This line was quoted out of context by Frank to discredit me with the Lincoln teaching staff. I wrote this letter and had a friend on the staff pass it out to the Lincoln faculty.


To the Lincoln Staff,

Thank you very much for your letter. Its good that I heard from you and I particularly appreciate your honesty and respectful response. I came to the School Board to sweep away decades of mistrust and suspicion which seem to have infiltrated every nook and cranny of the district. The only way to do this is with absolute candor and respect.

And speaking of respect I have a great deal of it for Frank Wanner. His is not an easy job. At the moment Frank and I seem to be feuding but I think this is much too simple an explanation for our current contretemps. I’ve known and watched Frank for fifteen years. I’ve come to conclude that Frank has fallen into a funk which is all too easy in the atmosphere of mistrust that exists in ISD 709. I spent a lot of time talking to Frank in my first two years on the Board about our mutual concerns. We both want Duluth to be the best school District in the nation even though we don’t always agree on how to go about getting this accomplished. Last November Frank lost his temper and told me he was going to gun me down in the next election. Here’s a little confession. Since that time I’ve not felt particularly cordial towards Frank.

The contract negotiations, the District’s uncertain finances, and the unmet expectations of teachers have all helped aggravate the long standing negativism in the District that I’m determined to sweep away. To the extent that my recent squabble with Frank has added to that tension I offer my apologies. As a stubborn optimist I should know better than to stand under a little black cloud. I’ll be getting in touch with Frank soon in an attempt to mend fences. We face too many challenges to let our egos interfere with the greater good.

There is one particular issue you’ve shared with me that I must address. When I wrote to Frank and told him that the Lincoln staff had done everything we’d asked of them despite the school board’s unwillingness to pay them, some of you concluded that I was ridiculing the Lincoln staff, as in: "Ha ha, we didn’t pay them and they still did what we wanted." THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT!

If anything, I was taking a swipe at the School Board for its unwillingness to support the hard work of the Lincoln Staff. I know that some school board members think that teachers only go the extra mile when they get paid to do so. I know better. I’ve been out in the schools. Everywhere I look, I see teachers bending over backward, just as you have done, to do the best they can for our children. I understand how demoralizing it is to have your best efforts dismissed. My comment was intended as a high compliment to the Lincoln staff. I regret that it was misinterpreted.

I’m beginning to understand that the comp ed compromise which we’ve come to still benefits children in affluent neighborhoods more than it benefits children in disadvantaged neighborhoods. This seems to be true even though we have apparently met the legal requirements for comp ed redistribution. Although I’ve already been warned that the parents at East High school may come gunning for me in the next election if they lose six teaching positions due to comp ed reallocations, my inclination is to do the right thing.

Because of our financial difficulties and the awkward grade configurations in our District I’m also inclined to revisit the issue of two high schools. I did this once before in a previous election and the Central parents gunned me down. I gather that the parents at Lakewood may come gunning for me as well and I’m sure more schools could be added to the list. I wouldn’t be surprised if my fellow school board members unholstered their shooting irons as well. By the time I’m through with my stint on the Duluth School Board I may look more like Swiss cheese than a jolly eccentric. I’m afraid, however, I can’t help myself. I love this job!


Harry R. Welty