Sunday, October 31, 2010

Unfair Labor Practice

Joseph Hunter appears to have taken complete leave of his senses. On Wednesday of last week, he sent the email memo reproduced above to all district staff. On pages 2-3, he discusses collective bargaining with the Central Education Association. As you may recall, the district and the CEA have been in negotiations since last spring but have been at a standstill for some time now. According to both state and federal labor law, employers must bargain in good faith with the bargaining team chosen by the members of the union. It is absolutely forbidden for management to attempt an end-run around the bargaining team and directly approach rank-and-file union members. Joseph Hunter knows this very well - we had discussions about it when I was on the Board. What can he possibly be thinking? He is now subject to a fine ($1,000 for each unfair labor practice - does each teacher count as one or is it a single violation?) He is also liable for filing fees and attorney fees. Does the district have to foot the bill if the CEA files a complaint or is it his personal responsibility for being so thoughtless?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Open and Transparent"

This ad appeared today in the Salem Statesman-Journal. In it, the Salem-Keiser School District invites the public to come and share their thoughts on how to minimize the negative impact of inevitable budget cuts. It represents a marked contrast to decision making in our own school district. In Central SD 13J, the administration (read "superintendent") decided on a series of "tiered cuts" which have been kept secret from the public. Why? I believe it is to prevent any kind of public outcry about particular cuts until it is too late to do anything about them. The district even refused my public records request for this information. While our superintendent likes to use the word "transparency," he is doing everything he can to prevent the very dialog the superintendent in Salem-Keiser in trying to initiate. Do we have openness and transparency in our district? Does our superintendent welcome public input? You be the judge.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I have, for now, disabled the option of posting comments anonymously. Comments are still welcome, both for and against, but posters will need to have the courage of their convictions and identify themselves. No more sniping from the shadows.

If you have things you would like to say to me privately, information you would like me to track down, or issues you would like me to research further you can contact me at:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sticks and Stones

I've now been called a skunk and a liar by Joseph Hunter's supporters but what they have yet to do is provide one shred of evidence to contradict what I have written.

If you think I'm lying and that:

He has the support of his staff? Prove it!

He didn't call us "provincial?" Prove it!

He didn't get paid twice for the same mileage? Prove it!

He didn't get the district to pay for his golf outings? Prove it!

He provided a detailed accounting of the bond? Prove it!

He didn't shift some bond projects into this year's budget? Prove it!

More students are passing the state tests? Prove it!

He has submitted monthly expense reports as required? Prove it!

He hasn't used district money to take his administrators out to lunch? Prove it!

He's already signed his new contract? Prove it!

Administrative costs don't now take up a larger share of our budget? Prove it!

You have the moral high ground in this controversy? Prove it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Hasn't Joseph Hunter Signed His New Contract?

The Board approved the new contract back in July but it still hasn't been signed by Joseph Hunter or by Susan Stoops on behalf of the Board. As you may recall, under the old contract he would be paid the remainder of his three-year contract should the Board seek to terminate his employment. Because of changes to Oregon Revised Statute, the new contract does not offer that. Instead he would be allowed to work out the remainder of his three-year contract. The new law prohibits paying public employees for work they have not done. For someone looking at possibly being terminated, then, the old contract is obviously better. I can see where Hunter would not want to sign the new one. What is not clear is why Stoops has not insisted that he do so. The Board voted to accept the new contract and, from what I have heard, she has not discussed the missing signatures with the other Board members. Is she once again setting aside a decision of the entire Board and acting as a free agent (as she did with the meetings format)? Is she conspiring with Hunter to make sure he gets a nice pay-out when he gets fired? Against the wishes of the Board? Is it time to call in State officials to clean up this mess?

Democracy? Not Here!

Believe it or not, the district has refused to release the names of the people who have applied to fill the vacant Board position prior to next Monday's meeting. Even though they will be appointed by the Board, they are supposed to represent the public. So why doesn't the public even have the right to know who they are? Because the Board members have not requested that information in advance. So we have no right to know it either. The commitment to basic democratic principles in our school district is almost nonexistent. We not only need a new superintendent, we need a new School Board, and we need a new set of rules. Democratic ones this time!


