Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Setting The (Idaho) World Right": School Super Speaks Out

By Dr. Mike Tomlin
Monday, 4/18/2011 

Today was an amazing day, starting with good coffee at Emilio's and reading the Idaho Statesman's lead news article on the Boise Schools. Except for the word "Boise" in front of schools, and the dollar amounts, the story could have been written about our Garden Valley Schools. The Boise school district is down $36 million from the 2008-2009 school year. And no one is asking where their "contingency fund" went, like a former stalker and resident of Garden Valley did of our school principal last week.

It was an intelligent article written to inform. The Boise district has cut staff and supplies, and is in the final stages of using up its "rainy day fund". The article quoted district spokesman Dan Hollar -- in itself a joy to see the Statesman staff actually finding their way to ask a district office employee of the facts.

Then down the block to the 20th Annual Education Law Institute at the Boise Center on the Grove. Well over 300 people representing Idaho's 115 school districts. Fellow Superintendents, Board Clerks, HR Managers, and Trustees. I know many of them, and we laugh as we reunite, most thanking me for keeping Garden Valley in the news, evidently the only district in the state with money woes and certainly the only district trimming staff. "Hey Tomlin, we appreciate you, and your people who would rather trash their home community than know the truth." In truth, they each know they are one phone call from being next, and they wish us no ill will, but in this business, every day off the media cycle is a good day.

They see the bias on Channel 7, and try to avoid it and interviews there too. I show them the "Heads saved" and "Chopping Block" article by Kathleen Wilson in the Idaho World. They laugh at the writing and the column. "These people need to come up for air sometime," they say. They know. The paper is small town, but it could be accurate. It could be honest.

"Administrators say" the "sweeping staffing cuts...were necessitated by slashed state budgets?" No we didn't. The funding cuts have hurt, but mostly our cuts are needed because the district has been overspending to keep elective programs and small elementary class sizes it cannot afford. That was the reason for the levy. That is why the levy was run even before we got our revenue numbers for next year. That is why we reported the need for a 2011 levy in our budget hearing last year.

The Board fully understood this as they approved the levy. Idaho World reporter Kathleen Wilson understood it too, as she served on the levy promotion work group. One can only speculate on what caused her to write falsely in the paper.

She also wrote that I "axed three clerical workers, keeping just one to help run the district." Not true. We only have three clerical workers. And while we anticipate one may retire, the others know full well they have a chance to be hired back in a reconfigured job. Wilson could have known it too if she had bothered to ask. The truth, man. It is there for people who want it, and it is there to be ignored by those who do not.

The Idaho World also stated that our plans left "just two teachers in grades K-5." That is untrue. Since the Idaho World's reporter didn't care to ask for the truth, I can share what she doesn't know - first, we "could" reconfigure middle school and move a teacher there, adding our Title I teacher. That would fully cover the K-5 grades with four very good teachers. But we likely will not do that - more probably combine a couple of grade levels and hire back from the laid off pool. The teachers knew that, and the Idaho World could have known it with a simple question and competent reporting. Their reporter chose neither.

But competent reporting would not have allowed them to conclude we would have "no teacher's aides to work with Special Education students." The week before the Monday "massacre" I assured the district's Special Education Director that she was authorized to hire over the summer what help was needed to meet our responsibility to special needs children. We will meet it in the fall also. But laying off when work is done, and hiring back when tasks require is not a new concept. It is just new to education, and the kind of "new" demanded by this year's legislature and today's taxpayer.

Always spot on, Trustee Jeff Bass noted in the Idaho World that the board had "put off the inevitable." Exactly, and it was their right. They know the figures and have since December been working the dollars right through the levy campaign. Those dollars won't change when we get our new revenue numbers from the state. The job before the board remains.

In the category of even blind squirrels find an occasional nut, IW reporter Kathleen Wilson did correctly note that "teaching positions are funded by the state." We are a state school district...but this may still be "news" to some.

And finally the drama. I find it ironic that those who call the television news, and who print headlines stating "Heads saved from the Chopping Block..." would infer that the District desires a "dramatic effect." That is simply untrue. And of course our 300 friends in the Center on the Grove know that it is untrue, as they listened today to the same updated legal reports from the recent legislative session, that we listened to. All hoping they could avoid that next media cycle.

Then we all headed home, to head back tomorrow for round two. And in parting, one after another tells the GVSD contingent - "hey we'll see you tonight on Channel 7." Too funny.

But we learned a lot, and it was a day well spent. Tomorrow we get the finance side of the new legislation, that finance side that is funded in fact by the state, Idaho, that funds our teaching positions. But I am certain you will read all about it in the Idaho World.


