Letters to the Editor for Dec. 3, 2012
Sorry to be stuck, but glad it was in Baker City
It’s a serendipitous day when an unforeseen event happens that messes up all of your plans, but the event happens when you are close to a community as delightful as Baker City.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, my husband and I were traveling to spend Thanksgiving with our children at the California Dumont Dunes when our truck blew out injectors. Luckily this truck-crippling disaster happened just eight miles outside of Baker City. Steve and son used a big orange Roadrunner truck to tow us into town and they parked us across the street from Baker Garage. The garage wouldn’t be open for repair work until Monday!
Saturday afternoon and Sunday we wandered around town. We had yummy coffee and rolls at the Zephyr, munched a pork tenderloin at the Chamealeon and had beer and nachos at The Main Event. At every place we stopped the people were friendly.
On Monday morning we found that we had at least three more days to wander around town.
We continued to enjoy the shops and the squirrels in the park. Three things about your community became clear to us. First, the people are warm, friendly and helpful. Secondly, the business owners take pride in their places of business and add touches of their personalities to the décor to make the place charming. Finally, loyalty and pride are evident. Whether it was the voiced disappointment in the Ducks’ loss, the tribute paid to the veterans or decorating the Art Center, this community is Americana at its best.
In closing we would like to invite your readers to our town, Chewelah, Wash. Chewelah is somewhat smaller than Baker City but we have the same welcoming spirit and I’m certain you would feel welcome there.
Bill and Kay Lupton
Burroughs, Henderson made the right decisions
I feel compelled to express my feelings about the media frenzy that has been created in response to the actions of the Baker School District 5J Board of Directors. I believe the school board has guided this district through some of the worst economic times in recent history. I understand that success may not be apparent to all citizens, but if one looks at a snapshot of other districts throughout the state, it could be so much worse.
I will vote “no” on my recall ballot. I believe the role of a board member is to implement the policies of the district while making sure rules and laws are followed. The focus should be the educational well-being of our students and staff.
As I have watched the current situation unfold, I see the real issue being that voters made a poor decision when electing Mr. Kyle Knight to the school board. At the time, this mistake was not as obvious as it is today. Mr. Knight has agendas that directly conflict with the well-being and educational goals of the district. His focus has been to justify his actions by pointing fingers at others while not reflecting on his own actions. Mr. Knight broke state confidentiality laws by providing information to newspapers about an ongoing criminal investigation within the district. Ironically, he is now suing the district for $700,000 for violating his rights while he shows no regard for the rights of others. Mr. Knight is forcing a recall that will cost the district $10,000. If Mr. Knight is volunteering his time to serve the district, his way of doing it is becoming very costly.
Mr. Knight lacks the maturity and focus necessary to be an effective member of a board.
Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson have worked hard to support the educational goals of this district. I admit that they have been forced to make some tough choices, but at the end of the day the board’s decisions concerning Mr. Knight were right on target.
Please join me in voting “no” on the recall of Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson.
Baker High School teacher
Burroughs and Henderson don’t deserve recall
Recall efforts are for serious offenses like malfeasance of office, embezzlement, fraud or other illegal activities. Burroughs and Henderson did nothing wrong. This recall is about Kyle Knight not acting like a responsible board member, failing to follow the rules of district policy, state laws, and the Constitution.
After seeking legal advice from several sources, the 5J Board censored him. He got mad and wanted revenge. He has worked on the recall and is suing the district. He and his supporters have tried to make him out as the victim, while he continued to instigate multiple problems.
Why was Mr. Knight being censured?
During preparations for the 2011-12 district budget Mr. Knight stated to the papers he had found “misappropriation of funds” and stated to other media they had “cut 25 teachers, saving $250,000 and raising average class size to 30:1.” These statements were factually untrue.
In October of 2011 Mr. Knight falsely accused a well-respected teacher who is also a Baker Education Association representative of lying during an open board meeting.
In November 2011 at a regular board meeting he referred to ongoing police investigation of gang activity in Baker City. This information was confidential, and could have compromised the investigation.
