Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's the End of the Beginning! - posted by John

The superintendent resigned, the chairperson of the school board recalled, and an informative public forum all in the course of 9 days!  Citizens for 13J Excellence has proven that we are a force for good in the school district.  That is, of course, thanks to all of the dedicated volunteers who held signs, distributed petitions, sent emails and kept smiling through it all.

We wouldn't have gotten here if it weren't for General Mona Hinds, who marched us rapidly forward with unending optimism, and Kathleen Stanley's determination to scrutinize every suspicious activity, and Jill Love's attention to detail in keeping our operations in complete compliance with the laws on political action committees.  So a great big thanks is owed to these three.

It has also been my personal pleasure to get to know all of our steering committee members better, and to associate with so many wonderfully talented volunteers.

Yes, it is the end of a great month, the end of a hard climb, and the end of a difficult chapter in our community's story.  This is a sweet victory.  But we are conscious that the damage done in our district by years of unethical and arrogant behavior will take some time to heal - especially in a time of ultra tight budgets and fundamental problems facing our educational system.

So Citizens for 13J Excellence will still be around.  There is too much work to do to expect our our school board to do it all, or even our teachers and adminstrators.  The days when most people have no idea who's on the school board (or what the school board is) need to be put behind us. The schools are a resource to our community, and we have a great community of talented people who can pitch in to assist where needed.

The school board will need our support over the next few months as they transition with the new board members, including a replacement for Susan Stoops, and as they search for a replacement for the superintendent.  And meanwhile, they'll face the really big problems.

As you may have read on one of our other pages, our mission is to support Central School District in these ways:

  • Facilitate communication between community citizens and district leadership,

  • Promote transparency and integrity in district administration,

  • Promote awareness in the community of the achievements and needs of our local educational system, and

  • Bring community support and resources to aid the district in providing a quality learning environment for our students.

  • Now, it's time to move forward.  It's been a great ride so far!

    Election Results


    YES 2065 (76%)

    NO 649 (24%)

    A Stunning Victory - The People Have Spoken!

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Candidate Forum Tonight

    The winds of change are blowing through our school district and it's now time to turn our attention to the future.  You are cordially invited to attend a candidate forum tonight.  The candidates seeking office in the May school board election will be on hand to answer questions and share with us their ideas as we all move forward.

    What:  School Board Candidate Forum
    When:  Monday, April 25th at 7:00 p.m.
    Where:  Independence Public Library

    Following the question and answer period, we will have the opportunity to chat informally with the candidates.  Refreshments will be served.

    We hope to see you there!

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Superintendent Hunter Resigns!!!

    While this is fantastic news, it does not indicate "Mission Accomplished".  If the board, led by Susan Stoops, had figured this out even six months ago, with the input they were receiving, there might not have been a recall election.  But Stoops' behavior through this entire episode has demonstrated that she is not right for the school board.  Her desire to serve, her love of kids, and her experience in education, laudable as they truly are, do not compensate for her unwillingness to objectively consider the years of complaints about Mr. Hunter. 
    Stoops has not demonstrated that she can act effectively as an overseer in the public interest.  That is not an easy thing to do, and the remaining (and soon-to-be-elected) board members should all be pondering the importance of that part of the role.  We thank them all for serving, and look forward to smoother sailing going forward.

    In the meantime, please get out the vote!  Vote YES for recall!

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Meet the Candidates

    Citizens for 13J Excellence will be hosting a forum for the candidates seeking election to the school board in May's election. The forum will be held at the Independence Public Library this Monday, April 25th at 7:00 p.m. This is a great opportunity to get to know the individuals who will be representing us for the next four years and to learn their positions on the issues confronting our district.

    Hope to see you there!

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Participating in local politics is a lot more work than listening to talk radio . . .


    For those of you viewing this blog for the first time, here's a quick explanation of the layout of our blog:  Above this post, under the banner, you'll find tabs linking you to information about the recall effort and about our group.  Please especally read all the way to the bottom of the "why recall" page.  On the right are links to other resources with more information on Central School District issues.

    The issues that matter most may be the little ones.

    I feel fortunate that I got involved in this process last fall.  I have a much greater appreciation for the work that our school board members do than I did before - yes, even Susan Stoops.  They spend many hours without thanks and without pay to represent the public in ensuring we have a quality public education system for the children of our community. 