  1. I don't see the IW reporter imply that you were a "blind squirrel" or anything like that. I'm surprised your article was published considering the new abuse policy on this blog.

    Jeff Bass was "spot on" when he didn't make a motion to accept your plan. Actually none of the board members did - which as you pointed is their right. At least three board members stated they needed more information before taking such a drastic step. At least two pointed out that there seemed to be little difference between firing 18 people and then hiring back certain individuals as opposed to letting the correct amount go in the first place.

    You say:

    "But laying off when work is done, and hiring back when tasks require is not a new concept. It is just new to education, and the kind of "new" demanded by this year's legislature and today's taxpayer."

    Your implication is that our current legislators condone or even promote the method you attempted - this is simply not true. They may not forbid it but please don't attempt to garner validation in a statement that is clearly your opinion.

    And I wouldn't be so sure those 300 "friends" at the Grove are the people you should be most concerned with. I was at the meeting Monday night and didn't see a big difference between what happened and what was reported in the IW.

  2. Is this a joke? Has Tomlin really convinced himself that people around the state are sitting around laughing at the Idaho World?

    The idea that our tiny local paper is the butt of every joke at an Education Law conference is absolutely absurd! Does he really believe that all his "fellow superintendents, board clerks, HR managers, and trustees" from around the entire state of Idaho actually read the Idaho World? And that they are all laughing, right along with him? This is absolutely delusional.

    I stand by my article.

    Just so everyone knows, this is the first time I have posted to Angel’s blog (although I do read it regularly). Speculation which attributed previous posts to me was erroneous. Also, I do not, and have never, been the writer/moderator of the Grace Under Fire blog. If I have something to say I put my name to it.

  3. Kathleen,

    You must be the reporter - standing by your article. How quaint.

    No, we don't read the World, but supts often bring local rags to pass around for fun. This time it was yours. I think though I saw yours months ago about a cougar shooting. That was pretty cool. Maybe stick to wildlife reporting.

    I don't know what the back story was on the board meeting or your personnel issues, but you did not refute that you never called the district office to verify your info. I think that was the point of the story.

    And a reporter who doesn't verify or corroborate is the sleazy side of journalism. Stand by your story if you want to...but understand what you are standing in.

  4. So the Idaho Statesman prints 7 days a week and can get the Boise district's take and numbers. The Idaho "World" prints once a week and can't.

    That is evidence of a corrupt paper, or an incompetent reporter and editor. I'm new to this site, but I'll be watching closely.

  5. Ok I'm sorry, I don't know Mr. Tomlin personally, but some of these acusations are incredibly unproffessional, and in my opinion, outlandish. I'm not saying either of you are right or wrong, because I'm sure I don't know more than you. But please, remain civil! You are not appearing as the better man by bashing your opponents like this. This is not the way to gain support

  6. Boisewriter (well-known as the Major himself)

    I don't believe for a moment that "supts often bring local rags around for fun" I know a few supers and they wouldn't waste thier colleagues'

    Kathleen - stand tall. When people go after you for reporting you know you're on to something. Keep it up.

  7. The point of the original article by Mike Tomlin appeared to be to "trash talk" Kathleen Wilson,the Idaho World and Channel 7. I teach at the school. Our mission statement asks that we all strive for excellence. Mr. Tomlin, our children and our students read your articles. Please strive for excellence when setting an example of how adults should treat one another; especially when you put things in writing.

  8. Pam, so sorry you feel that way. You want "trash talk"? Have you seen what the "other side" has done to the board and administration in the past two years?

  9. Okay, I've been reading up on past postings and want to verify that the math teacher actually wrote the check to fund the scholarships tied to him keeping his job. Is that a fact?

    If so has he been charged or suspended yet...I've not seen anything on the tv media? Or do I have to call the school to find all of this out?

    Outside, but now very interested.

  10. Horseracer: It would be best to call the GV School District @ 208-462-3756. They can tell you anything that is public information, but I believe you would have to send an e-mail requesting it. Call and check.

  11. To GV Parent about Boisewriter: "Boisewriter (well-known as the Major himself)"...are you referring to Dr. Tomlin?? You make me sick. Grow up! Boisewriter is NOT Dr. Tomlin. And to pdovelandsweets... the last thing I would worry about is Dr. Tomlin trying to defend himself! " Mr. Tomlin, our children and our students read your articles. Please strive for excellence when setting an example of how adults should treat one another; especially when you put things in writing." If your children and students are reading these blogs, then I think I would be a heck of a lot more concerned with the comments than the content of the articles. GASP!!!!

