Ah, Woe. Dogs and Cats are at it again. Thank goodness we play like them, and only hiss, spit and bark at each other, rather than wearing chains, brass knuckles and a gun at each hip. So far Spot hasn’t pissed on my leg and Foofy has kept his kitty litter and all other specimens in the box.
Where to start? Certainly not with Stan Kress, Wayne Hart (although a great ghost-writer for IW editors when slamming school government), Mike Koenig and the good ole boys. Oh, I wasn’t supposed to mention their names. Dear me. But know that when I said it, I was well hidden in the depths of the dark under a bush and it was just a whisper. It reminds me of a film my Greek-American friend Alexis and I always planned to make, portraying a man we knew whom we called “Peeping Dick” and it was about an amazing penis that loved to creep about in bushes and get into everyone’s business.
I am tired of it all. I lost my job at the Idaho World because Marion Summers lied to my editor and said I yelled that she was a lying bitch in front of a roomful of people and her attorney (there, you have it). She is but I didn’t. Who needs Friends like that? There is more to the story but I was never informed.
Of course, the editor of the IW once wrote to me, in a rant, “There are two sides to every story. A responsible newspaper reports evenly on both sides. NOT UNEVENLY. It's not my job to play god and decide who is right or wrong or who is telling the truth. I am not a judge. I am a newspaper. I represent BOTH sides.” For that TV station, which also strives to tell an unbiased story (ahem, forgive me god), Hart announced, “We’re going to just keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is to just print the truth.” She forgot to add, “...for one side.” An understandable omission.
What was that about announcing on the air that she suspects “Tomlin is pulling the strings and the board appears to be the puppet of Mr. Tomlin”? And the big whopper (and pooper-scooper) for the night was citing Tomlin getting caught sending anonymous e-mails and belittling parents. Doesn’t she read her own newspaper? Hmmm again...maybe she does. To be fair, Hart was right on when she said she thought the letter Elmore sent to her was ridiculous. Folks around my office tonight have mentioned that perhaps our school board should be given a free trip to the Bahamas. Maybe a little rest. It’s getting to them, can’t blame them, but threatening legal action if papers are not taken off the stands is extreme. The ghost-writer for “Hart’s” perspective rightly says the local residents deserve to know what is going on around them, especially with their elected officials. I agree. We are not getting this information from the IW. Perhaps the ghost-writer would like to take over, sounds like a good policy.
By the way, this has become a mantra about Mr. T—when those people don’t like what someone says, they attribute it to him. The IW only printed three articles about those people with my name on them and he wrote them all. In fact, he’s here now, hovering about like the son-of-a-bitch that he is, always meddling. My Jewish pal, David, used to say, “Blame it on the Jews”, whenever anything in our life went crazy. We could say “Blame it on Obama”, but why stop there? Blame it on Mike Tomlin, the big stinky cheese at the Garden Valley School. Oh phew! But cheese is not a bad thing to have when you are hungry and watching John Cleese. When I was a kid, I used to take my dad’s limberger cheese and make dog-poops mixed with saw-dust—the neighbors thought I was quite a creative little urchin. I seem to have my mind on excrement tonight...I wonder why.
Now I sit and do this, for no bucks, along with a lot of volunteer work in the community (donate button). I care. I care about Teri Hart, whose ghost-writer is pretty slick and writes okay, but from her big TV debut, she could actually graduate into poster-kid for Truth or Consequences, but I fear she would wind up spewing chewed cabbage from a wagon filled with slinkies pulled by Huey, Dewy, Bob Barker and George Carlin, who keeps shouting, "Truth, Teri, or you'll be packing potato chips in El Monte!" I care about Kathleen Wilson, who seems to have lost her sense of proportion...and sense of sight—she doesn’t seem to recognize me anymore. It could be the fog. I care about Mike Tomlin, who is too smart for his britches, but can’t bring himself to say gee, I certainly never meant to hurt anybody, even if he didn’t but they think he did. I care about Paula Fox, a gentle and honest soul who deserves better than what this community of Kress supporters is giving her. I care about anyone at the District who has been hurt by the viciousness of the people who have supported Kress, not to mention all the folks in town whose blood-pressure has risen at the mention of the Friends and their antics. I care about the teachers who have been misled. I care about the kids who have to deal with rabid parents, but they’ve actually gotten really good at wiping the foam off the frothing fobs of mummy and daddy. I knew they were in school for something. I care that I see factions of people sitting on opposite sides of the room. I care about injustice. I have a big mouth. I say things that I think and feel and I don’t have a lot of fear—more fool me.
