Friday, February 18, 2011

~ Still Pickin' On the District ~

In a time when the Garden Valley School District is going to need all the support it can get from its patrons if it wants to get the supplemental levy passed, it has looked like special interest groups might sit down and share the pipe for a short while.

A school patron has some misgivings, and appearing to distain the illusory truce (a fancy of mine?), recently sent out an e-mail to other Garden Valley School patrons. In an attempt to "set the facts straight", Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Tomlin, sent to patrons an e-mail with answers to the patron's assertions. The following is the unedited letter of concerns by the patron (sans signature), with unedited responses by Mike Tomlin (sans identity of patron).

Tomlin: Garden Valley School District patron ( ) sent the following email (in blue) to multiple recipients. While (he) has every right to his opinion, his assertions are in many cases factually flawed. It is important that voters in the valley accurately understand the issues, school finance law, budgeting, and the role of the school board and administration in order to make informed decisions on the upcoming Supplemental Levy vote. I have corrected (his ) incorrect statements, in red, following his statements.

Statements in blue by ( ):

By taking away some of the funding from the school district the state government has given more control to the people at the local level. Now that the school district has to rely on direct support from the community my suggestion is that the School Board and the District Administration better start showing a lot more respect to the community, teachers, parents and of course the Kids. My suggestion to community members is to not let this opportunity pass them by. Make the Board and Administration responsible for their past, present and future actions. I have yet to see true transparency by the administration and therefore I will be voting “No” on this Levy.

[Mr. ( ) has not requested any documents, budget or otherwise to verify transparency. He has attended multiple meetings and has had every opportunity to view and analyze every budget document that exists. The Board of Trustees held multiple public budget meetings and hearings in 2009, and in 2010, debating and preparing its adopted budgets. Per law, the school district is audited and just this year underwent a federal audit. The district is exceedingly transparent, and proper and accurate in its financial operation.]

Yes, I am very concerned about our children’s education and the welfare of our teachers, but the core classes will not be affected. They will not go below 19 ½ teachers.
[That is factually untrue. There is a downward spiral effect of program cuts. As non-required classes and programs are reduced, the population shifts to schools and districts that provide them, which further erodes the funding base of the schools and our community. There is no way Mr. ( ) nor anyone else can assure the district that we will have 19.5 teachers next year (or any other number) prior to the legislature deciding on the new laws under consideration and setting our revenue. It is irresponsible to make such a statement.]

And, sports and other extra curricular activities can and should be funded more directly by the community through direct donations and organizations like the PTO/Booster Club. They do fundraising specifically for funds for the teachers and students use and not for the administration's overview. Sometimes you have to fall flat on your face before you finally make the decision for a better tomorrow. We have to look beyond next year and the next two years. We have to look at the long term future of this community.

The School District is very top heavy and has not been financially responsible the last couple years. [The Garden Valley School District is an award-winning district in academics, sports, and is recently reaccredited due to its excellence. This includes financial management, as noted in our audits, and the fact that we were able to delay for two years the drastic cuts made by many districts. It is a credit to those superintendents and boards who served before, and to the recent board(s) and its fiscal responsibility.] They have spent the School Districts savings and did not respond to cuts from the state the last two years. [Mr. ( ) is factually incorrect. The District responded to state cuts by reducing expenditures, freezing salaries, reducing overhead staff, cutting and capping health care benefits for employees, cutting athletic travel and costs, and imposing activity fees. The District intentionally and strategically used its savings to keep teachers employed, and to keep programs sound.]

If this were a private company they would not be able to ask Tax Payers for more money (and would be laying people off or closing their doors in response to the lower income.) That is just how it is.

The state, through funding cuts, has given us, The People, the power to say enough is enough. Get your message out and demand action. We can always vote on a Levy in the fall again. But they have to know that there must be a change [The people always have the power in our Republic. School district administration spends the monies received per approved budgets the school board adopts in open session following community hearings. It is a great process. However, as Mr. ( ) proposes voting on the levy in the fall – we must by law enter into contracts with teachers well before that. It is an unsound proposal that we can wait until November to determine a budget, and then hire back the teachers released in May. There would be no classes for them to teach.]

By passing this levy we give the administration the power to decide where the money is spent [This is factually false. The Board of Trustees will set and approve a budget for the next fiscal year. It will involve open and public community hearings and multiple readings and printings. It is the job of the administration to properly account for and spend the budget of the district – Neither the superintendent nor the Business Manager have the power to decide where any significant amounts of money is spent.] and if they are not listening to the community, who knows where that money will really go [That money will go exactly where the Board of Trustees directs that it go in their adopted budget]. It's not like the funding we get from the state where it's destination is designated by the state and the administration has no or little say. [Mr. ( ) is again factually incorrect on his assertion. We have quite a bit of discretion or "say" in the monies that come from the State. We will have far less discretion with the levy funds as the Board will have dictated exactly and not generally what their use will be.]