    I also appreciate the role that the public must play in keeping our institutions functioning as they were designed.  Volunteer service in the schools is important, but public awareness of district issues and school board actions is critical. 

    I urge all voters to read, listen, ask questions and vote thoughtfully.  I also urge everyone to pay attention to local politics.  Monmouth / Indpendence / Central / Polk conversations aren't accompanied by a dynamic radio personality, but those conversations may have a more direct effect on you, your family and your neighbors than the state and national issues do.

    And more to the point, expressing your perspective, experience, and wisdom can make an immediate difference. 

    Let's be citizens, not just fans.

    John's Response to a Concerned Citizen's Request for Information

    Thank you for your inquiry and for the maturity with which you approach the question.  It shows that you treat community concerns and your vote with the seriousness they deserve.  I will respond from my own experiences and with the resources our group has assembled.

    First, let me assure you we are not out to ruin a reputation.  I cannot find fault with Susan Stoops' value as a person, friend or neighbor.  We do not attack her character or pesonality.  Our grievance is with the mis-management of the school district.  We have run out of patience with the school board's inability or unwillingness to provide effective oversight on its executive, Superintendent Joseph Hunter; and its unwillingness to listen to community voices of concern regarding Hunter or regarding its own decisions.

    I am a novice to local politics. I began following Central School District issues last September when I ran headlong into unethical and wasteful conduct in the district.  My concern was money.  When I brought that issue to the forefront, I found that the district was full of unhappy teachers and that there were others in the community with serious concerns about the district leadership.  This group has now become the executive committee of Citizens for 13J Excellence.  You can read brief biographical statements here.

    Some of our best teachers are looking to get out of the district.  The teachers submitted an overwhelming vote of no confidence on district leadership two years ago, and were officially ignored, but publicly accused of falsifying the count.  The teachers worked half a year with no contract while the superintendent's contrtact is never shorter than 2 years - it is a three-year contract updated annually.  His contract continues to provide more and more generous cash compensation while teachers are being cut and class-sizes increased. 

    No expense was spared on the new (and, I admit, beautiful) high school renovation, including low-return investments such as solar panels.  The theater has every frill imaginable for a high school - but not all of it is working.  When parts of the project didn't quite fit into the 48-million dollar bond, monies from the general fund - in the amount that could have paid four teachers for a year, were used.  Small loans were taken to augment the project.  This was during a recession when construction bids were unusually low. 

    Worst of all, in the finishing and fixtures budgeet area (2 million-ish), the project seems to be missing many receipts!  There is no proof of competitive bidding, and many purchases were made far ABOVE PUBLISHED catalog prices.  And when the community clamors for an audit of the expenses, the school board has balked at the cost.  We can afford to increase the superintendent's compensation but we can't afford the proper audit costing less than 1/1000th of the bond expenditures?  Seeming fishy, isn't it?

    Meanwhile, the superintendent's conduct toward his teachers and staff is frequently the subject of formal and informal complaint.  The district does not provide a working environment where employees are respected; instead, it is managed strongly from the top down.  Another superintendent has been brought in as a buffer between Hunter and some employees who have lodged a complaint.  It was that serious, but not serious enough to put him on paid administrative leave?

    And what does the school board do with these formal complaints?  Until recently, nothing.  But it's HOW they do nothing that leads us back to Susan Stoops.  There are three members of the board who will advance the concerns voiced by teachers and public.  They are Kathy Zehner, Mary Shellenbarger and Paul Evans.  There are three (four until one resigned leaving an open position) who consistently praise the superintendent and disregard criticism of him.  Chief among those who sees it the superintendent's way is Susan Stoops.  And as chairperson she has the biggest megaphone.  By policy she controls the communication from othe board to the district.  By preference, she has also chosen to control the communication from the district to the board, keeping some board members in the dark on some issues.  She actually advanced a policy prohibiting school board members from having discussions with the public on any matter touching the schools except within the school board meeting.

    I cannot speak to her motives for this behavior.  In her heart of hearts she probably believes that what she and Hunter are doing are right and that the critical voices are wrong.  I belive this is a dangerous mindset for a leader, however virtuous the intention.  As the governing body of the school district, the school board should be providing skeptical oversight of the superintendent, regardless his popularity or reputation.