The community group that is currently circulating the letter of no confidence regarding Joseph Hunter's performance as superintendent has issued the retraction reproduced above. It will be appearing in next week's Itemizer-Observer as a paid display ad.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Signed letters should be returned to:

Ron and Charlotte Williamson
770 Sacre Lane
Monmouth, Oregon 97361


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stirring the Pot

Since some of you may not read the Polk County Itemizer-Observer regularly, I've made copies of the text of an article that appeared on the front page of yesterday's edition. I've also included the letter to the editor written by the superintendent's friend.

I repeat my challenge to them - if you think my reporting on this blog is inaccurate, then prove it.

And for the record, Susan, I started this blog only three months ago - more than a year after the staff vote of no confidence. Saying that the current situation is the result of the blog requires a rather serious re-writing of the history of this district.

I stirred the pot and turned up the heat but I didn't make the stew. The recipe and ingredients were provided by the superintendent. It's left a bad taste and the community has had a belly full.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


If the allegations against the superintendent are inaccurate "half-truths" then it's time for him and his supporters to step up and provide evidence to refute them. I don't think they can.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October Board Meeting

It was a doozey - Where to begin?

Robert's Rules of Order

The meeting kicked off with a challenge from the audience. Last month, you may recall, the Board voted to change the meeting format. Particularly controversial were the changes to the public input segment. Many people felt that the new format was designed to minimize public participation and keep critics of the district away from the microphone. Well, immediately prior to this meeting, the word had gotten out that the new format was not going to be implemented this month after all.

The challenge, from a teacher of American Government, focused on the Board's failure to adhere to Robert's Rules of Order and their own policies. According to Board policy (and Oregon Revised Statute, I would add) once the Board has made a decision to change their policies, those changes become effective the very next day. All of the other changes (location, shortened business portion, work session at the end) to the meeting format that they agreed to last month were implemented except for the public input portion. It may seem strange that teachers and members of the public who had disagreed with the changes were now angry that they were not being implemented. But here's the thing - teachers had prepared themselves for the new format and a large number of them had come to the Board meeting for the proposed "small group listening sessions" only to be told at the last minute that it was not going to happen. Dealing with the Board seems like a constantly shifting terrain in which the rules change in ways designed to keep public participation to a minimum. The public would like to maximize its participation - hard to do when then the rules keep changing.

Susan Stoops, the Board Chair admitted that she and Joseph Hunter had agreed between the two of them to delay implementation of that single part of the new plan. She was obviously flustered and asked for a short recess so that the Board could consider how to proceed in the face of the challenge only to be reminded by the audience that the Board was to conduct all deliberations in open meetings. They recessed anyway and when they reconvened a few minutes later Traci Hamilton offered the opinion that since it was not a policy change it was OK for the Board Chair to decide whether it had to be implemented or not. First of all, it was a policy change. Board policy BDDH specifies how public input at meetings is to be gathered so, whether they explicitly stated that this was a change to Policy BDDH or not, it was in fact a policy change. Secondly, when a duly elected Board votes on anything, policy changes or not, it is binding. The Board Chair cannot set aside any part of decisions made by the Board as a whole. If the Board wants to avoid a complaint to the Secretary of State's Office, I would recommend a refresher course on parliamentary procedures from the high school teachers who teach this stuff to kids. The abridged version: Majority rules, votes count. I was disappointed that none of the other Board members spoke up in protest. I was particularly disappointed in Paul Evans who knows better but who nonetheless sat there like a bump on a log. The end result was that they went along with the Chair's dictates.

The Board did take public comment at the beginning of the meeting as they have done in the past. Although the stated policy is that they will not comment on anything heard in "comments from the floor," the reality is that they do when they want to - usually to disagree with something that has been voiced and when the speaker has no opportunity to respond. When they don't want to engage, they hide behind the policy. I think a little consistency is in order. For my part, I would appreciate more actual back and forth discussion with the public.

