Camdenton, Missouri School Board Elections About Local Control

School board races across the state have added importance this election year. A growing coalition of parents believe that the elections held this year are the most important in recent memory. For these parents and tax payers, the future of our school districts are at stake. A transformation of education is underway, led by a consortium of unelected ‘officials’ and lobbyists, school attorneys and special interest groups. For this reason, the elections of 2014 have taken on added significance. These elections are about the most personal form of government and local control, accountability and responsibility.

The Camdenton R-3 school district board of education has three seats up for election on April 8. This year’s elections are taking place under the long shadow cast by last campaign season. It showcased, in a snapshot, the brutal reality of politics and power in Camden County. This year’s elections, thus far, are taking an entirely different course. The goal however, remains painfully clear. Ensure the status quo.

Recently, the Lake Sun asked candidates for Camdenton school board their qualifications and asked a couple of questions. The responses to the first of those questions are noteworthy, as it deals with a fundamental change to the way the public is ‘allowed’ to interact with board members.

From the Lake Sun:
Do you think the current school board policy regarding public participation allows for sufficient opportunity for the public’s voice to be heard? Do you support the current policy or if elected would you seek to make changes to the policy?

This policy represents a fundamental shift of the tax paying public’s ‘role’ in school affairs. It plainly seeks to use a questionable interpretation of law to stifle public input to the board, requiring an approval process that filters communications meant for the board through both school administration and school attorneys. This, to many parents, represents another step in a silent coup, preformed under the assumption of authority neither the administration, nor the school attorneys, have. A concerted effort has been made to reinforce the false logic that our representatives should somehow be ‘protected’ from hearing from the public and parents they serve.

Part of the new public comment policy, as recommended during an August visit from an MSBA lawyer, appears below. Camdenton adopted a policy that restricts the public from having open discussions with the board about their concerns, if those requests aren’t ‘approved’ by administration and attorneys.

7. Only items from the posted agenda may be discussed. If an individual seeks to address an issue that is scheduled to be discussed by the Board in closed session, the Board may require the person to hold his or her comments until closed session.

8. The Board may vote to suspend or amend these rules in extraordinary circumstances. The Board may impose additional rules as it deems necessary and reserves the right to alter the above rules depending on the circumstances. The Board reserves the right to cancel, reschedule or delay the public comment period at any time or delay comment on a particular topic. The Board may refuse to hear comments on a particular topic if advised to do so by legal counsel.

The candidates answered the question from the Lake Sun regarding this public comment policy, as follows:

Selynn Barbour:

Yes, I believe the recently-updated school board policy facilitates engaged communications with our students, parents and patrons. We truly want to hear from our public. It’s their school. We recently enhanced this school board policy with an email address so our patrons can access all board members at exactly the same time from our school district’s web site. We have received emails, returned replies and heard positive responses from the public because of this additional and convenient use of technology. This is in addition to the options of writing us letters as well as speaking during every public portion of our school board meetings.

Yes, I support this policy. We will be monitoring its progress. We also will continue to be cognizant of new technology as it emerges to communicate with the public exemplifying transparency and participation.

I invite you to peruse our website, There you will easily find exciting student highlights and important information. Please click the “school board” tab to learn and/or leave any questions, concerns or comments. We are here to work together for our awesome LAKER NATION!

Courtney Hulett:

First of all, I believe that communication between the public and a public school is essential to the vitality of the school and community. I believe that transparent, open lines of dialogue can aide in the direction of the district and prevent disruptions that hinder progress at all levels. Awareness of situations as they arise is key to correcting them and will strengthen the district as a whole. E-mail has proven to be an efficient method to communicate.

Second, I do believe that concerns should be filtered through proper channels. There are many issues that are most appropriately handled by the teachers and administrators who work closely with the students. This will allow everyone, including the board of education, to most efficiently perform their duties in a timely manner. It also allows continued focus on delivering the best possible education and work environments for our district, which is our goal.

Lastly, if an issue warrants board attention, best practice is inherently to give all parties preparation time. This allows improved communication and input, which will expedite resolutions so that we remain focused on our goals.

Joe Ridgeway:

After reviewing Board Policy “BDDH-Public Participation at Board Meetings” and attending several Board meetings it is evident to me that the Board is allowing a public comment time during the meeting. As outlined in the policy the public comment period is only designated for items that are on the agenda for that month. However, the policy also states that any member of the public may request an item to be placed on the agenda for discussion as long as it is received seven days prior to the meeting. Certain items regarding personnel, student issues and legal matters may need to be addressed in closed session.

Perhaps better communication to the public with regards to this policy and the procedures to be heard at a Board meeting whether it is during the public comment portion of the meeting or getting an item placed on the agenda for public discussion.

Not knowing what the public wants changed I would have to support the current procedures in the policy manual, many school districts in the state do not allow a public comment time in their School Board meetings, this is a local decision.

Jackie Schulte:

I do support this policy. Our policy allows the community to request topics of concern to be placed on the agenda which allows the patrons AND the district to prepare for an educated discussion. I believe this 7-day policy supports a professional and cooperative environment. Board members are responsible for protecting our staff and students; allowing anyone to speak on impulse could open the district to possible legal repercussions. This past year the board unanimously voted to introduce a board email address. This line of communication provides patrons an avenue to contact us with any issues and concerns while allowing us to continue focus on the goals and progress of students and staff.

Four of the five candidates for Camdenton school board, as indicated by the answers given above, are in favor of this public comment policy. The lone dissenter from the ‘company line’, candidate Mindi Sales.

Mindi Sales:

I do not support the current policy on public comment. I attended the board meeting last fall where the MSBA came in and spoke to the board when recommending that they limit public comment to those items approved to be on the agenda. I was disappointed when the board, including 2 of my incumbent challengers, voted to approve that policy. When the question was asked of the attorney who was trying to convince the board to alter policy to put heavy limits on allowing the public to speak to the board, if there had been instances where a board had ever been sued as a result of public comment. She answered, “no, but it could”. Thus, the policy was changed. I do not think that is fair to the community that we are serving. I believe that the board is elected to be the voice of the people. I do NOT think we should limit their opportunity to be heard. Might a meeting go on for a long time if we have lots of comments? It might! But when else does the public have an opportunity to speak to the entire board?

To understand the context of Mindi’s dissatisfaction regarding the board’s recent decision to adopt this policy, her own recent experiences in attempting to address the board offers insight. In the summer of 2013, Mindi attempted to find out why former Camdenton Middle School Principal Sean Kirksey was suspended. Finding a disparity between DESE’s outline for responsibility and Kirksey’s suspension, Mindi sought answers from the school board regarding his suspension. It was during this time that a lawyer from the unelected Missouri School Board Association spoke during a meeting of the school board.

Her experience is reprinted below, taken from her campaign’s Facebook page, Mindi Sales for Camdenton School Board.

My experience with the public comment policy started when I wanted to address the board concerning Sean Kirksey. I thought that as a tax payer and a citizen of the district, the board would want to hear from me since they were, in theory, representing me. So, I emailed Dr. Hadfield and called Chris McElyea to discuss my options. I was told that I could NOT talk to the board about employees. I thought that was wrong! If I wanted to come and read a letter about a teacher that went above and beyond, they would let me do that, but I couldn’t say that I thought Sean went above and beyond? My real question was WHY???

So, Dr. Hadfield had someone from the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) to come in to talk about public comment. I was at that meeting. Her main point was that we MIGHT be sued if we allowed public comment about a staff member. Now, this has NEVER happened, but since it MIGHT, we should shut off all public comment unless the person wanting to speak follows some very controlled rules?!?

Here is the thing about speaking in front of the board: You have all 7 members there and everyone will hear the same words. If you go meet each individual, sometimes different things are said to different people, therefore causing a bigger problem in my opinion. When you are on a Board of Education making sometimes tough decisions, it is not always going to be happy and fun. But, we need to have ALL the input to make a good decision, and that includes the input from the people!!

THIS IS THE MAIN POINT I WANT YOU TO HEAR: In order for you to talk about an issue to the board, your issue MUST be on the agenda. In order to be on the agenda, you have to ask at least 7 days in advance and get approval. The board does not have to allow your agenda item on the agenda. WHY is someone allowed to dictate what the people can say to their own board?!?!?

Here is how that policy did not apply when I was wanting to talk about Sean. The Board was already making the decision concerning Sean. What good would it do to go talk to anyone other than the Board? Why didn’t they want my input? Why wouldn’t they want to hear from someone who had nothing but great experiences with an employee whose fate they were deciding?

Do I believe that there should be procedures in place for complaints? Of course! The Board cannot deal with every issue that is brought up in every building every day. I understand that. But, I do feel the board has a responsibility to listen to the people. I do not think they should hide behind a policy in hopes of trying to avoid an issue. Sometimes the board might have to listen to something that might be a bit uncomfortable. For example, I was at a meeting once when someone wrote a letter that was talking about Laura Martin in a disapproving manner. Laura sat and listened to the entire letter. No one stopped this person from saying what she had to say about Laura. If we are going to allow some not so warm and fuzzy comments to be made, why can’t we comment positively about someone?!?!

Being on the board is not always going to be easy, nor is it always going to be fun. Sometimes it might be down right uncomfortable. But, we have been elected to do the will of the PEOPLE. Shouldn’t the board be willing to HEAR the people?

I think it is important that the voters know where everyone stands on these types of issues. After all, the board is representing YOU!

Mindi’s experience raises some very real concerns with the adoption of this kind of restrictive policy. It allows for administration and lawyers to dictate what the public can and cannot relate to the board. When taken beyond Mindi’s example, the framework created by this policy change is one that is anything but transparent, despite the claims made above by Selynn Barbour. It is designed to conceal. It is designed to silence questions.

This policy change was initiated by Barbour, who made the motion to approve this new language regarding public comment. Her motion was seconded by Jackie Schulte.

In the traditional fashion of Washington politicians, the school board, after adopting this stifling policy, announced that the board of education members would be ‘allowed’ to have email addresses through the school. These email addresses, according to the false narrative presented by Barbour, would make it easier for the concerns of tax payers and parents to reach board members.

Barbour stated: “We truly want to hear from our public. It’s their school. We recently enhanced this school board policy with an email address so our patrons can access all board members at exactly the same time from our school district’s web site. We have received emails, returned replies and heard positive responses from the public because of this additional and convenient use of technology. This is in addition to the options of writing us letters as well as speaking during every public portion of our school board meetings.”

The email “enhancement” comes with familiar policy language.

On January 14, 2014, in an article in the Lake Sun announcing the email policy, Assistant Superintendent Roma France announced the implementation of Camdenton’s email accounts for board members.

France made the following statement:

“Protocol would be for the Board president and/or superintendent to respond to the patron on behalf of the district.” She went on to say, “If several questions come in on the same topic, then the item may be placed on the next board agenda.”

