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Home arrow Opinion arrow Letters arrow Letters to the Editor for Nov. 28, 2012

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Letters to the Editor for Nov. 28, 2012


Recalls don’t settle anything; vote ‘no’ on 5J measure

Recalls and lawsuits are normally the last resort in settling disputes and differences, not the first action. They don’t settle a thing. They drive a wedge between us, doing away with our unified hearts and minds to solve problems. Please vote “no” on the recall and instead encourage normal civilized discussion on issues relating to our public schools.

Donna Landon

Baker City

Don’t punish wrong people; vote ‘no’ on 5J recall

No elected official should be recalled for doing his duty. Elected officials swear to uphold the law and we expect them to do so.  In the case of Kyle Knight, the Board’s duty led to his censure in order to protect our school district from his careless disregard for the privilege his position afforded him. His actions exposed the board and the district to expensive litigation.

Consider the simple story of how Mr. Knight came to be censured by the leadership of the school board.

Superintendent Wegener sent an email marked confidential to the school board that the D.A. was in the process of investigating potential embezzlement from the school district. Mr. Knight released this proprietary information to local newspapers while the investigation was still underway and due process termination of the employee involved had not yet occurred. This action exposed the district to a serious lawsuit.

The board asked Superintendent Wegener to check with the state on how to deal with the situation. The State Ethics Commission said the board must police itself.  The Oregon School Boards Association Lawyers agreed with the Ethics Committee and said it was essential that the board deal with the liability caused by Mr. Knight’s behavior.

The board was advised by legal counsel how to separate itself from Mr. Knight’s actions, to reduce the threat of liability to the district and to give him due process.   

 To allow Mr. Knight to regain board trust to participate fully within the guidelines of executive session privilege and avoid censure to bar him from these sessions, he was twice invited to retake his oath and promise to refrain from outing confidential information. He refused both times. The board had no choice but to censure him to prevent his further indiscretions with confidential information. This is the only legal action available

 It is Mr. Knight’s refusal to respect the position to which he was elected that has brought us to this pass. Make sure your vote does not punish the wrong people and reward the cavalier behavior of an elected official. Vote “no” on recall.

Aletha Bonebrake

Baker City

Stop corruption and vote ‘yes’ on school board recall

5J District voters will soon receive their ballots. For 20 years we lived in the district. My husband and our children graduated from Baker High School. We currently have a granddaughter in the 5J school system.

My husband and I attended the March meeting when Kyle Knight was censured. We were horrified by the unprofessional behavior of Mark Henderson and Lynne Burroughs. Burroughs couldn’t cite one specific statute or BOLI law that Knight had actually broken; she just kept waving a handful of papers in anger and saying that he had. We saw Henderson turn beet red and yell at Knight. They never allowed Knight or the public a turn to speak. The fliers they later mailed were filled with character assassination and lies.

Some people have made this a conservative versus liberal issue. It’s not. It’s about right and wrong. Burroughs and Henderson were wrong in their censure of Knight, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. Burroughs single-handedly appointed her friends to the Budget Committee, earning the district a letter from the state. She and Henderson tried to deny Second Amendment rights to concealed weapon permit holders last fall and First Amendment rights to Knight this spring. 

Finally, these same bully tactics didn’t stop at the board meetings. After the second petition drive was underway, their supporters showed up on the doorsteps of some of those who had signed previously, and tried intimidating them into not signing again. Local business owners were threatened if they signed the second petition, one being told if they signed again they would never get a job with the district again, another being told the business would be boycotted until they went out of business. We heard from dozens of district employees, who wanted to sign, but all believed if they signed, it would mean their job. Coercion is illegal.

If we can’t control corruption in Baker County, how can we ever hope to stop it at the federal level? I urge a “yes” vote on this recall. Honest government begins at home.

Suzan Ellis Jones

Bridgeport

The author is treasurer of the recall committee. Her daughter, Kerry McQuisten, is the chief petitioner.

Knight deserved censure; vote ‘no’ on 5J board recall

It’s interesting how you can read minutes and newspaper articles relating to the same, without getting a real sense of what actually occurred at a school board meeting. Minutes only state what was moved upon and the paper cannot provide every statement or comment made. The dynamics are only visible and felt when you are actually in the room.

