Camdenton School Board Race: Local Control?

Last night, during the forum for Camdenton school board forum, the struggle for local control of the district was on full display. The Q and A forum, hosted by the Teachers Association of Camdenton, a wide range of topics were discussed with the candidates and, through their answers, much was learned about two distinctly different visions for the future of the district. One of these viewpoints was represented by four of the five candidates for school board. This view represents the ‘status quo’ in the district. As a result, they expressed ideals and talking points that reinforced that view. It was echoed in answer after answer throughout the high school auditorium.

Another perspective was offered by candidate Mindi Sales, who made statements in favor of accountability, transparency, fiscal responsibility and, most importantly, about protecting the local control of the Camdenton school district from a number of gathering vultures. In taking this stance, Mindi has identified the simplest of platform planks during her run for school board: Honesty. It is a message that is resonating throughout the district.

Concerns over the district’s future, and who controls that future, are at an all-time high. Currently, the battle against government and corporate overreach and collusion is on full display in Jefferson City, as parents across the state are fighting corporate interests, unelected educrats and lobbiests to preserve local control in the fight to turn back Common Core. School districts across the state reflect this same struggle in this spring’s elections. Local control is at the heart of these school board races.

Without a word, an assumption of power has removed local control from districts around the state. This silent coup has been performed by private entities, such as the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA), who ‘educate’ board members across the state to hand over the power of their office to school administration and lawyers. This was on clear display during a recent presentation by an MSBA lawyer in Camdenton, who argued that the school ‘might’ be sued because of something a citizen said during public comment at board meetings. This argument, steeped in fear mongering and flawed legal rationale, was used to restrict the ability of the taxpaying public and parents to address issues of the concern. Now, parents and taxpayers are restricted to their issues being approved by administration and the school’s lawyers. This robs the public of oversight of the school district they fund and also strips elected board members of their power as elected representatives. They do not, and should not be subject to, the rule of administration and their lawyers.

The clear and present danger represented by willingly handing over control of our school districts is evident. It has turned a previously well-regarded district like Camdenton into a place that teachers and administrators across the state have no wish to work in. This abrupt change of climate in the Camdenton is personified by current superintendent Tim Hadfield and the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole.

Selynn Barbour and Joe Ridgeway stated that they believed it was the role of a board member to ‘work with administration’. This, Barbour claimed, was the way to ‘support teachers’. As is clearly demonstrated by the historical record, a culture of bullying has been institutionalized in Camdenton. This bully system affects not only the teachers in the district, but is trickled down to our children and exported into the homes of families in the Camdenton school district. As an incumbent, Barbour oversaw this transformation in our district, and was a willing conspirator in trying to hide its existence from the public.

Joe Ridgeway said that the most important role of a board member was in the hiring of a superintendent. Ridgeway, the current superintendent in Richland, stated that board members shouldn’t interfere with administration, saying that it was not the board’s role to ‘micro-manage’ administration. He went on to say that board members should merely ‘help’ administration make decisions for the district.

Someone should inform Joe Ridgeway that the law says school administration works at the pleasure of the people, through their elected representatives. The administration isn’t supposed to have control of the rudder. They work for us. It isn’t the other way around. This is a fact that the current board in the Camdenton school district, and four out of five of these candidates, has forgotten.

Another question asked during the TAC forum was ‘What three factors would you use in making decisions for the district?’ To this, Jackie Schulte answered that one of her prime sources of information would be data collected on our children. This espouses fears of many parents, as the collection of such data is currently being debated in Jefferson City. Lobbiests from corporate heavyweights like Google, whose representative today bent the ear of Speaker of the Missouri House Tim Jones, are in favor of data collection, are facing off against parents concerned about profiting from our children’s private information. Jackie Schulte, by her own admission, is in favor of this obscene overreach.

One question asked about how they would respond to a parent who had an issue with a teacher or administrator. To this, Ridgeway answered with an hint of disgust that he would ask the parent if they had ‘followed the chain of command before you even came me’. Barbour “piggy-backed” on this sentiment and pointed again to the ridiculous and illegal public comment policy she championed and the equally questionable email system.

When asked for an opinion about Common Core, now renamed as Missouri Learning Standards, Courtney Hulett displayed little knowledge of the implementation of these standards, talking in vague terms about ‘reform’, ‘different groups’ and ‘eleventh hour’, before stating that he would work to ‘provide tools and resources’ to aid in its implementation.

When Jackie Schulte was asked about current Common Core legislation, and what she might say if asked to represent the district on the matter, fumbled weakly. She said that Common Core is ‘just standards, and that it is ‘not curriculum’. She went on, staggering like a deer in headlights, stating a concern for the ‘gap kids’. Presumably she didn’t mean children who shop at the store in outlet mall. She added that she had concerns about ‘funds’ for technology associated with the roll out. Jackie went on to assert that the district was ‘all set’ and the ‘teachers are proud’.

