shame. Yesterday was “Talk like a Pirate Day” and I kind of liked the idea of a little swashbuckling.
Oh yeah, I went to Chester Bowl’s Fall fest yesterday with my grandsons. I saw Dr. Kirby there at a campaign table and walked over to introduce myself. I didn’t bring up my earlier request for us to get together over coffee but did tell him that come January we might both become “boon companions” on the School Board.
I will be proof reading and editing this tomorrow morning.
I knew just how I wanted to begin this post when I got up at 5AM, eighteen hours ago. I’ve been so busy that its 11:04PM and there is no way I can put it all together and edit it into respectable shape before midnight. In fact I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake and was ready to crash at 8 but it was just too darned early. I have one last project to complete my new office. I ordered a couple of wall display shelves from Ikea and they arrived today. I decided I would stay awake by putting them together and by reinforcing my sheetrock wall with two by fours to hang them. To do that I had to crawl in a hot tight little space and spent two hours there cutting and fitting the lumber in. Any competent carpenter would have done it in twenty minutes. Claudia came up not knowing what I was up to and found me stripped down to my tighty whities covered with sawdust. She could only see my bare legs through the two foot tall door I squeezed through. She couldn’t stop laughing. Asking her if she was laughing with me or at me only spurred her on.
This is hardly the image I left my readers with at the end of yesterday’s post but I am a strong believer in the power of the ridiculous to help us keep things in perspective.
Jane Hoffman who lost her bid for the School Board in the 2nd District but has kept up a steady stream of friendly email to me despite my twitting her campaign for starting out with the Mayor’s race had a strong reaction to the Story about Dr. Dixon’s roommate. She wrote me:
I liked your blog entry…I was surprised by your in depth portion about Mr. Dixon. interesting. I was the only white on an all Black campus at North Carolina Central U. Dixon is bragging about 1 Black friend.
Until I moved to Minnesota I was in the heart of integration in Topeka, Kansas. In second grade I sent to the playground while all the children from the nearby all black grade school were ushered into Loman Hill Elementary. By sixth grade I was a minority white kid in class , here in the back row, although just barely. Then I moved to North Mankato, Minnesota. The first neighbor kid I met found out I had gone to schools with colored children (that being the nomenclature of 1963) and told me a joke he thought was very funny. The punch like involved a black boy wanting to dress up as a fudgcicle for Halloween which he accomplished by stripping naked and sticking a broom handle up his arse. I was too polite back then to tell my new neighbor it was a crappy joke.
By my junior year my family integrated Mankato High School for the very first time when we hosted a foreign student from Ethiopia. My Mother called Mankato a “lily white town.”
I followed events in Topeka after moving to Minnesota. One of my neighbors was a teacher who people called a “white nigger” because he championed civil rights. Another was a race skeptic who grudgingly worked with the new black principal some years after I left town. It was his daughter that I wrote about who as a five year old shocked me by saying she didn’t want to go to school with no niggers.
To say I felt nothing but contempt for Dr. Dixon’s fraudulent professions of concern for minorities is putting it mildly.
I mentioned before that the District sold the Red Plan to the State claiming it would help desegregate our schools. This was actually important for the sales pitch because the lion’s share of the financing that permitted the District to proceed with the building plan without a referendum permitted it to be done without a referendum for the purpose of desegregating the schools.
I was not the only person who cried foul about this misuse of this law. Its author, Representative Mike Jaros put that exception in the law and considered the Red Plan a complete abuse of the District authority. You may remember that I ran against Mike Jaros twice in the 1970’s and he kicked my butt. Nonetheless I have always liked Mike and knew he had a heart of gold. Its ironic that we have become allies since the Red Plan. I have also pointed out how I called Mike up to have a cup of coffee before I ran against him and he graciously accepted my invitation. We had a lovely conversation. By the way I’m still waiting for a couple of School Board candidates to accept my invitation to get together. Their avoidance of me gives me pause. I’d hate to think they are preparing to take over the roles of the current board members who are either stepping down in disgrace or who wish to continue the feuds of the last ugly year.