In April 2012 Mr. Knight received a confidential email from the superintendent regarding possible misuse of district funds, he forwarded this to the papers during an ongoing police investigation. He did this despite additional training on confidential information. He put the district and board at risk for legal liability because employee information is confidential.
Mr. Knight disregards established rules, doesn’t check facts or ignores the facts, and creates chaos leaving others to deal with the resulting turmoil, then he goes on to create another problem.
How do you get people of quality to run for elected office if we don’t stand up against this kind of abuse? Burroughs and Henderson have tried to protect the district, its staff, students and patrols.
Vote “no” on the effort to recall.
Support board, vote ‘no’ on unnecessary recall
I am blessed to live in Baker Valley where neighbors are honest and issues are resolved in amicable manners. It is sad and tragic that a group would waste energy, money and emotional stress with a recall of 5J School Board members.
Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson are thoughtful, responsible, effective and hard-working volunteers for our school district. They serve us admirably by working as a team, and they deserve to continue to fulfill their terms and dedicate their hours to improving our schools for Baker children.
Two years ago I had hope in Kyle Knight’s leadership thinking he would bring youthful energy and ideas to the Board. Instead, Kyle has brought immaturity and acrimony to a successful school board including the legal risks jeopardized by his poor self-serving behavior.
We need to support our current working Board and vote “no” on the 5J recall.
Recall is a misguided power play: Vote ‘no’
Peggie Longwell, Baker County Chair of anti-government Americans for Prosperity and wife of school board member Jim Longwell, certainly has the constitutional right to criticize, in her letter of Nov. 23, two valuable board members who have recently led the school district to statewide recognition. But her points are trivial and illogical.
Longwell’s criticisms of Burroughs or Henderson are: misquoting the oath of office, confusing the words “censure” and “censor,” and supposedly accusing Knight of subscribing to a foreign doctrine while quoting some political theory I never heard of. She also criticized them for not following their oath when they reprimanded Knight and excluded him from discussions about which he did, could again, and avowed he would continue to disclose confidential information.
With regard to the latter, everyone knows that freedoms are real but are also limited in certain circumstances. No one has the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. No official has lost his freedom of speech by withholding confidential material from the public if its release would be harmful. It is absurd to imply that wrong-headed speech by one errant board member should carry more weight than the education of 1,700 5J school children.
Longwell’s criticisms smack of something hidden and unsavory, since the evidence (school performance, prizes, teacher accolades, fiscal stability, and creative programming) far outweighs her picky little complaints.
Henderson attends and helps out at Haines school functions, even sweeping the floor if need be.
Burroughs drove all over the western U.S. to find just the superintendent that could produce the excellent results we are seeing in 5J today. And some want to recall these public servants? Let’s honor them!
And let’s “expose to the light” that just five people (McQuisten (K), McQuisten (D), Knight, Longwell, and Smith) gathered 91 percent of the signatures on Burroughs’ recall petition. A small fringe element might foolishly seek to fire the exceptional superintendent that Burroughs worked so hard to find. But recall is hardly the right vehicle. That’s what elections are for, and we have a free one coming up in May. Vote “no” on this misguided power play.
Knight and his backers could start charter school
I would like to urge the voters of the Baker 5J School District to vote “no” on the recall. I have many reasons, but I want to discuss one in particular.
Kyle was very disappointed that in July 2011, I would not support his bid to take over as the chair of the 5J School Board. Kyle has established his “Education Fund” to revamp the Baker 5J School District. But Kyle doesn’t need to take over the Baker 5J School District in order to implement his vision; there’s another way.
Oregon has one of the broadest charter school laws in the nation. If Kyle and his backers truly believe that his vision is superior, then let them prove it by opening their own charter school. Show us what you’re really about, and then the parents of Baker 5J will be free to choose which school they want their kids to attend.
Besides, some of Kyle’s ideas, like using his “cadre” of volunteer teachers, are easier to apply in a charter school.
This idea of Kyle starting a charter school wasn’t mine, but I think it really is the best solution for both sides of this debate.
I can tell you one thing: my kids won’t be subject to Kyle’s “revamping” of Baker 5J. We can homeschool if need be.