But I don’t lie.
When someone tells me something and they can’t substantiate it, I don’t care if it’s about god, or Janell and her “sharing” of what information and when--which they won’t tell you, or Elizabeth Dunn treating employees with inequitable discrimination or behaving unprofessionally ( I really haven’t seen her dancing naked on the tables, I think she was lying), or Daryl telling everyone that all the teachers are joining the union though it was only his wife but the fear started to spread when he kept repeating “Listen to the fear” and now everyone talks about fear and watching their backs, or when the Keddy-Hector aka Delores Bedard public records request turned into a stick to beat Tomlin and Elmore with because “they” were holding up the process when wasn’t it really Bedard who just owed the money and couldn’t or didn’t want to pay it, or when the well-respected kindergarten teacher, Cheryl Riedinger, accused Superintendent Tomlin of sexual harassment and intimidation and had to go home to recuperate for the rest of the day because he said "you’re welcome" to a little girl, but I wondered why it wasn't the little girl who cried "wolf!"—when they can’t substantiate their accusations, how is it possible that we can actually believe these lies in our community about our friends and neighbors?
Now, to the 10/13 Idaho World article about the recall petition of school board trustee, Janell Ward, about which the editor was unavailable for comment, having just stepped in dog-poo. The article: Badly written and confusing? I thought so too. Not a bad try for a reporter working for an editor who wants to tell both sides. It just fell short before it hit the mark. Rule #1: Reporters trying to be unbiased should avoid yelling at school superintendents in public meetings—getting caught up in the moment is one thing—getting caught is another.
Yes, the story is out of sequence. Reading it would cause you to think Overlie gave the petition to Vian, Vian gave it to Tomlin, and Tomlin announced it was rejected. Confusing? Actually, Tomlin gave it to the Clerk of the Board and she evaluated it, comparing with Idaho Code and refreshing her understanding of the legal opinions the District received in the last two recall elections. Tomlin says he gave his statement to IW reporter Kathleen Wilson on Tuesday (as reported), after all of the above was done.
A small, but sensitive item, with regard to elections (ad nauseam, but what the heck): Paula Fox was acting in capacity of the Clerk of the Board, not the Business Manager of the District, as reported in the IW. (Fox does serve as Business Manager.) The Clerk is an elected position, elected by the Board. It is careless reporting to attribute Clerk work to the Business Manager-- aren’t some people touchy?-- it would be same as with Bob Powell, who is a science teacher and Athletic Director. If he made a decision regarding athletics, the reporter would attribute it to the Athletic Director, not a middle school science teacher. Just a small thing and certainly not much to get worked up over. Really. Let’s be fair.
The IW states that giving Janell Ward a copy of the petition "could be a problem." No it's not. First, when the IW reported a petition effort was underway, Ward says she began checking daily with the District to see if one had arrived. One day it did, and she requested a copy, which she was given.
This is interesting to the District, they tell me, as people want every document in the world to be public information, unless it is their document. Marion Summers wanted Paula Fox's 2008 pay stubs and they gave them to her. She wanted Fox's seven-year-old resumé from her personnel folder and they had to decline by law. Other people request e-mails, and they provide them. When a petition that is received at the District office is provided to someone, suddenly people think it is wrong. It is not wrong.
