Ms. Doty Being Politic and Anthony's Mad Mother (another typical example of how I cause trouble)

When I read Laura Doty's thoughtful column in the News Tribune defending Central High School today, it reminded me of the following anecdote.

In May of 1998 I was asked to be a presenter at the "Young Author's" Workshop at St. Scholastica. Its a long standing event which pulls in young writers from the area and lets them meet people who write for a living. I was barely qualified to be a presenter but I was asked to be one and was happy to oblige.

My role was that of a facilitator for about an hour with half a dozen 4th and 7th graders. I introduced myself to the kids and passed around my book to show them I had actually written one. I explained that as a school board member my writing was largely confined to letter writing. I showed the children the stack of letters I had recently received much of it relating to the tense labor negotiations we were then undergoing.

I further explained that as an elected official I was a "politician." I told them that to be "politic" meant to resist giving offense. I pointed out that offensive politicians are rarely successful politicians. 

For my presentation I had written up a mock letter from an imaginary mother to a principal. It was a little mischievous. I told the students to put themselves in the place of the principal and to compose a response which would help calm the angry mother. In other words, the assignment I gave them was to write a "politic" letter. 

I knew the parents of several of the children. One was Mayor Doty's daughter Laura, another was the daughter of a woman who had been the campaign manager for one of my new colleagues on the School Board. This Mother and I had not been seeing eye to eye.

After the students composed their replies we read them out loud and analyzed whether they would have succeeded in mollifying the mother. I recall that Laura Doty's letter was excellent. It was obvious that her parent's political skills had been passed on to her.

This should have been the end of the story but it wasn't.

The campaign manager mother heard about my presentation from her daughter. A few weeks later during a closed session of the School Board to discuss contract negotiations her candidate turned Board member made an oblique comment about something I had done possibly compromising the negotiations process. 

Apparently her manager had taken my mock letter to the President of the Teacher's Union, thinking I had showed the kids a real letter, and gave it to him in hopes of exposing my perfidy. She also complained to the Administration and to Becky Ardren the workshop's organizer.  

Once I caught on to the complaint against me, I told Ardren that I was obviously too controversial to invite back for future workshops. I sent my fellow Board members a letter describing my not so nefarious workshop activities. It concluded with these two paragraphs:

"To allay any fears you might have that other actions from my day with the Young Author's might come back to haunt us, I'd like to give you a more complete synopsis of my presentation. In addition to having the students write a return letter to my fictitious irate parent, I had the students write an exercise I call "Once upon a time," in which each student begins a story with those words and after a minute or two of writing exchanges papers to continue the story someone else began. I also read the picture book. "Me First." Its the story of a little pig "Pinkerton" who always wanted to be first. I believe these activities to be well within the intent of the workshop and reflective of the work that I now do.

Knowing Frank, (Wanner, the DFT President) I suspect he will shrug off the help he received from my eager new political antagonist. If however he finds some nefarious use for my writing exercise....Well, I still have my voodoo doll at home."