My Brief Impression of Laura Condon

Although I don’t recall her well Laura Condon was one of the first people I met twenty-five years ago when I moved to Duluth to teach in the Proctor Schools. After the 97 election I was eager to meet with her and lobby her for the Chairmanship.

Laura had ambitions to go to law school but because her parents were elderly and depended upon her she stayed close to home and got an education degree instead. Because she was limited by circumstance I sense in Laura an impatience for people who do not value the teaching profession and the skills of its practitioners. While I heartily concur that teaching is the noblest profession I see too many teachers who are defensive about their importance of their work. The chip on the shoulder mentality is rampant among teachers today. Fortunately, this hasn’t stopped legions of idealistic young people from flocking to Schools of Education.

I had heard it said that in the old days the Proctor School Board had intimidated Laura. By the time I met her I saw no evidence of timidity. If I recall correctly she was once the President of the Proctor Education Association and its chief negotiator. Although I expected her to come to the Duluth School Board with a teacher’s prejudices even I was surprised at how deeply they ran. Shortly after we had chosen Julio Almanza to be our new superintendent I mentioned to her how eager I was to meet with him one on one. "Not me" she told me. She said something to the effect that she didn’t trust administrators because she expected them all to sweet talk her and she was having none of that.

Laura’s knowledge of the way teachers think is a two edged sword. On the one hand it helps to get into another person’s shoes when you negotiate with them. On the other hand, being unable to set your prejudices aside once you’ve changed sides at the bargaining table can be awkward.

When I first met her for lunch Laura mentioned that she had just been harassed by a kid she was about to flunk. He had taunted her by saying he was going to come back to her class next year and make her miserable. She had already talked to the Principal to make sure that wouldn’t happen. If I had been her principal I would have done everything in my power to keep Laura happy.

Despite having at least one kid who didn’t like her Laura has been a constant chaperone, volunteer, referee etc. at Proctor. Although single in life she is wedded to her work and is often is torn between attending Duluth School Board functions and events in Proctor.

There was probably no one more surprised by her election victory than Laura. I’ve always assumed that many voters confused her with Duluth’s Congdon family. Even Dorothy Neumann, Laura’s ally, frequently mispronounces her name and puts the g in it. Her election shouldn’t have been a big surprise. She ran with well-organized union support in an election without incumbents or well-known candidates on the ballot.

Laura can be overly formal at meetings by unnecessarily asking if she can ask a question. She can also stiffen considerably when she feels abused by George Balach and to a lesser degree by Tim Grover. She once told Tim that she wasn’t afraid of him. Tim was mystified.

Perhaps the biggest worry I have about Laura Condon and Eileen Zeitz is their unequivocal support for one other. Perhaps with Tim and George gone they will be better able to be themselves and less like Siamese twins.