Thursday, 2-14-2002

Teapot Tempests

Dear Political Diary,

I read to three classes at the Lincoln School library this morning. I was in good form, perhaps a little too good. My animated style seemed to wind up quite a few of the K-2 kidlets on the floor at my feet. Or maybe it was my gorilla slippers. One little boy kept putting his fingers in my slippers' nostrils as I read. He kept taking his finger back out to squint at it in disgust. Fortunately, Pig Pig managed to get through his story without getting too distracted by the commotion. This is not the only finger pointing that's gotten my attention this week.

After lunch I went over to my monthly Social Service Collaborative meeting and quickly found myself in acronym hell. Our chief presentation was from the coordinator of the IIIP. From now on all IEP's must be coordinated with IIIPs (or "triple I P's as we like to say). We discussed the funding of St. Louis County's LCC's and LAC's and listened to short reports from each of our FRC's. 

Acronyms are really just short hand for insiders but their proliferation jeopardizes our mission since they sound like gobbledygook to outsiders. In the case of this particular set of programs they all relate to one of my favorite ideas - interagency cooperation. 

Before heading home I picked up the VHS tape recording of Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting. During the meeting I thought that our new Chairman was chastising me for bringing up my two high school plan yet again. We exchanged some testy words. Afraid that I had overreacted I was eager to watch the tape.

It's true that our Chairman cut me off which is a breech of etiquette.  The parliamentary roll of a Chairman is to take a neutral stance at meetings. Traditionally Chairs don't offer their opinions unless they pass the gavel to a subordinate. We've never been that formal but I sure didn't like having Mike interrupt me with a correction that was little more than his opinion. Perhap's Mike's lopsided 7 to 2 vote over me for Chairman has encouraged him to treat me dismissively. Laura Condon has been egging him on in this direction.  I don't think Mike has ever attended an MSBA (Minnesota School Board Association) training session for new chairmen. He ought to.

The tape was no smoking gun. Our discussion seemed calm and rational enough. I was clearly mistaken about the vendetta against eastern Duluth. I may have thought I heard Mike say something to that affect but he didn't.  I owe Mike an apology for raising the subject. 

Mike does seem insensitive to the fears of my second district constituents. They will not be happy with the proposed boundary between East High and Central. I see no reason to join Mike as a cheerleader for this change since I've been an advocate for a two high school plan rather than a three high school plan. Mike suggested that it was time for me to drop the issue because the majority of the school board had already made this decision. If this is his thinking it will be interesting to see if Mike drops his own opposition to the six period day which is currently supported by the majority of the current board.  Mike suggested that we talk this east-west tempest over privately and I mean to take him up on his offer. 

There was another tempest yesterday. KDLH's Chad Thomas called me up to ask about the PTA's concerns about our new math curriculum. I made the mistake of mentioning that the PTA had also sent us some other letters at the same time urging us to further reduce our administration. Chad pricked up his ears at this and I was soon trying to talk him into ignoring the subject. This just added fuel to the fire.

He didn't let it go. Someone else gave him the letters and they were KDLH's feature story on tonight's news. Chad summarized some of the letter's allegations (without naming names) and highlighted the dispute between PTA members about sending the letters.

I told Chad that I was sorry it had become a news story. Its a distraction that only adds heat, rather than light, to our ongoing planning. Chad commented that the PTA president wasn't backing off from her letter's conclusions but I couldn't help but note that she had decided not to talk on camera. This brouhaha is ironic because the President's spouse is a school administrator. The PTA will need to fasten its seat belt because the next month will probably be a bumpy ride. 

My thoughts on reducing our administration are simple.  Its not untouchable but I can't help but remember that the last time we cut too many administrators we ended up falling five million dollar debt. Since then we've kept cutting budgets and haven't had a chance to fatten up our administration. And for crying out loud, we're a hundred million dollar operation with over 2,000 employees. No organization that big can operate without some organizational infrastructure.

next entry