I have omitted the names from most of my email, however, in this case I think it is reasonably harmless to let the names become public.

Dear School Board Members,

I am writing to urge you to vote "No" to the proposed six period day for secondary students. Many of the recent proposals made by the school board and community should be given serious consideration, but this one should be dropped immediately! You have heard from principals who argued that the savings from cutting out a class period would be minimal. The same number of students will still be in the same number of classrooms at the same time, and every class will have to be staffed by a teacher. It's hard to see where any significant cost savings would come from.

On the other hand, cutting back to six periods will almost certainly
result in the loss of courses and choices. This could be devastating to
programs such as music, art, and foreign language and might even lead to a reduction in course offerings in science, math, and social studies. It will be harder for college-bound students to fit in all the necessary preparatory requirements. There will be little or no room for the electives that have enriched so many young people's educational
experiences. To expect teachers and students to make up for these losses before or after school is unrealistic at best. Parents will respond by pulling their children out of the public schools.

As I have written in a previous letter and a recent newspaper column, I
think the long range plan has some very good points. Among them is the notion that saving programs is more important than saving buildings. Many excellent suggestions have been made in the last few weeks, including consolidation of schools (but only after careful consideration and planning), making buildings more energy-efficient, and reducing or eliminating positions in the Central Administration (as recommended by a group of East High School faculty). All of these suggestions should be given serious consideration. But please don't force secondary schools to reduce course offerings! Adolescents and teens should be exploring the possibilities, planning their futures, and preparing themselves for life after high school. Facilitating their transition into adulthood with a variety of courses and programs should be given high priority. 

Thanks for listening,

Sue Janssen

My Reply


I really liked your column in the Trib. It was rational and thoughtful.

I know you would like us to keep the seven hour day. I'm not sure that its possible. Since we have no choice but to reduce faculty it will lead to more study halls which most academics regard as wasted time.

I'm fully committed to staying out of debt and the six hour day is one of the best ways to do this. The principals were, in my opinion, blowing smoke at us. No one at our recent meetings will admit that anything we do will save money. This is not helpful and makes it harder for us to come up with the best plan we can.

Having said that, I've been corresponding with some of our music faculty about a seven hour day in a two-high school system. I think Duluth has grown spoiled by all the kids in music. I'd like to keep it that way even though this might mean more study halls.

Take a look at the email I just sent to Jerry Jones, the East Orchestra Director. I think you will see what I'm driving at.

Thanks for your positive attitude.

Harry Welty



...thanks for your good wishes. This has been quite a challenge and no matter what we decide we will be second guessed for the next decade. 

I understand that a larger pool of students will lead to higher quality music programs. My question specifically is - will more students be able to take advantage of music programs in a seven period day rather than a six period day? The answer seems obvious and I think you said yes. 

Of course, it would depend on how deep our music faculty remains. We could have all the students and class periods we wanted but without enough faculty the opportunities to sign up for classes would be lost.

The problem with keeping a seven hour day is that with a reduced teaching staff there will be fewer classes and more study halls. (and we certainly will have to reduce staff) Given this, if we go to two high schools would the music faculty prefer a six or seven period day? By the way, how do the music rooms at East compare with those at Central?

I tend to agree with you about the ninth graders. I think my own kids got tired of high school too early coming in as ninth graders. I don't think they were the exception.