The Lake Sun described the email procedures, as laid out for them by France:

” Then, she told the board that emails would go to a mail distribution group,, which would be sent to each board member along with the superintendent or a designee. ”

And that: ” In most cases, the superintendent or administration will be the one to respond. ”

The guidelines adopted for the district’s email policy contain restrictions that mirror, in practical application, those inserted into the inappropriately named ‘public comment policy’. The guidelines offered the Lake Sun by Camdenton’s administration, read as follows:

1. If you are providing Board members an e-mail address, all Board members by policy must sign the Authorized User Permit that staff and students must sign and Board member must agree to the same terms as staff and students.

This first policy restriction would allow, presumably, for the unfettered monitoring of emails between themselves and their constituents. It creates an environment worthy of the NSA in the Camdenton school district. It would allow complete access to all board member’s accounts, without cause, without warrant. Camdenton’s version of Big Brother, it can reasonably be assumed, is manned by school administration and the districts lawyers, the firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole.

Also from the Camdenton administration’s ‘guidelines’:

4. When information is sent via the generic, the protocol is for the superintendent or Board president to respond on behalf of the district and to cc the Board the response so that the Board knows the patron has been corresponded with and what was said. If a Board member disagrees with the response or has questions, he or she is encouraged to immediately notify the superintendent and the Board president of that fact.

The last sentence in this ‘guideline’ is one that gives us pause, particularly when we consider the access and latitude granted the administration and its lawyers in regard to the distribution of emails in the first place. This assumption of authority, of determining which emails reach the board, is reemphasized throughout these ‘rules’ created by administration and their attorneys.

Number five of these ‘guidelines’ ensures that, even a board member can be denied the ability to add a topic or concern to the agenda.

5. Any Board member may ask that a subject is added to the Board’s agenda at the next meeting for discussion. The Board as a whole will ultimately vote when approving the agenda to determine if the issue will be discussed.

The last sentence of ‘rule’ #5 is particularly offending:

However, Board members are free to direct questions or concerns to the superintendent or Board president.

Number six in the list of guidelines:

6. A Board member who is not the Board president may correspond individually with a patron, but is required to indicate that the opinions expressed are his or her own and not the Board’s. A Board member is prohibited from using a district-provided e-mail address contrary to district policy or law or to violate district policy or law.

The key words and phrases in ‘rule’ number six are distressing. “Board member”, “prohibited”, “contrary to district policy” and “violate district policy”. These are words that place control of our school, not in the hands of our elected representatives, but into those of administration and attorneys. Many of these policies were crafted, approved and suggested by the attorneys for our school district and district administration. They are not rules of law, nor are should they be.

Rules nine and ten completes the usurping of power from the citizens in the Camdenton school district. They clearly illustrate the ongoing efforts to eliminate ‘local control’ over our school districts.

9. The superintendent or Board president in their discretion may not respond to messages from the same sender that are repetitive, or messages that are threatening or that use profane language.

10. The superintendent or Board president will not directly respond to messages involving litigation, potential or pending litigation, or a situation on appeal pursuant to district policies or the law.

In addition, the superintendent or Board president may not respond to messages if advised by the district’s attorney not to do so. However, the superintendent or Board president will acknowledge receipt of the message and notify the sender of the rules.

These policies, designed to remove, control and suffocate the input of parents and tax payers, are the opposite of Barbour’s claims.

“Yes, I believe the recently-updated school board policy facilitates engaged communications with our students, parents and patrons. We truly want to hear from our public. It’s their school. We recently enhanced this school board policy with an email address so our patrons can access all board members at exactly the same time from our school district’s web site.

Yes, I support this policy. We will be monitoring its progress. We also will continue to be cognizant of new technology as it emerges to communicate with the public exemplifying transparency and participation.”

She also invited the public to “peruse” the school web site. Perhaps Ms. Barbour should have perused a dictionary for both the correct definition of transparency. To her credit however, Ms. Barbour didn’t dive under her desk like partner-in-crime, Jackie Schulte. Ms. Schulte used the question regarding the public comment policy shift to beat the drums of fear mongering. This fear mongering is based on the flawed legal interpretation that, somehow, the school board could be held liable for what a citizen says to them. This laughable notion is parroted by Schulte.

“Board members are responsible for protecting our staff and students; allowing anyone to speak on impulse could open the district to possible legal repercussions.”

It should come as no surprise that both Barbour and Schulte embrace these restrictions. They have a history of misleading the public regarding school business. Nor have they been alone in this endeavor. The desire to mislead the public, engage in character assassination and restrict public comment and input appears to have a clear motive.

The Camdenton school district is a $45 million dollar a year business. How that money is distributed, to whom and why, are questions that some board members simply do not want asked. For example, Selynn Barbour would presumably prefer the public didn’t know that she must recuse herself from all votes to approve payments to the district’s architects. Why must she recuse herself?

Because she is related to members of the firm.

School board president Chris McElyea has the same complication, when issuing payments to his father’s title company.

Nor are these policies, and the motives behind them, only being questioned by Mindi Sales. As was previously mentioned, during the August meeting of the Camdenton school board, a presentation was given by an unelected attorney speaking on behalf of the MSBA. This presentation offered the basis for legal fear mongering echoed in Schulte’s statement.

The lawyer’s presentation wasn’t the only one heard by the board that evening. Another presentation was made in reference to the public comment policy and its motivations and application. Chris Michaelree spoke about these issues during the time allowed him during public comment. His presentation appears below, in full.

“Board Policy BDDB states that a patron desiring to be included on the agenda shall make a request to the superintendent. The board can limit the number and speaking times of a spokesperson, it does not however include a provision for the board or superintendent to deny the request. The use of the word request does not imply that a request can be denied, it is the same term used in the first paragraph of this policy that a board member may request an item be added to the agenda, or as in a sunshine request, it is a term used for courtesy. Therefore, any patron who has made a request under this policy and has had their request denied has been a victim of a violation of board policy by the superintendent or the president of the school board.

Board Policy BDDH has most of the same terminology but does add a few provision. It states that the request can be denied if the proper grievance policy procedure has not been followed. But it also states that the item will be appropriately placed on the agenda. In a lot of cases the grievance policy does not cover what patrons wish to discuss with the board since it might not be something in which they had direct involvement. For example, if I wanted to discuss actions of a school employee, with whom my child nor I have direct contact, but I feel their actions were right or wrong, there is no grievance procedure for me to follow and therefore if I make a request to be added to the agenda and my request is denied the superintendent or president of the school board is violating board policy again. In fact if any request is denied for any reason other then you need to follow the grievance policy before this can be added to the agenda, it is a violation of board policy. Even if the school’s attorney recommends that they deny the request it is still a violation of board policy. It is very sad that the school administration justifies breaking board policy because there attorney recommended it. When administration breaks board policy some sort of consequence should be imposed on administration.

Two options are being presented to the board tonight, one that allows public comment and one that will remove public comments from future board meetings. If the board ultimately decided to not allow public comments, it just shows how secretive you want to be about school operations. It also shows how much you don’t care about the opinions of the community.

When I received my letter saying that I was added to the agenda, Hadfield also included several restrictions on what I am and am not allowed to talk about even though board policy on agenda items does not put a restriction on what I am allowed to discuss, not to mention the fact the it violates my 1st amendment right of freedom of speech. I was however invited to closed session where the restriction would not apply. I believe that the community has the right to know some of the things going on at the school. I can understand why Hadfield would try to add these restrictions. I would not want my dirty laundry publicized, but the truth of the matter is, until all of what is going on in the school comes out it is never going to change. My father often asks me why I am doing this when I talk to him about what is going on or ask him his opinion since he sits on a board. My response is always the same, there is a problem in the school and it is the administration and it needs to change, and if I don’t try then it might never change.

If an employee were to violate board policy, severe consequences would follow, and maybe even the loss of their job. But why is it when an administrator or board member violates board policy nothing happens. The board policy is the board’s rule book and should be strictly adhered to, because what’s the point of having policy or even a school board if administration and board members can violate policies at there choosing without consequences.

A while ago I requested that a teacher and I be allowed to go before the school board to discuss a teacher and provide evidence that an administrator was lying to the board. Hadfield denied my request. Consequently the board only heard from the administrator and the teacher did not have her contract renewed. Later I talked with Hadfield and he verbally admitted that yes the request should have been granted, but it is all over with and done so it does not matter now. Why is Hadfield’s violation of board policy ignored when it had the power to cost an employee their job.

The administration does not care about right or wrong, only how it will effect their agenda, be it good or bad. A teacher was placed on administrative leave because they were accused of testing a student without the parent’s consent. The teacher stated that the process coordinator instructed to test the student, since the teacher was not present at the meeting. Only two school employees were at the meeting, the case manager, and the process coordinator. The case manager wrote a letter testifying that the parents were asked and did give consent, the process coordinator must not have filled out their paperwork correctly. And of course nothing was ever done. The teacher remained on administrative leave and did not have a contract renewed. My impression of administration was” who cares we are going to do what we want no matter what kind of facts you present”.

Another teacher was called into administration and shown a list of unsigned charges and given a choice to resign before the charges were signed. The teacher chose to fight it. The charges were never signed, instead administration moved the teacher out of the class room to a position where they basically sat around all day at a desk and did noting, in hopes that the teacher would resign. The teacher did not resign and is now back teaching again.

A parent had a child with special needs, and they felt that the needs of the child were not being meet so they filed due process against the school. The school administration said and I quote “If they do not accept our offer we will file a frivolous lawsuit against them.” Hadfield was the superintendent. All this parent wanted was what was best for the child

Yet another teacher had a spray bottle full of an alum solution in the class room. The school’s story is that the teacher did not use it on a student instead the student got the spray bottle off the desk and sprayed it in his own mouth. Lucky for this teacher she was friends with an administrator, this teacher is still teaching.

There is a real problem with administration in this school. Teachers are afraid. I actually talked to a teacher today and asked if they were excited about tomorrow. There response was I am going in kicking and screaming, I would rather stay home, but I will go in, do what I need to get done and leave. Is this really how we want our teachers to feel? That they have a deadly fear of the school administration.

A comment was made in the paper a while back, that the school board was the reason that they did not get very many applications to fill some important jobs in the district, I would argue that it is the way the administration behaves as to why people are steering clear of applying for positions in this school.

I looked into the baseball field construction project a bit. I notified the board that I felt that an employee of the school broke the state law. I was told by Nancy that I was not an accountant or attorney. I also informed the board that they violated their own policy by not having the audit finalized. I did not get a reason about the audit. My feeling is that some board members felt,” so what if we violated our own policy, nothing can be done to us about it”. Why is administration and the school board trying so hard to cover up what happened. I feel that it goes much deeper then what I have found so far. “

Mr. Michaelree’s concerns are not without merit. He took the results of his research into the district’s behavior to the Camdenton Police Department. The Department, citing a conflict of interest due to their relationship with the school, stated that they could not investigate further. They also indicated that Mr. Michaelree’s research should be taken to Jefferson City, as there is cause, in their opinion, to pursue the investigation further.

