Frank Words one quotation from every DFT Newsletter I have in my files

I got in hot water a year back for putting my words on paper in a letter to Frank Wanner. Here's part of what I said: " . . . 15 years of newsletters dripping with sarcasm and self pity have had their effect and created a climate of sullen defiance. In the last two decades superintendents have come and gone, school board members have come and gone, crises have come and gone. You, my friend, are the one constant. What have you contributed?" Feel free to read the complete text of my letter to Mr. Wanner. 

When the News Tribune got a hold of my letters they printed this excerpt. A few days later a school administrator quoted this back to me verbatim when I told him how important is was for us to get along with the union.

I think very carefully about what I put on paper or in my web page for that matter. Its the historian in me. Words. We use them. We abuse them. We have them with each other. They are the stuff of history. They tell us where we've been and predict where we are going. I don't regret writing a single word of the letter I sent Frank.

I don't have a complete set of Frank's newsletters but I have many of them going back to 1992. Read on to get a taste of Frank's demoralizing attitude. By the way, if anyone can add newsletters to my collection I'd appreciate it.

4-1-86 "The other day...a student...asked me what it is that the Superintendent does...I thought for a minute and replied...'He closes schools on snow days!'"

1-8-92    "I always hesitate responding to the News-Tribune's 'teacher-baiting' editorials. It is a lesson in futility. When they have finished with their 'editing' (read that, 'hatchet job') it no longer resembles in comprehensibility or in bite what was originally written." This was written by Jerry Brown the DFT's Executive Secretary and Frank Wanner's mentor. This column was about a letter-to-the-editor he had written which was 62 words too long and was edited by the Tribune before they published it.

2-18-92  "Boards come and go. Individuals with outlandish agendas, willful prejudices, gigantic egos, who attempt to 'adjust','correct','fix', and 'improve' our school system, quickly tire, become bored, and move on." This also is Jerry Brown's writing. He won an award for this column from the American Federation of Teachers.

2-28-92  "At best the lengthened year approach is a simplistic response to a complicated problem. At worst, it is a political ploy designed to make the public believe that there are cheap, quick and easy ways to improve education. It appears to be a solution designed to help politicians more than kids." Frank was criticizing the legislature not the school board.

3-11-92  "It may well be that the third semester approach would enable those of us in education to focus our resources where the needs are, rather than a blanket dumping of additional days onto the school year with little real expectation for significant improvement and achievement." A positive column blunted only by the claim that lack of money is the only thing preventing additional summer school class time.

3-27-92 "...it appears that confusion has been replaced by chaos...Recently a reporter from Corporate Report magazine called to interview us. One of the things he asked was, 'Do people in Duluth really refer to the Central Administration Building as Fort Fumble?' Apparently he had heard the term used on television in the Twin Cities."

4-24-92 "If the Task Force [on secondary problems] is created by the School Board itself, then there is a danger of having additional confusion over the proper role of the School Board."

5-4-92 "Now we find that there is a need for yet another task force. It makes you wonder why. Maybe what we need is some type of special committee to study special committees or a task force to study all of the task forces."

5-21-92 "The budget process continues...The sure losers in the process are going to be teachers and students."

9-3-92 "On August 11, 1992, the School Board discontinued an additional 36.5 positions...we will find ourselves...hoping that class sizes will not be so large as to make teaching difficult if not impossible." In my one experience at negotiations Frank never agonized about class sizes only teacher salaries. Frank may not understand the correlation between cause and effect.

9-30-92 "The School Board has made a decision to give someone $100,000 to not work for them any more." This someone was the Finance Director who helped the Board settle a contract with the teachers without telling the Board that the settlement was unaffordable. Some Board members thought the Director warned the DFT to take the money and run while keeping the Board in the dark. This happened just before the build up of what was to become a $5.5 million debt.

10-2-92 "All in all this is one of those situations where one is not sure whether to laugh loudly or cry softly--so it goes..." This too refers to the Director's "golden parachute"

10-30-92 "A number of people within our community seem to be of the opinion that teachers have a health insurance package which is substantial and in the minds of some, perhaps even unearned. I believe Member Grover referred to our package as 'lavish.'"

11-12-92 "In fact, the increase in teacher workload is coming close to matching the increases in medical insurance costs. One would not expect in any other area of employment to see such major increases in workload and responsibility without accompanying increases in compensation, particularly among professional employees."

12-4-92 "At many of our secondary buildings the assistant principal does not have a lot of night-time duties. Perhaps he or she could be counted upon to staff the parking toll booth."

3-3-93 "The District has had a lack of leadership. There has been no real sense of direction. The budget is such a mess that no one seems to be able to tell just how bad the mess is. At this point it serves no purpose to assess any further blame except to say that there is enough blame to amply go around." Frank too?

