Dear Wendy Johnson,
I am writing about some concerns that I have following the Kuna Levy Meeting held Monday, April 28th meeting at the Kuna Grange Hall. Your role in the public debate surrounding the Supplemental Levy has become increasingly compromised as you speak on behalf of the District and as you make public appearances. I am referring mainly to your ongoing assertion that you are an unbiased participant in the debate.
You have repetitively asserted that you are an unbiased participant in the Levy discussion and that your role is simply to present “facts”. When I met with you a few weeks ago in your office you indicated that you “simply give facts to the School Board and they make all of the decisions”. Furthermore, you were seated in the public debate forum at the Grange Hall as a “neutral” and “unbiased fact checker”. The truth is that this portrayal is completely false and misleading. For example, after I spoke at the Grange Hall meeting, you and Brian had 2 or three items each for correction and/or clarification. I concede that perhaps I was wrong on a point, but you never once checked the facts of the “YES” spokesman Mr. Lambert. I, and others, confirmed his inaccuracies after the fact. You, however, chose to sit for two hours and remain silent on the inaccuracies of his and others’ commentary. The reality is that your “portrayal” of neutrality in the public sphere is shoddy at best.
My greater concern is not whether or not I “win” a debate ( I actually think it turned out to be a great discussion in spite of the circumstances. This is a testament to the greatness of the people of Kuna). My greater concern is that you, as the executive officer of the board of trustees, are using manipulation and deceit to promote a personal agenda. You are using a position of influence and authority, asserting that you are neutral, to act in a way that is blatantly biased. I have noticed that you seem to confirm your position of neutrality when it is politically expedient. Let me give you another example: At the meeting there was a discussion about the district using school resources to promote the YES campaign. A patron stood and expressed real concerns about having received phone calls encouraging her to go out and vote. The only people she had given her number to was the school district. We went around the room trying to find answers from various people. I watched your reaction intently knowing fully that the District has and does use reminder calls on voting day as a means to encourage the faithful to the polls. You said NOTHING! Finally I called you out on it and said, “Wendy, doesn’t the district make phone calls?” To which you quietly admitted to the fact. Now, does this sound like an unbiased approach? Or does it seem like you are trying to defend the biased actions of the district by saying nothing?
I find it equally challenging to get any facts from the district. I, along with several others, have made requests for certain information from the District. Much of what has been asked for has been withheld. I am still waiting for some of the year over year budget numbers which you only partially showed me in our meeting. You would not let me make a copy of the document. You seemed to be hiding the information from me for some reason. This behavior is certainly not okay and does not confirm neutrality. Over time I have noted a familiar pattern coming from you and your office which includes selective fact sharing. For example:
Facts that you choose to share:
- The District has a shortfall according to the numbers that have been put together.
- If the Levy does not pass we could lose teachers. Teachers make up the bulk of our budget.
- If the Levy does not pass we might have to cut back programs and alter what we do.
Facts that you choose NOT to share:
- There are currently inefficiencies within the District office that could be improved upon.
- We have lost $500K in Medicaid reimbursement and other districts like Meridian School District are doing better than us. We can improve. We can reach out to them and find out how to do better.
- Our teachers have more student contact days than other districts in the area and we still do not have better outcomes.
- The estimated expenses for the 2013-2014 fiscal year have increased by $1.6MM (or 6%) just from November to April (that is only five months!!). The District should be in better control of what is happening with inflating expenses or at least in predicting expenses.
- Kuna School District has $600K being returned to us from the state.
- Some of the retuned money from the state will supplement the facilities bond, but not all of it. There will be some left over which could be allocated elsewhere.
Wendy, all of the points in the first list are facts. They are the only facts that you choose to share. All of the items in the second list are also facts. But you choose NOT to share them. I am confident that you can see by this little example how “facts” can be shared in a completely biased way. They are all facts, but when we are selective, that is called promotion. You have conceded that “factual” fliers and information have been distributed throughout the district. I am confident that they only contain the facts in the first list, NOT the second list. So you are using taxpayer funds to promote a one sided agenda.
The real fact remains that when you tell people you are neutral to an argument and act in such a way that is overtly biased, you are, in truth, being deceitful and manipulative. What is more disgraceful is that in doing this you also repeatedly hide behind the sentiment that “it is all for the children”. Children do not need administrators who deceive. Children do not need administrators who manipulate. Children do not need administrators who share only one-sided facts. Children need examples of integrity. Children need people who will be transparent. They need people to own up to their positions and their biases. They need administrators who are building a district on the principles of truth and integrity. That is what I expect from you. That is what teachers expect from you. That is what the Board of Trustees expects from you. That is what the patrons in this generous town expect from you.
So I am inviting you to stop being deceitful and manipulative to the people in our community. I am asking you to start being transparent. If you say you are unbiased…then BE unbiased. If not, then let people know who you really are. This district deserves a superintendent who speaks the whole truth and nothing less!