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I called Classie Dudley a week ago hoping to have coffee with her. I have no doubt that she knew I was helping my friend Alanna Oswald campaign for reelection to the Duluth School Board. Classie is the instigator of a brutal Facebook attack on Alanna.
Our chat was pleasant until I told Classie that I was supporting Alanna. Classie told me that the Alanna I knew was not the same Alanna we had both known for 10 years and proceeded to list faults I had never seen. The upshot on Facebook is that Alanna had stooped to racism.
I handed Classie the flyer I wrote as a personal endorsement of Alanna. Classie grew serious as she read it and told me it would be a shame if voters found out I was a racist should I run for public office again. I calmly noted the threat and we parted company.
Classie has built a nice resume. She is currently the head of Duluth’s venerable NAACP the organization that challenged Kansas in the Supreme Court and integrated my Topeka school. She’s traveled widely and once gushed to me about meeting Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights spokesman, who I often saw on the news in the Beatles Era.
She was hired as Exec Director of Community Action Duluth (CAD). This year the Duluth News Tribune added her to their annual “Twenty under forty” list. Yet a mere seven months into her new job the Minnesota Office of Equal Opportunity charged into Duluth to address the disorder at CAD.
From Classie’s first month complaints about her bullying the staff flooded CAD’s Board and St. Paul’s OEO office.
Alanna, is a stickler for following rules. The school board approved her idea of a Committee on Policy when I served with her.
From Alanna’s perspective Classie had an alarmingly casual attitude about rules. After her appointment a mass exodus began. It included many unhappy board members whose departure took the board out of compliance with state law. They left because public meeting minutes were denied to the staff and public. Meetings were held secretly and staff were informed by Classie of board directives that turned out to be nonexistent.
Classie wrote her own bylaws. Not surprisingly one forbade staff from talking with board members.
After the board evaporated the executive staff hemorrhaged. They were followed by workers on the ground who found themselves directly under Classie’s supervision. The workers decided to form a union on a 14-1 vote.
The OEO’s report disheartened everyone. The report made no mention of bullying or the Executive Director’s autocratic style. They did strangely suggest this was the fault of Alanna Oswald for pushing the board too hard to hire Classie in the first place.
Since the NAACP criticized Alanna Oswald’s racial insensitivity Classie’s record bears scrutiny. Of 10 CAD office workers who quit or who were fired under Classie five were members of minority communities - 50%.
The CAD is not an insignificant agency. It spends more than $2 million a year on various projects to help those in need, including tax preparation, housing and nutrition financed in large part by government sources.
The loss of financial staff led to a missed paycheck. More damning, retirement benefits were not deposited into retirement accounts for six months. Word of this reached an independent Reporter, John Ramos, who decided to poke around. He walked into the CAD office and asked to see CAD’s 990 forms that the IRS requires to be made public on request. Classie called the police and reported him as a trespasser. When police showed up and he was ordered to leave he snapped a picture of their patrol car and put it on his “Duluth Monitor” website. Mr. Ramos contacted the IRS and a few days later the CAD handed him the forms.
Classie tried to organize a board vote to remove Alanna. Her ploy failed but Alanna resigned to avoid Classie and further conflict. However, Classie was not done with Alanna. She recruited a candidate to run against Alanna. Then she worked diligently to deny Alanna the endorsement of the DFL. The NAACP’s reputation counts for something in the DFL as it should. Still, I’ll admit that she found a very nice candidate.
But…. As I found out when I replaced such a school board member many Duluth teachers consider it a slap in the face when a school board member doesn’t trust them to teach the board member’s own children.
Classie’s candidate, Alanna’s challenger, sends her child to a private school.
When Alanna expressed disappointment about being sidestepped by a party she had worked for this became fodder for the NAACP to criticize Alanna on its Facebook Account. And when Alanna asked the question on Facebook - Why is a candidate who sends her child to a private school running for a public school position? the NAACP went ballistic and excoriated Alanna for racial insensitivity under the hashtag #Racist.
Eight years ago Classie Dudley had this to say about Alanna: “Oswald's wisdom surpassed all of the other candidates in the race/poverty equity forum. Not only was Oswald knowledgeable about the issues, she shared her history of working to help communities like with her ‘Race, Culture and Achievement Gap Summit’ which showed her passion and knowledge of the issues… ”
Take your pick of Classies. I think its an easy choice!
Harry Welty shrugs off threats of being called a racist and worse at lincolndemocrat.com