Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reactions to the Larry Tilford Piece

Someone clued me in to the fact that the Tilford piece, which ran as an op-ed in the Lebanon paper, ran as a letter to the editor in the Albany paper. The same person also reminded me that the D-H has a comments section.

There was also an interesting letter to the editor by one Paul Bullock. I'm going to try and reorganize things into some coherent narratives, but since that's not my strong suit, I make no claims about how well this will work.

First, the letter from Paul Bullock:

With such a clear declaration from the electorate, why does the board now falter? It seems clear that some school board members either still support Mr. Robinson, or are afraid of him. Whichever their motivation, this division between the board members will continue to fester as long as Mr. Robinson is present....A buy-out would spare Mr. Robinson the risk of a negative evaluation and it would spare the board and the community weeks of infighting and political melodrama. It would be money well spent, if it allows us to get back to focusing on the education of our children.


Hm. I can't say I agree with his claim that board members are afraid of Robinson. I see no evidence for that aside from the continual claims about his abrasive personality. And while he may be abrasive to his subordinates, the school board members are his bosses, so that makes little sense. For that matter, I'm not even sure we can claim that recent events actually indicate support for him. Instead, it seems like there are two main camps: Those folks who think Robinson should go, and those folks who think the first camp are insane, not due to their goal of getting rid of Robinson, but due to the way this little power struggle is being handled. (Presumably there is a large group of folks who either don't feel so strongly or just want sanity back, but since they've not really spoken up, I'm not sure what's going there.)

That said, a buy-out is an eminently sensible suggestion, cost notwithstanding (I say that because recent events suggest that cost is not on the mind of the anti-Robinson folks).

But then there is this in the comments:

I noticed in the Leb Express archives that Paul Bullock ran for a school board position in SWEET HOME during the last elections. I called around down there and heard he was anti schools, teachers, and principals. Now he's coming to our meetings and telling us to spend our money to buy out our superintendent. What's his problem?


Hm. If I were any kind of cynical...wait! I am! Good. So: This sure reads like Bullock is an ally of Alexander and Wineteer (as in, they think alike even if they are not in cahoots), and that he's smelling blood. Once Robinson goes, the LCSD board will hire a flunky, and the academy system is gone. Then, one presumes, Alexander, fresh from his victories, will go after the teachers' union, his current alliance of convenience aside. I'd call that a worst-case scenario, and while I think it's unlikely that it will ever happen, um, I am not so optimistic as to think it's an impossibility. More likely is that even if the aforementioned scenario is the goal, Alexander is nowhere near skilled enough to pull it off. Part of me thinks the teacher's union will destroy him if they ever get in a real fight, since a large portion of the public anti-Robinson folks are former teachers, and I doubt they'd turn on their own union.

Just for kicks, a best-case scenario: Some smart Lebanon folks get it together and beat Alexander, Wineteer, and Shimmin the next time they are up for election. Robinson's contract isn't renewed, and he eventually goes away. His replacements offers qualified support for the academies and is a helluva peacemaker. People get back down to the business at hand: Making sure that students in Lebanon get a good education.

Hey, I can dream, right?

Moving on, some contention about Mr. Bullock:

Bullock is probably another one of Rick's "boys" that will run against Sherrie or Chris next time. Rick doesn't want partial control. He's taking out the ethical board members one by one. Trying to take out superintendent. He's also a staunch republican and very anti-union. They're next.


And:

To Control: Mr Robinson was recently the chair of the county Republican party. The unionized teachers gave him a 90% vote of NO confidence. Robinson recently filed suit against the teachers union president. So who's really the anti-union, staunch Republican?


Wow. I tend to agree with the comments about the nature of Alexander's interest in the school board. I also think that the comments about Robinson can certainly be true. Both men can be staunch Republicans and even anti-union and still disagree on a ton of other stuff, like process and the academy system and who is really in charge. (Does anyone else get the sense this is at least part pissing contest on the part of some of the major players?)

So that's one major thread in the comments. What else is present?

Mr. Bullock, I appreciate the tone of your comments. The fact that you are able to convey your position in a tempered tone without insulting people merely because they do not share your views is refreshing and much needed...Lebanon school board meetings, despite the efforts of the chair, are ones that lack the sense of civility that are a necessity for people to feel safe in expressing views.


Wow. Good call. Even just based on the comments people have made about the school board meetings and the antics that occur, I wouldn't dare go and speak against the crowd mob for fear of being shouted down and/or ostracized. Look at what happens to Chris Fisher every time he tries to apply some financial common sense.

There's one more comment I want to address before this post gets too out of hand. It's a long one, and it comes from someone going by "Truth Seeker." I'll take it piece by piece:

let's take a look at some of the facts surrounding all of the recent blogging efforts in surrounding the paid administrative leave of Jim Robinson(Superintendent of Lebanon schools).... 2. The increase in grades and attendance at LHS are due to the inplementation of a new attendance policy involving Saturday School and detentions that the current LHS administration was opposed to but the TEACHERS wanted. The academies did not show any marked increasesin those areas in and of themselves prior to that.


OK. I'll take contention with the claim that grades and attendance weren't moving before the Saturday School. I suspect grades were, if not both. And even if they weren't, realistically, one has to allow for some lag time to see genuine results.