    Like most school districts in the nation today, our school district faces some really difficult problems.  There just isn't enough tax revenue coming in to run the schools the way they have been.  In the face of this kind of challenge it is unfortunate that we are arguing about ethics and oversight.  But we certainly won't resolve the coming difficult issues with a divided school board and an unethical superintendent.

    Bottom line: the district is being mismanaged.  The school board is the designated entity that has power to fix the problem, and they have not done anything about it.  The school board reports to us, the community, and we are blessed as Americans and Oregonians to have the priveledge of voting and the priveledge of recalling our elected officials.  We made a mistake and now we should fix it.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Rock the Vote!

    Dear Recall Volunteers,

    We have a busy weekend ahead of us. It's time to GET OUT THE VOTE!

    We also know that you have lives and may not be able to make it to all of these meetings/events. The most crucial task over the next few days is getting the door hangers and yard signs distributed. If your time is limited and you can do only one thing, PLEASE try to make it on Saturday afternoon and bring as many friends and family members as you can rustle up. The more people we have, the quicker we can finish. If you can't make it on Saturday but would be able to help later in the weekend, let me know (some already have) and we will give you the "leftovers" from Saturday.

    Friday, April 15 at 3 p.m. - We will meet at my house to work on the yard signs. We have 60 completed and about 140 more to go. Please be working on finding them homes - we don't want any orphaned yard signs.

    Saturday, April 16 at 10:30 a.m. - We will meet again at my house to finish any remaining signs and also to hand out door hangers and maps to anyone who wants to start walking neighborhoods early.

    Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m. - We will set up headquarters at Riverview Park in Independence. We'll divide into 9 teams and go out to distribute door hangers and yard signs. The goal is to get all of Monmouth and Independence done this weekend. We will then be able to assess our supplies and energy level and decide whether to try to cover the areas of the district that lie outside the city limits. In studying the voter registration rolls, there are a surprising number of district voters in those areas.

    If anyone is willing to write a letter to the editor for next week's I-O, please contact John Boyack ( as we are trying to coordinate our efforts.

    Our candidate's forum in scheduled for Monday, April 25, 7 p.m. at the Independence Public Library. We will be sending the candidates a list of possible questions in advance so if you have suggestions for questions that you would like to hear answers to, please forward them to me no later than Tuesday, April 19th.

    I will be forwarding you another email from Jill. She wrote a letter to be sent to everyone in her email contacts reminding them to vote and urging them to vote YES on the recall. We are sending the letter to you in hopes that you will modify it in whatever way you wish and then send it to your own friends and acquaintances.

    We are liking our odds of successfully recalling Susan Stoops but we can take nothing for granted. We should not be complacent! We need to get out the vote and make sure that we not only win but that we win by a large margin. Please do everything you can to make this a successful campaign!


    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Upcoming Meetings

    Dear Members of C413JE (Citizens for 13J Excellence),

    We have a number of important meetings coming up.

    Monday, April 4th is the regular school board meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the CHS cafeteria. Immediately preceeding that meeting is a Performance Audit Review meeting at which the board will be finalizing the shape and scope of the recently approved performance audit of the 2008 bond. Although board materials indicate that this meeting will be in the cafteria as well, I have been informed that they will actually be meeting in the CHS library. You may need to check both locations. A performance audit is something we pushed hard for and we're hoping that they have taken our request to make it a true and comprehensive audit seriously.

    April 13th at 7 p.m. C413JE will meet at the Independence Public Library to discuss the elections. At this point, the indications are that Susan Stoops will in fact opt for the recall election rather than resign. We will need to move fast to continue our educational campaign and also to get out the vote. Initial word from the country clerk is that ballots will be mailed around April 14th and due back by April 28th. The steering committee will be meeting several times between now and then to put plans in motion. At our meeting on the 13th we will need organize volunteers to help distribute yard signs and door hangers and also to phone bank to registered voters in our district. We will also be planning the candidate forum that we will hosting on April 25th.

    April 25th at 7 p.m. at the Independence Public Library C413JE will host a forum for school board candidates. This is good timing as the ballots for the May election will be mailed on April 29th. All five candidates will be invited (Steve Love, Preston Baxter, Kathy Zehner, Mary Shellenbarger, and Steve Moser) and we will send them a list of questions/issues in advance. School board elections usually pass by with very little notice. Most voters don't know who the candidates are nor are they familiar with the issues. C413JE believes it is time to change that - we need to know who we are voting for and where they stand on the issues confronting our school district.

    See you soon!