Today Duluth is the nation’s leader in the achievement gap between white and minority children. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that the fans of the Red Plan never write to the paper to remind us what a benefit it has proven to be. Although I note that a lot of them make it clear that the Red Plan is over with and we need to move forward. I just have no confidence in the current school board majority to care any more about minority children than the ferocious supporters of the Red Plan did.
Which reminds me one person who is light years ahead of any of the other candidates on this subject is Alanna Oswald who wrote a plan for the District on helping minority families a number of years ago. Its been ignored ever since of course.
She was one of the few candidates for the school board who has been attending meetings over the summer and she was at all three meetings this week from beginning to end. She made an observation about our ACT test results that I hadn’t noticed. She pointed out that while all the juniors took the test that was not true of the Senior class. Only college bound students who were willing to pay the $75 to take the test took it. There is little doubt that our scores for the seniors would have been much lower if every twelfth grader had taken the test. That would have been a critical data point for us to have discussed. We would have if Alanna had been on the Board.
Its almost midnight. I’ll post this now but edit it in the morning.
I’m pleased with the outcome of the school board primary. Alanna Oswald, whose chief blemish is that she successfully got the school district to teach her child in a western school the complete course work state law demands, will be on the General election ballot. With a blemish like that she should be a shoe in – except that there are a lot of fans of the board majority who don’t mind that their heroes squandered a quarter-million dollars on sham excuses to remove Art Johnston. Art won’t shut up about the District’s inequality – damn him.
And that inequity is in the News today for all to see. Denfeld with its 900 students has a hard time offering what is available in East high with its 1600 student enrollment. This is the result of the Red Plan which promised so much more. For folks who tell us that the Red Plan is over………..they are oh, so, very, wrong. Its aftermath continues to plague this city.
This post is one of a long succession about how we can truly put the Red Plan behind us by fixing what the Red Plan broke. But first I’d like to ponder the kind of people who make big changes in the world for good or ill like Superintendent Keith Dixon and stubborn question asker Art Johnston.
It may take a guy like Keith Dixon to get a half billion school building project through. I’ll have more to say, reiterate really, about Keith Dixon before the General election roles around in 49 days but let me remind folks of the first thing he did in Duluth on the first day he was in town. He lied through his teeth and was caught on camera.
Dixon was a smooth talker and charismatic. His first day in Duluth he was invited to participate in a town square discussion of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial honoring the victims of Duluth’s infamous lynching. He made a couple weepy contributions to the conversation which I found a little too incredible. This is one of them:
You can read a much fuller account of this particular lie here but here is the thumbnail version: Keith Dixon claimed he spoke to his black roommate in his college days late into the night which helped him finally understand the problems faced by black Americans. This was a wonderful story in the circumstances but it was hokum. I couldn’t believe that it was statistically likely that a white kid in lily white Colorado in the early Sixties was likely to have a black roommate. Eventually I met the supposed black roommate. He was a famous Minnesota Viking. He had no memory of his old roommate Keith Dixon.
When Gary Glass asked the chairman of the Faribault school district to sum up Keith in two words she was succinct – “Chronic Liar.” Keith was good at churning out codswallop to sell his grandiose new building plan and like the lynching memorial he wasn’t shy about milking minorities for his sales pitch. The plan submitted to the state for approval of the Red Plan said it would reduce segregation. Of course, minority children have only suffered as a result of Dixon’s dishonesty.
Despite warnings from old school board members, like me, that his plan would divide Duluth to the detriment of minority children Dixon got his way. I’ve blogged incessantly about the segregation that the Red Plan would lead to but do no avail.
Keith Dixon was also ruthless. I’ll have more to say about how Dr. Dixon infected the Duluth Schools with character assassination but that will have to wait. However, if you want a sneak peak you can see how Dixon treated one lone wolf in Faribault.
Nonetheless, Keith Dixon pulled off an extraordinary coup. He rebuilt Duluth’s Schools with the help of a school board that fell for his charm.