Nor are financial questions the only questions being raised this election season. An investigation into Sean Kirksey’s case revealed a bully system that has been institutionalized in Camdenton. Questions raised by the suspension of Sean Kirksey uncovered a tense, oppressive work environment and the many good teachers left in its wake. These former teachers and administrators in the Camdenton school district described a climate of hostility and fear.

These stories were reinforced when, earlier this school year, after less than three months in the Camdenton school district, a first grade teacher with more than a decade’s experience felt she needed a lawyer to tender her letter of resignation. She feared further repercussions from administration. She was frightened for her ability to teach in another district, should the bullying that led to her resignation extend beyond Laker Nation to her search for another position.

The bully system that has been constructed in the Camdenton is not restricted to the staff and teachers of the district. It has been extended to parents who ask the types of questions raised by Mindi Sales, Chris Michalree and Sean Kirksey. These parents have been targeted in the most insidious of ways, through other examples of questionable legal interpretation. Our school district has been used to file flimsy lawsuits of retribution against families in our district.

These frivolous, spiteful suits have served to fatten the pockets of district attorneys Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. For the firm, an assault against parental rights is a windfall in payments from a district like Camdenton. Or Lebanon. Or Marshfield. Or Richland. The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole represent more than three hundred school districts across the state of Missouri. Their deep affiliations with the MSBA and other organizations have ensured their silent coup, this assumption of authority, has been exported across our state with the veracity of a virus. So too, are the firm’s practices.

The Devil's Advocates

The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole represents over 300 school districts in the state of Missouri.

Across the state, the law firm that has assumed the authority to monitor Camdenton board member emails and endorses the flawed legal argument that is being used to silence parents and tax payers, has left a litter box full of questionable actions in districts across the state. In southeast Missouri, the law firm filed a cease and desist letter against a parent for asking questions. In Lebanon, they have claimed legal authority to rewrite court ordered parental custody agreements. In Camdenton, they have cost thousands of dollars in legal fees regarding questionable personnel decisions and in filing a lawsuit against a family who home schooled their children under unsubstantiated claims of abuse and educational neglect.

It is understandable, why the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole, has assumed authority and control over what can be said to our school board representatives.

Seylnn Barbour made the motion to give the firm this power. Jackie Schulte seconded it. Board members Williams, McElyea and Masterson all agreed to limit your complaints about this loss of local control and representative government. They have codified, with their votes, the transformation of our own school district. Why would they be in favor of limiting your right to voice your displeasure?

If the public were allowed to ask questions, we might not stop.

The transformation of education across the state of Missouri is underway. Stories like those from Hickman Mills, a district whose board has so blatantly abused their positions, remind us that Camdenton is not a mirage. It is not occurring in a vacuum. The people of the Camdenton school district, and districts across the state, have the opportunity to wrest control away from the authors of this scheme to steal local control out from under our noses.

We have the opportunity to ask these questions. We have the right to demand answers.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the tactics being employed by those in support of this oppression are different than those displayed during the past election. Instead of actively mudslinging, attacking and blatantly making false claims against those who question the district’s course, tactics are being employed in this election that remind of the policies detailed above.

As reported by American Spring, KRMS ownership has refused to allow any candidates for Camdenton school board to advertize on their station. This represents the inability and unwillingness of local media to cover the school without bias. Instead, it indicates a clear bias, in favor of the status quo.

For long time residents of the Camdenton school district, this is only the most recent example in a pattern of bad behavior. It was this same assumption of authority that led to the district being sued in Missouri Supreme Court by the Lagares family in the 1990’s.

That case, Lagares v. Camdenton school district, revolved around the same blind assertion, same assumption of authority by the school district and its administration, the board of education and the district’s legal counsel.

In that case, as with the ‘policies’ referenced above, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the school district had no authority to overrule the Missouri Constitution in making ‘policies’ such as those referenced above. To enact these ‘policies’ themselves is to violate state statutes, our state and United States Constitutions.

That case, Lagares v. Camdenton school district, was more than an educational case. It was fought to preserve the rights of parents and citizens from this exact kind of government overreach by any political subdivision of the state.

While everyone is arguing the merits of these ‘policies’, the simplest of facts is left ignored by those who would prefer to keep us in the dark:

The adoption of these overreaching ‘policies’ is illegal to begin with. Enacting these ‘policies’? Also illegal.

The school board is an administrative body. They cannot assume the powers not granted them by the Missouri State Constitution. They cannot, in other words, assume the role of the legislative and create law. They are simply to follow the laws laid out by the state legislature.

This legal precedent was set in Lagares v. Camdenton. The Camdenton school district was already found guilty of this exact sort of overreach. The Missouri Supreme Court said so. The Lagares ruling stands as a legal precedent that has been cited in dozens of cases around the country.

The establishment, the ‘status quo’ crowd knows this fact well. Hence their illegal actions to attempt to silence questioning their authority. It is Fascism 101. Thwart the Constitution, assume authority you do not have, silence anyone who questions this ‘authority’.

From Lagares v. Camdenton:

The District argues, however, that §§162.670 and 162.675 do not establish the state’s standard for determining the sufficiency of special educational services. The District argues that, instead, the legislature delegated the power to establish such a standard to the state board of education. To support this claim, the District cites subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) of §162.685, which provide:

The state board of education shall adopt, after at least one public hearing has been held by the commissioner of education on each subsection of this section and upon his recommendation and, after consulting with recognized authorities in the field:

(1)Standards to be used throughout the state of Missouri in determining whether children shall be defined under sections 162.670 to 162.995 as “handicapped children” or “severely handicapped children”, together with regulations implementing these standards;

(2)Regulations governing evaluation and reevaluation of handicapped and severely handicapped children prior to and during assignment in a special educational program; provided, however, each child assigned to a special educational program shall be fully reevaluated on a regular basis;

(3)Standards for approval of all special education programs established under the provisions of sections 162.670 to 162.995 including, but not limited to, the qualifications of professional personnel employed in such programs and the standards to be used in determining the assignment of each child requiring special educational services to the program which best suits the needs of the child[.]

These statutory provisions empower the state board of education to promulgate (1) regulations concerning the standard for identifying handicapped children under the definitions contained in §§162.670 to 162.995; (2) regulations governing the evaluation and reevaluation of handicapped children before and during assignment in a special education program; and (3) standards for approving all special education programs established under §§162.670 to 162.995, including the qualifications of personnel and the standards for determining the assignment of the children to particular programs. None of the regulations the state board of education is empowered to adopt, however, concern the standard to be used in evaluating the sufficiency of the special educational services provided to a particular handicapped child.

Moreover, an administrative agency’s authority is limited to that granted by statute, and any regulation promulgated must be within the authority of statute. Pen-Yan Inv., Inc. v. Boyd Kansas City, Inc., 952 S.W.2d 299, 303-04 (Mo.App.1997). Indeed, in §162.685(1) and (3), the legislature states that the standards and regulations authorized by those subdivisions are to be made pursuant to §§162.670 to 162.995. Thus, contrary to the District’s assertion, §162.685(1), (2), and (3) do not empower the state board of education to promulgate regulations and standards that conflict with or modify the maximizing standard set forth in §§162.670 and 162.675. – See more at:

It is the last paragraph of this ruling that is most important. Here, the Court is quite clear. The school district is not empowered to create these ‘policies’. Period. End of story.

Federal case law is equally clear on this matter.

While federal cases interpreting Missouri law are persuasive, they “are not binding on this court interpreting our own state statute.” See Wentz v. Indus. Automation, 847 S.W.2d 877, 880 n. 2 (Mo.App.1992). Unlike the Eighth Circuit in Gill, this court finds that the legislature’s intent to hold Missouri special educational services to a higher standard than the IDEA’s minimum “educationally benefit” standard is apparent from the plain language of the “maximize the capabilities” language used in §§162.670 and 162.675. “The legislature is presumed to have intended what the law states directly.” Metro Auto Auction v. Dir. of Revenue, 707 S.W.2d 397, 404 (Mo. banc 1986).

Because Missouri’s higher standard is incorporated into the definition of a free appropriate public education under 20 U.S.C. §1401(a)(18), the panel erred in not determining whether the special educational services provided to Dennis were sufficient to meet his needs and maximize his capabilities. Since the panel incorrectly used only the federal minimum standard to determine that the District provided Dennis Lagares a free appropriate public education, this court does not need to address the sufficiency of the evidence to support that determination. Therefore, the judgment of the circuit court affirming the panel’s decision is reversed, and the cause is remanded. – See more at:

In Lagares v. Camdenton, the civil rights of parents and citizens were on the line. While the case dealt with education, if one were to simply substitute the word ‘education’ with ‘Sunshine Law’ or ‘Due Process’, the ruling is still relevant. It is about government overreach.

Or, to put it in lay terms, as a dear and wise friend explained to me, it is the parable of the elephant and the mosquito. Everyone is focused on the elephant, or the policy and its gross overreaches. In the meantime, it is the mosquito, the nagging, persistent assertions of authority that are eating our body politic alive.

It is the mosquito, in the form of ‘policies’, that is conspiring to steal the rights we have already paid for in blood and sacrifice. It is the mosquito that has led the Camdenton school district and the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole to be named as Defendants in a Federal law suit.

Currently, the Camdenton school district is stating that they can break the law and write policy. This is the position espoused by four of the five candidates for school board.

The bully system represented by these illegal, fascist actions is both ruthless and relentless. In part, because of this ruling, the Lagares family has been targeted by both the Camdenton and Lebanon school districts and their law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. The Lagares family’s unbelievable, gut-wrenching story can be found here.

It is the perfect illustration of exactly how much truly is on the line this election season. It is an opportunity for the community to demand an end to government overreach.

Tonight, at the Osage Hills Church in Osage Beach, the public will have an opportunity to hear from these candidates for Camdenton school board. This forum is sponsored by the Camden County Republican Club and begins at 6:30 PM.

Stay tuned to, Guerrilla Radio with American Spring Facebook page and @AmericanSpring on Twitter for the latest updates on this and other stories.


Lake Media Attempts to Restore Credibility

The Lake Sun Leader and Lake Media, scrambling to restore lost credibility, has announced the formation of a ‘citizens advisory board’. The stated purpose of this board is for members of the community to meet with the tabloid’s staff and editors to help determine what stories are covered and how they are reported.

This is ironic, considering that the editorial staff at the Lake Sun has banned several such citizens from commenting on their articles via Facebook, including myself. In my case, there were no violations of LSL Facebook policy. I was banned for asking questions about ‘Right to Work’ legislation. My questions were on topic and adhered to the Lake Sun’s stated policies for comments. Nor was I the only person banned as a result of editorial malpractice, as others were banned for asking similar questions. Now, Lake Media, caught in the vice of corporate bankruptcy and a documented lack of credibility, is scrambling to remain relevant while its circulation numbers are presumably dropping, in direct relationship to the community’s lack of trust in the organization.

The Lake Sun has asked for submissions from the public to address why they should be allowed to sit on this board. They have asked that all such submissions be kept to 150 words and should include background information, such as educational background and current profession.

