My Resignation Speech

I recently attended the National Association of School Boards convention in New Orleans. I spent a busy week learning about the difficult issues facing schools today and more about my role as a school board member. One of the strongest messages I’ve brought back from that conference is the need for stability on School Boards and in School Systems. After comparing notes with many other School board members from across the nation I was struck by the inexperience of our Duluth School Board. Our board members average just three years of service. Four of us are brand spanking new, and the current chairman has just two years of experience.

I learned a great deal and I came back convinced that school board members need lots of training to perform their roles effectively. Consequently I would like to apologize to one of our board members who I discouraged from attending the conference. Although this Board passed a resolution permitting the entire board to attend the conference, my thinking was still stuck in back the days when we were in terrible financial shape and every penny had to be spent as though it were our last. I pointed out that the public might criticize a large delegation of board members heading off to New Orleans and effectively discouraged this Board member from going. That was our loss.

I came back with many excellent ideas. For example I learned that by using a procurement card we could simplify purchasing and record keeping. In many districts 80% of the effort is expended on 20% of the spending. By using a procurement card we might be able to save money and rescue our teachers from the red tape of authorization and reimbursement or having to dip into their own pockets to buy things.

This is just a small sample of the kind of thing I hoped to do every time I ran for the school board. Although I did not advertise it in my four campaigns - I had a hidden agenda. As a former teacher I hoped to end decades of conflict and help bring about harmony in the Duluth School District. I wanted us to be like other school districts which enjoy trust and collegiality.

( The following was the ad libbed portion of the speech )

The great tragedy of the Duluth School System is that nobody trusts anybody else. I’ve seen it as a teacher when I was over at Washington Junior High and in the lounge we would talk about the CAB as Ft. Fumble. I’ve seen it as a candidate when I sat next to an administrator and he leaned over to me and said "There shouldn’t be any such thing as a school board!" which seems to be a common administrative point of view. I’ve seen it in School Board’s not trusting administrators or teachers even though as fresh faced board members virtually every newly elected school board member wants to have rapprochement, and do everything they possibly can to help the school community. I’ve seen it on our Board and in previous Boards, when the actions of Board members suggest a lack of trust among different people who quickly form factions and find ways of embarrassing other people on the Board. In fact if there’s anybody who still has some trust in our school system it is probably the innocent young faces of the people we teach who look up to us as adults and know that we are wise, and all powerful, and have their best interests at heart. And it is amazing that in a school district where everybody is joined for that purpose we have so little trust of one another.)

Because of my recent correspondence I seem to have had the opposite effect and 300 Duluth teachers have written to tell me of their dissatisfaction. These are some of the 300 letters and postcards our teachers have sent me. It has been sobering to read them. I have only compounded this age old problem. This is the last thing I imagined leaving as a legacy to the children of Duluth. Let me read you a particularly damning accusation taken from one of the cards. The card refers to an unnamed school board member and says: " One [board member] was quoted as saying Edison would ‘make the teachers get off their dead asses and do something’."

I know that sometimes people say things in the heat of an argument that they really don’t mean. I’m going to ask my fellow board members if the quote I’ve just read reflects your feelings toward Duluth’s school teachers.

I didn’t think it would.

New Orleans is an exotic place. Among the many things I researched were some practices peculiar to the Mississippi Delta. This is a voodoo doll. It can be used to cast spells or exorcise evil spirits. I gave it to my wife, but on second thought, I’ve taken it back, just in case she got any ideas. I’ve decided that it would be much more helpful if I put this to use for the Duluth School District.

There is a white pin for casting positive spells and a black pin for casting negative spells. I wish to perform an exorcism tonight. I’ll just tear the offending quote off this postcard. The quote represents all the biliousness and suspicion which haunts our school district. I’ll just wrap it around the voodoo doll. And using the black pin I will puncture this quotation in an attempt to kill the ill will it represents.

I don’t know about you but I feel much better.

At this time, as a token of my good faith and in an attempt to restore peace and trust to the Duluth School District, I hereby tender my resignation as the Chair of the Duluth School effective at the close of tonight’s School Board meeting.