So in order for me to make an unbiased judgment it was my responsibility to attend meetings, not hear about it from someone else. Having retired from 30 years as a professional, both in the workforce and in management, I’ve found it matters not the age, but how you conduct yourself and present your perspective. Is it professional? Is it respectful even when you disagree? 

Every meeting I’ve attended Mrs. Burroughs, Mr. Longwell, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Bryan have conducted themselves in a professional and respectful manner as they dealt with district business, and interacted with staff. Mr. Knight? Not so consistent, possibly dependent on who and how many are attending the meeting. Is this professional and helping move the board to common goals? 

The majority of the board, whether they are agreeing or not, has the best interest of the students, the community and employees at heart, taking a stand for or against motions, not abstaining or just stating present. The majority of the board is willing to respectfully listen, and adjust their stance, if the presentation warrants, without snide, side comments. Mr. Knight? Not so much. 

 This recall is mainly based on Mr. Knight’s censorship due to inappropriate actions. When you become an “employer” or employee, your freedom of speech is justly modified. There are protocols for making public statements concerning “ongoing investigations” and personnel issues. Not following them puts any public organization at risk. Yes, monetary risk. The trust is also lost when dealing with confidential issues. Do you not do the confidential business at hand? Or do you censor? Mr. Knight’s actions did and do have justifiable consequences.

 Keep our good, conscientious volunteers and join me in voting “no” on the recall.

Melinda Sherrieb

Baker City

Appreciate our board members and vote ‘no’ on recall

School board members are volunteers, although they must be elected. They are not paid. They serve because of their interest in quality education for the children of our community, but they do so within the guidelines of the state of Oregon laws pertaining to schools and education. They are not friends and may never be friends. They may have serious disagreements among themselves, but they recognize that they must function within the laws of the state governing education, and that no one individual is going to change the ways the Oregon education system functions, nor how the schools are run.

I served on the board for a term a few years back. Most of the time, if there are differences of opinion, they are settled through the process of rational, reasonable discussion among adults, not through a recall petition. What on earth are we trying to do here? Do we want to frighten off these community-minded people who work so hard for nothing? Ridiculous. As far as I am concerned, recalls are a last resort to be used if there is a clear malfeasance of office or actual crime discovered. None here!

 I say support the board members we voted for, who volunteered to give up great chunks of time to serve us, the children of our community, and the betterment of our schools. Show them that we appreciate their time and efforts.  Vote “no” on the recall election.

Eloise Dielman

Baker City

Why I’m voting ‘yes’ on the school board recall

Since I detest having someone try to tell me how to vote, I will only record how and why I am voting. I am voting “yes” on the recalls because the present board has made such an awful mess of the board’s business.

The trouble began when Kyle Knight ousted the incumbent chairman of the 5J Board. This apparently offended these two members enough that they began to oppose Kyle. First they tried to ignore him at board meetings, then they began to make fun of him and later to ridicule him. Then they started an extensive campaign against him. They produced many long and dreary letters and sent two long, involved pieces to mail patrons condemning Kyle. One of their loudest complaints was that Kyle had mentioned an employee who might come under investigation. This complaint was without merit since he had mentioned no name. Soon after the culprit was investigated, charged and taken to court. That culprit is still in jail.

The most outrageous action was to censure Kyle and keep most board business secret and unavailable to him. Up until now no one has even heard of, or dreamed of, censuring a board member and keeping board business from him.

Superintendent Wegener appears to have been intimately involved in all phases of this sorry debacle. You cannot recall him. You would have to fire him. A superintendent was fired just a few short years ago and, as I recall, it cost the district about $350,000 to buy up her contract. For some incredible reason the board improved and extended Wegener’s contract just this year!

Carl Kostol

Baker City

Board members failed to make the right choices

I’m voting “yes” to recall Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson from the 5J School Board. Why? Because this recall has nothing to do with whether I support Kyle Knight or not. It has nothing to do with whether I approve of his lawsuit. It doesn’t even have anything to do with whether I like or dislike Lynne Burroughs or Mark Henderson. This recall has everything to do with the environment I see being created within the school district, which will trickle down and taint our students’ educations.