Art Johnston is not a smooth talking Keith Dixon. He was a shy kid who feared speaking in public because he had an intense fear of public speaking. He is, however, very bright and stubborn. He willed himself to overcome his intense fear of public speaking and, because he was very bright, he became a superlative engineer. When he found himself in Duluth eight years ago he was astonished that the District was considering tearing down the almost new Central High School. He ended up with me in Let Duluth Vote where he leant his engineering expertise to the effort to give voters their right to vote on the then $485 million dollar vacuum cleaner.
Whatever else can be said about Art, he is not a quitter and his thirst for common sense and justice eventually propelled him onto the school board. Even in the face of sham set accusations that he was violent and had assaulted his colleagues, among other phony claims, he stayed put even though it cost him $70,000 in legal expenses. Keith Dixon would have been proud of the school board majority. As a pretty tenacious man myself I can only stand in awe of what Art has had to endure while Keith Dixon’s legacy of character assassination has been heaped on him.
But Art Johnston is not what this election is about. This election is about a school system that was tricked into putting all its eggs in one basket which is not being shared equally with Duluth’s neediest children.
Either the heirs of Keith Dixon will run our District or the heirs of those committed to social justice. Unlike the Red Plan, which voters were cheated out of a chance to vote on, the School Board’s future lies in the voter’s hands today.
I will abide by whatever decision they make. I just won’t let Duluth citizens vote in ignorance with the stakes being as high as they are.
I will soon tell the story of how another liar attacked Art Johnston’s significant other and the liar’s role in the vilification of Art Johnston. Oh yeah. And telling my readers this story might get me kicked off the School Board.
I presume that none of the candidates for school board this year will be led around by the nose by any of today’s currently disgraced factions. That certainly will be the situation of my old student Alanna Oswald. She knows I’m human and she knows because she sat through two years of my classes. Besides, I’m a lousy Svengali. Its galling to hear that some folks are saying she will be Art and Harry’s tool. Not hardly, she already made her independence clear when she was interviewed by the Tribune’s editors no matter how uncomprehending the editors were.
I wrote Alanna an email three or four weeks ago urging her to read an NPR story on “5 Big Ideas That Don’t Work In Education.” I then went on to explain how, like her, I ran for the board back in the 1990’s to give teachers more autonomy. Sadly, that’s when the nation’s politicians decided to stick their noses into public schools and made teaching prescriptive while putting teachers on a short leash as though they were no more than an organ grinder’s Capuchin monkey.
Alanna wrote back to debate me and shared her own view of teacher powered schools. After I read it I told her that this was exactly why we needed her on the School Board. Skipping the debate part here what she wrote me:
From: “Alanna Oswald”
To: “Harry Welty”
Sent: Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:36:44 -0500
Subject: Re: FW: NPR.org – 5 Big Ideas That Don’t Work In Education
The idea of teacher empowered schools is not letting the teachers do what they want. I’ll put it like this:
Teacher powered schools use a teacher led decision making team. The administrator is there to carry out what the team decides. The administrator is not there to hover over, punish, reprimand, scold, or evaluate other teachers’s performances. The administrator is there to deliver what the teachers need to succeed. There is trust. There is team building. There is cohesion. There is no power authority structure. It is truly a team environment. If one fails, everyone fails, and it isn’t just one person’s fault. There is no blame to pass around.
Our current system is a top-down punishment, pass the buck system. The low guy on the pole always gets it handed to them and squashed in the process. I think this is a concept that Community Schools are trying to emulate, but trying to do it while holding on to the power structure and remain top down. This is why it won’t meet its potential. And that’s what it needs to change to make it truly successful.
I haven’t voted yet myself. Instead I roused myself at 5AM fed the cats and sat down to write what I’ve decided will be one of the many books I’ve threatened to write about the Duluth School Board over the years. I’ll just do it in installments on the blog like one of Charles Dicken’s serialized novels. I’ll actually attempt to apply more rigorous proof reading while I’m at it.
