Letters to the Editor for Nov. 30, 2012
Support schools and vote ‘no’ on 5J recall
Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson deserve our strong support for resisting unjustified attacks by Kyle Knight and editorials in the Baker City Herald. I urge my fellow citizens to turn out in record numbers to register an overwhelming “no” vote on recall.
Three School Board members censured Knight for his premeditated and premature disclosure of confidential personnel information about a criminal investigation. This followed his partial disclosure of a separate police investigation. By acting decisively, the Board helped ward off potential liability for future releases of confidential information. This potential liability was real, and the censure was preventive, not punitive. Had they not responded, they would have violated their fiduciary duty to protect community interests. They should be applauded.
The claim that two disclosures of confidential information about circumstances ALREADY under criminal investigation improved “transparency” is beyond absurd. It can be understood only when seen as part of a concerted, but misguided, assault by a radical, anti-government few on the integrity of our public schools. The disclosures of confidential information, the recall effort, and the related lawsuit are clearly part of a broader set of tactics aiming to discredit and dismantle our public schools, and, as proclaimed by the web site of the Western Liberty Network, to “take charge” of Baker County (www.westernlibertynetwork.org).
Our award-winning schools are among our most valuable assets to attract and retain energetic young families in Baker Valley. The recognition of our model schools and our Oregon Teacher of the Year are testimony to the quality of our schools and their contribution to a promising future for us all.
Another valuable resource is the time and talent of citizens who volunteer to take on civic responsibilities. Their work is challenging enough without having to deal with baseless controversy and conflict. We owe them a debt of gratitude!
The recall election offers an opportunity for us to stand together and honor the work of School District 5J and its Board. And to firmly reject the reckless acts of those seeking to undermine the District and the best interests of our community, in pursuit of their ideological agenda.
Obama campaign propaganda was effective
We have some very effective propagandists. When B. Obama wanted to claim that he was helping our economy, he had his helpers get to work. They chose six weeks before the last election as a good starting point for their campaign. This would give them the opportunity to catch most of the early voters and all the others.
Obama wanted to claim that the unemployment rate was lower now than when he was elected. The figure they presented was 2 tenths of one percentage point lower than the old figure of 8 percent unemployed, or 7.8 percent. This was not a very awe-inspiring figure. Not to worry. The Obama folks would Goebbels it. What is that?
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s pal, has been considered the greatest propagandist of all time. He claimed that you could make people believe anything if it was presented loudly and repeated long enough. So they began to have Obama come on TV with his message many times every day for the whole six weeks. The election provided the result. Goebbels was right.
Virginia L. Kostol
Diversity on school board should be encouraged
A diverse array of opinions and personalities should not be considered a bad thing on the school board. If any member is attempting to silence another, that member should be removed and replaced. We need a consensus, not a dictatorship. We need both those that have years of experience and those that bring a fresh perspective. Let’s not limit our collective wisdom by squelching dissenting input.
Why I think frivolous recall attempt will fail
I’m very optimistic that the recall is going to fail. I’m referring to the attempt to recall two School District 5J board members instigated by chief petitioner Kerry Jones McQuisten in support of 5J board member Kyle Knight. Here are some reasons for my optimism.
Most recall elections fail.
McQuisten’s petition does not include even one valid example of how the education of the children of School District 5J has been harmed by actions of the two school board members. In fact, unbiased appraisals show that our schools are functioning just fine, including one Teacher of the Year award.
Knight has ruined his reputation by suing School District 5J over his hurt feelings. Whatever happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Former Baker City manager Steve Brocato sued the City. Last I heard, he was having trouble finding a job. Who’s going to hire someone who files what I consider a frivolous lawsuit against his former employer, or hire someone who sues his own school district over hurt feelings, for crying out loud.
Knight just lost an election to be a Baker City councilor. With four open councilor positions, Knight had a statistically very good chance to be elected. Until he filed his lawsuit against School District 5J. When the votes for city councilors were counted, Knight wasn’t even close to winning a seat on city council.