Kathleen Wilson, in the IW, then quotes Idaho Code 33-433, about what should have happened. According to the District, she has the wrong Code, in the wrong paragraph, in the wrong sequence, with the wrong application and the wrong conclusion. I had trouble writing that so don’t worry if you didn’t get it. The Clerk was not yet at the step Wilson cites - a mistake by the IW reporter ceded by the district as easy to make, in the Idaho Code book, but reckless and negligent, when it easily could have been verified at the district office. But, as one teacher told me, when staff and patrons had a loud party in the same room while students and Mr. DeFoe performed last year’s Christmas concert, “It’s a learning curve Angel. Give them a break”—so let’s give Wilson a break.
It is unfortunate about the confusion and misinformation the IW gave to the readers and it was taken very seriously by the Friends-phobic School District. Again, bear in mind we are dealing with people who have been viciously attacked for over a year...remember just one accusation against the District that claimed they were playing Mr. Dick, peeping and creeping while folks voted, and picking the lock to see just who believed Elizabeth Dunn had really danced on the table in the nude.
The District was told that comments on a blog say the petition rejection was due to one word, "WARNING." Tomlin responds that it is gossip, but the warning issue is important. He says, “First, the petition received was missing more and different language than just the warning. When the Clerk reported the errors to him, he asked her to check online, in last year’s and this year’s Idaho Code books, to make certain they were not missing a version that was acceptable; he also checked. They didn't find one. The Clerk rejected the petition and he concurred. Whew. Do all school districts work this hard at maintaining the budget and teaching kids as this one?
Tomlin says, “However, several days later, again from a colleague quoting a blog site indicating the petition was copied from Chapter 34 of Idaho Code, the mystery was solved. It was perfect (we looked) for recalls other than education. Education law is in Chapter 33 of Idaho Code, and it is different, and different for a reason that I am certain the legislature in its wisdom understands (he laughs, yes sometimes he does this incredibly intimidating thing, forgetting he’s a jail warden and not a superintendent of schools) but regardless, it defines the law of public education, and the law we must follow.”
Now, regarding the word "WARNING." In one of the previous recalls, this question came up and the district took it to Steve Meade, then General Counsel of the Idaho School Boards Association. He told them the word had to be there. So, been there done that. Tomlin says they would have been negligent to accept the petition, having already received the answer from legal counsel.
That takes them to the next point that they would like to make to the community. With regard to recall elections, they have two fears - first, that they reject a proper petition, and second, that they accept an improper petition. If they reject a proper petition, it can be fixed, re-signed, and re-submitted. That is a hassle for the petitioners, but risk to the District is limited.
However, if they accept an improper petition, and call an election, hold an election, spending time and money, and the challenged Trustee loses - they can appeal the election. Imagine the fury of the petitioners, voters and community if they cost the District that much money, emotion, time, and effort, because they were sloppy.
Tomlin says he will always advise the Clerk to risk erring on the side of rejecting a petition that might have been acceptable than to accept one that could be overturned on appeal. “And to that point, he finishes, “my affinity for the members of the Board aside, I don't ever want an election overturned on my watch. Politicians come and go, but this is my work and that of the Clerk and we want it to be right.”
Senator Tim Corder was asked to attend the October school board meeting held in Lowman. The two quotes used by Wilson in her article were custom-made for the occasion. The problem is, as Corder and I agreed, journalists tend to use quotes to their own purpose, this one seeming to be a plea for the petitioners.
Corder says, “In law, always and in this case, every single time I’ve been called into disagreements with local entities, people get close to walking in a grey area. Right or wrong, the perception to some people is that it is wrong—it’s a sense of impropriety. Ward was legal but imprudent.”
He says he told Wilson that night that Ward wasn’t being vicious or intimidating—it was just the perception. “When I read Janell’s letter, I had no doubt why she wrote it,” Corder explains. “I empathized with her completely—but felt that she was ill-advised. She may have felt vindicated for about ten minutes, but there’s no help for that pain. Now she has the additional problem of the letter to deal with.”