Do we really want leaders in place who spend thousands of dollars in out-of-state donations on negative local mailings, sent with the apparent intent of slandering another board member? Do we want leaders in place who are the defendants in a defamation of character lawsuit because of those mailings? Do we want to see continued chaos on the board or do we want peace?

This situation has taught me that given the choice of doing what is right and doing what is not right, these individuals would take the latter course every time. Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson rejected the petitions of over 1,000 verified registered voters twice, refused and snubbed any form of discussion or conversation on these issues. I believe things happen for a reason; these members were given a second chance when the first round of signature fell short on a razor thin margin. The cutthroat response from these members did nothing to address these issues, it only deepened it.

If anyone is responsible for the cost of this election it’s these two individuals. It’s sad that pride and hatred clouds the common sense of these individuals, at the expense of the students and taxpayers. The judgment displayed by these two individuals has been questionable at best, destructive at worst. We need a board governed by laws, not men.

A “yes” vote will do that.  

Sean Gilsdorf

Baker City

Get back to business, vote ‘no’ on the school board recall

We are writing to express our dismay about Mr. Knight and his followers’ apparent disregard for the consequences of their continued assault on board members Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson.

The $10,000 to $12,000 cost of this recall election could be spent in a much more beneficial way for our students and staff of District 5J and we do not approve of having our tax dollars spent in this manner.

It is pretty clear from the outstanding ratings of our schools and teachers that the school board, administration and staff are doing a good job of providing quality educational opportunities and making sound financial decisions.

It seems to us that even better results could be obtained if those we have elected to guide and direct our school district would spend their time working to achieve the goals of the district rather than carrying out personal issues.

Therefore, we would encourage voters to send a strong message to “get back business” by voting “no” on the recall.

Gary and LaVonne Yeoumans

Baker City

Focus on education, and vote ‘no’ on board recall

Thank you to all of you who are joining me in voting “no” on the 5J recall. We need to retain these strong leaders who have contributed so much to the success our school district is currently enjoying.

What most people don’t understand is that when the three school board members voted to censure a fourth member, they were acting to protect the school board and the district from potential legal liability, which still exists. Why wasn’t the censured member mature enough to simply accept responsibility for his error in judgment and get back to doing the work for which he was elected? Instead, two of the three board members have been subjected to this recall for acting in the best interest of the district.

People, we are better than this. Let’s vote “no,” put this divisive matter behind us, and put our energies into giving the children of this community the best education we can.

Barbara Johnson

Baker City

Burroughs, Henderson are committed to our kids

I’ve been a public education employee for over 20 years and as such have sat through dozens of school board meetings. I’ve watched the make-up of boards and school leadership change through the passing of years and have been able to observe how leadership affects schools.

How can you tell if someone is a good board member? The litmus test is the seriousness with which one takes their commitment to serve for the betterment of schools. Mark Henderson and Lynne Burroughs consistently demonstrate responsible and responsive behavior. They are faithful to the duties and role of a public board, studying with diligence mundane governance topics like board policy, budget updates, school improvement goals, employee changes as well as “hot button” issues that occasionally crop up.

When discussing school business, they keep an open mind as to what’s best for students and families as well as what’s practical in terms of application in classrooms. They listen to and carefully weight opinions expressed before fulfilling their obligation to vote on school matters. Time and again, under Lynne’s leadership, I’ve watched the board modify their original position to reflect in input from the community.

Additionally, Mark and Lynne routinely visit schools to see firsthand how things are working. In my experience, the amount of “face time” in schools these two have logged puts them among the top 10 percent of board members. Bottom line, they not only show up at meetings, they care about the effect board decisions have on students and schools. You will hear many folks talking about “putting kids first,” but these two put feet to their commitment.

In my opinion, Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson exemplify exactly the type of school board member our community wants and needs. You have read and heard how our district is receiving notice for the steady progress and consistent results we are achieving. This has not come about circumstantially; it takes the hard work of employees coupled with clear-sighted leadership at the board level. We have that in Mark Henderson and Lynne Burroughs. Please join me in voting “no” on the recall.

Betty Palmer

Baker City

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