Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thoughts?

I would be very interested in hearing from those of you who went to the meetings regarding the superintendent search. How did you feel the meetings went? What "qualities and qualifications" were desired in our new superintendent?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Superintendent Search - Community Forums



Well folks, the superintendent search is now under way. The Board decided to hire the OSBA to run the search. While I have misgivings about this decision (it was the OSBA who found us our last superintendent), I also recognize that, for a Board composed of mostly novices, running a search itself was a daunting task.

Above is the list of community meetings that will be held this week. The purpose of the meetings is to solicit community input on the qualities and qualifications we desire in a new superintendent. Please get the word out to your friends and neighbors so that no one misses this opportunity. The two most crucial meetings are the community forum on Wednesday evening (6:30 - 7:30 pm, CHS cafeteria) and the forum for the Hispanic community on Thursday evening (6:30 - 7:30 pm, Henry Hill). Please plan to attend.

On the school district webpage is an additional chance to register your opinions. Go to: http://www.central.k12.or.us/ to fill out the short survey. The results will be compiled and shared with the Board.

We all worked very hard last year to get us to this point. It's now time to choose a new and improved superintendent for our school district. Let's do our very best to ensure that this time our district gets the kind of leadership we want and that our children deserve.

Central 13J School Board Meeting 11072011 Part 1

Central 13J School Board Meeting 11072011 Part 2

Central 13J School Board Meeting 11072011 Part 3

Central 13J School Board Meeting 11072011 Part 4

Central 13J School Board Meeting 11072011 Part 5 Final

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Board Meeting October 24, 2011

There is a special board meeting on Monday, October 24. The meeting will be in the high school cafeteria at, I believe, 6:30 pm. There are two items on the agenda - deciding whether to remain part of the WESD and the superintendent's search.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tomorrow's meeting

I have been informed that tomorrow's School Board meeting actually starts at 5:30 with a presentation from an OSBA representative about the superintendent search process. I will be disappointed if the Board allows the OSBA to direct this process - they are the ones who found the last superintendent for us (and we know how that turned out!) and they were actively promoting him for other jobs (such as St. Helens) even after things had fallen apart here. It makes me wonder who the OSBA really represents in these searches, the superintendent candidates or the School Boards who hire them? I sincerely hope that our Board takes a very strong and active role and does not allow the OSBA to run the search for them.

School Board Meeting Tomorrow - October 3

Reminder - There is a School Board meeting tomorrow evening - October 3, 2011 at 6:30 p.m in the high school cafeteria. Over the next couple of months the Board will be determining the process for hiring the new superintendent. They have also been discussing new ways of evaluating the superintendent in hopes of averting the long festering problems we had to deal with last year. It is important that the community remain engaged in this process. Please attend if you can.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sarah Ramirez Resignation

Sarah Ramirez has resigned from the school board, effective immediately. I don't know the reason but will try to find out more and I'll let you know when I do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thank You, John Boyack



Thank you to John Boyack for, as he says, "putting his money where his mouth is." John was recently appointed to fill the board position vacated by Susan Stoops following the recall election. His term will run for two years and, like all board positions, requires a significant time commitment.

As we move forward from a tumultuous spring, let's all commit ourselves to working hard to make our school district the very best it can be. Our kids deserve our best efforts and it will take our collective energy to rebuild trust and make things right again.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July Board Meeting

The school board meeting for July is tomorrow, July 11, at 6:30 p.m. in the CHS cafeteria. The new board members will be sworn in, a new chair and vice-chair will be selected, and the new board will then choose a replacement for Susan Stoops who was recalled in April. There are reportedly five applicants for the position, three of whom are from the correct zone. Unfortunately, I can't be there but I'm hoping that others of you will fill me in on what happens.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy Summer!

Well friends, it's been a long and eventful year. But we made it! And we've accomplished so much! There is still more to do to make our school district all that it can be but now it's time to relax and re-charge those batteries. I appreciate the support you've given me along the way, your hard work, and the friendships we have forged. Have a great summer - we've earned it!

ELVIN BISHOP SURE FEELS GOOD

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Board Vacancy - Time to Choose a Replacement for Stoops

Central seeks applicants for board

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Central School District 13J is seeking candidates interested in filling a vacancy representing Zone 4 on its Board of Directors.

Candidates must be registered to vote and a resident of the district for at least one year immediately preceding the appointment.

Candidates should also reside within the zone, which represents the city of Monmouth west of Pacific Highway (99W) and north of Jackson Street. But if the board does not receive qualified candidates from within the zone, an out-of-zone appointment may be made.

The term runs through June 30, 2013.

Those interested in applying for the seat should submit a letter of interest to the Central School District 13J Board, 1610 Monmouth St., Independence, OR 97351. Deadline for applications is Tuesday, July 5, at 4:30 p.m.

For more information: 503-606-2251

(from The Polk County Itemizer-Observer, June 8, 2011)

Monday, June 6, 2011

June School Board Meeting

Reminder:

Budget Committee Meeting tonight (June 6) at 6 pm in the CHS cafeteria.

School Board Meeting immediately after at 6:30 pm.

The agenda and related materials can be found here: http://www.central.k12.or.us/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=e7SievI7vlw%3d&tabid=113&mid=858&language=en-US

The board has promised to be more open and responsive to questions from the community. It will be interesting to see how the board responds to the very pointed questions directed to them at the last meeting. See pages 5-6 of the minutes from the May meeting (included in the link above) for details.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

School Board Elections

Congratulations to our new school board members. The results of yesterday's election can be found here: http://www.co.polk.or.us/sites/default/files/ElectionNightFinalPost.pdf

Mary Shellenbarger and Kathy Zehner both won re-election. Steve Love and Steve Moser will be joining them, beginning in July, along with continuing board members Traci Hamilton and Sarah Ramirez. The new board will appoint a replacement for Susan Stoops to fill out the remaining two years of her term.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Announcements

Don't forget to return your ballots to the county clerk by Tuesday, May 17 at 8 p.m. If you haven't already mailed them, you can drop them off at the Independence Public Library, the Monmouth Public Libary, the Werner Center at WOU or the County Courthouse in Dallas.

There will be a school board work session on Monday, May 16th at 6 p.m. in the CHS Library. They will be discussing the disposition of the portable classrooms, the format for future work sessions and the superintendent search.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Time to Vote Again

The ballots for the regular school board election began arriviing in mailboxes today. If you weren't able to attend the candidate's forum hosted by Citizens for 13J Excellence last Monday, I would encourage to watch the video of the event that has been posted on the group's blog before marking your ballot. It's a great opportunity to learn more about the people who will be in charge of our school district for the next four years.