Joe Ridgeway, when asked the same question, repeated the underlying mission statement of Common Core implementation and data collection. It is the reason the Chambers of Commerce around the state have supported Common Core. Ridgeway talked about the future and preparing kids, not for college, but for jobs. He went on to say that Common Core standards ‘must be enforced’ in order to maintain a ‘higher standard’ in our school.

What Ridgeway did not mention was that the statute that protected our school district from the gross overreach of the federal government into our local schools was stripped by DESE, MSBA and corporate education lobbiests in the late 2000’s. The statute, before it was repealed, held schools in the state of Missouri to a higher standard than the federal government with regards to the quality of education our children had a right to. After the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Lagares v Camdenton in favor of the Lagares family, a ruling based, in part, on that very statute, the fascist powers representing collusion between corporate power and government, stripped that statute from state law. This successfully allowed schools to lower their standards to meet the federal standard. It opened the door for Common Core itself.

One observer noted the following points:

In attending the Camdenton School Board forum last night, there was a stark difference in some of the opinions revealed by the candidates. The one that left me at a loss was when the incumbent, Jackie Schulte, said that she was not against “looking at the levy”, which is code for “increasing your taxes”, in order to keep the district working the way it should be.

It was also revealed that we are now operating at a $2 million deficit. We are spending from our reserve. That means this election is very important. If you don’t want to see your taxes increase you had better start paying attention…the writing appears to be on the wall when an incumbent is bring up the deficit over and over and then suggesting that she is not against “looking at the levy” in order to get the school out of the red. I left wondering if the sitting board even knows why are we in the “red” in the first place. It was pretty concerning to say the least.

I was relieved when this morning, candidate Mindi Sales, noted that same observation on her FB page and revealed how she felt about increasing the levy. Her response and position on that idea can be read below. Please share her message of fiscal accountability, and leadership that gives the school back to the people it serves. It is inspiring to me.

From the Facebook page Mindi Sales for Camdenton School Board:

I can’t believe the election is a week away! Thank you Laker Nation for the great outpouring of support. It has been amazing! Today I wanted to talk about the dreaded “T” word….TAXES.

Last night, the teachers of Camdenton put on a forum for the school board candidates. First, thank you teachers for the opportunity to speak. I appreciate it!

Last night, as the event was finishing, Jackie Schulte said that we need to look at the levy in order to continue to fund ALL programs we currently fund. My personal opinion is that I am NOT for raising the levy. That is just a fundamental difference between the two of us. But, the thing that concerns me the most is this: THE LEVY CAN BE RAISED BY THE BOARD ALONE WITHOUT A VOTE OF THE PEOPLE BECAUSE OF THE “NO TAX INCREASE” BOND THAT WAS PASSED LAST YEAR. I want to be perfectly clear. I will NEVER vote to raise the levy without a vote of the people. If the citizens of the district want vote to raise the levy to fund after school programs, then I will let the vote of the people stand. But, I will not go forward without letting the people decide what they want with THEIR money.

Let me give you an example. The PASS program, an after school program, costs the district $600,000 a year. The district had been getting a grant to pay for PASS. Now, for the next school year, the grant will be cut in half, so the district has to come up with the $300,000 on it’s own. A word about grants. Grants can be an amazing thing for a district, no doubt. But, part of being a responsible board member is acknowledging what the district will do when the grant runs out. Am I suggesting that they cut PASS? No, I am not. I am using this as an example as to what happens when a grant runs out, and how a district responds to it. When we take grants, we need to be diligent by having a plan or solution to what we as a district will do when the grant runs out.

I hope this post gave you some insight as to how I will vote when representing you. My heart is in one place: to do what is best for the teachers, kids, and tax payers of this district.

Thank you Laker Nation for your amazing support!
Mindi

Local control and fiscal responsibility are huge issues in the Camdenton school district. As reported earlier by American Spring, the school board now has the ability to raise the levy without a vote of the people. This bill of goods was sold to the taxpayers of Camden County as a ‘no-tax increase’ ballot issue. The same sort of measure is on the books of at least two local school districts. Warsaw and Eldon are facing similar measures, although both of those cases rely on federal grant money to subsidize ‘safe houses’ or bunkers for schools.

Camdenton administration was overheard last night stating that Camdenton was also putting in one of these bunkers. That unexpected expansion of the proposed reconstruction project may account for the deficit we face as a district. This is a decision that has not been put in front of the people and not been put up for a vote. It has simply been decided, if the administrator is to be believed.

It is worth noting that the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole, representing Camdenton along with more than three hundred districts across the state of Missouri, has long standing associations with LJ Hart. Hart is the architect of many of these bond proposals across the state.

He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Missouri Association of Rural Education. Mr. Hart is also a member of the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association. The company is an associate member of the Missouri School Boards Association, the Missouri Association of School Business Officials and the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Chesterfield.

It calls directly into question the notion of local control of our school district.

Locally, ACI/Boland is helping themselves to our tax dollars through unexpected projects like FEMA safe rooms and undisclosed family relationships with Selynn Barbour. Projects are already running over budget with no end in sight. If Jackie Schulte has her way, the district will simply begin “looking at the levy” to keep the money train flowing on the backs of the tax payers in the district.

This story is far from over……

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