3-13- 98

Frank Wanner
Duluth, MN 558_ _

Dear Frank,

Thank you for your letter. The fact of the matter is we can’t afford the most recent contract we offered the teachers without making future cuts in school programs. I am not particularly happy that you have chosen to misrepresent what I told the teachers who wrote to me. The nine percent increase over the next two years is just that even if you have chosen to twist that to mean we have more money available than we’ve previously offered. You would have given an F to any of your econ students for such an elementary mistake. I suspect that your outburst at negotiations indicates that you don’t like to have the incomplete information you provide your teachers contradicted. There is a simple way to stop that. Don’t organize a letter writing campaign to pressure me. I’m too polite a person to ignore a letter and to candid not to be honest.

I am grateful that you have encouraged me to cut six faculty positions at East High school on the grounds that East should never have been given compensatory ed funds to begin with. I can’t wait to read the column in your newsletter in which you pat me on the back for taking $300,000.00 away from such an undeserving school. I’m just joking Frank. We both know that if I make the comp ed cuts all I can expect from you is a snotty commentary about how stupid the school board was not to have spent comp ed money properly to begin with.

You suggest that teacher’s should be paid what they deserve whether there are dollars to pay them or not. Do you know something about credit or creditors that I do not know? Do you have a money tree in your backyard. If so I would appreciate a branch of it to graft onto our business dept. What you do seem to have a wealth of is scathing criticism for anyone who will not let you have what you want even if they can’t afford to give it to you. The vitriol and disaffection you have spread is infectious .

Last night a Lowell teacher told me that I’ve been writing nasty letters to teachers. I had to scratch my head over that. My letters were respectful but apparently our teachers are so sensitive that they’ve confused respectful disagreement with nastiness. Where did this hypersensitivity come from? Perhaps 15 years of newsletters dripping with sarcasm and self pity have had their effect and created a climate of sullen defiance. In the last two decades superintendents have come and gone, school board members have come and gone, crises have come and gone. You, my friend, are the one constant. What have you contributed? I’m looking at personnel cuts, Frank. Your looking at personal slights.

Frank, If our school board settles a contract any more damaging to future programs, than the one we’ve already offered you, I will announce my resignation from the School Board. I didn’t get elected to rape public school programs.

I’m enclosing a little essay I wrote in response to your paean in the Trib last Saturday to our teachers’ willingness to change. I had decided not to send it in but I’m beginning to think the public needs a primer on your leadership of the teachers union.


Harry Welty

c School Board and DFT Exec Board members

 Reflections on Frank Wanner’s March 7th, News Tribune column:

Dear Frank Wanner, President of the Duluth Federation of Teachers, yes, yes, yes, and yes. To the long list of teacher initiated innovations you enumerated in last Saturday’s News Tribune I say, Yes. Duluth’s teachers do not want to be obstructionists. I’ve always known that. What then explains the sorry state of labor/management/school board relations in our fair school district?

Everywhere I go in our schools I see teachers who want to try new things and who are invigorated by the promise of improvement. Our schools do a wonderful job with many, no, most of our children. Where we fall short our teachers often fill the breach. Why do we sometimes fall short? Some of our teachers think our failures lie with administrators while administrators tend to think the reverse. Fortunately, there is general agreement that school board members - every one ever elected - should be taken out behind the barn and whipped. Everyone knows that Board members are just a bunch of eager, interfering, clueless amateurs. I know that the three school board members you invited to breakfast last Spring to share this important truth with were ungrateful to hear it. To bad. The truth hurts.

Although the School Board is hopeless, why should our administrators and teachers so distrust one another? Our administration is riddled with ex DFT board members who, like you, believe that our schools should stretch but who, unlike you, have given up on the union as a vehicle for change. What invisible barrier did they cross when they changed sides? Are we not all committed to the same goal - the betterment of our children’s future? Why can’t you both achieve this goal together? How did you become Serbs, Bosnians, Croats, and Slovenians when once you were all South Slavs? These are hard questions.

Frank, I have read as many teacher union newsletters as I could lay my hands on to check the temperament of the teachers. It’s not easy to get hold of them since the union stopped putting them out for anybody to read. I’m aghast at the anger and venom I read in them. Over and over it’s "poor me," and "Everybody hates me, nobody loves me, I’m gonna go and eat worms." How long have you been the President of the union Frank? How many superintendents have you had to denounce? Why can’t the administration learn its lesson? I know you’re pained that our School Administrator’s call the union newsletter the "Golden Rag." It’s so thoughtless of them.

During this round of contract negotiations I’ve received many letters from teachers. They tell me the same things I’ve read in your newsletter. "Teachers are underpaid!" "Under appreciated!" "Overworked!" "Intimidated!" "The contract’s deficiencies are symbolic of the Board’s contempt for them." Maybe that describes me Frank but I find it hard to believe your allegations could apply to all the exDFT members who have joined the ranks of our administration. My Momma always taught me that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But what do mother’s know? You’re the President of the union. You know what message needs to be conveyed.

I know about every one of the initiatives you listed, especially the one at Lincoln Park which the School Board rejected last Summer. Do you know what? The teachers at that school are doing almost everything we told them we wouldn’t pay them to do. I know because I spent a couple days with their site council last week. We’ve got the best teachers in the world Frank! I don’t know where they get the idea that nobody loves them. What have they been reading?