You can find the videos here: http://citizensfor13jexcellence.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We've Upgraded to Moral GPS

Central School District Recall
Unofficial Election Results
April 28, 2011
Final Election Night Post

QUESTION: DO YOU VOTE TO RECALL SUSAN MEIKLE STOOPS FROM CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT 13J BOARD MEMBER, POSITION 4?

YES 2065 (76%)

NO 649 (24%)

Election Results as of 8 PM

Yes - 1883
No - 597

Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin'



Click on the Play Button Below to Listen


02 - The Times They Are A-Changin'.mp3









Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Response to Susan Stoops

Susan Stoops has started her own blog; you can find it here:
http://aboutthekids-susan.blogspot.com/

I had originally thought to just leave it alone but her final entry really pushed my buttons. So here goes - there a number of points I would like to make in response.

1) Her first post (and her entire blog) are titled "It's All About Kids." Her second post is titled, apparently without irony, "And now more about me." I don't object to her talking about herself; she is, after all, the target of a recall campaign and is trying to defend herself. But it is a little disingenuous to declare that it's all about the kids and then talk all about yourself.

If it's all about the kids, why give the superintendent a substantial raise last summer and a $225,000 pay-out when forced to resign? Altogether it totals a quarter of a million dollars, dollars that would go a long way toward the education of our kids. Actions speak louder than words.

2) She tells us a bit about her childhood and professional career but very little about what she has done as a board member. At no point does she discuss anything specific that she has done to improve education for our students. She says,

"The board needs to set and maintain values that support an educational system that prepares students for the immense challenges of the 21st century."

What policies and values was she responsible for developing? If it's all about the kids, tell us what you did for the kids!

3) In her ballot statement she declared,

"During my leadership, we've been recognized by ODE for closing the achievement gap at the middle and elementary school levels."

This was, of course, a complete misrepresentation since the recognition was conferred six months before she joined the board and the efforts to close the achievement gap preceded her by five years. Her response to getting caught telling a big fib?

"My ballot statement was completely misinterpreted. I would never take credit for anyone else’s work; in fact the accusation that I would publicly do so is ludicrous. My statement was global, not specific, and was intended to reflect the fact that I have helped set goals that have kept the focus on improving students’ academic skills during the time I have been on the board. I am offended that someone would take my words out of context and use them against me in an effort to disparage my reputation. I would have been foolish to put inaccurate information in a ballot statement."

"Out of context?" What context is she talking about? It's on the ballot!

Who is the offended party here? The folks who did the actual work to close the achievement gap or the person who waltzed in after the fact to claim credit? You be the judge.

4) She says that she is not responsible for the antagonistic atmosphere at school board meetings and that the fault really lies with her opponents.

"For example, at board meetings held since September, various staff and community members have shouted, sworn, been very rude and generally behaved in a manner that would never be allowed in any classroom in our schools."

There have been occasions when things have gotten a little heated and even a couple of times where I thought speakers crossed the line. But to brand all of her opponents as uncivil is ridiculous. There is video of the board meetings posted on this blog. Watch the videos and see for yourself how often people were "rude." Incivility is not merely defined by raised voices or the use of words like "hell" or "damn." Disrespect is communicated loud and clear when people are ignored. Watch to see how often she actually responded to polite requests and complaints. The bottom line? When people come before the board month after month, state their case, and get absolutely no response they tend to get a little testy. If you're going to be a public official, especially one who has been as unresponsive as Stoops has been, you're going to have to expect that.

We're still waiting for her explanation of how the list of signatories to the letter of no confidence was leaked to one of Hunter's supporters. At the last board meeting we were promised a letter by April 15th but have yet to receive a response to our complaint. Creating an "enemies list" and circulating it to your supporters seems pretty uncivil to me.

5) One of her more outlandish claims is that recalling her from the board would be harmful to students. She cites a study that asserts that politically motivated board turnover results in declining student achievement.

"Student achievement dropped in those school districts, where coherent leadership was often replaced with suspicion and pursuit of personal agendas."

First of all, we are not recalling her because of personal agendas or political motives. We are recalling her because she has been a bad board member. I doubt the author of the study is suggesting that board continuity is more important board competence and effective leadership.

Secondly, we are not recalling an entire board - we are recalling one board member. Does she really see herself as so important that they board cannot continue without her?

6) In response to the criticism that she has withheld information from other board members she states,

"There have been occasions when our attorneys have told me specifically not to share information with the rest of the board until an attorney was present. This is part of the role of the board chair."

No it is NOT the role of the board chair. I've been challenging this contention for four years now and so far no one has shown me the statute that gives school board chairs the authority to determine if and when other board members will receive information. Controlling information is always about controlling people. The board chair has no legal right to do so. Policies that direct communication through the board chair are designed to streamline and facilitate communication. Those policies are not designed to allow the chair to control communication. The chair has exactly the same authority and voting power as every other board member.

Nor is it the role of the attorneys to determine what board members will be allowed to know or when. Board members are elected public officials and have an absolute right to all relevant information. If the attorneys did in fact give that advice (and for ethical reasons they cannot contradict her claim even if it is untrue), then they overstepped their advisory role. The attorneys work for the board, not the other way around. If you hired a personal attorney, would you give them the authority to determine what you needed to know? I doubt it; you would probably want to know everything they knew about your situation.

At the candidate's forum last night, one of the current board members who is seeking re-election voiced her strong disapproval of Stoops' communication pattern. She was specifically angry about not getting information until minutes before the board had to vote and about letters and other communications being sent out on behalf of the board without the knowledge or consent of other board members. Video of the forum will be posted within the next couple of days on the Citizens for 13J Excellence blog and you will be able to hear her comments for yourself.

7) She contends that,

Sentiment against her comes from people who believe "board members should be able to go out in the public and conduct board business individually," she said. "That is against our policies and is not legal." (Polk County Itemizer-Observer April 26, 2011)

No one has ever argued that board members should conduct school district business individually. This is an absurd interpretation of calls for more open communication.

8) She claims that her opponents are immoral people holding our children's future hostage to petty politics.

"It seems to me that in the end, as my husband Jack says, what this is really all about is that our opponents lack a strong moral compass."

She also suggests that if the recall vote goes against her, it will demonstrate a lack of morality in our community as a whole. About her grandparents she writes,

"Their moral compass was straight on. I wish our communities could say the same."

I don't think we're immoral, or petty, or unlawful, or even uncivil.

I think we're a broad coalition that represents the diversity of our community. On our side we have a large majority of school district staff, several board members who have openly stated their unhappiness with her leadership, administrators, faculty, and students at Western Oregon University, business and civic leaders, parents and grandparents of current students in our schools, representatives of all ethnic groups in our community, a variety of religious viewpoints and occupations, and all political parties.

