Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Aug. 8, 2003

Like Father Like Son

When my son was in First Grade I became the Chairman of the Games Committee for Chester Parkís School Carnival. Having fond memories of my own elementary school carnivals I was well suited to the job. It was Chesterís first ever carnival and we wanted to make sure all the children would badger their parents to attend. To that end I dressed up as a teenage mutant ninja turtle and went to every classroom, including my sonís, to promote the carnival. That night my son told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was never to visit any classroom of his again.

The children of public officials, like those of ministers, often have crosses to bear. Expected to exemplify the noble truths their parents espouse they find themselves tugging at a shorter leash than other children. Few things are more entertaining to watch than children who fail to live up to their parentís lofty ideals. This certainly holds true for the children of school board members.

Every teacherís contract negotiated, every decision about buildings to be closed or referendums to be offered or school bus routes to be rerouted becomes an opportunity to share opinions with the School Board memberís child. When it became common knowledge, for instance, that I was about to destroy the districtís music program my happy and well adjusted daughter kicked a balustrade out of our banister. One of her fellow students had commented during the history class that it was a shame that the School Board didnít care about kids.

In the brief time that I have followed Duluth school politics two board members have switched their children to private schools and another to a charter school. One Board memberís child had a teacher pass out a petition for her fatherís recall while anotherís was told by his teacher that she hated his father.

Though both of my children have now mercifully graduated from the Duluth Schools my son had to live his entire school life in the shadow of a mutant ninja turtle school board father. There was my feud with the teacher unionís President (since patched up) and my resignation as School Board Chair. There was some voodoo and a little public cursing. As they say, ďwhat goes around comes around."

On the last day of my sonís ďmiddle schoolĒ career I got a call from the Assistant Principal. My son had been suspended for the last three hours of the school year for starting the mother-of-all food fights. Long planned by the students as a celebration it almost didnít come to pass because the staff had been forewarned. Teachers ringed the cafeteria so that no prudent child was willing to cross the cafeteria floor to turn off the lights. This move had been the preplanned signal to start the festivities while providing students the anonymity of darkness. One student was not, however, too encumbered with his fellow studentís prudence.

I still hear about that food fight, five yearís past. It must have been a doozie. I was recently gratified to hear my son comment sympathetically about the rotten conditions under which lunch room helpers work. They are part time, underpaid and without authority or respect yet they have the responsibility to monitor careless students since most teachers have long since sloughed off this onerous duty. This was exactly the point I tried to impress on my son after the dust, or rather the vegetables, had settled. It was the poor food service personnel who had to pick up afterwards.

Unfortunately my sonís eighth grade year wasnít quite over. He informed me that he still had to turn in a science report or he wouldnít go on to high school. Since he couldnít return to the school I would have to turn it in for him. Under the circumstances going to Woodland Junior High was about the last thing I wanted to do.

I walked into the building praying not to be seen by any of the staff. To my relief the building seemed empty. I walked down the hall to the science class only to find it empty as well. The teacher was gone. As I turned back and passed by the now clean cafeteria I saw the Assistant Principal standing by the lunch counter. Most of the Woodland faculty was sitting in the corner of the cafeteria having lunch.

Putting on my best game face I walked over to the Assistant Principal to ask him if he could help me get my sonís papers to the science teacher. He took the papers and told me heíd be happy to give them to her. Suddenly the cafeteria went black just as it had the previous day when my son turned off the lights.

After a lot of tittering in the dark from the teacherís corner the lights were turned back on. Having completed my mission I walked over to the teachers and shrugged. ďWhat can I say,Ē I told them. ďLike father like son.Ē

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at www.snowbizz.com