This recall is about silly playground bickering. Let’s all act like adults. I’m voting “no.”
Burroughs, Henderson should be recalled
The recall is about a lot of things. But it’s not about Director Knight.
To sum up why Directors Henderson and Burroughs are being recalled, let’s look at some of their biggest blunders to date.
First, they attempt to implement a district weapons policy that clearly violated both federal and state statutes, all at the behest of OSBA. As a board member, Director Burroughs supported a substantial pay increase to administrators in the same year teachers were being laid off, their salaries frozen. Director Burroughs appointed friends and former board members to the budget committee after it was advertised publically for people to apply. That action earned the board a letter from the state that basically said they could not break the law.
They attempted to cover up an investigation into a district employee (who is incarcerated), and after Knight notified the press that an investigation was underway, they censure (and censor) Knight, claiming he gave the paper the employee’s name. It was revealed by a citizen at his censure hearing that the information had leaked from the district office. They attempted to make Director Knight a scapegoat. They have kept a duly elected official out of meetings, belittled him in the press, slandered him with spam mail to voters’ houses, and earned themselves a lawsuit in the process. The irony is that in trying to ostensibly avoid putting the district at risk, they end up making themselves and the district liable. I would call that less than competent. They cannot cite one real law that Director Knight allegedly broke. They also take credit for high test scores and great performance. I would appreciate a board that recognizes their real educators, our teachers. They made the product, not a lame-duck board.
The recall process is a legal provision given to the voters to say to incompetent leaders: Your time is up. Directors Burroughs and Henderson have proven themselves unable to keep the district free of liability and have blatantly failed to use professional judgment in their respective offices. Please vote “yes” to recall Directors Burroughs and Henderson.
Board had no choice but to censure Knight
The ballot statement in favor of the recall is so full of inaccuracies that it would take a second letter just to list them. The facts: Early last spring the district financial officer found evidence of a district employee using her position to illegally access district funds for personal use. He informed the superintendent who then informed the Baker Police Department. The superintendent also informed all board members of the investigation. He asked the members to keep the information confidential until the investigation was finished. He did this both to protect the rights of the accused (entitled by the U.S. Constitution to due process) and to allow law enforcement officials to conduct investigations quietly and effectively. Despite this, Mr. Knight conveyed that information about the investigation (including the name of the employee) to the Baker City Herald and other media outlets. He did this by forwarding several confidential emails between himself and the superintendent to the press. He did this before the investigation was completed.
Since Mr. Knight is a duly elected member of the 5J District board his actions made the district legally liable if the accused was innocent and decided to sue the district for damage to her reputation. Mr. Knight was formally asked in a board meeting to cease these behaviors and he refused. Attorneys informed the district that in order to protect the district from the actions of a rogue member they had two options. They could act to recall Mr. Knight or they could censure him. Board members thought that a recall would be too divisive so they opted to censure him. Mr. Knight’s situation is of his doing. He gave the board no choice. They had to legally distance the district from Mr. Knight to protect the district.
Recent test results confirm that Baker 5J students are among the top in the state. The district is doing an excellent job despite very dire financial constraints. From the beginning, Mr. Knight’s agenda has been one of destructive politics not the continued improvement of the education of our community’s children. Don’t help him. Vote “no” on the recall.
N.R Rusty Munn
Teacher of the Year supports board members
Being selected as Oregon Teacher of the Year is such an incredible honor; especially recognizing I work for a district full of excellent employees. The numerous emails, cards, and phone calls from colleagues, community members, and unknown individuals have been overwhelming. I am blessed with tremendous support and encouragement. Thanks to all of you!
The recall issue saddens me when we have much to celebrate in our school district. Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson are two individuals who have been in the trenches with teachers and know the obstacles we face each day. Lynn is a retired teacher and Mark volunteers weekly to work with students in the classrooms. I have witnessed firsthand his desire to make sure all students receive the best education by providing assistance to teachers and schools. It is my sincere hope we keep them on our school board.