3-24-93 "The other major advantage is that through a larger membership we have much more clout in dealing with both the local School Board and the State Legislature." announcing that the secretarial bargaining unit would henceforth be represented by the DFT.

5-14-93 "The D.F.T. has been applying a great deal of pressure to the administration...."

6-1-93 "Generally speaking the statements [by the Superintendent] ...have been detrimental to the public's image of teachers."

6-3-93 "There was a time when as a young teacher I would look around the faculty room and wonder when some of those folks, who at that time seemed so old, would retire so I didn't have to worry about having a job in the future."

9-14-93 "The ongoing difficulties between the Board and the Superintendent are quickly reaching the point of absurdity."

9-29-93 The message to give the School Board is:"you have an obligation to the students of Duluth schools and the citizens of Duluth to find ways of working with the teachers, to find ways of making their job easier, not more difficult, and to find ways to resolve what seem to be your inherent difficulties so as to build on the successes we are having and stop making us look bad."

9-30-93 "For the past 14 years we have endeavored to inservice and train our negotiators in non-adversarial bargaining and win-win negotiations...Apparently this year's group of School Board negotiators has not been reading the same articles as the rest of the civilized world...Their approach seems to be, smack those teachers over the head with a negotiations club and drag them back to the cave of servitude."

10-28-93 "...we have decided to prepare several varieties of public response which could be placed in the newspaper but to hold on these until we see whether or not the Board is going to continue in their ill advised attempt to sway public opinion."

11-22-93 An announcement about the "Employee Assistance Program" with no editorial

12-7-93 "...it would be very easy to view this proposal as an insult to teachers...It appears the District wishes to engage in 'surface bargaining,' a type of bargaining in which one goes through the motions but does not really intend to reach a settlement."

12-14-93 "...the District is willing to admit that the information they have provided to us relative to salary schedules and costs is inaccurate."

12-30-93 "The same teaching staff which is responsible for higher levels of graduations, more students receiving scholarships, more students going on to college and generally higher test scores, is now going to be made to pay for errors and omissions committed by administrators and decisions of the School Board."

1-11-94 "In many ways, this is the most frustrating set of negotiations that I and the other D.F.T. team members have been a part of."

1-?-94 An announcement of a general membership meeting for Jan.11th to discuss negotiations

1-20-94 "The School Board cannot negotiate because they cannot budget. The School Board cannot negotiate because they cannot plan. The School Board cannot negotiate because they can't control the administration..."

1-31-94 "The recent state auditor's report indicated that the School District leadership appears to be blindly muddling along. It is gratifying to note that they have now proposed a 'vision' for 1994."

11-22-94 "This healthy conflict [labor-management discussions] that respects the integrity of others and focuses on issues will improve our District and our union." This positive observation was made by a DFT Executive Board member who quit teaching and the union and went into administration. He is not alone. Several other of Frank Wanner's old board members have done the same thing and are now principals in Duluth.

35-15-9 An explanation about Pension Fund legislation by the Executive Secretary of the Duluth Teachers' Retirement Fund Association

3-17-95 Referring to the Profiles in Learning "Now it appears that Minnesota is not only abandoning the proven in favor of the speculative, but is also ready to put all of its education eggs in one basket. The result could be equally disastrous."

5-3-95 "Congratulations to Frank Wanner on his re-election to the MFT Executive Council."

5-12-95 "We just received a copy of a memo from Terri Kronzer...The first sentence makes little or no sense. I realize that in a lengthy memo such as this it is possible to have a sentence or two which due to negligence on the part of the writer may end up being somewhat confusing. Perhaps in the future Terri could limit the length of her memos to one or two words..."

5-17-95 Announcing DFT Executive Board election results

5-31-95 "The financial problems of this District are not of our making. They have been caused by mistakes made at the administrative and School Board levels."

10-23-95 "...the mood of the negotiations is vastly improved over what it was two years ago. t appears that both sides are committed to an early settlement--at least a settlement prior to January 15."

11-30-95 "Is this coincidence or what? Here we are in the midst of negotiations and behold the School District discovers that they are short some money...The question arises, what do we do now? "Hey," someone on the School Board says, "I know, let's punish the teachers. Let's not give them pay raises."

2-9-96 "Mark Myles went too far when he thanked employees for their perseverance during the last decade and the School Board for its "vision." We haven't seen that much undeserved boasting, misinformation and just plain rubbish in print on one page since Reg Nolin presented his Strategic Plan.   Another perspective is that this School Board has cheated this community, cheated our students, and cheated its employees." The words of Jim Melander DFT Vice President

3-7-96 Announcement that DFT Executive Board positions are up for election

3-19-96 "All of us would agree that it would be nice if our local were to stand above the crowd, to be an organization that is looked up to by not only our own members, but by the School Board and public as well." It should be a two way street.

