After the April school board meeting, I emailed several questions to the school board members. Alan Karpick, school board president, sent me a reply saying that he would not respond to my questions by email, but would instead provide some answers during the next meeting. He claimed that my summaries and other posts took his email responses “out of context” and were written to “disparage the work of our staff and administrators on social media” (Karpick’s April 17 email).
A community member suggested that I should directly ask what was taken out of context because nothing had been pointed out. After the May school board meeting, I emailed my summary to the school board members and asked them to let me know if there was anything I had written that was inaccurate or taken out of context so I could correct it. Karpick replied and expressed thanks for sharing my meeting summary and said that the school board “will take note of any of your thoughts that fit within the role of a school board and the mission of our school” (Karpick’s May 17 email). He didn’t point out any errors and no one else replied.
I emailed my June meeting summary to the school board members, again offering to correct any errors or misrepresentations. I received a reply from Rachel Witt, who said she was writing as an individual, not representing the school board. She said that she “found more in the way of errors, omissions, questionable logic and grossly negligent extrapolation than truth” in my writing and said that she has received multiple complaints from parents about “the persistent inaccuracies” in my summaries and on my website (Witt’s June 4 email).
Witt seems to think that most of what I’ve written is inaccurate, but she provided no specific examples. I have written a lot (my views and school board meeting summaries) and everything is posted to my website. My opinions about the school board’s decisions and policies may not be the same as yours, but I want the information that I post to be accurate. If there are errors, I want to correct them. For example, Ross Sloat (Interim Superintendent after Killion retires on July 1) told me that he felt that I misrepresented his educational background in my March Responses. He told me that he has relevant job training and experience, so I updated my post to note his experience (see footnote *).
There have been times when school leaders have disagreed with my thoughts on a particular issue. For example, I took my concerns about teacher dissatisfaction to union leaders, one of the principals, the superintendent, and eventually to the school board. At each step I was told that there was no problem. When I decided to run for school board, I shared my concerns with our community in my post on prioritizing teachers and noted that a large number of teachers had recently left our school district (50 over the past two and a half years in a district that only had 165 teachers) and pointed out that several left to teach in surrounding school districts. I expressed my opinion that as one of the best school districts in the state, we should have a better than average teacher retention rate.
School finances is another example where school leaders have disagreed with my thoughts. I was surprised when I learned that our school board approved borrowing $95 million for the recent construction projects when they had told the public that they would spend less than $50 million. I shared my concerns with our community in my post on Debt Payments and noted that the large debt payments will prevent our district from doing any additional borrowing for 20 years. I expressed my opinion that the school board should have sought community input and considered adjustments before borrowing nearly twice as much as they had said they would.
In both cases, the school corporation released data that agreed with what I posted. The school leaders’ position on these issues was different than mine, but there is no disagreement about the numbers. Teacher retention data released by the school district showed that over the last 5 years, about 10 percent of teachers leave annually and the 2018-2019 school year that I wrote about did see an even larger number of teacher leave (likely because the school board authorized a reduction in force process for all first-year teachers that year). A construction project update released by the school district confirmed that they have spent much more on the construction projects than the school board had announced and explained that they borrowed more because construction costs went up.
As a very involved parent of WL students and as a former teacher in our district, I think my understanding of what our school board is doing is better than average for a member of the public. If I have a fact wrong in one of my posts or summaries, I would like to suggest that the school board should view it as an opportunity to help the community be better informed. School board members could send me an email (like Ross Sloat did) and explain what I got wrong so I can correct the error.