Circling the Wagons

After a short business meeting, the Board adjourned and went into work session. The Chair announced that they would not take comments or questions and then they moved the tables into a circle (a square actually but the effect was the same) in which they were all facing one another and the public was totally excluded. The had their backs to us and we could neither see them nor hear them very well. It was a rather stunning demonstration of apparent contempt that left most of us shaking our heads in disbelief. As critical as I have been of the School Board, even I have trouble believing that this was their intent. Hopefully, they won't do it again.

As usually happens, the public was not furnished with the documents the Board discussed including the bond report and the superintendent's report on the print shop issue. It gives every appearance of trying to keep us out of the loop and uninformed. And, based on the part of the discussion we could hear, it would seem that they still don't have a real bond budget to look at. I hate to say I told you so but see the post below titled "The Run Around."

While the work session is separate from the "business agenda," they do conduct business. Paul Evans, for example, moved to restore the half-time position to the print shop. He, Kathy Zehner, and Mary Shellenbarger voted "yes" and Susan Stoops voted "no." Sara Ramirez and Traci Hamilton both abstained and later said that they felt rushed and overwhelmed. The issue will apparently be revisited next month once they have more information about where the money will come from. I have some suggestions although I doubt they will ask me. I thought the Board asked the supt. last month to figure out a way to restore staffing at the print shop but all he did was reiterate his initial decision.

Another topic that came up was the debate on what to do with the modulars at the high school. Hunter seemed to be suggesting that the City of Independence was forcing the district to move them. People have checked with the city, however, and they said all the district needs to do is apply for a variance and they can stay where they are currently. The superintendent has been eager to move them down 16th Street to the lot across from Talmadge. The original plan for the 16th St. property was to construct two new athletic practice fields and to use the modulars to create a new campus for district wide programs. The total cost of $1.6 million was deemed too high. $1.3 million of that was for the practice fields which would have been inconveniently located and difficult and expensive to maintain. A citizen's group was successful in convincing the Board to scrap that plan in favor of artificial turf which was not only more useful but cost half as much. So the development of 16th St. is officially on hold. In the meantime it looks like they have already begun to build the road into the property. I'm not sure where that money is coming from and I know the Board has not yet approved the plan to relocate the buildings. In my experience, the superintendent generally does whatever he wants and then maneuvers the Board into rubber-stamping his decisions. I hope that is not what is happening now.

Working Without a Contract

Teachers spoke out at the meeting and begged the district to come back to the bargaining table. I've sat through three bargaining sessions now as an observer and it doesn't seem to me that the union and the district are too far apart on money issues. I could certainly feel the teachers' frustration - no matter what they offered it was never enough. The difference between the two sides on insurance costs, for example, is only about $40,000 which is about half of what the district allocated this year for travel and administrative mileage. Surely health insurance for the teachers is more important? The superintendent is playing a dangerous game, demanding steep concessions from the teachers while maintaining his own salary and benefits. If the two sides go to mediation the clock will start ticking down to a possible strike. The Board, unfortunately, did not order the superintendent to go back to bargaining and our teachers are now working without a contract. This has necessitated changes in school schedules as the old agreement on the Professional Learning Communities and early release for students on Mondays has now expired.

Sorry this post rambles. There was a lot that happened. Some of it I will have to cover later after I get clarification on the wording of their final business which was conducted after the Board emerged from executive session at 10:15 pm.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Letter to School Board

This is the letter submitted to the School Board by community member Robin Olsen. Seem like good suggestions to me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Letter of No Confidence

There is currently a letter of no confidence regarding Joseph Hunter's performance as superintendent circulating in the community.

Letters can be obtained from Ron and Charlotte Williamson.
Phone: 503-838-5205 (home)
503-580-6451 (Charlotte's cell)
503-559-2545 (Ron's cell)

They are asking that signed letters be returned to them so that they can be presented to the Board as a package. No letters will be turned in to the Board until a sufficient number have been collected.

I would urge staff members who wish to sign to proceed cautiously. My own reading of the legal issues (and keep in mind that I am not an attorney) is that you are probably protected if you publicly criticize elected officials, like Board members, but that you may not be if you criticize your boss. If you have representation, it would be advisable to check with your union's attorney. I don't see any reason why your family members and friends couldn't sign.