4-23-96 "The School District has an obligation to levy to the maximum amount allowed by law. If the School District were to levy an additional $4million, there would be plenty of money to provide for an adequate level of staffing to both lower class sizes and guarantee specialists in each area." This statement suggests that the School Board could have levied an additional 4 million to solve all its problems. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! The law would not allow it. Perhaps this explains Frank's unrealistic expectations. The year after this newsletter was sent out the Board gave the voters a chance to continue the excess levy of 1993 only this time funds would go to hire specialists not pay off debt. It passed, no thanks to Frank. The parent's referendum committee asked for a contribution from the DFT to help to pass the referendum. Frank refused. As he told me, "What's in it for us?" by which he meant he wanted referendum funds to go to existing teachers not to hire more specialists. At the time this newsletter was written the Board could only have levied an additional 1.5 million dollars without voter approval. Frank is right. We could have levied it and we didn't. However, we subsequently did levy to the maximum the law allows and that money went to pay our teachers more. This wasn't good enough for Frank who has never acknowledged that the Board followed his advice. As his 2-10-98 newsletter makes clear. "There is no way some of these people [school board members] can make amends."

5-23-96 "We can have no faith in the District's present negotiators. Their word is of little value. How can we negotiate with anyone having so little respect for us?"

5-23-96 "In a repudiation of good faith bargaining tenants and procedures, the administration and School Board of I.S.D. No. 709 have unilaterally implemented a "formulary plan" for prescription drugs." We were wrong. It doesn't occur to Frank that ours was an honest mistake.

11-21-96 "They [teachers] will be sacrificed to create the new charter school. It makes no difference how hard they have worked or how well they have done. It matters little how well their schools are doing. The superintendent and School Board want a charter school in Duluth."

1-3-97 "Rather than utilize the talents and expertise of our teachers to create a charter school, the leadership team would rather turn our students over to the educational equivalent of carpetbaggers!"

1-29-97 "Is the union against charter schools? Not real charter schools. In fact, we tried to develop a research-based charter in cooperation with UMD and the District.The District was uncooperative." This is one interpretation of events which took place during the preceding year. Its worth noting that three years earlier when UMD offered to help a group start a charter school in Duluth, that Mr. Wanner called up UMD's Education Dept with a threat. He told UMD that they would never be able to place a student teacher in Duluth again if they offered any help to a charter.

2-25-97 A comment from Frank concerning his visit to an Edison school in Florida: "The teachers feel that they have a very professional relationship with both Edison and the school district which is reinforced by the United Teachers of Dade (UTD)."

2-28-97 "So far, our superintendent has been very hostile, uncooperative and secretive regarding information on the Edison Project." Its worth noting that Mr. Wanner had just engineered a vote by the Union of "no confidence" against the Superintendent the previous Spring.

3-14-97 Referring to the Edison Management: "This has to be the most costly set of central office administrators in the galaxy...New meaning is given to the concept of 'bloated bureaucratic salaries'."

4-4-97 A parody of Edison suggesting that outsiders are going to take over snow removal in Duluth "...This...outfit has guaranteed this service based on their experiences in Miami and Los Angeles, where people know a thing or two about snow removal. They expect to be able to charge no more than we now pay for this service, give us better quality service, and make a profit, by eliminating the current inefficient poor quality system currently in place." Mr. Wanner did not write this.

4-16-97 An open letter to Duluth legislators from a Duluth teacher: "In Duluth, our community is being shredded by an educational entity called the Edison Project. It's been slickly marketed to a well-intentioned but seemingly naive school board who bought it sight unseen...For the last decade, a frequently feuding school board kept a revolving door on the superintendent's office. Teacher bashing by certain school board members, administrators, and the local newspaper appears at times to be considered fair sport."

9-10-97 Referring to contract negotiations: "What remains as a problem is the school board and administration's [low] regard for teachers. An early and decent settlement would do wonders for restoring morale and healing wounds."

9-17-97 Referring to contract negotiations: "We have been promised that this would be a makeup session as the District finances are now in excellent shape. This promise must be kept." Mr. Wanner told me that the Superintendent made this promise. The Superintendent denied making it.

10 30-97 "Presently there are 257 school districts (of 354) in Minnesota with starting salaries higher than Duluth." I got many letters from teachers repeating this. This complaint ignores the fact that the District has always let the teachers determine where on the salary grid new money goes once the negotiations have been concluded.