Not everyone agrees with us and that's just fine. That's why we have elections. That's why we need open communication and debate.

I think we have a terrific community! We've been through the fire together and we've learned a lot in the process. On Friday morning we will start rebuilding our school district and it will be better than ever before.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Candidate Forum Tonight

The winds of change are blowing through our school district and it's now time to turn our attention to the future. You are cordially invited to attend a candidate forum tonight. The candidates seeking office in the May school board election will be on hand to answer questions and share with us their ideas as we all move forward.

What: School Board Candidate Forum

When: Monday, April 25th at 7:00 p.m.

Where: Independence Public Library

Following the question and answer period, we will have the opportunity to chat informally with the candidates. Refreshments will be served.

We hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resignation

Joseph Hunter has resigned as superintendent of our school district. You can read about the details of his settlement here: http://www.polkio.com/DIONews0.shtml

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meet the Candidates

Citizens for 13J Excellence will be hosting a forum for the candidates seeking election to the school board in May's election. The forum will be held at the Independence Public Library this Monday, April 25th at 7:00 p.m. This is a great opportunity to get to know the individuals who will be representing us for the next four years and to learn their positions on the issues confronting our district.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Will We Ever Know the Truth?

Susan Stoops' response to my complaint regarding the superintendent's mileage reimbursements, leave accounting, vacation buy-outs, and record keeping can be found here: http://thecentraladvocate.blogspot.com/2011/03/complaint-response.html

After receiving her response, I made a formal public records request for the directives she said were given to the superintendent related to improving procedures and policies and I also requested a copy of the Buck report. Since she claimed that the report exonerated Hunter from wrong-doing and only identified problems with record keeping procedures, there is no reason to deny public access to the report. Under Oregon statute, very few public documents, with the exception of employee disciplinary matters, are exempt from public disclosure.

In response to my records request, I received from Brian Hungerford (one of the district's attorneys) the letter dated March 23, 2011. In it he states that the district in invoking attorney-client privilege in denying my public records request. It's quite a neat trick. If someone files a complaint, have the attorney hire the investigator and then the investigative report can be concealed from the public under "attorney-client privilege." It is important to note that it is the client, in this case the Central School Board, who invokes the privilege but that they are not required to do so. They are not required to conceal this report, it is an active choice on their part. One wonders "Why?"

The other note worthy part of this letter is paragraph three in which Mr. Hungerford states that there are no written directives to Superintendent Hunter. This would seem to contradict Susan Stoops' statement that such directives had been issued. Perhaps they were given verbally in which case they don't really count, there is no record of them, and they cannot be used as part of the superintendent's evaluation. In other words, they're not really worth the paper they're not printed on.

Mr. Hungerford also states that while under Oregon law the whole report may be exempt from public disclosure, I could request a condensed version of the factual information contained within it. That I did and in response received the letter dated April 6, 2011. Read it carefully and tell me whether Susan Stoops' statement, "Based on the results of the investigation, it is the determination of the Board that the Superintendent has not engaged in behavior that constitutes a violation of the law or Board policy. Nor has he violated any directives or expectations of him as communicated by the Board" is an accurate summary of the Buck report. Four summary pages that detail a multitude of problems and non-compliance reduced to "Nope, nuthin' there!" (If anyone can follow the twists and turns of Section B, please enlighten me.)

I have appealed the district's denial of my public records request to the Polk County District Attorney, Stan Butterfied. He has asked for a copy of the Buck report so that he may compare its findings to the information provided to me by Susan Stoops and Brian Hungerford. After reviewing the report, he may well decide to order its public release. Let's hope so. It is probably the only way we will ever know the truth.

The documents to accompany this post can be found in the post below titled "Documents."

Documents










Included are:

1. My original complaint dated November 1, 2010(two pages)

2. Letter from Brian Hungerford dated March 23, 2011 (three pages)

3. Letter from Brian Hungerford dated April 6, 2011 (four pages)

4. Letter from Stan Butterfied dated April 14, 2011 (two pages)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hmm . . .


One of the claims made by Susan Stoops in her statement of justification is this, "During my leadership, we've been recognized by ODE for closing the achievement gap at the middle and elementary school levels." Big problem, though - it happened before she was on the board. Talmadge Middle School was honored for closing the achievement gap at an ODE banquet on May 11, 2007. Stoops was not appointed to the board until October 1 of that year. You can follow the links below for documentation and to read about the efforts made at Talmadge (scroll down the page) that led to the school's well-deserved recognition, efforts that began several years before Joseph Hunter even arrived in our district. Remember that when the two of them try to claim credit for any and all successes in our schools. What kind of person takes credit for other people's accomplishments? It also raises the very legitimate question - What else is she misrepresenting?




Thursday, April 7, 2011

Time to Ring the Alarm Bell


One of our former superintendents, Forrest Bell, has been hired by the district to act as a go-between or buffer between Supt. Hunter and several employees who have filed complaints against him. This cost us $1,560.00 for the month of February. I don't yet have the figures for March and, at the last board meeting, Bell's contract was extended to the end of June. For five months, his work will cost us around $7,500, all of it necessitated by Hunter's inability to maintain productive working relationships with his staff.


Of course, that number may be over-estimated since Bell is rumored to have been on vacation for several weeks in March. One wonders how he was able to act as a buffer in that case. If things have deteriorated to the point that Hunter requires a go-between, but the go-between is absent, and the complaints have not been settled (as Bell's contract extension would suggest), can lawsuits be far behind? How much will this ultimately cost the district? Why has the school board not taken control of this situation? As bad as things have been, we are drifting inexorably toward disaster.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Recall Election


Susan Stoops will not be resigning but will instead face a recall election. The election date is April 28th with ballots mailed around April 14th.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Clock is Ticking

The petition to recall Susan Stoops from the Central School Board was certified by the Polk County Clerk this afternoon with 1,024 signatures. Susan Stoops has been given until 5 p.m. on Monday to either submit a written resignation or a statement of justification. If she chooses not to resign, there will be a recall election by the end of April, the cost of which will be charged to the district.

Still Relevant

Last of the Petitions

The last of the petitions are being delivered this morning to the county clerk. Certification should be completed wihin the next day or two and then Susan Stoops has five days to decide whether to resign or face a recall election. If she chooses the latter, the ballots could be mailed as early as April 14th.

Citizens for 13J Excellence has become a powerful force for change.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Recall? A Guest Post from John Boyack

This is John's response to a question from a concerned community member. It is re-posted from Citizen's for 13J Excellence blog site.