If you do not agree with this or want to correct something I said please do so. Right now I cannot support the Levy. I tried to get on board with pushing the Levy through but I can't get myself to believe it is the right thing to do at this point. I would love to here some of your thoughts. If you want to pass this on please do so, I have nothing to hide.

Again, Mr. ( ) has every right to his opinions, but misleading and non-factual assertions must be answered. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding the above.

Mike Tomlin

Dr. Michael Tomlin
Garden Valley School District
P.O. Box 710
1053 Banks Lowman Road
Garden Valley, ID 83622
208.462.3756 X1012


  1. For those who didn't get the emails, it would have been nice to say who the patron is. At least then we'd know who was spreading his ignorance around.

  2. The patron who wrote the letter has very valid concerns which once again fall on deaf ears and arrogance. Address those concerns in good faith and you might get somewhere but by just continuing to say "you're wrong", you'll solve nothing. I know many people who feel just like the person who wrote this letter.

    I will vote yes but I'm still not sure the levy will pass unless and until we talk about the elephant in the room. The continual mantra of "get over it" isn't working.

  3. By the "elephant in the room" I am assuming you mean this community's self-bashing to the detrimant of merchants and realtors.

    Talking about it keeps the negative news cycle going. The way to get over it is to get over it.

    Award winning school, audited and proven management, and a three seat board election in May. Something for everyone, unless you like dragging the past around.

    Vote yes, contribute, move forward, smile at your neighbor, wave on the road, and be happy.

    Life here really is good.

  4. Life here is good and we have to be aware of that and be willing to stand up and defend that good life.

    I happily contribute, vote yes, smile at my neighbor and wave on the road - as I always have. But I will not just "get over" something as important as the unresolved issues we have before us.

  5. The patron who wrote that email is Dave Gardner. I know because I received a copy of the email. Dave, you are NOT followed by most of your email list. Stop trying to ruin our school district. If you don't like it here, go back to where you came from.

  6. Concerned Parent,

    Good for you. But let's resolve it. Meet with someone next week, resolve, or go to church and forgive, and resolve.

    Please don't harbor. Not saying you are, but some in this town won't "get over" but won't resolve either. Just sayin'.

  7. Dave Gardner had the guts to put in writing what many are thinking. Many of the e-mail recipients replied that they agreed with him so I don't know what the previous poster was referring to. And if you're going to tell him to go back where he came from, well ok as long as you also tell Tomlin and others to go too.

  8. You really have no idea if I've met with someone or not. I have - more than once and was met with an attitude that had absolutely no interest in resloving any issue. Never been so frustrated in my life. I can forgive anyone - but how do you not harbor something that is ongoing? Please don't judge me for my own experiences. It's difficult to hear over and over that what you really believe deeply just doesn't matter.

  9. I think there are a couple of areas that are easily verfied. Gardner says the district "will not go below 19.5 teachers." Tomlin says there is no way of knowing yet. Which one is right?

    How does Gardner know unless there is a law that will dictate the number and Tomlin doesn't know it? I don't think there is, but there is a verifiable answer to this one.

    Gardner says the district "did not respond to cuts," yet Tomlin lists cuts they made. Did Tomlin lie, did the district not make those cuts, or is Gardner wrong? No opinions here, we can verify this.

    Opinions are great, but when you write facts they should be facts. Anyone want to ask Gardner and Tomlin for their data on just those two points?

  10. The 19.5 came right out of the levy meeting. That is the number that we get reimbursed from the state. Maybe it will go lower but it is highly doubtful and the administration knows that very well - they are the ones who came up with the number.

    I think we can all see that Gardner says the district did not respond to cuts - and the way I read that is the district did not do enough to cut - not that they didn't cut anything at all.

    At some point I'd just like the administration and a couple board members to get real here and quit splitting hairs - deal with the real problems and you'll have no trouble passing a levy.

  11. Concerned Parent,

    That is helpful. So when Gardner says none he means some; and when he says 19.5, he means maybe, unless it is different.

    It makes sense if you know the code.

  12. 10:39 - What a helpful comment. Not! I'm saying the 19.5 came right out of the administration's mouth. It didn't come out of thin air. That is the number the school is reimbursed for based on enrollment. Don't hold Gardner responsible for a number he didn't come up with.