  12. Horseracer:

    The scholarship is not tied to anyone keeping a job. This is not the first year it was offered.

    If the school district thinks it was an unethical gift then it was equally unethical to accept it. They should give it back immediately. Who cares about kids, right?

  13. gvparent,

    Then I am misinformed. I was lead to believe the scholarship continuance was directly related to the continued employment of the math teacher. I am told the "preacher" said that directly in open session.

    I will admit I am wrong - as it is just what I have heard, that if the math teacher goes away, the scholarship goes away.

    Anyone at the meeting to set the facts straight?

  14. Dove Land Sweets, (A candy store?)

    If you teach at the school do you teach balance and fairness?

    The point of the column, it appears to this reader was that the reporter did not verify facts. Did not seek the other side. Gave teacher perspectives without asking for the superintendent's perspective.

    Copying events at a meeting is not reporting. A writer must give the reader the necessary information for the reader to make an informed decision. The writer/reporter's view is irrelevent.

    One example - when someone evidently made the comment about the "drammatic effect." That is a great quote - the reporter then MUST tell the administration of that quote and get their response - then report both and let the readers analyze and decide.

    To only give the one side is plain old hatchet jobbing. And I understand with small town papers sometimes the reporters don't know their craft. More often they are lazy, or biased.

  15. Horseracer, it's been verified that the math teacher is the one who made the donation. If he didn't intend it to secure his job, then Mr. Updike overstepped his bounds when saying that if Mr. Haworth isn't here next year, neither is the donation. So someone has a whole lot of 'splaining to do!

  16. edunn -

    I was in the room and Mr. Updike said no such thing. You are now manufacturing entire scenarios to further smear a teacher. And who verified that the math teacher made the donation. Name the name who "verified" the donation that was meant to be anonymous.

    You and yours seem determined to take this good thing and turn it into something that it just isn't. You must all be so proud of yourselves.

    Someone DOES have a whole lot of 'splaining to do - you do!

  17. Gvparent, go ask your trustee who made the donation, or make your own PRR. It has been verified. You can't get around that.

  18. Whatever - you won't name a name because you can't.

    But now that we're on the subject of money and ethics, after re-reading the above article, I did a little investigating myself.

    Please explain to me why this cash-strapped district paid for three people to attend a seminar in Boise for two days. Charging the district the cost of admittance (over $200 each) mileage, and expenses.

    You are complaining about someone donating money while the administration seems very cavalier about the daily expenses of the district.

    Why not send one person and let them teach the others what they learned. It's that kind of thing that nickel and dimes up to death.

  19. And by the way, I wouldn't have asked my trustee who made the donation because it was announced as "anonymous".

  20. gvparent

    edunn is not naming names to respect that person. Why are you accusing her of not naming names when you won't say who you are? I am the person who got the prr, and yes it is Hayworth's name on the check, so I have the proof in hand. I was at that board meeting and yes Mr. Updike did say that depending on what happens with the math class, that scholarship may not be back next year. My opinion, and from what others have told me it was very much implied that if Hayworth is not back next year neither would the scholarship. Also what is handed to the board in open session is public record. So it is not a secret who donated the money. If Hayworth wanted to stay "anonymous"
    then he wouldn't have had it given to the board in open session, plus it wouldn't of been a signed personal check.

  21. Ok, just for my own satisfaction, I did ask my trustee if Mr. Updike said what that respectful Edunn accused him of. My Trustee said "ABSOLUTELY NOT" and wanted to know if I was seriously asking the question.

    I then asked who the check was from and was told that the donor asked that it be kept anonymous and he was going to respect those wishes.

    I have asked at least six other people who were also in the room if Mr. Updike said anything of the sort and everyone said he did not.

    I wish you would at least tell the truth.

  22. Is Russ Bedard still taping the meetings? If so, a simple review of the tape should verify if something like that was said, or not.

  23. I am a former Sup in Idaho and ran across this blog/online paper? What on earth is happening in GV? Is the district really cutting all teaching positions except administrators?

  24. Did you read the article?...?
    Below it are comments, not necessarily facts. As stated above to HorseRacer, the District may be reached at 208-462-3756. Get your facts straight from the District itself, before you spread rumors.

  25. To gvparent
    I attended the Education Law Institute several years ago when I was on the board. The binder of information I came home with after the three day seminar was two inches thick. Education law is difficult to keep up on without attending such meetings. Proper education for board members makes better school board members which in turn can save the district thousands. My only regret is all the board members did not attend. To those that did I want to say thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to be the best for our district.