Thank you for your inquiry and for the maturity with which you approach the question. It shows that you treat community concerns and your vote with the seriousness they deserve. I will respond from my own experiences and with the resources our group has assembled.

First, let me assure you we are not out to ruin a reputation. I cannot find fault with Susan Stoops' value as a person, friend or neighbor. We do not attack her character or personality. Our grievance is with the mis-management of the school district. We have run out of patience with the school board's inability or unwillingness to provide effective oversight on its executive, Superintendent Joseph Hunter; and its unwillingness to listen to community voices of concern regarding Hunter or regarding its own decisions.

I am a novice to local politics. I began following Central School District issues last September when I ran headlong into unethical and wasteful conduct in the district. My concern was money. When I brought that issue to the forefront, I found that the district was full of unhappy teachers and that there were others in the community with serious concerns about the district leadership. This group has now become the executive committee of Citizens for 13J Excellence. You can read brief biographical statements here.

Some of our best teachers are looking to get out of the district. The teachers submitted an overwhelming vote of no confidence on district leadership two years ago, and were officially ignored, but publicly accused of falsifying the count. The teachers worked half a year with no contract while the superintendent's contract is never shorter than 2 years - it is a three-year contract updated annually. His contract continues to provide more and more generous cash compensation while teachers are being cut and class-sizes increased.

No expense was spared on the new (and, I admit, beautiful) high school renovation, including low-return investments such as solar panels. The theater has every frill imaginable for a high school - but not all of it is working. When parts of the project didn't quite fit into the 48-million dollar bond, monies from the general fund - in the amount that could have paid four teachers for a year, were used. Small loans were taken to augment the project. This was during a recession when construction bids were unusually low. Worst of all, in the finishing and fixtures budget area (2 million-ish), the project seems to be missing many receipts! There is no proof of competitive bidding, and many purchases were made far ABOVE PUBLISHED catalog prices. And when the community clamors for an audit of the expenses, the school board has balked at the cost. We can afford to increase the superintendent's compensation but we can't afford the proper audit costing less than 1/1000th of the bond expenditures? Seeming fishy, isn't it?

Meanwhile, the superintendent's conduct toward his teachers and staff is frequently the subject of formal and informal complaint. The district does not provide a working environment where employees are respected; instead, it is managed strongly from the top down. Another superintendent has been brought in as a buffer between Hunter and some employees who have lodged a complaint. It was that serious, but not serious enough to put him on paid administrative leave?

And what does the school board do with these formal complaints? Until recently, nothing. But it's HOW they do nothing that leads us back to Susan Stoops. There are three members of the board who will advance the concerns voiced by teachers and public. They are Kathy Zehner, Mary Shellenbarger and Paul Evans. There are three (four until one resigned leaving an open position) who consistently praise the superintendent and disregard criticism of him. Chief among those who sees it the superintendent's way is Susan Stoops. And as chairperson she has the biggest megaphone. By policy she controls the communication from the board to the district. By preference, she has also chosen to control the communication from the district to the board, keeping some board members in the dark on some issues. She actually advanced a policy prohibiting school board members from having discussions with the public on any matter touching the schools except within the school board meeting.

I cannot speak to her motives for this behavior. In her heart of hearts she probably believes that what she and Hunter are doing are right and that the critical voices are wrong. I believe this is a dangerous mindset for a leader, however virtuous the intention. As the governing body of the school district, the school board should be providing skeptical oversight of the superintendent, regardless his popularity or reputation.

Like most school districts in the nation today, our school district faces some really difficult problems. There just isn't enough tax revenue coming in to run the schools the way they have been. In the face of this kind of challenge it is unfortunate that we are arguing about ethics and oversight. But we certainly won't resolve the coming difficult issues with a divided school board and an unethical superintendent.

Bottom line: the district is being mismanaged. The school board is the designated entity that has power to fix the problem, and they have not done anything about it. The school board reports to us, the community, and we are blessed as Americans and Oregonians to have the privilege of voting and the privilege of recalling our elected officials. We made a mistake and now we should fix it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Canvassing on Thursday, March 24

The petitions were delivered to the county clerk today with 1,025 signatures. We still need to gather some more, however, so we will be canvassing again tomorrow. If you can, PLEASE join us at Riverview Park in Independence at 1:30 pm. We'll divide into teams and set forth to gather the extra signatures we need for insurance against any unverifiable ones that have been already submitted.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Over the Top!

Hey sports fans - as of this evening we have well over 1,000 signatures on our recall petitions!

Since we need 1,001 to request a recall election, we are ready to deliver them to the county clerk tomorrow to begin the verification process. PLEASE keep collecting signatures, however, as some of those we have collected will be disqualified for one reason or another. We would like to have an additional 150 signatures within the next few days.

The clerk has indicated that it will take around one week to certify the signatures. After that, Susan Stoops will have five days to decide whether or not to resign. If she chooses to resign it will be effective immediately. If she chooses not to resign there will be a recall election within 35 days.

So far she has indicated that she will not resign so we need to start our preparations for the election. Our plans include: the distribution of informational literature, letters to the editor, yard signs, and a mass mailing to the households of all registered voters within the district.

Some food for thought: when she was elected in 2009 (running unopposed), Stoops received 1,370 votes. We already have almost that many voters who would like to see her removed from office.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Enemies List

Someone, either a board member or the superintendent, has been circulating a list of those who signed the letter of no confidence to Hunter's supporters. Citizens for 13J Excellence knows of at least one instance in an individual who signed the letter was singled out at a social gathering by a well-known supporter of Hunter and lectured about the error of her ways in an attempt at "re-education." In the course of this harangue, she was also told that only "Mormons and Hispanics" had signed the letters.

This is problematic in many ways:

The letters were submitted to the board as part of a formal complaint, a complaint that has not yet been acted upon by the board (unless this is their idea of how to resolve complaints brought to them). The names are not part of the "public record" as Hunter's supporter claimed. I have been told that individual board members were not even allowed to retain their copies of the letters. This would suggest the list was compiled by someone with on-going access to the letters and sufficient time to both make a list and "leak" it to certain members of the public. Who had that access? The superintendent who was the subject of the complaint? The board chair? Someone else?

Whoever now has that list has spent time analyzing it to see who signed, where they live, and their presumed ethnicity and religious beliefs. They can look for names they recognize and then target those individuals for harassment.

The dismissive idea that "only" Mormons and Hispanics signed the letter is factually incorrect. Those who signed the letter represent a wide cross-section of our community - the one group who was not included were district employees. Bringing ethnic and religious prejudice into an already tense situation is truly a new low and an indication of just how desperate Hunter and his supporters have become.