During the past three years, I have written more than 150 words on the Lake Sun’s woes. They have been caught in a cavalcade of lies and manipulations of fact. Consistently, under the ‘leadership’ of editor Joyce Miller, they have set aside the public’s best interests in order to satisfy false narratives provided to them by school administrators, board members and elected representatives of the Lake area.

The paper, having lost the trust of the community they purport to serve, has traded its credibility away for cents on the advertising dollar. This plea for community involvement has come far too late. The editorial direction of Lake Media and its subsidiaries has been a lemming march over a sheer cliff. Now, realizing the errors that have been made under Miller’s tenure, the paper is hopeful for a life line from the very community they have repeatedly lied to.

While I have no expectation of being invited to participate in such a board, I would suggest that Lake Media consider offering invitations to Leslie Chamberlin of Citizens for a Better Camden County and local business owner Theresa Townsend. These ladies, while lacking a background in journalism, distribute qualities that are sorely lacking at the Lake Sun: integrity and trustworthiness.

Considering the established history of Lake Media’s editorial direction, these are traits that will almost certainly disqualify both women from serving on such a board.

One last suggestion from a member of the community regarding the Lake Sun and their woeful lack of credibility:

Fire the entire staff, starting with editor Joyce Miller OR develop a marketing strategy that would serve a tabloid. Credibility is the currency of news organizations. The balance sheet of public opinion is running parallel to the Lake Sun’s.

Both are clearly in the red.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article appeared with the following statement:

‘ Now, Lake Media, caught in the vice of corporate bankruptcy and a documented lack of credibility, is scrambling to remain relevant while its circulation numbers are dropping in direct relationship to the community’s lack of trust in the organization. ‘

This sentence has been amended to its current form.

Camden County Republican Club Seeks to Silence Local Media

Recent misrepresentations by the Lake Sun regarding Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken and his end-around attempts to rewrite Article 800 called into question the role of local print media in local politics. The most recent article, a slanted presentation of events authored by Lake News reporter and Westside Star editor Amy Wilson, read like a press release from Lord Franken’s desk. In this blatant piece of public relations propaganda, Wilson misstated several facts and created a false narrative that focused on a political group’s attendance and involvement in Planning and Zoning board meetings instead of reporting facts.

For those who actually attended the meeting, it begs the question: Who is REALLY calling the shots at the Lake Sun, for them to willingly print such a lazy, sloppy, obvious white-wash? Who would have them sell their credibility for pennies on the dollar? That answer, it would appear, can be found by looking to another local source of media, radio station KRMS.

The letter below was sent to 97.5 KRMS before Manny Haley was terminated. The author of the letter was Kim Krostue. In this letter, Krostue purports to represent a group called the ‘Coalition for Better Government’. Krostue is better known in his position with the Camden County Republican Club. On that group’s facebook page, he is listed as Vice President, while cohort Suzie Johnson is listed as President.

This letter, authored by Krostue, is full of 'baseless claims'.

This letter, authored by Krostue, is full of ‘baseless claims’.

Krostue and his coalition of comrades, Joe Roeger, Suzie Johnson and her husband, have made a habit of trying to silence Second District Commissioner Cliff Luber. They have followed him around to town hall meetings, in order to attempt to disrupt and intimidate. They have repeatedly supported the punitive and selective application of planning and zoning, even going so far as to rally in support of Don Hathaway after his recent suspension. They have consistently united in opposition to government transparency, as the letter above clearly demonstrates.

Krostue, crying foul at what he considers are Luber’s unfounded claims, has no problem issuing his own. The assertions in his letter are completely unproven. As was pointed out recently in the editorial pages of the Lake Sun, Krostue has no problem manipulating information in order to mislead the public.

Shame on him, his coalition and the Camden County Republican Club for asking our local media to share his pathological ways.

Child Trafficking and Missouri Schools Part Two: The Skeleton Key



Below you will find part two of an ongoing investigation into child trafficking and Missouri schools. This investigation began with the story of Kyle and Nicole Lagares.

In October of 2010, Kyle and Nicole’s mother, Amanda Rollins, fled with Nicole after it was discovered that Kyle had suffered a broken leg. The injury was an old one, according to the doctor who treated him. When Denny told his wife that he was going to have Kyle tested to determine when and how the break occurred, Rollins disappeared with Nicole for nearly a year and a half.

Part One details the period of time Nicole was in the sole custody of her mother and her boyfriend, Patrick Colgan. The timeline, constructed largely from medical records and court documents, reveals a disturbing pattern and points toward ongoing abuse.

It chronicles Denny’s fight to protect his children and unveils a determined plot to rip them from him. This wicked web of associations have called into question actions of local law enforcement agencies, the courts, the Department of Family Services and the administrations of the Lebanon and Camdenton school districts have worked in concert to strip this father of his rights.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about Kyle and Nicole’s story is that it is not an isolated incident. A pattern of behavior and collusion has been established in Mid-Missouri, each case bearing nearly identical fingerprints.

Click here for Part One of this story, ‘Suffer The Children’.

Click here for the Guerrilla Radio exclusive with Denny, Ginger and Sherry Lagares about ‘The Skeleton Key’.

For notification by email of the release of Part Three of this investigation, please click the ‘follow’ button located on this page.

Under Cover of Darkness

On January 14th, 2013, an article appeared in the Lake Sun titled, ‘Direct email contact with school board now a reality’. The title of this article was a textbook example of the use of double-speak or ‘yellow journalism’. For residents of the Lake of the Ozarks, this propaganda campaign is all-too-familiar. The paper has functioned as a mouthpiece for Camdenton school administration in their promotion of misrepresentations of truth and outright lies regarding operations in the district.

The drive to manufacture consent in our school districts is at an all time high. Camdenton is representative of this trend in the state of Missouri. Media silence has allowed for the full installation of the bully system in the district. This condition is not exclusive to the schools. The policy statement, revealed in this article, is brazen. It speaks directly to the arrogance of the monsterous mechanisms pulling these strings. They wish to control all communication between the parents and the community these elected representatives serve. It is the theft of representative government. It is the theft of the skeleton keys of education.

Theft, such as this, can only be accomplished in shadows and is best performed in silence.

The article referenced above clearly defines what level of contact school board members are allowed to have with the parents and public they serve.

All emails sent to board members will automatically be routed to the district superintendent. In most cases, the superintendent and administration will reply to citizens. All board members are required to sign the district’s ‘Authorized User Permit’ in order to use their school provided account. This ‘permit’ allows school administration to have full, unfettered access to these email accounts. The district’s stated protocol is that any replies be made by the superintendent or board president, with a promise these responses will be circulated to the rest of the board. Individual board members are “allowed” to respond to the public, but they are required to state that their opinions are their own and do not reflect the board as a whole. Board members are “prohibited” from using this email account outside of “district policy”, including all of the restrictions mentioned above.

This “district policy” was crafted, in part, by the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole.

The Devil's Advocates

The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole represents over 300 school districts in the state of Missouri.

As part of the policy they wrote, Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole reserve the right to filter emails from the public to the board, as well as any board member responses. They have, in other words, ensured that all email communication between parents, citizens and their school board members are subject to their approval.

The construction of this policy is the next evolutionary step of the bully system in Missouri school districts. As the ‘transformation of education’ promised by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan marches on, the need to silence the public has grown more urgent.

Parents have watched as, in districts across the state, greater efforts have been made to limit both their role and voice. School board members are being advised by MSBA and district lawyers that, if parents are allowed to speak openly in school board meetings, the school may somehow be liable for what those parents say. This warped interpretation and application of legal opinion has caused school districts across the state to adopt more restrictive public comment policies, with school administrators having autonomous veto power over all such requests.

This drive to control and monitor what information reaches elected school board members is in full swing. As the cases of Kyle and Nicole reveal, there is a powerful motive for school lawyers to insist on such secrecy. The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole have, at the very least, willfully violated the public trust.

This fact, enforced by their actions in the Lagares case, is one they would desperately like to conceal from both board members and the public.

The lawyers of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole are not the only vultures flocking around the Lagares children. Attorneys Ruth Schulte, Barbara Van Tine and Brad York appear to have acted, not on behalf of two children in desperate need of protection, but in their own interests. Judge Aaron Koeppen has demonstrated a resistance to hearing evidence that, if heard, may well result in a father regaining full custody of his children.

This network of the Devil’s advocates has collaborated, from beginning until bitter end, to strip Kyle and Nicole from their father’s protective embrace in order to deliver them to monsters. They have not acted alone.

They have been aided by a host of willing participants, including the Camden County Sheriff Department, the Camdenton School District and Lebanon School District. In 2010, the CCSD absconded their duty in the enforcement of an Order of Protection issued on behalf of Nicole Lagares. They did this after a statewide alert had been issued, identifying Nicole as an endangered child, and while an active search for her was being conducted by other law enforcement agencies and DFS, at the behest of Ruth Schulte.

Also in 2010, the Camdenton school district introduced the skeleton key of ‘educational neglect’ as a way to gain access to the Lagares children. In 2012, the Lebanon school district also employed this tool against the Lagares’. The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole represent both districts.

Aiding and Abetting

In late October of 2010, shortly after Amanda Rollins disappeared with Nicole, Denny Lagares made two telephone calls to the Missouri DFS hotline to report both Kyle and his injuries and Nicole’s illness and disappearance. These calls were placed, one for each of his children, on two successive days and both were received by Laclede County DFS Supervisor Justine Robinson (formerly Justine Trogen). This prompted an Order of Protection to be expedited for Nicole and a multi-jurisdictional alert to be issued to law enforcement. She was to be taken into protective custody immediately and had been registered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These steps were initiated by deputies Wendy Kost and Donna Ford of the Camden County Sheriff Department. One of these deputies even went so far as to call Rollins’ cell phone, leaving a threatening message, telling the fugitive mother to give herself up or face the consequences. An active ‘manhunt’ for the little girl was underway.

Robinson was in close contact with Denny during the first hours of the hunt for Nicole. During this time, Robinson said that she had called Shawnee Woods, Rollins mother. Woods, during this call, told Robinson that she knew Nicole and Rollins’ whereabouts but was not going to share that with Robinson, despite the alert and Order of Protection that had been issued.

Agent Robinson told Denny that she had unsubstantiated a previous DFS hotline call regarding Kyle’s injuries because of a phone call from their Miller County office. Robinson said that a Miller County DFS Agent had gone to Woods’ house and that it had been declared ‘clean’. Robinson indicated she had no choice in the matter.

The hotline call was unsubstantiated. No further investigation was conducted. No interview with Kyle ever occurred.

These admissions by Robinson were made during a rare period of cooperation with Denny. DFS appears to have abandoned standard operating procedures where the Lagares children are concerned. They seem to be running an entirely different playbook.

Predictably, soon after those admissions to the Lagares family, Robinson refused to have contact with Kyle and Nicole’s father. Unbelievably, it took several weeks and repeated attempts by an attorney just to get Robinson to respond to Denny’s requests for updates about his daughter, her welfare and her whereabouts.

