Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Dec 23, 2004

Déjà vu Two


When I stepped down from the Duluth School Board we were wrestling with school closings and East High School hockey. Now, a year later, déjà vu has reared its ugly head again.


Not long ago a reporter who misses my big mouth and who was casting about for Board members to comment on these reheated headlines discovered that my successor’s phone had been disconnected. Since my house is protected by four East High Hockey wreaths I’ll go ahead and shoot my mouth off – just for old time’s sake.


First the important stuff – school closings:


Last week the Duluth   News Tribune editorialized that it was time to close a high school. I hope the editorial board isn’t holding it’s breath. Even I, a long time proponent of high school closings, gave up the idea last year when Denfeld voters blackmailed the School Board.


Like U.S. Marines who risk life and limb to save the bodies of fallen comrades Denfeld voters rushed to the aid of  Central High last year when it seemed that a high school was about to close. Denfelders threatened to vote against an excess levy if a high school was closed and promised to vote for a levy if the School Board promised to keep three high schools open. Since no self-respecting Minnesota school district can get by nowadays without an excess levy several of us board members reluctantly agreed.


We were reluctant because keeping three small high schools put more pressure on the District to close elementary schools. For my part I urged voters to pass the levy and argued that without its passage elementary schools would be in even greater jeopardy.


Clouding the issue as the Board headed into last Tuesday’s meeting was a little dust up between Superintendent Almanza and some UMD researchers who had done a “sophisticated” population projection for him. Since Almanza couldn’t make sense of the projections he didn’t share the study with Board members. This was risky for Almanza because Board members usually insist on seeing all the cards in the Administration’s hand. Almanza, however, got some support from an unexpected source, his predecessor, Mark Myles. Myles wrote a scorching letter to the Trib discrediting the study’s enrollment projections. The study was no longer an issue by the time the School Board met.


Now the time consuming stuff: East High Hockey


At any rate it was hockey, not enrollment projections that preoccupied the School Board as they headed into Tuesday’s School Board meeting.


Before they could discuss school closings they had to have a closed meeting to discuss East High Hockey. There was so much to discuss that they had to adjourn the closed meeting temporarily to begin the official School Board meeting. After the Board meeting was over they reconvened the closed meeting and continued talking about hockey late into the night. The closed meeting took two-and-a-half hours far more than was required to save Grant School . It was just like old times.


As I said my house is wearing a protective talisman courtesy of East Hockey this Holiday season. An acquaintance who was admiring my wreaths commented that she wasn’t able to get a wreath because the small business where she usually got them had stopped selling them this year. The owner's son was a senior on the team but was cut from this year's squad. That’s an old complaint because East Hockey is more devoted to winning state tournaments than saving its long-time team members. So much for the ethos of United State ’s Marines.


The departure of that senior just meant more attention for East’s transfer students as did the departure of the teammate who got a swift little kick after being called off the ice for his mediocre performance. Insults added to injury can be motivational.


Unfortunately, it turned out that the transfers weren’t eligible to play for the first half of East’s hockey season and the team had to forfeit four wins.  But never fear! As with the hinky wreath sales of the past there was someone else other than the coach available to take the blame. In this case it was an obliging, and genuinely remorseful, Activities Director. He’d confused the rules governing in-state and out-of-state transfer students. Of course, it might be logical to assume that a storied high school coach should have learned the rules of player-eligibility after two decades of coaching.  But that’s probably too much to expect of a team that lives by the slogan: “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”


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