Those letters were delivered to the board and they are ultimately responsible for how they have been used and abused. Citizens for 13J Excellence has filed a complaint with the board asking for a swift investigation and apologies for those whose names have been inappropriately furnished to Hunter's supporters.

Given the behavior and ethics of those who run our school district, I would be embarrassed NOT to make the "enemies list." It's never too late to join us - it is only through our collective efforts that we will put an end to the secretive and underhanded tactics that pass for "leadership" in our district Sign a petition and then vote to recall Susan Stoop from the Central school board. Change starts at the top.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Complaint Response




Since the board has determined that Hunter did nothing wrong in regards to his mileage or vacation reimbursements, the investigator's report should now be a matter of public record. So should the directives they have given Hunter to review district policies and practices "in a number of areas." I will be requesting all documents related to these issues.

One rather curious note - the letterhead lists Forrest Bell as superintendent. Given that the rest of the letterhead is updated (correct board members, for example) and he hasn't been superintendent in many years, it makes me wonder if perhaps Bell's role in our district right now is larger than his personal services contract would indicate. Or maybe it's just a "Freudian slip."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Board Survey

The School Board is soliciting public input regarding the recently implemented "Listening Sessions" at board meetings. Go to: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZGM89DP to leave your comments and suggestions.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Yes, it is!

http://www.thechronicleonline.com/news/local_news/article_9ab0f3fc-445c-11e0-b7b0-001cc4c03286.html

There are so many great quotes, it's hard to know where to start.

"It's a long-standing issue in the Central School District faced by superintendents in the district for the last two-plus decades" Really? How many other superintendents have faced a vote of no confidence from both their staff and the community? How many board recalls have there been? Unlike Hunter, I've actually lived in this community for two-plus decades and I don't know of any.

The community letter of no confidence " . . . is identical to the complaint submitted last year" that was found by the board and legal counsel to be groundless. What complaint is that? Susan Stoops said just a couple of months ago that there hadn't been any complaints. Does he mean the vote of no confidence declared by his staff in 2009? That vote focused on his relationship with teachers and classified workers. The community letters also focused on student achievement and his management of the bond - things that hadn't been raised as issues when the vote of no confidence was taken.

"A philosophical difference of opinion" about the role of the board in managing the day-to-day operations of the district. Here, I think he is referring to me - I have long suspected that he has spun our contentious relationship into a situation in which certain board members (i.e., me) wanted to help make all adminstrative decsions. Like what? I'd like him to name even one. I never asked to make administrative decsions although I did think that as a board member I had the right to know what they were. He disagreed and I had to use the public records law just to find out what he was doing -- while I was a board member!

He's just following the law, "A good superintendent better stand up to this and say we can't violate law." This one is pretty humorous and might just come back to haunt him. I wonder which laws he is referring to . . .

And my absolute favorite - "It's not me." Yes, it most certainly is!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Good News


Good news - we don't melt! And despite a rainy, cold day we collected lots of signatures and handed out a lot of literature. We're on our way!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kick-Off Events

Signature Gathering for the Recall Susan Meikle Stoops Campaign has begun! Bring a friend and come sign a petition.

We will have tables set up at:
Independence Plaza
Monmouth Volunteer Hall (144 S Warren)

From 4 - 7 PM on:
Monday, February 28
Thursday, March 3
Tuesday, March 8
Thursday, March 10

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recall Susan Meikle-Stoops

The Recall Susan Meikle-Stoops Campaign is officially underway. Citizens for 13J Excellence filed the paperwork and received approval from the county clerk to begin circulating petitions yesterday.

Here's how the process works:

The group has 90 days (until May 23) to collect the signatures of 1,001 registered voters in the school district. Signing the petition does not remove her from office; the signatures are required to request a recall election.

Once the signatures have been verified by the county clerk, Meikle-Stoops has five days in which to resign. If she does not, a recall election must be held within thirty-five days. At that time, she may provide a statement of justification explaining why she should retain her seat on the school board. Both her statement of justification and the recall statement will be printed on the ballots that will be mailed to all registered voters in the district. Whether she remains on the board will be decided by a simple majority of votes cast.

Citizens for 13J Excellence pays all costs related to gathering signatures; the school district pays for the cost of the recall election. In today's edition of the Itemizer-Observer, Meikle-Stoops estimated that cost at $3,000-$5,000 and fretted about the budgetary consequences. I feel compelled to point out that it is less than the hidden raise she negotiated for the superintendent and that her resignation would spare the district the expense of an election.

The exact time-line depends on how quickly signatures are gathered. While the group has 90 days to collect them, that stage ends as soon as the required number has been certified. The next stage (the election) would be completed within 40 days following certification but could conceivably occur within a couple of weeks. The election could be this spring but no later than the end of June. If Meikle-Stoops is removed from office, her successor would be appointed by the board to serve until the next regularly scheduled board elections in May of 2013.

The kick-off events for the recall campaign will begin on Monday, February 28. There will be tables in various locations for those who wish to sign a petition. Once those locations are announced, I will post the information here.

There is a new blog, that functions as a more traditional website, at:
http://www.citizensfor13jexcellence.blogspot.com/

There is also a Facebook page at:
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1526082066&ref=name#!/pages/Citizens-for-13J-Excellence/192641224092836

If you wish to make a donation:
Citizens for 13J Excellence
P.O. Box 534
Monmouth, Oregon
97361

Donations will go towards the cost of petitions, brochures, signs, buttons, newspaper advertising, and mailings. Citizens for 13J Excellence is registered with the State and must report all contributions through the ORESTAR system. The names of those contributing $100 or less are not disclosed to the public. According to the State Elections Division, there is no upper limit to contributions. This will not be a hugely expensive undertaking but it will require some financial resources in order to be successful. Contributions in any amount are welcome.

Watch for signature gatherers on Monday - the campaign begins . . . NOW!

Unfortunate, but True

As most of you already know, Hunter is one of two finalists for the position of superintendent in St. Helens. Members of their search committee are in town today to find out more and to talk to administrators and teachers about their experiences working with Hunter. It is unfortunate but true that St. Helens is more interested in the opinions of Central School District staff than our own board has ever been.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Proposal for Performance Audit






This is the proposal for the performance audit that the board approved at their last meeting. Even then, some board members and some members of the public were expressing skepticism about its focus and scope. Before proceeding further, I certainly hope that the board will take a hard look at this proposal and address some of its obvious weaknesses. There is no point in spending this money if the audit is constructed in such a way that its only purpose is to exonerate the superintendent and bamboozle the public.