For the Lagares family, the frantic search for their little girl lost began the moment Rollins left their driveway that bleak day in October. They were actively searching for Nicole, tracking down what leads they had, which led them, of all places, to a church in Eldon.

Sherry and Dennis Lagares Sr. (known as ‘Poppy’ to Kyle and Nicole) scoured the area for their granddaughter. It was Poppy, Sherry would later recall, that had said he thought Rollins was going to go ‘underground’ the morning she disappeared into the October mist with Nicole. Poppy was so convinced Rollins intended to leave, that he considered blocking her vehicle in the drive with his truck, to prohibit her from taking off with Nicole. His gut feeling had been correct. It would be the last time he would see his granddaughter for months.

The elder Lagares’ had supplied Rollins with a cell phone. Sherry got those records and compared them to the morning Rollins left with Nicole. These phone records led the Lagares’ to the Aurora Springs Baptist Church in Eldon, Missouri. They arrived before Sunday Services and spoke with the pastor.

The pastor told the Lagares’ that the phone call made that October morning was not placed by him. He was out of town, in Columbia, at the time of the call. After the Lagares’ explained Nicole’s disappearance, the alert and Order of Protection issued for her, they asked the pastor to contact the Camden County Sheriff Department or the Department of Family Services with any new information. Then, the pastor said something that appeared to be shockingly coincidental.

The pastor volunteered that one of the key holding, ‘prominent’ members of his church was also a Miller County DFS Agent. This person had access to the church when the telephone call was placed. Also of note, Shawnee Woods, Rollins mother, was also a member of the church at that time.

Shortly after the disclosures made by DFS Supervisor Robinson and the revelations from the pastor of the Aurora Springs Baptist Church, attorney Ruth Schulte materialized from the shadows. Like a diabolical puppeteer, Schulte, representing Rollins, began pulling invisible strings designed to bind Nicole.

The Camden County Sheriff Department gave the Lagares’ the first real indication of the depth of the dark waters they and Nicole were trapped in. The CCSD informed the Lagares’ they had ‘better get a good lawyer’. According to the CCSD, Schulte contacted them as Amanda Rollins’ representative in divorce proceedings.

Schulte claimed to have no knowledge of the alert and search for Nicole. This seems highly unlikely. It would appear there would be no other reason for Schulte, in this capacity, to be contacting the CCSD.

Schulte informed the CCSD that she would produce Nicole the next day. The sheriff’s department told the Lagares family that Schulte had made a ‘deal with DFS’ and that Denny could not be anywhere around when Schulte brought Nicole in.

An Order of Protection had been issued for Nicole. This order (see below) was signed by a judge. The Camden County Sheriff Department had a copy of this Order of Protection and their own deputies had placed Nicole on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s web site and issued an alert for her.

It was their responsibility to enforce the Order of Protection issued for Nicole Lagares. It was not up for negotiation. It was not up to Ruth Schulte. They abandoned their duty and little Nicole Lagares in refusing to follow the law. Nicole was not taken into protective custody.

It would be weeks before Nicole’s father would be told where his daughter was and how she was.

The ‘deal’ referred to by CCSD between Schulte and DFS appears to have been powerful witchcraft. Not only did this ‘deal’ allow her and CCSD to violate a Judge’s Order of Protection, it also caused the DFS to go into lockdown mode where Denny was concerned.

Robinson refused to communicate any further with Denny. While it is clear that Robinson had conversations with Schulte and Miller County DFS, she never informed Denny about Nicole’s condition or whereabouts. As mentioned above, it took several weeks and letters from the attorney Denny was forced to hire to get any information from DFS regarding Nicole.

The dark arts practiced by Schulte through backroom deals served to both commit violations and hide them. Her actions in the Lagares/Rollins case would seem to indict her in an insidious plot, one she has had a hand in crafting. It comes as no surprise then, during a recent hearing regarding the Lagares children, that she was arguing like it was ‘personal’. Should her actions be exposed, it would almost certainly bring an uncomfortable level of scrutiny to her practice.

The Devil You Know

August 14, 2012 3:06 PM

Email from Becky Simpson, Special Programs Process Coordinator at Lebanon’s Easter Elementary to Dr. Tammy Lupardus, Lebanon’s Director of Special Programs:

FYI Lagares

Transfer student Kyle Lagares
Birth Mother Amanda Rollins

Reply from Lupardus 3:24: Do they really live in the district?
Simpson reply, 3:38: (Simpson gives address) yes, I checked.

Dr. Tammy Lupardus appears to be to special education what Dr. Josef Mengele was to Auschwitz. She has cultivated, developed and exported her personal brand of sadism, borne in the private laboratories of special education. She installed the familiar fascist refrain of survival of the fittest with claims that not all kids deserve a ‘Cadillac education’.

Tammy Lupardus is currently the Director of Special Programs in the Lebanon school district.  She held this position previously in the Camdenton school district where she was banned by senior school administration from Denny Lagares educational files.

Tammy Lupardus is currently the Director of Special Programs in the Lebanon school district. She held this position previously in the Camdenton school district where she was banned by senior school administration from Denny Lagares educational files.

Ironically, only two days before the enrollment of the Lagares children by their father, the Lebanon school district announced a resolution between the district and the Office for Civil Rights. This was in regards to concerns of the forced segregation of special education students.

An agreement was reached to move the district’s two special education classrooms into its elementary schools. Previously, the classrooms were mobile homes located at the Lebanon Junior High. In responding to the move to reporter Fines Massey of the Lebanon Daily Record, Lupardus said:

“The downside is, well, there are many downsides, disadvantages and unintended consequences.”

Perhaps the ‘unintended consequences’ Lupardus was concerned about was the higher level of scrutiny the special education department was under. Keeping the special education children in relative isolation on the junior high campus, where elementary children could be largely ignored, appeared better suited for Lupardus to administer her philosophy regarding special education.

The dark practices of Lupardus have become institutionalized in Camdenton. They were carried on with an executioner’s blood lust by her disciple, Kristy Kindwall. Kindwall’s long history of abusive behavior was so foul that the District held its collective breath as her decision to leave Camdenton was the centerpiece of a Goebbel-like propaganda campaign, designed to cover-up a growing pattern of systematic abuse. The corpses of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of family after family lie piled in the litter of cases in which a child had been identified as not deserving a ‘Cadillac education’. Careers of caring, knowledgeable teachers have been stuffed into body bags, tagged as ‘dissenters’, ‘troublemakers’ and ‘rogue’, and stacked like cord wood in the bowels of Camdenton’s special education department. The full number of casualties under the rule of Lupardus and her acolytes is unknown. What is clear however, is that her fascist mantra ‘not all children deserve a Cadillac education’, is well suited to the Cult of Corporatism’s privatization playbook. What is also clear is that, as her philosophy advances, the body count is escalating.

The email sent by Becky Simpson, within minutes of Denny enrolling the children, must have brought a twisted, sadistic smile to Lupardus’ lips. Lupardus was intimately familiar with Denny, although Denny Lagares had never heard the name Tammy Lupardus prior to enrolling the children in Lebanon. It was a name however, that his mother, Kyle and Nicole’s grandmother, Sherry knew well.

Tammy Lupardus and the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole had targeted the Lagares’ for retribution before. In 2002, using Camdenton school funds, they targeted Sherry Lagares’ sister. They took her to court in an attempt to force her to enroll her children in the district. She had been homeschooling her kids.

In a case that was a resounding defeat for Camdenton, lawyers from Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole even went so far as to claim they suspected abuse, although they could provide absolutely no proof whatsoever to that effect. The judge threw the case out of court.

This case cost the taxpayers of Camdenton’s school district thousands of dollars and seems to have been filed as an act of revenge against the Lagares family. This stemmed from a case twenty years old, one Denny knew nothing about, Lagares v Camdenton School District.

Ghosts of Education Past

When we began, Sherry Lagares was a reluctant participant in these interviews. Many times during the course of this investigation, she reiterated her fears about speaking out. Kyle and Nicole are being held hostage by the system. Their health and safety are at risk, to say nothing of the standard of their educations.

“I’m scared to talk. I don’t want to make it worse.”

In 1991, the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan celebrated their first NBA championship. ‘Everything I Do’ by Bryan Adams reigned on the pop charts and the world was introduced to the serial killer Dr. Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter in the Oscar winning film ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. The same year this cold blooded psychopath was stalking the silver screens, Sherry and Poppy Lagares enrolled their son, Denny, in the Camdenton school district. Soon after, the family found themselves staring at a crime scene worthy of the fictitious doctor, the school’s special education department.

In the 1990’s, brutish techniques were being refined in the Camdenton school district’s special education department. Each new year presented a new boxcar of students, identified by a label as damning and ominous as a concentration camp tattoo: learning disabled. These children were culled from the herd and transferred them to an educational dungeon, where they were exposed daily to the idea that they were unworthy. It wasn’t long after his enrollment in kindergarten that this system its sights on Denny.

From, Lagares v Camdenton R-III School District:

” He began attending school in the Camdenton R-III School District in 1991, when he started kindergarten. Dennis achieved satisfactory grades on the majority of his reading and math skills tested in kindergarten, and a standardized test Dennis took that year showed that his reading achievement was better than 89 percent of the national norm. After the first half of Dennis’ first-grade year, however, Dennis’ teacher reported that he was below his grade level in reading. Nevertheless, Dennis’ report card at the end of his first-grade year indicated at least average achievement in all of his subjects except spelling and math, and Dennis was passed to the second grade.

In the second grade, Dennis was placed in Chapter I, a special reading program. Dennis’ report card that year indicated at least average achievement in all of his subjects, and Dennis was passed to the third grade. Dennis remained in the Chapter I reading program in third grade. Dennis’ third-grade report card indicated that he was at least progressing, if not meeting expectations, in all of his subjects, and he was passed on to the fourth grade. ”

It was at this time that the Lagares family had Dennis tested by an outside expert. Denny, at that time, had a pre-K reading level according to this testing. It was also learned that Denny had a 12th grade reading comprehension level. His diagnosis was one that is common in society. Denny was dyslexic, a condition that affects approximately twenty percent of the population.

Sherry was happy to have the diagnosis. By clearly identifying Denny’s dyslexia, she had something to target regarding his difficulties. Dyslexia was an opponent a determined mother could beat. Through her research, Sherry learned that a training program was available to instruct teachers how to work with students with dyslexia. The cost of the training was $1,200, a cost the Lagares family offered to pay. She took her research into these grants and programs to the school. The district dismissed the offer and told Sherry that Denny did not deserve a ‘Cadillac education.’

According to Sherry, she was met with open hostility by the special education department. They steadfastly refused to offer Denny anything except the remedial reading course he had already been participating in, a program that clearly had been a failure in his case. Ultimately, Sherry and Poppy would file a lawsuit against the school district.

In it, they argued that the Missouri state statute regarding the a child’s education was a higher standard than the federal standard. It was the assertion of DESE and the Camdenton school district that the lower federal standard regarding education should apply.

The Lagares’ family won in Missouri Supreme Court.