As the polls opened at 7AM I parked near London Road and 26th Avenue East and took a half dozen Alanna Oswald lawnsigns to the corner. There were already two other Alanna supporters there so I took up my station kitty-corner from them where the London Road traffic enters the Interstate. We were joined by a forth sign waver and then two more folks walking dogs joined us out of the blue making it six of us. My right arm is sore from all the waving I did. I’d say roughly half of the several thousand cars that passed had drivers who stared straight ahead. I presume they would have done this no matter who the signs were for. The other half gave us friendly head nods or waved back. I did get three birds flipped at me. One old fellow who did this leaned over toward me for emphasis and one young fellow gave me both barrels for a total of three fingers. I decided I wouldn’t want their votes anyway.
I heard a funny story while there. The other day a group of sign wavers from the DFL showed up briefly at the location where 21st Avenue East enters Interstate 35 but they only stopped briefly and then planted twenty or thirty DFL and labor endorsed candidate’s lawnsigns in a tight cluster by the exit and left. It was a tepid display of campaign enthusiasm.
The funny thing is that the flock of signs was outed on Facebook. Someone set up a webpage for people to send pictures of illegally placed lawnsigns in Duluth. (By the way I can’t find it) This cluster of signs were on public property and too near the road. After they were outed someone wrote in to explain that the signs were on the Labor Temple’s property (Union property). Someone else checked and found that this was untrue. It is public property.
Whoo boy. You can’t get away with anything in the Internet world. And speaking of that I just checked my blog’s stats. At the end of yesterday, a day shy of the Ides of September, I had 2,094 “unique” visitors to the blog so far this month. A hundred-six of these folks spent over an hour reading it. Cool. The last time I broke 4,000 visitors in a single month was during the school board election two years ago. One month I had over 7,000 visitors. If they were all from Duluth that’s got to be close to the number of people who actually voted that year. It would be gratifying to beat that record this year.
I will have a lot to say in coming days about the latest victim of ISD 709’s character assassination syndrome. It will be largely speculation because it is probably union directed in close cooperation with the School Administration. Its target is apparently my top choice for the School Board at-large position. Evidently brains, courage and compassion are disqualifying attributes for preferred school board members these days.
By the way, I haven’t seen the letter. I’m sure it was shoved into every teacher’s mail slot by the DFT which is their contractual right. If anyone would like to send me a copy so that I don’t speak (write) out of turn I’d appreciate it. I won’t rat you out or anything. I know that would put a target on your back and I’d hate for teachers to have to walk around backwards like I do.
I understand that the Public Employees Union representing thousands of area union members made school board endorsements the other day. Three people made the decision for the thousands. Alan Netland, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s daughter, Rachel, and someone else.
AFSCME did not contact Alanna Oswald or Charles Obije among others and interview them the standard procedure. They just rubber stamped the DFL endorsement that Rosie and her daughter helped engineer.
It used to be that AFSCME at least went through the motions of having a real endorsement. Alan once told me they were “cleaner” than the AFL-CIOs. That was in 2001. I guess that was the good old days.
I’ve just uploaded Zombie Grandson to youtube. Youtube is now owned by Google and its busily processing the movie. If things work out I’ll have it up before the day is out.
Speaking of that ….. all of my uploads to youtube for the past ten years are now under the control of ISD 709 including Zombie Grandson. I am annoyed by this and when I just now read the message from Google that the Duluth School District has complete authority to remove everything I’ve uploaded to Youtube it did little to improve my attitude. Old board member friends of mine used to joke that our school board’s motto should be: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that someone isn’t out to get you.”
Youthful Annie Harala likes to give me regular digs when I explain that the the ISD 709 email system gives me heartburn. She’s a young dog and has no trouble navigating our online labyrinth.
After I got my District email address the District bought into a Google Product to organize everything. It made me start over in a system I was already far behind in figuring out. Somehow Google then swallowed my own Google material and merged it into ISD 709’s online data base. They practically own it.
I’m not really worried that anyone in the School District will tamper with what I have had on the Internet for years but I’m sure a number of insiders consider me a tad peevish and would cheer my comeuppance. If anyone wonders why I walk backwards through the hallways of our Administration building its because I find that to be the most efficient way to watch my back.
The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."