There are several things I find troubling in this proposal:

1) On the first page, the superintendent urges the board to consider "the key issue . . . what do you expect the outcome to be which will help with the politics?" He seems to be suggesting that the intended outcome should guide the process, as if the whole process will be constructed in order to yield a desired outcome. This is exactly the kind of nonsense that has led us to a place of deep mistrust. A rigorous and systematic process needs to be developed first; only then will the outcome be reliable.

2) The project manager (i.e., Mike Maloney) will decide who the auditors will interview. But it's his management that is in question! Why will he be allowed to control the evaluation of his performance?

3) At no point in the document is the issue of cost effectiveness addressed. Instead the project performance will be measured in terms of being within the original budget and schedule. We already know it wasn't really under budget since they had to borrow an additional $2 million. But beyond that, we want to know if our money was spent wisely. Did we pay more for some things that we should have? Did we make the most of every dollar? This audit will not tell us that.

4) The proposal does not explicitly address the FF&E purchases which have been the subject of many questions. It was FF&E purchases that were missing the required bid documents in the financial audit. All of the FF&E purchases need to be carefully scrutinized to be sure that they complied with mandated bid procedures. We also need to know just how much we paid companies like Saxton Bradley for their services as purchasing agents.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Either do the performance audit correctly or don't waste any more of our money.

School Funding

Saturday, February 19, 2011

December Minutes

At the January board meeting, it was brought to the board's attention that the minutes from their December meeting were inaccurate. The December minutes recorded an announcement of a facilities worksession scheduled for December 16th that was, in fact, not announced. This became a contentious issue and the lack of notification for the December 16th meeting was protested by both myself and the Itemizer-Oberserver newspaper. At the January meeting, the board conceded that the required notification had not been given and voted to remove that statement from the December minutes since it was incorrect.

Well, guess what? The offending statement is still part of the December minutes posted on the district website. According to Policy BCB it is the superintendent's duty, as clerk for the district, to insure that all minutes are an accurate reflection of board business. If the board has officially instructed him, through a formal vote, to remove that statement from the minutes, doesn't he have an obligation to do so? Why hasn't he? Will he? Or will he continue to ignore their directive?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Personal Services Contract



There has been a fair amount of speculation regarding the personal services contract approved by the board at the end of their executive session on February 7th. I have obtained a copy and it is reproduced above. You can read it more easily by clicking on each page and then enlarging it.

The contract is with Forrest Bell and it states that he will be supervising "the complainants" (in the plural). Bell will essentially be acting as a buffer between Joseph Hunter and staff members who would normally report directly to him as superintendent. It would appear that there have been complaints filed against Hunter by senior level staff members that require bringing in a third party until the complaints are resolved. Forrest Bell's services will cost us $40/hour.

Now, in most situations when there have been multiple complaints filed against someone they are placed on administrative (paid) leave pending the outcome of an investigation. Why didn't that happen in this case? In Part 2c, the contract makes clear that Hunter retains ultimate supervisory authority. How is that supposed to work? If the intent in hiring Bell was to remove any possibility of retaliation against the complainants, this contract has most assuredly not done that. Moreover, Part 2b gives Bell the authority to not only evaluate the complainants but to determine their continued employment! By March 31! Under the direction of the superintendent!

This is how the board protects staff members who come forward to report serious problems? I don't think I would feel very protected - would you? Are they trying to get the district sued? Because that is where it will likely end up if this board continues to behave so irresponsibly. And guess who will pay the bill?

This whole situation is beyond ludicrous . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is "Kids First" Just a Slogan?

I'm going to revisit an issue I first wrote about on February 5th ("Friends with Benefits") because it has continued to gnaw at me. That issue is the hidden raise given to Joseph Hunter in his new contract negotiated with Susan Stoops and Traci Hamilton.

Under the old contract, Hunter was allowed to cash out up to ten unused vacation days. Under the new contract, he can cash out up to 32 (the 22 days given each year plus the ten he is allowed to carry over from the previous year). If he cashes out all 32 days he can add $15,104 to his base salary of $121,856 -- $10,384 more than under the old contract. That amounts to an 8.5% raise in his base salary.

I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone in our district, in any line of work, who received an 8.5% raise last year. Many people have seen their incomes shrink; some have lost their jobs altogether. Teachers gave back one week's salary in their new contract. Yet our board chair and vice-chair negotiated a very substantial raise for a superintendent who has been facing a barrage of criticism from his staff for nearly three years. What exactly has he done to deserve such a boost in his salary? Did the other two board members who voted to approve this raise (Sarah Ramirez and Betty Plude) even realize it was tucked away in the fine print of the new contract? [Note: Evans, Shellenbarger, and Zehner all voted "No" on the new contract.]

This took place as the district was slashing services to students. Massive budget cuts have reduced the days students will be in class, reduced or eliminated counseling services, reduced the electives that can be offered at the high school, reduced funding for sports and other co-curricular activities. The extra $10,384 given to Joseph Hunter would hardly restore full funding to any of these areas but it could have been used to shore up essential programs. If it helped even one student it would have been money better spent.

Joseph Hunter now receives the following in salary: $121,856 in base salary; up to $15,104 in vacation pay-outs; $7,800 in travel stipends; $1,080 for his personal cell phone. These are paid to him and reported as salary and amount to a whopping $145,840 ($24,000 more than his base salary). It does not include his health insurance, life insurance, PERS, or the three percent tax-deferred annuity paid for him by the district.

At the board meeting last week, school principals spoke eloquently of the devastating impact of job loss, poverty, and family turmoil on the lives of children in our community. Cuts in essential services leave these kids increasingly on their own to manage the crisis as best they can. In this context, giving Joseph Hunter a big raise is not just ill considered, it is immoral. Stoops and Hamilton helped him negotiate that hidden raise and were not very forthcoming with other board members about what they had done. They have a lot to answer for in this matter and I hope the people of this district will hold them accountable.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Three and a Half Months Later . . .

I submitted a formal complaint to the board on November 1 of last year. According to the investigator, they have had his report since December. It's now been three and a half months and the official response from the board has been . . . ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

New Post

Because I began writing my latest post several days ago, it actually appears below the video of the board meetings. You can find it ("Lies of Omission") on the next page of the blog.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lies of Omission

Another interesting board meeting this past Monday. Sorry it's taken me so long to get some commentary up on the blog - things are happening now at a rather frantic pace and it's hard to keep up

The highlight of the meeting was the delivery of the community letters of no confidence regarding Hunter's performance as superintendent. He seemed somewhat taken aback - he may have thought we were bluffing or even that things would blow over once the teachers settled their contract. As was stated all along, however, it wasn't just about the teachers but about all of the negative things that have happened in our district.