Soon after the decision was handed down by the Supreme Court in favor of the Lagares’, DESE and its lobbyists moved to have the higher Missouri requirement for a child’s education eliminated. The statute the Lagares’ won on was repealed by the Missouri legislature. This left the federal standard, a lower standard for education, as the prevailing law. The elimination of the higher Missouri statute regarding the quality of a student’s education literally paved the way for Common Core’s implementation in the Show-Me State.

The Laboratory of Special Education

Last summer, during an investigation into the suspension of Camdenton middle school principal Sean Kirksey, a pattern of resignations and terminations was uncovered in the district. Evidence of systematic abuse was most visible in Camdenton’s special education department. Former teachers in the department, Jan Michaelree and Kathy Egyabroad, both forced out of the district, described the most hostile of work environments. They were victims of a sadistic, cruel administration that had no interest or desire to serve children with learning difficulties.

As Jan Michaelree said, in talking about her termination:

“I did not believe in the statement, ‘Not all kids deserve Cadillac services. Because the truth is…they do.”

This disturbing assertion, that some children do not deserve a ‘Cadillac education’, offends on its face. It mirrors a public relations attempt to reprogram parents and children. For months, the media has presented the point of view that not all children should go to college and that they should instead lower their goals and expectations. This has become a new national talking point: Our children should not dream or aspire. They should instead prepare for a job Common Core has identified for them. One of the greatest crimes perpetrated against the American people is this re-engineering of our children. It is this narrative of lowered educational goals, combined with the expectation of poor student performance as Common Core is implemented, that adds gravity to the claims that not all children deserve a ‘Cadillac education’. This is the mindset they are trying to institutionalize in our schools, a perfect complement to the bully system.

For opponents of Common Core, a close examination of special education departments in Missouri reveals the realization of parents nightmare scenario. It is a necessary look into the abyss. It has been well-established that Common Core implementation, by design, is weighted against student success. It is designed for student failure. Parents therefore, must look to special education departments for a glimpse into the future of Missouri classrooms. This is the model, as more and more children will be classified ‘learning disabled’ or ‘at risk’ each year under Common Core. In order to gauge the future of Missouri education we must look to the most vulnerable of children, those considered to be on the bottom rung of the educational ladder, exposed to the full, crushing weight of the bully system.

It is clear from the rhetoric of the echo chamber that parents and children should lower their educational standards and expectations. This is in anticipation of Common Core’s implementation and an increasingly privatized educational system. Fewer children will have opportunities to go to college and pursue their dreams. For the rest, the expectation of failure is being projected from all angles. They are manufacturing consent with a pat on the head and reassurances that ‘not all kids are meant to go to college’. It is that concocted notion that has allowed the Jekyll-like metamorphosis in districts across the state. It is the bully system’s liquid antithetic, designed to make the abominable acceptable.

From the moment they were enrolled into the Lebanon school district, Kyle and Nicole Lagares, already repeat victims, were targeted for further abuse by those seeking old style retribution against their family. Lupardus and the law firm set their sights squarely on the children.

Shark Infested Waters

Tammy Lupardus contacted Rollins the same day the children were enrolled in the Lebanon school district.

Rollins is a known friend of Julie Morris, daughter of Tammy Lupardus, and niece to Theresa Lupardus, Miller County Public Administrator.

An email from Rollins on August 14, 2012 stated that ‘all decisions that concern the welfare, education and well-being of the children should be a conversation that transpires between us’, indicating Lupardus.

At the time of their enrollment, Kyle and Nicole were in the primary custody of their father, Denny. This was according to Permanent Custody Plan #2. That plan was used because Rollins had not secured a residence prior to the start of school and the children’s enrollment. This was a result of her own testimony and evidence showing she had moved with Nicole more than ten times. In fact, she stated, she didn’t know how many times they had moved since leaving.

In the divorce decree between Denny and Rollins, both Kyle and Nicole were ordered to be tested by the Thompson Center. Denny made this clear when talking with Simpson the day he enrolled the kids. He gave a copy of this to Simpson who stated that they would accommodate them. Lupardus however, had other plans. Accommodating Denny was not among them.

By September 5th in a meeting scheduled by Lupardus, less than a month after having been enrolled in the Lebanon school district, Denny was charged again with ‘educational neglect’.

This unfounded allegation from Lupardus was made under the mistaken belief that Kyle had been home schooled since the fall of 2010. Previous to enrolling in the Lebanon school district however, Kyle had attended Lakewest Christian Acadamy.

According to Denny, he was “viciously attacked” by Lupardus in this meeting. This understandably took Denny by surprise. He had no idea of Lupardus’ long history with his family.

Lupardus never revealed to Denny that she had been personally restricted by the former superintendent of Camdenton school from ever having access to his own educational records, due to what Sherry Lagares termed “appalling behavior”. Neither did Denny know that Lupardus had instigated the lawsuit against his aunt. He knew very little about his mother’s fight for his own right to a quality education.

Lupardus also informed Denny at this meeting that DFS had been to the school to talk to the children. The skeleton key, fashioned by Lupardus and Rollins, had been pushed into the lock on the Lagares’ door.

Within weeks, Lupardus and school attorney Ernie Trakas would give Denny a calender. On it were highlighted dates and handwritten notes. Lupardus and Trakas had fashioned a new custody plan for Kyle and Nicole and in their supreme arrogance, they then would tell Denny, “if you don’t like it, sue us.”

For the Lagares family an endless nightmare was just beginning…

A Grandmother’s Prayer

Wednesday, January 15th, 2013, a hearing was scheduled before Camden County Circuit Judge Aaron Koeppen. This hearing was in regards to Sherry Lagares’, grandmother of Kyle and Nicole, petition to intervene on behalf of the children as an ‘interested party’.

Judge Koeppen appeared to backtrack, asking that the grandmother refile. He cited that the original motion did not specify her qualifications as a ‘responsible’ party. Oral arguments were offered by both Lagares’ attorney and Ruth Schulte, attorney for Amanda Rollins.

After arguments, two significant developments: One, that Sherry Lagares is allowed to refile her motion and that it will presumably be ruled upon in coming days. This is an important development as it was expected, given the Judge’s previous reluctance to hear evidence in the case, that her motion would be denied. This represents a significant change of course.

Two: A one day, ‘rubber stamp’ trial had been scheduled for the end of this month to finalize custody. Denny’s rights as father have effectively been removed and this trial would have codified that process quietly. In a surprise move, Judge Koeppen moved the date of the trial to April and has set it for three days. The Judge indicated in his remarks that there was ‘obviously a lot of evidence in this case’, when changing the trial date.

Again, another stunning change of direction, given how this case had been proceeding. Previously, without a single hearing, without reviewing any evidence, Kyle was declared a molester.

(Editor’s note: As I am sure you can see, the story of Kyle and Nicole is incredibly dense. There is a lot of material to cover and, as a result, it takes a bit of time in order to sift and present their story cohesively. I thank you for your patience as we navigate this black web. Above, you read the latest update in the Lagares case. We find it a hopeful sign. Thanks again for your patience and for the dozens of people who have asked how you can help Kyle and Nicole, I would ask that you share their story. The evil exposed here cannot survive under close scrutiny. The more people who are aware of Kyle and Nicole’s case, the better their chances for a positive outcome.)

Hadfield and the ‘McCoys’


Despite rhetoric from Camdenton School Board president, Chris McElyea, the District is following through with a determined effort to silence public input on the allegations that led to Camdenton Middle School principal, Sean Kirksey being suspended, pending a disciplinary hearing. Hadfield and the board want to decide the fate of the Mr. Kirksey, the 2004 Missouri State Assistant Principal of the Year award winner, in secrecy, behind closed doors. They wish to avoid public discussion of the matters related to Mr. Kirksey’s suspension and the minor infractions reported by DESE. They have gone so far as to ask the opinion of the District’s lawyer, Tom Mickes, to provide ‘legal cover’, no matter how flimsy, to justify the ”need” for secrecy. Those on the Board and in school administration are incredibly determined to keep their actions in Mr. Kirksey’s case secret. They would prefer that there be no record of their actions for the public to scrutinize. They would prefer to be able to manipulate the story and issue only their ”official version” of what happens behind closed doors. Washington-style politics have wormed their way into the school district. The recent actions, or rather, inactions, of some current board members shows that they are willing to promote fallacious stories in order to further their own ends. This same inaction and lack of leadership by the Board has allowed Hadfield to decree that the public should have no say in decisions he makes.

Chris McElyea has listened to the pleas of the public in the case of Mr. Kirksey. He is content to shrug his shoulders and give us an ”aww shucks” while refusing to address the public’s very basic right to comment on cheating allegations. He would duck and cover behind technicalities and legal opinions while dodging his responsibility as an elected official to open the hearing to the public. Chris McElyea has chosen to discard the District’s own school board policy. In much the same way as Washington has dismissed the Constitution, McElyea seems content to ignore the policy’s own suggested remedy in handling personnel hearings.

The policy states the hearing shall be open to the public.

This section applies to tenured teachers, not administrators like Mr. Kirksey. The School Board Policy would suggest however, that the hearing process can be applied to administrators, in lieu of other avenues. Certainly, Mr. Kirksey, under whose leadership has led to teachers in the Camdenton Middle School being awarded Teacher of the Year, would deserve this same consideration, especially since he is asking for a public hearing. It is a reasonable request from a man with nothing to hide. He would prefer the public have access to the facts and merits surrounding any disciplinary action taken against him. As an educator, his entire career rests on the actions that will be taken by the Board. Termination because of ‘testing irregularities’ will make it difficult for him to continue his career as a principal. The livelihood of his family is at stake. If the man wants a public hearing to clear his name, he should have it. Those willing to speak publicly have nothing to hide. Those who would rather operate in secret and behind closed doors create the perception that they do.

Their silence earlier this year in the case of Dr. Henry’s resignation from the District is precisely why Mr. Kirksey’s hearing must be open. Unfortunately, we cannot trust most of them to deliver truth to the parents they serve. As witnessed earlier this year, they are content to remain silent while the media reports fallacy as fiction. The fiction, the false narrative, served their political will, after all. It became the basis of a smear campaign against three then-board members. Four current board members, those who weren’t targets of this public relations siege, were also board members at that time.Of them, not a single board member came out to state the facts regarding Dr. Henry’s resignation. They did not countermand the Lake Sun’s false report that his contract was not renewed. They simply sat quietly, shrugging their shoulders, giving us the ”aww shucks” routine, while the truth was manipulated. This manipulation led to the character attacks on the members of the board who stood in opposition to closed doors and hush-hush deals, such as the one that has a maintenance supervisor at the school making more than two teacher’s salaries each year. These same board members also sat by while a coat of white-wash was placed over this same maintenance supervisor’s role in construction bids and cost overruns that resulted in a transfer of a million dollars to the general fund from the teacher’s insurance account. Nancy Masterson went so far as to indicate if the transfer were a true manipulation of funds, would it go unnoticed for so long?