2-10-98 "Witness the events of the past few years. The Edison schools, the attacks by the superintendent on our system..., The way the 'Gang of Five' treats anyone who disagrees with them, the creation of a climate of fear within the school district, and assaults on the integrity of union leadership are just a few examples...There is no way that some of these people can ever make amends. The damage is too great. We will not let them off easily."

3-13-99 "The truth is that kids left the district due to actions of the school board and superintendent. Now you [Harry Welty] expect that the people to suffer will be the teachers. So it goes"

4-24-99 "As you must know by now, Harry has stepped down as school board chair. I take no great pleasure in his departure. I do respect his decision. Harry wrote some things about me which I felt were unfortunate, unfair, and unnecessary. I don't know why he did what he did. I wish that he hadn't. I didn't reciprocate. My correspondence with him concerned specifics of negotiations and positions and were shared with the membership."

5-14-98 "We have all probably heard or read recent statements by school board members praising the work of Duluth's teachers. Unfortunately their actions do not match their words."

9-16-98 "Contractual problems, attacks on teachers, and lack of respect for those of us who actually provide education for students also seem to run together to form a continuum."

10-6-98 "We plan to have meetings for various strike preparation committees, Building Stewards and perhaps a general membership meeting prior to this time."

10-14-98 "The public perception of the DFT has improved. We have demonstrated our patience."

11-18-98 "The school district is likely to do anything possible to cause dissension and concern among the membership."

12-3-98 "We have a contract. We are not on strike....In fact, our efforts actually began two years ago with a group organized to work on school board elections. This group showed what we could do. They became a model for much of what we have done."

3-1-99 "Parent involvement can become a problem when parents begin to feel that they should have the ability to determine programs or run schools."

3-12-99 "...it is time once again to begin negotiating our contract...The entire process can create a lot of stress. The stress is not limited to the group actually doing the negotiating. We all feel it...I'm sure that school board members also feel the stress."

3-19-99 " We often feel that instead of being given a teaching license we should be given a target... The radio talk shows are jammed with callers anxious to expound on how little we work, the lack of our accomplishments and the extent of our greed."

4-5-99 "We have all read the newspaper accounts of how the recent contract settlement would require program cuts. The school board is presently pleading poverty. How does one explain the financial problems in light of the state report? I really don't know. In the Net (Unappropriated Operating Fund Balance) scheme of things Duluth seems to be in very good shape indeed." Mr. Wanner never acknowledges the problems that result from spending more than one receives in revenue.

5-21-99 "Unfortunately the bad news from the local school board (the gang of five) may cause the school district to have to make cuts... They should now promise the community which programs will be cut and which schools will be closed. They should run for re-election on the basis of this promise."

8-8-99 "As you will remember, the school board passed a resolution last Spring which requires a public hearing of some sort prior to the school board actually voting on any new contract. This meeting will give each and every anti-teacher or anti-union person a chance to take a shot at what they are likely to see as yet one more huge raise for those money grubbing teachers." Since I introduced this resolution I would like to make it clear I have no use for anti-tax famatics or people who think teachers are "money grubbers." On the other hand I do want to give parents, who fear budget cuts, a chance to air their concerns. Maybe Frank wants to keep parents out of the loop.

9-27-99 "Public education remains very much under attack."

11-12-99 "Just over two years ago we had no friends on the school board. It seemed as though every vote was 9 - 0 against us and the school board was 9 - 0 against us. We now have six members who are friendly." I wonder what Frank will expect from his six "friends" when they discover that they have no more money than his enemies? Frank is obsessed with enemies. Before I was seated four years ago Frank told several hundred teachers that I would "be no friend of teachers."

11-22-99 "One of the members of the Executive Board has actually compiled a list of those people signing the Chamber letter and the business which they represent. We could distribute this list to our members and members of other unions. We could exercise some economic clout." Oh good. Lets punish the business community too.

11-30-99 "We have lost some trust...It will be very difficult in the future to envision a cooperative relationship with the school district...One of our retirees put it very well to me today when he said: 'I guess once again it just proves that the district thinks about money alot more than the people who work for them...' " I wonder what the six friends of the teachers will make out of this?

12-17-99 " blame the district for the way the joint Labor Management Committee functioned and how bids were done."

1-10-00 "Should a settlement not be reached, the school district could lose about $300,000 in state funding. Of course they appear to have close to $20,000,000 in reserves, so the penalty would not be a major problem" Outrageous claims like this help convince our teachers that we're hiding money from them.

Have you kept any old Goldenrods not included in this collection? I would appreciate getting copies of any other newsletters I've missed so I can include quotations from them as well. 

I recall talking to Frank, back when we were on good speaking terms, and listening to him complain that administrators called the Goldenrod the "Golden Rag." He thought it was a very impolite thing to say.