Once again, the superintendent and board "leadership" have been working overtime to make sure the public is kept in the dark regarding certain issues. Somehow, the most important and potentially controversial documents that they discuss are always left out of the packet of materials provided to the public. The result, as intended, is that we don't know quite what they're talking about.

One very notable example: Last month, the financial audit of the bond noted that four items (out of the 35 sampled by the auditors) lacked the appropriate bid documents. The board asked to know what those were. The public is obviously very interested in knowing too, as evidenced by the repeated calls for a performance audit. The board and the superintendent managed to discuss it on Monday without ever mentioning what those items were or providing the public with the written summary to which they referred.

Another notable example: The board received and approved a proposal for a performance audit. The public was not furnished with a copy of the proposal, however, so it's impossible to tell whether the audit is what was requested. From the discussion it seemed that there was no specific mention in the proposal about including the FF&E purchases. Maybe it's included but, given the number of questions about those purchases and the problems found in the financial audit, this is one part of the bond that deserves special scrutiny. It's also interesting that last month the estimated cost of the performance audit was $30,000 but now that they have an actual proposal the price has dropped to $16,600. As board member Evans pointed out, it is important that the district not accept a partial audit in return for the lower price. What I suspect, however, is that the initial estimate was deliberately inflated by the superintendent as a way of discouraging the board from pursuing it. They did anyway and good for them! Now they need to insure that the audit is a good one and that the superintendent and bond manager not have a hand in limiting its scope. It's particularly important that all expenditures are very carefully examined. Thanks to Wendy for bringing this up at the meeting.


Traci Hamilton lamented the fact that so many people leave the meeting at the conclusion of the business agenda. What she seems to be forgetting, however, is that, with the change in the structure of the meetings, the public is no longer allowed to ask questions or make comments during the "work session." Combined with the lack of printed information about what they are discussing she should be surprised that anyone stays. It seems rather disingenuous to tell the public that their participation is neither desired nor tolerated and then be upset when they decide not to stick around. I'm not even sure why they call the second part of the meeting a "work session." It's not just informational, they can and do take votes and conduct business. Separating the business agenda from the "work session" mostly just seems like another way to cut the public out of the discussion.

In the final comments, Paul Evans encouraged members of the public to volunteer for the budget committee. It's certainly a good way to learn more about the budget but, as he well knows, neither the budget committee nor the board has any real say about how money is spent. The budget committee can vote "Yes" or "No" to send the budget on to the board for approval but they are not allowed to tinker with it. Even the board only gets an "up or down" vote. One of my last acts as a board member two years ago was to vote against the budget for just that reason. There were things left in the budget, like special benefits for administrators, that I felt were inappropriate during a severe recession when instruction was being cut. So I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from serving on the budget committee but don't go into it thinking you have any control over how money will be allocated.

Nor should we expect to receive any information about proposed cuts. Other districts, most notably Dallas, have been holding meetings at which public input is solicited regarding possible budget cuts. Last year our superintendent put together a "tiered cut" list (proposed cuts based on the different potential shortfalls) but he then refused to share it with anyone. Not even board members were permitted to retain a copy. This leaves everyone - staff, parents, students - in a perpetual state of anxiety and dread. All school districts are facing similar budgetary constraints but some try to bring the various stakeholders into the the conversation while others, like Central, exclude stakeholders and add to their sense of powerlessness.

At the conclusion of the meeting the board went into executive session and then came back out to take action to approve a special services contract. They refused to say who the contract was for or what their duties would be and directed that all inquiries be made to their attorney. Something's up - but what?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Letters of No Confidence



These are the community letters of no confidence regarding Joseph Hunter's performance as superintendent ready to be delivered to the school board last night.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Her Master's Voice

A picture tells a thousand words and this one tells us quite a lot about the disordered, backward relationships in our school district. Those of you who attend board meetings regularly know that Superintendent Hunter sits next to Board Chairwoman Stoops and whispers instructions to her throughout the meetings. These communications are invariably one-way; we rarely if ever see her giving instructions to the superintendent. But these are the boards's meetings; the superintendent is present as their employee to answer any questions they may have, not to tell them what to do. As a reader pointed out months ago (see the comments to the August 19th "Duties of the Board" post below) the seating arrangements at the board meetings are a clear demonstration that the board does not understand the relationship they are supposed to have to the superintendent. The superintendent works for the board; the board works for the public. But a former board member remarked as she was leaving the board that she had enjoyed working for Dr. Hunter. The board chair, who should know better, apparently believes this as well. This helps to explain the board's unwillingness, for many years now, to provide any real oversight of his activities or behaviors. Moreover, it is instructive to notice how other board members are excluded from the plotting and planning at the head of the table. The chair's role is to run meetings and act as spokesperson for the group; it is not her role to place herself over and above other board members, to make decsions with the superintendent that should properly be made by the board, or to conceal important information from them. This is not the way these relationships are supposed to work.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Friends with Benefits




Before this blog, I experienced several years of impotent frustration dealing with our superintendent and other board members. Those of you who have reading along from the beginning (Thank You!) may remember that there were two issues that provoked me into starting the blog last summer - the closing of the teen parent center and the renegotiation of the superintendent's contract. The latter issue has returned to bite us once again.

The board chair (Susan Stoops) and vice chair (Traci Hamilton) negotiated with the superintendent for the board. The rest of the board got to see the new contract just minutes before they were to approve it. The discussion at the time focused on changes regarding possible termination of the superintendent's contract. For details of that discussion you can see my blog posts from July and also the minutes of the July board meeting which can be found under "School Board" on the district website.

One issue I have no memory of even having been mentioned is the "cash out" for the supposedly unused vacation days. Under the old contract, the superintendent was entitled to receive a cash payment in lieu of up to ten vacation days each year. As I have reported elsewhere on this blog, it is my contention that he has been taking the days off but not reporting it so that he could also receive the cash out. That was bad enough. According to the new contract language he is now allowed to cash out any unused vacation days - up to the max of 22 days. The only reference to this issue in the official minutes of the meeting says "The vacation language is updated to what other employee groups" (p. 4 Board Meeting Minutes 1/12/10). This statement makes no sense because 1) it is an incomplete sentence whose meaning is unclear, and 2) no other employees receive the cash out option.

I don't think board members really noticed the change in language since it is very close to that in the old contract. How could they? They only got to see the new contract at the meeting where they were being asked to approve it. Why didn't the chair and vice-chair, who had been part of the negotiations, make sure to point it out? Why didn't the chair make sure that other board members had a chance to see the contract in advance and review it carefully? The whole thing smacks of trickery and collusion between the chairs and the superintendent. The contract was approved by a vote of 4-3. Stoops, Hamilton, Ramirez, and Plude voted in favor; Evans, Shellenbarger, and Zehner voted against.

