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: to leave your comments and suggestions.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Yes, it is!

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!