The answer, Ms. Masterson, is yes.

The ‘fix’ was in when the District decided to hire a maintenance supervisor at approximately $70,000 a year in salary. The ‘fix’ was in when companies affiliated with Mr. Dickeman were then awarded contracts for construction on our school. The ‘fix’ was most certainly in when construction costs from these companies ran over budget approximately $1.5 million dollars.

Chris McElyea, Selynne Barbour, Jackie Schulte, along with Ms. Masterson, all endorsed this, in whole or part, with their silence on the matter when the local paper used those allegations as a means with which to construct yet another false narrative. This time, the target of their ire was the local website Another “aww shucks” routine and political two-step from these four board members clearly indicates a willingness on their part to mislead the public as to the goings-on in the District. They again sat back in silence while the propaganda machine did its work.

These board members have, at the very least, acted irresponsibility, particularly as related to budget oversight. This is particularly concerning for the Lake of the Ozarks community, as Vice President of the Board Nancy Masterson has also had oversight of other construction projects in her capacity on the Ha Ha Tonka park board. In that role, she oversaw construction by our very own current Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken.

These board members have also acted dishonestly, by remaining silent as fiction was peddled as fact in the local tabloid, the Lake Sun. Their silence was an endorsement of the paper’s blatant misrepresentations of fact. Selynne Barbour, who is a regular contributor to both the Lake Sun and LO Profile magazine, certainly could have phoned Joyce Miller and ask that she print a retraction. She chose not to.

Instead, the paper ran a series of pieces that viciously attacked the board members and those who supported them. The editorial bias, highlighted by Gatehouse publisher John Tucker’s editorials, ensured the re-election of Nancy Masterson and election of Mr. Williams. It served to marginalize the board members who were actually serving the community by asking questions about the District’s dealings, as well as investigating the ties and strings associated with Federal programs such as the Race to the Top grant and Common Core standard implementation.

Tucker’s decision to use his paper as a propaganda factory is one that is as simple as this: It is a business decision. The local political establishment are tightly linked to their advertisers. One of their largest is Lake Regional Hospital. One look at past and present board member reveals a who’s who in our business community that serves to outline a greater architecture of business interests using government to advance their own ends. Tucker chose to sell his paper’s credibility as a news organization in exchange for the higher profits of tabloid journalism. This decision, while despicable, can at least be explained by the profit motive. The board members have no such justification.

Now, they would seek to play their ”aww shucks” routine to the public while scheming to continue this disgusting bully system, in silence and behind closed doors. They have systematically applied these tactics to those who don’t go along with the program, as the case of Jan Michaelree clearly demonstrates. They are now using these techniques to tarnish, and potentially end, Sean Kirksey’s career as a principal.

Sean Kirksey graduated from Camdenton High School in 1989. He graduated from SBU with an education degree and earned his masters at Missouri State University. In 2004, as an Assistant Principal, he earned the Missouri State Assistant Principal of the Year award. Sean Kirksey has served us in a fine capacity as CMS principal. He has the respect and admiration of parents, students and teachers alike. That respect should be given him. He should be able to avail himself of the right to have his hearing public, in order to defend his good name.

Our board needs to show some respect, not just for Mr. Kirksey, but for the public they serve and the community members who would like to see Sean Kirksey remain as principal of our middle school. Common sense should prevail in this case, not pettiness.

Those who have stood in support of Sean Kirksey have had threats leveled against them. The pattern of behavior, the standard operating procedure, is clear. We see who endorse it. They would seek to silence any discussion about Sean Kirksey’s situation. They seek to keep the doors on Mr. Kirksey’s hearing closed, in order to continue the cycle of career and reputation violence. They would like to keep this dirty little secret out of the public view.

This is nothing new for our local politicians, in every capacity. Elected officials throughout our county are seeking to hide their dirty little secrets. They are conspiring to hide the growing level of corruption that has infected our systems like a cancer. The tabloid press has refused to report on Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken’s software scandal. They have refused to investigate Franken’s role in the county’s expenditure of $53,000 for software that did not meet the standards of the contract.

Franken also would prefer to do business behind closed doors.

Recently, in an email to Stacy Shore regarding a missing audio file of the July 23rd Commission meeting, Franken complained about using recording devices. He said, “as far as non-agenda meetings are concerned, people who come in to speak informally with the commission do so in confidence to try to get preliminary information on a project or a problem that they are having. I, nor they, believe that those informal meetings should be recorded.”

While we all appreciate Franken’s opinion, the Missouri state statute regarding meetings of the commission, even ‘informal’ ones, are subject to Sunshine Law. The reason for this is obvious, as the software scandal and TIGER Five grant discussions, in which a large sum of tax dollars was considered to subsidize private profits, should be part of the public record. The public has a right to know what’s being done on our dime, like it or not, little Lord Franken.

Franken wasn’t done there. He had more to say, in a deceitful, arrogant tone:

” In fact, since a certain individual has demanded that all commission meetings be recorded regardless of their content of importance, I have had several businesses that are considering coming in to the area or increasing their presence in the area reuse to meet at the courthouse and I have had to go out to meet with them so they were certain they had control of the environment that the meeting was held in. ”

Control of the environment the meeting was held in? Sound familiar?

A business wanting to expand in Camden County shouldn’t be afraid to have its dealings with our county commission public. If they are reputable and have good intentions, they have nothing to fear from the taxpayers of this county hearing their proposals. It is our money, not theirs, after all.

Franken went on to say that openness and transparency ” …sends a poor message to businesses about Camden County”.

If that is truly the case, we can have no better representative to sell us out than Kris Franken.

We are tired of watching those of you who would abuse the positions of responsibility we have given you. We are sick of you lying to us. We are tired of being bullied. All of us.

August 12th at 5:30, the community has its first opportunity to speak out against this type of behavior. We have the opportunity to shout it down and say ”no more”.

The question is: Will we?

The Bully System

The ‘Curious Case of Mr. Kirksey’ has taken an unexpected, yet ugly turn in what is becoming an all-too-familiar pattern in Camden County. The use of the Camdenton Police Department to squash support for the suspended middle school principal comes after questions surfaced about Mr. Kirksey’s suspension by school administration for alleged MAPP testing irregularities. Behavior as demonstrated by the CPD on Saturday afternoon was irresponsible, reckless and unconscionable. The fact that, along with bullying a concerned mother, CPD seem to have ignored a real threat to public safety, is inexcusable.

On Saturday afternoon, the level of determination shown by those who would prefer the case of Mr. Kirksey remain quiet, was clearly demonstrated. In the parking lot of Gerbes grocery store, a Camdenton fixture, tyranny met the soccer mom.

The ‘buddy system’ is one thing we all remember from school field trips. Everyone had a partner and each kid was responsible for his buddy. It is one of the lessons in life that sticks and is repeated in Sunday School, although there the language is slightly different. The buddy system, after all, has its roots in ‘love thy neighbor’.

In the Camdenton School District, and Camden County at large, a different system is in use. It is the bully system and is the means with which local politicians and officials, along with local media, seek to silence those who would oppose them. It is a system rife with moral corruption and tyrannical behavior, endorsed by manufactured propaganda. The levers of this system have fingerprints that have been well documented in other areas of local government on American Spring. They are a rogue’s gallery of the connected and powerful in the Lake of the Ozarks communities.

In the curious case of Mr. Kirksey, it is not yet known whose hands are on the lever. What is clear, is that they are determined to keep Mr. Kirksey’s suspension quiet. Mr. Kirksey wants HIS hearing open to the public, to clear his name, as is his right. The school board and administration appear determined to keep it closed. They have sought to keep conversation about the Kirksey situation to a minimum. Those conspiring to keep Mr. Kirksey’s case hidden from public view would like to silence all debate regarding the principal’s suspension. It appears as though they are also determined to squash any support for the Camdenton Middle School Principal, by any means necessary.

Ms. Mindi Sales, founder of the Facebook page ‘Mr. Sean Kirksey for Camdenton Middle School Principal’, has been a leader in a rapidly growing community movement in support of Mr. Kirksey. Her research has led to questions about the investigation process that led to Mr. Kirksey’s suspension by the Camdenton School District Superintendent Tim Hadfield. It also raises serious questions regarding Mr. Kirksey’s responsibility and role in reported MAPP testing irregularities.

The fact that DESE, Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, found the ‘irregularities’ and ‘breaches of security’ to be minor matters that will not affect the district’s accreditation in any way raises an additional point: If the allegations against Mr. Kirksey aren’t important to DESE, why would the administration and the board consider firing a Camdenton graduate who is also a well-loved, well-respected educator? Why are they so resistant to allowing the public to comment on Mr. Kirksey’s situation?

Why would the Camdenton Police Department get involved?

Mindi Sales, in describing why she began her Facebook page, said: “I just started a little Facebook page to get out the truth. Just me, no agenda, except the truth.”

The truth in Camden County is getting harder and harder to find. Recent investigations into the local Gatehouse Media property, the Lake Sun, has revealed a willful attempt to manipulate facts in order to effect school board election results. They have shown an equal willingness to ignore wrongdoing by county officials, presumably in the name of profits and ‘business as usual’. The paper’s smear campaign against three board members, and subsequent coverage of Mr. Kirksey’s situation has cost the Gatehouse outlet precious credibility. Their willingness to function as a public relations publication and eagerness to manufacture stories to increase web traffic and ad sales has been reminiscent of tabloid practices. Recent coverage of the allegations against Mr. Kirksey have led some in the community to question their presentation of the investigation and suspension.

This lack of credibility and trust in local media led, in part, to Mindi’s investigation the matter of Mr. Kirksey and DESE testing rules. It was also driven by her knowledge of Mr. Kirksey’s effect on her thirteen year old daughter and the affection she has for him.

This led Mindi toward her run-in with Camdenton’s version of police state tactics and the bully system that has exerted its will on the citizens of Camden County far too long.

Mindi had posted on Friday, that she would be in the Gerbes parking lot the next day from 3-4 PM giving away free T-shirts to anyone who wanted them in support of Mr. Kirksey. She paid for the shirts herself and while she would accept donations, she had no plans to sell the T-shirts whatsoever. Her post to announce the event made that point exceptionally clear. When Mindi pulled into the Gerbes parking lot, the police presence made it quite clear she was not welcome.

” …I showed up at 2:45 in the Gerbes parking lot with my 13-year-old daughter. Her first comment was “My, there are a lot of police out today Mom.” So as I sat eating my lunch, one of the TWO police cruisers circled my truck and asked me if I was the lady selling tshirts in support of Mr. Kirksey. I said “NO, I am handing out free tshirts.” He then said “Well you can’t. The Gerbes Manager wants you off the property now because there can be no protesting on this lot.” I said “I am not protesting, I am handing out something for free.” And he said “It doesn’t matter. They want you gone and you need to leave NOW.” ”

Officer Wynne Stephens, who also serves as a Camdenton School District safety officer, was the member of the CPD who told Mindi to leave.