    And most reasonable people understand that the district didn't go far enough with the cuts. Right or wrong at the time, that was the recommendation made that was approved by the board. Gardner is entitled to the opinion that more should have been done - he's not alone in that opinion. Don't vilify a guy for having a legitimate concern.

  13. I understand the 19.5 number to be this years allocation. But we are now talking about next years budget, so this years allocation seems worthless in the debate.

    Does Mr. Gardner know what the new formula will be based upon the new laws that have not yet been voted on?

    The district says they don't know, how does Gardner know?

    Yes he has a right to an opinion but he wrote numbers and made assertions. I want to know if his are right, or if the district's are right?

  14. Is this the same Gardner who is married to Kathleen who wanted a teacher punished for what he said at night during dinner?

    I smell witch hunt...they are after the administration because their vendetta against the teacher went no where.

  15. 6:09 - yep, same guy.

  16. I thought Dave Gardner worked at the school. Doesn't he run the electrical controls or something, or am I confusing somebody and something else?

  17. 6:09 - Wrong again. The teacher gave bad information to Elizabeth Dunn who ran with it as usual and accused two parents of something they didn't do. Elizabeth apologized, after publicly humiliating them. The teacher said he got the bad information from "board members". Kathleen has since lost her job at the school for trying to get to the bottom of it. It's not a witch hunt. Some people screwed up and are not big enough to admit it, apologize and move on.

  18. 12:16,

    So this is the same Gardner? You said "wrong again" but then went on to confirm the story, it seems.

    But if the choice was between firing the teacher and firing Kathleen from whatever she did at the school, I am glad they kept the teacher.

    Yes, move on is good advice.

  19. That's the point - she didn't do anything! Nothing! She and another parent were accused of something they didn't do and proved they didn't do. The teacher admitted to getting and passing on bad information.

    It was never about firing a teacher - Kathleen is the one who lost her job. She wanted to get to the bottom of it - have an actual discussion and was turned down.

    It would never have gone anywhere at all if Dunn hadn't sent her and the other parent a scathing e-mail - it was beyond ridiculous. Oddly enough, Dunn is the only one to fess up and take responsibility.

    And you all wonder why people are so upset. This was a small thing that could have been taken care of with one conversation and some humility. Instead of solving the problem it's deny, deflect and get lawyers involved.

    If you really want to know - talk to the people involved before you make assumptions.

  20. 19.5 is correct UNTIL the laws are changed, Tomlin misleading again, which they probably will be very soon though. Another reason to hold off on passing a Levy until we know what we are really dealing with when it comes to our budget. Todays number is 19.5 and going below that would only loose funding for the school and would be silly. Per Tomlin.

  21. Perhaps you people who are so intent on going after the Gardner's should really get your facts straight. Kathleen did pull her complaint against Mr. DeFoe only after she was removed from the school by Tomlin and Mr. DeFoe himself took his bruised ego out on their son by lying to him and then kicking him out of band. I wish all of us that were under a lot of stress and end up in the hospital for it got as much sympathy as DeFoe did. DeFoe apparently didn't even have the courage to do this himself, either, but had another student tell their young son he was no longer in band. One has to wonder what kind of teacher he is anyway, picking on young children like that. As I understand it, he totally turned their son off to music and this was after DeFoe praised him for being the best in the elementary. We don't need teachers like that anyway. He obviously took his anger and humiliation of being proved of wrongdoing out on an innocent child.
    And, well, Tomlin, he just likes to start crap and the Gardner's seemed to be easy targets. He's picking off the good people one by one and eventfully all that will be left are the synical and ignorant. Tomlin is just peeode because he knows the Gardner's are nice harmless people. Both DeFoe and Tomlin should be ashamed for the stress they have put on the Gardner's; all of them down to their child. All they wanted was an apology and to know why Mr. DeFoe would so wrongly and openly accuse Kathleen after she did him such an important favor. They obviously have something to hide, like maybe Tomlin started the mess for them.

  22. 8:18: Either you're a Gardner with an axe to grind or you're very misinformed. Mr. De Foe would *never* take anything out on a student. If their son was excluded from a performance (I don't believe he was excluded from band), it was because he was unprepared. If that was the case, he should have been excluded. Mr. De Foe is holding his students to a higher standard just as Mr. Haworth is. How is that wrong?

  23. 8:30 - Wow Mike, you really crack me up. Very misinformed? How the heck would they know - everyone at the school is to yellow to have a conversation with them to "inform" them. They were treated horribly and were owed an apology. If you were capable of that, we would not be talking about this right now, it would have been over months ago.

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