The senator’s admonition to Wilson and others that night was that Garden Valley has to stop trying to govern by recall. “If they’d try to spend the same amount of time—too much time and resources—to solve the problem, they could fix it. They need to draw the line, snap the cord and move forward.”
Corder says he was proud of the meeting as local government. “Process was being followed, everyone got their voice—that is the best of America”
The petition states that “Janell Ward has ceased to represent the will of her constituents and has shared damaging, confidential personnel matters that should have been confined to executive session according to the law. The other issue is “Ward has brought a personal agenda to the school district to further her own ends and personally and professionally attack those who oppose.”
Speaking of grey areas, this is one of those. Paula Fox is becoming an expert on this, you could ask her. You could ask your attorney. But until a person is given the specific material involved with the accusation (which info, what date, etc.), this cannot be clarified. When certain discussion takes place about personnel, the discussion itself may not be leaked, but if it involves documents presented to the board, they are immediately public. What exactly are we talking about here?
Lowman resident, Shelley Overlie, started the petition for Ward’s recall and can only say that she has an affidavit from someone who claims Ward shared the personnel information with that person. Overlie promised not to disclose the accuser’s name, but she says she showed the affidavit to residents who had signed the refused petition, all of whom said they would be willing to re-sign the second one.
Overlie wrote an e-mailed letter to Janell about her concerns, which Ward never answered. She feels this showed a lack of representation of a constituent’s needs. Ward, in turn, explained that the letter was sent to the board. All of her mail goes to the board. The board answered the letter. She wasn’t aware that it was a personal letter, is sorry if that was the case and says it was a miscommunication.
According to Overlie, Ward came to the board with an agenda to get rid of an accredited teacher. She stated another issue that influenced her decision for the recall, which was that during the interview process for a new principal, Ward never mentioned Lowman.
Ward responded with vehemence, regarding the teacher issue. “That’s not true! Who? It never entered my mind. I got on because of special education—it’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve talked to other people who needed help with their kids. It was my last attempt to help the situation in special ed.”
Regarding the interviews, Ward says, “That is not true. She has no idea; she was not there. I talked about Lowman during the search committee interviews and behind closed doors during board interviews and public receptions. I also went to the dinners and spoke about our town, our Lowman school and its needs, in casual conversation.”
Mrs. Overlie remarked that she is not impressed with how the school board is handled and that she feels it’s time to “get our school back”. The second petition has been presented to the School District.
Okay, back to nitpicking for a minute. Can we be blamed for wondering how 330 people signed a petition to remove Mike Tomlin, when you never see that many people around the school, for board meetings or otherwise? Perhaps 100 at a concert or graduation. How many of these people have met Tomlin, let alone be familiar with his wanton ways? Tomlin has neither absconded with the funds, nor misappropriated them. He has done nothing wrong, save be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We can call him a dummy for standing in the road, but someone else has to hit him. This is not a wrong that can be loaded onto someone’s shoulders as people have tried to do.
The editor might have come up with “Intimidation?” No need for ghost-writers to grab a concept that has been so popular with the group of people she supports. This is a word that has been directed quite a bit lately toward the District, from a group of people who have done nothing but intimidate for years. A new handle but the same people.
I think the better word for Elmore’s letter is Indignation. Indignation at bias, perceived negligence (and the IW certainly allowed perception to be credible in the article in question), slander and libel against a board member.
The reason the Fiends of the Garden Valley School have been so successful in their attack against the District is because they are the aggressors, the intimidators; they are the offensive line. The School District is the defensive line trying to stop the rush. If you look at everything the District has done in the past year, it has always been in defense of an aggressive attack. They are not fighting; they are trying to survive.
I recently answered a letter written to me by an outraged resident. I have also fielded many comments by people who want an end to this madness. My response is, if no one hears your voice, you don’t exist. If you are out there and want an end, stand up and say so. Sticks and stones can break my bones and tomatoes are messy, but a hiss and a spit and a woof? ...just don’t let them piss on your shoes.