Gerbes management has a recollection of events that differs from the assertion delivered to Ms. Sales by Officer Stephens. According to manager Gary Mitchell, Gerbes did not set out to have Ms. Sales bullied out of their parking lot. In response to questions from concerned citizens, Mr. Mitchell described a number of anonymous threats that were called into the grocery store.

According to Mr. Mitchell, the store received 8-12 calls that began by asking if Gerbes supported Mr. Kirksey and demanding they not allow Ms. Sales to distribute her T-shirts in the grocery store’s parking lot. The calls became increasingly threatening in nature and warned that Gerbes should call the police. According to Gerbes management, they had no objection to Ms. Sales handing out shirts in their parking lot and they repeatedly informed the callers of this. Near the end of these calls, a male caller began issuing threats. The male caller claimed that if the store allowed Ms. Sales to give away her T-shirts, he would create problems for Ms. Sales, Gerbes and their customers. The caller went on to suggest that management call the police in order to run Ms. Sales off.

As the calls persisted, Gerbes did call the police, concerned about public safety.

CPD arrived on the scene and were fully briefed on the nature of the telephone calls, according to Mr. Mitchell.

According to management, one police car showed up and spoke with the manager on duty. The officers conducted a cursory sweep of the area. Seeing nothing of apparent interest, the officers left the parking lot.

Then, Gerbes claims, the male caller called again. The caller, then said that they needed to get the police back here and that one car wasn’t enough, he should call for more. It was apparent, in the view of store management, that the caller was in a position to see the parking lot at that point. The store was fearful for the safety and well-being of both Ms. Sales and their customers.

On its surface, it would appear that the CPD’s behavior is more than a little suspect. An individual calling and making threats of the nature described by Gerbes management should be the target of an immediate attempt to apprehend. The threats of the kind made by the caller led Gerbes to call the CPD, after all. All of this would not only call Officer Stephens’ reported actions into question, it would also call into question why this immediate threat to the community wouldn’t warrant a worthy response. Did a dispatcher not pass this along to CCSD or the Highway Patrol? Shouldn’t there have been a serious search for this individual, particularly when store management thought he was in this parking lot? Wouldn’t it warrant an alert of some sort? A bat-signal, maybe?

None of these things occurred.

In fact, after gruffly sending Ms. Sales on her way, she was followed by at least one of the anonymous callers to her next destination, who then repeated making threatening phone calls.

This calls into question the actions of the CPD in this case. By what authority did they approach Ms. Sales and her children? How can such behavior possibly be in the public’s best interest? Why wouldn’t you go after the guy making the threats? How on earth could you allow a potentially dangerous individual follow his intended target to a second location?

What DID occur, was that Mindi got thrown out of the Gerbes parking lot. She and her kids paid part of the growing cost for telling the truth in Camden County. They were introduced to the bully system.

More disturbing are the lengths the anonymous caller went to in order to continue to threaten and harass Mindi Sales and supporters of Sean Kirksey. Farris’ Market verified that they also received anonymous calls and threats after Ms. Sales arrived to distribute her T-shirts in the aftermath of her experience at Gerbes. Farris’ Market was more than willing to host Ms. Sales when she called them and explained what had happened. At this point, it became clear Ms. Sales and her children were followed.

This can best be described as ‘disturbing’.

The actions of local law enforcement could be called questionable in the best case, negligent in the worst.

For Mindi, the experience has not diminished her resolve. Quite the opposite. Though she intends to file a police report about the threats that were leveled against her and will be demanding answers about the police’s course of action.

” For me, it made me realize how much power some people think they have, and how much power we have given them without any consequences for being bullies. I am just a chic and a mom, sitting at my kitchen desk, writing about the truth, and I have the police called on me. IS THIS WHAT WE WANT????? IS THIS HOW WE ENVISION OUR SCHOOL???
Here is my point….What about the staff who speaks out? NOW do we see WHY they don’t want to say what is on their mind? I think they thought they were going to scare me…but the opposite is true. They just empowered me more.
Let me say I have NO idea who called Gerbes with the info that I was going to be there. It wasn’t a secret. In my opinion, I find it very underhanded to call the police and try to intimidate me. ”

Support for Mr. Kirksey has continued to swell as more and more members of the community become aware of his situation. Mindi had a large turn-out for her first T-shirt giveaway and has more planned throughout the week. Farris’ Market is happy to host Mindi as she gives away shirts in support of Mr. Kirksey. It is with thoughts for him and his family, that Mindi ended her account of the events in the Gerbes parking lot.

” Please keep the Kirkseys in your thoughts and prayers as these next 11 days start to unfold. This is hard, but Mr. Kirksey is glad to FINALLY have the right to tell about what has happened. ”

We all have the right to hear it. It is amazing the lengths those who don’t want us to hear it will go to.

The False Narrative

Friday, the Lake Sun published an article that relayed the results of a DESE report, addressing allegations of testing irregularities and breaches of security in the Camdenton Middle School. The article became subject of a public debate on social media, prompting Lake Sun content manager Eric Dundon to comment on the Facebook page ‘Mr. Sean Kirksey for Camdenton Middle School Principal’. He attempted to defend the Lake Sun’s article and their reporting of Mr. Kirksey and the district’s MAPP testing violations. His comment came after several citizens pointed out a lack of pertinent facts in the article and complained about bias against Mr. Kirksey.

Unfortunately for Gatehouse and the Lake Sun, they have made a deliberate choice in creating a false narrative in support of the current school board, its policies and administration. The Lake Sun, during school board elections earlier this year, reported on the resignation of Brian Henry and packaged the blame and laid it at the feet of three-then school board members, Laura Martin, Jim Besancenez and John Beckett.

Their reporting of the resignation of Henry, and later of Ms. Kindwall, was a carefully crafted public relations campaign. The paper’s characterization, when compared to the facts, appears to be pure propaganda designed to damage the reputation of three board members in the public eye. This smear campaign has its roots in the Lake Sun ‘article’ from December 19, 2012, ‘Details behind resignation emerge’.

In this article, the Lake Sun functions more like a tabloid than a news organization. It is void of fact and full of conjecture, speculation and rumor-mongering. The smear piece was the first to reflect publisher John Tucker’s admitted bias and does not carry a byline. After reading it, the reason for anonymity is obvious. It is not reporting, nor is it informing. This false narrative only shares a vague dirty, second-cousin relationship to journalism.

It begins by referencing anonymous sources ”close to the situation” of the resignation of Dr. Brian Henry. The piece goes on to say that Henry’s may be the first resignation of teachers and administrators who were “exasperated” and claims that the district may be “at risk for losing other talented educators”. The Lake Sun defines the “root of the problem”. They clearly attempt to make the case that the actions of then-board members Laura Martin, John Beckett and Jim Besancenez were responsible for Henry’s resignation.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Lake Sun claimed this “alliance” of board members “micro-managed” administrators by asking and emailing them questions. This, according to the Lake Sun, was “interfering with the day-to-day operations of running the district”. The Lake Sun then went on to claim that “Martin, Beckett and Besancenez voted against renewing Henry’s contract earlier this year”.

This would be one of the central premises of the Lake Sun’s smear campaign against these board members. Unfortunately, while it is long on speculation and allegations, it is short on facts.

In a December 18 interview with the Lake Sun, Henry asserts that there had been a “struggle with the administration and a few members of the board. He made claims that, for these board members, “politics…have overtaken some of the discussions” and that he “wanted to get to a spot where education is first”.

While Henry and the Lake Sun conspired to make a compelling case, neither the administrator nor the newspaper bothered to report or discuss the facts that led to Henry’s resignation. Instead, they focused on the creation of an utterly false narrative that would determine the future of the Camdenton School District by misleading voters through the suppression of the facts.

Dr. Brian Henry, along with Superintendent Tim Hadfield had sought contract extensions from the school district prior to Henry’s resignation. The extension Henry and Hadfield sought would have given them effective ‘tenure’ by adding another two years onto their current contracts with the district. At the time of his resignation, Dr. Henry’s contract that still had two years left. Both Henry and Dr. Tim Hadfield, district superintendent, sought contract extensions that would ensure their job security through approximately 2016. The three board members in question, voted against offering any such extension for the administrators. They were guided, in part, by the belief that it wasn’t fair to the public or future boards to extend these contracts beyond their current length. Additionally, this type of extension is not typically offered to other employees throughout the district. This vote, taken against these contract extensions, is what the Lake Sun crafted their smear campaign around.

The Lake Sun, in their Dec. 19 article, falsifies and conceals these facts: “Martin, Beckett and Besancenez voted against renewing Henry’s contract earlier this year.”

Indeed, the three board members mentioned, DID vote against these contract extensions, while the rest of the school board voted in favor.

Henry was already under contract. He, in fact had two years left on that contract. This vote had nothing to do with a contract renewal, it had to do with offering an extension that would keep Henry beyond his current contract. This one simple, undeniable fact was buried by the Lake Sun. It didn’t fit the narrative they and their publisher wanted to construct in order to attack the reputations of sitting board members while simultaneously undermining chances for their re-election.

This is not the first time the Lake Sun has deceived their subscribers and the voters of our district. According a source intimately familiar with the newsroom, this has been an ongoing practice at the paper. According to a former Lake Sun/Gatehouse employee, the manipulation of the news is commonplace:

“It wasn’t uncommon for one of us to go to a meeting, tell Joyce (Miller, editor-in-chief of the Lake Sun) what happened briefly and she would write the story making it sound more controversial than it was. More and more of her stories are written this way than not.”

“If a story was assigned to us, it was our own personal duty and ethic to write it as fair and balanced as possible. Once that story left our hands, it wasn’t uncommon for it to be changed and edited.”

“Through him (John Tucker), decisions were even made based on advertisers and ad sales. Everything was done to please advertisers, yet still get web clicks.”

This type of pseudo-journalism is better suited for gossip columns than for news organizations, yet it is part of the daily routine at the Lake Sun. Their ‘coverage’ of the district, as seen in the case of Mr. Kirksey, continues to present a one-sided, biased account of goings-on in our school system. It is not fulfilling a public service or need, it instead has endeavoured in staining the reputation of a popular, well-respected administrator.

The Lake Sun has continued their legacy of manipulating truth. They have presented an abbreviated retelling of allegations made against Mr. Kirksey while refusing to investigate the very nature of the charges. They have continued on a campaign that will satisfy their advertisers, many of whom have ties to the current board. By doing so, they can follow their own self-styled business model, they can satisfy advertisers while increasing web traffic.

It doesn’t seem to matter that, along with Mr. Kirksey, the public are victims of this unethical arrangement. It does not seem to matter that the truth must be sacrificed in the scramble to satisfy this tabloid business philosophy. It doesn’t seem to matter that integrity is the cost of doing this kind of business and that credibility is the trade-off for more controversial stories and larger profits.

One thing is undeniably clear in final analysis: The Lake Sun cannot be counted on for accurate reporting. That isn’t the business they are in. The paper has been reduced to acting as public relations for local business leaders and the political elite. Their brand of ‘truth’ only extends as far as the checks they cash.

Everything else is up for bid.