And what has been the result? The superintendent cashed out 80 hours of vacation at the end of June at an approximate cost to the district of $4,723. Those 80 hours represent the maximum he was allowed under the old contract which ended on June 30. And now he has cashed out an additional 90 hours (actual cost: $5, 313.60). The timing is also very interesting. The latest cash out occurred on January 21 a few weeks after the investigator's report on my complaint (part of which involved the vacation issue) had been received but not yet seen by most of the board and within days of new complaints apparently being received (based on the agenda of the last two hastily arranged executive sessions).

So here we are in the most serious economic crisis in our lifetimes, the district is facing massive cuts that will seriously impact teachers and students, and the board votes to give him thousands of dollars more in "hidden" compensation. Remember that when Susan Stoops says she is "doing the right things for the district." Remember that when they say "regrettably" that they just don't have money for a performance audit. Remember that when we ask you to sign a recall petition.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Citizens for 13J Excellence

Following the public meeting at the fire station on Monday, the steering committee met and chose "Citizens for 13J Excellence" as the name for our new group. There is much to be done if we are to put our school district back on the right track and the recall effort will be our initial priority.

The next meeting of the "Recall Susan Stoops First" campaign will be on Wednesday, February 9 at 6:30 PM at the Monmouth Library. In the past few days the steering committee has been busy filling out paperwork, establishing a bank account, and developing a strategy for collecting the necessary signatures to put the recall issue on the ballot. It's a big project but many hands make light work. Please join us on Wednesday and lend your time and talents to the effort.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Last Night's Recall Meeting

The meeting last night was well attended and we had a great discussion The group has decided to move forward with the recall effort against Susan Stoops. There will be an article about it in tomorrow's Itemizer-Observer. Stay tuned for further information and meeting times.

The board has scheduled another hastily arranged special meeting/executive session for tonight (Tuesday, February 1) at 6:30 pm in the district office conference room. Don't know what it is about but will let you know when and if I do.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Restrictions on Political Campaigning by Public Employees


The entire publication can be accessed at the web address at the bottom of the first page.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Please Join Us

When: Monday, January 31 @ 6:30 PM
Where: Independence Fire Station

Please plan to attend our organizational meeting tomorrow evening to discuss plans to recall Susan Stoops from the school board. Many of us have become convinced that things will not change for the better in our district until she is removed from the board. As chair she has been a consistent and enthusiastic supporter of Joseph Hunter and it's time for a change. Our district is governed through the elected board of directors. We do not have the power or authority to remove Joseph Hunter as superintendent but we do have the power and authority to remove board members who, despite all that has happened, continue to support him. At tomorrow's meeting we will have to decide whether it is just Stoops we wish to remove or all three board members who have been aiding and abetting his bad behavior.

A recall is a daunting challenge but it can be accomplished if we have the manpower and the willpower. At tomorrow's meeting we will have to make that assessment and decide whether to go forward. If we do, we will need to establish an organizational structure with a chief petitioner and a treasurer and familiarize ourselves with the process and its attendant regulations. I've spoken with County Clerk, read the Recall Manual, and downloaded the forms we will need. We will need to proceed "by the book" but it's not difficult or complicated. While we shouldn't underestimate the effort that will be required neither should we shy away from it.

District staff are welcome. Your participation in an electoral process cannot be restricted by your employer (i.e., the district) so long as you do not use work time to advocate for or against the recall. It's very important that no one use a position of authority over others (administrators over teacher, teachers over students) whether at work or not to advocate for or against the recall. Interestingly, the law does allow public employees to wear political buttons to work. I know most of you are very familiar with these rules as a result of our recent bond campaigns but it is helpful to refresh our memories.

In the Oregon Recall Manual, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury writes, "Recall is one way Oregon pioneered citizen control of government. Oregonians amended the State Constitution in 1908 to allow citizens to vote to remove an elected public official from office. The active participation of Oregonians in ensuring the quality and integrity of our elected public officials is a welcome and valuable contribution to an effective democracy."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jo Dee Messina - My give a damn's busted

Can This Possibly be Legal?

At the November board meeting I submitted a complaint against Joseph Hunter. I didn't hear anything for an entire month (in violation of board policy regarding public complaints) and when I made further inquiries at the December meeting, I was told that the complaint had been forwarded to the board's legal counsel who had hired an investigator to look into the matter. I did hear from the investigator within a few days and we had a number of communications over the next couple of weeks. He indicated he would also be talking with staff in the district office. I was impressed with his professionalism and commitment to being thorough and unbiased. He told me at the time that he hoped to have his report ready for the board by Christmas. He did not discuss the results of his investigation with me at any time; he was working for the board and prepared his report for them. I don't know what the report says but the way it has been handled by Susan Stoops would suggest that it is bad news for Hunter.

Given the time line he indicated, I was expecting some kind of response from the board by now. On Monday, I asked a couple of board members when I might hear something and they said that they hadn't seen the report and didn't think it was ready yet. So today I contacted the investigator to see if his report was done. Imagine my surprise when he let me know that he had turned in the report to the board's attorney on December 30. The investigator was very surprised that board members had not seen the report and that I had not received an official response. He said it was "very peculiar to have a complaint response delayed this long." The normal procedure would be for the attorney to forward the report to the board chair and there is certainly no reason to suppose that he failed to do so.


It would appear that Susan Stoops has been in possession of that report for nearly a month! And that she has been withholding it from other board members! This kind of thing happened when I was on the board - the chair and the superintendent would consult and decide what the rest of the board needed to know. It was infuriating then and it is infuriating now. The board as a whole is legally responsible for this district. How can board members make informed decisions without information? But maybe that's the whole point.


I wonder what's in it that she doesn't want them to see - it can't be very flattering to Hunter. She gives every appearance of having allied herself with him against other board members. If so, she has abused her authority as board chair and should be removed immediately. It is not up to the chair to decide what other board members will be allowed to know. This is especially true in this instance - I certainly hope she did not share the report with Hunter before the board got to read it. But it wouldn't surprise me if she did. In the case of complaints against the superintendent, the attorney and the investigator work for The Board - not the board chair and certainly not the superintendent.

Unbelievable? Manipulative? Shameless? Unethical?

Recall Meeting

There will be a meeting on Monday, January 31 at 6:30 pm at the fire station in Independence to discuss the recall effort. This will be a large undertaking that will require the efforts of many people. If you are interested in this going forward, please plan to attend.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let's Roll

















There will be a community meeting in the very near future to discuss a recall effort to remove Susan Stoops from office. Stay tuned for details.