Furthermore, I'm not sure of the significance of having the LHS admins oppose the changes in attendance policy. So what? They are not Jim Robinson. Everything I've heard suggests the new policy is effective, so good for the teachers for knowing what works. But that doesn't really have much to do with the debate over Robinson (barring, potentially, his management style, but since we don't know if he opposed the policy change, it's a moot point), and barely anything to do with the academy, since one presumes those changes would have had the same effect regardless of whether or not the academy system was in place.

There's more:

3. Let's look at who has been writing letters in support of Mr. Robinson... his assistant's wife, a principal's wife, and his facilities director among others. Mostly people who have vested interests in Mr. Robinson maintaining control over the district because they know full well that once Robinson is gone the glut of excess administrators and NON-CLASS RELATED employees will be in danger of being decreased down from the statistical significant increase it has enjoyed in Mr. Robinson's tenure.


Hm. Could it be that people are actually afraid to speak out against the very vocal anti-Robinson folks? I think that's entirely plausible, and even likely. It's also possible that no one likes Robinson, but that is separate issue, and, I think, significantly less likely.

And as for the standard load regarding the bloated non-teaching employees, well, it's certainly possible. However, since my experience has almost universally been that this sort of claim is baseless and pushed by anti-union, anti-public spending folks (like Alexander and Bullock are rumored to be), I feel pretty safe ignoring this one until I see some evidence.

Then, finally, there is this:

5. Let's just remember a few of the highlights of Mr. Robinson's leadership: asbestos exposure of the students and staff at LHS due to known violations of OSHA law while he was acting as facilities director, illegal bargaining practices that caused thousands of dollars in cost to the district to repay illegally laid-off custodians, alleged violations in the civil rights of Special Education students in terms of the use of state testing for placement and graduation requirements, and those are just the most blatantly questionable in terms of legality of his actions. (Let's not ignore the punitive, top-down, apparently nepotistic nature of his leadership.)


These are all new to me, and I'm at least inclined to be open to the content of the charges, if not the delivery and vitriol. Some truth on these would certainly explain the intense dislike of Robinson. I will say, though, that the truth is rarely so clear-cut as this comment makes it sound. There are almost certainly complicating factors.

All in all, I am glad for the DH comment pages. They provide people a chance to speak up anonymously about what is going on, and anonymity helps people who are otherwise afraid to speak find their voice. I do wish the Lebanon Express had comments, though.

Sometimes I fear that this blog is turning into a one-trick pony. Then I read the paper and realize there's a good reason for it: This is a disaster, and I'm sort of upset by how it's playing out.

11 comments:

Dap said...

This is really from Lebanon Truth... It has been edited for anonymity.

I appreciate your comments. I'm trying to get a blog up and running that will focus exclusively on the Lebanon fiasco and try to get some truth out there as well as providing a safe place for people to talk about how to respond to the sports mafia. But I lack the blogging skills to know how to get it picked up by search engines. Can you help me? http://lebanonsfortruthandreconcilation.blogspot.com
If you give me the information, I'll add you as a moderator and maybe you can help me out.

There's information which is true, but the newspapers have yet to print, which shows that this is a deep-seated conspiracy of the jock cliche in Lebanon. Lebanon has a history of wrong-doing within the sports community that sickens me. To go back just a few years, Don Tomlin was fired from his coaching position at Lebanon after stiffing the district for $7000 of football expenses -- that had to be covered out of general school district funds. So he remained in Lebanon bad-mouthing Robinson for the last nine years because Robinson refused to allow the football program to steal money from the district. But the person who made the decision to fire Tomlin was KEN RAY, the A.D. at the time. Robinson just backed Ray up.

Some adults conned student athletes to show up at the June school board meeting to demand that the school district hire both of Tomlin's sons to teaching positions. Rob Allen followed the students with a plea for hiring the Tomlin boys. But do you think it is unreasonable to ask that the Tomlins actually APPLY for a teaching job. If they wanted teaching jobs, why didn't they show up to any of Lebanon's recruiting fairs? It is questionable whether Ty ever even filed out an application.

Robinson was informed by the district's legal counsel that he had an obligation to turn in Yates for his wrongdoing or Robinson could have his own license revoked.
So he turned him in. What would you do? Would you feel obligated to risk your own license for somebody else's wrongdoing.

What did Yates do? He hired Lebanon alums to run the weightroom for football players during the summer of 2006. Part way through the summer, he went to the district and told the district that it had to pay these guys because he had promised them money. When he was told that all positions had to be posted BEFORE employment, Yates concocted several schemes to find a way to slip money under the table to the coaches. Ultimately, he suggested that the district give $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club to fund sports for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. That is the only way the Club was supposed to use the money and it was required to give an accounting to the school district to prove that the funds were so used.
When Yates went to Yutzie to tell him to write out checks totaling $7,000 for Rob Allen and other HIGH school coaches, Yutzie said that the money had to be spent for middle school sports, Yates told him not to worry about it. In other words, Yates misrepresented his authority to the Club.

When the district's business office uncovered things that gave off a foul odor, Robinson ordered an investigation. It's not like robinson went looking for ways to get Bo. The business people came to Robinson with the evidence of wrong-doing.


Later in the fall, Yates made some attempt to create a cover story that the money really was being used for middle school sports by holding a couple of weight training sessions for a few boys, taking pictures of the kids to create a record of the program. However, all this really does is provide that Yates KNEW he was wrong. If Yates was convinced that his laundering of money through the Club was legit, he would not have needed to create a fake program to suggest that the money had been spent according to district terms.

To put this in perspective: Robinson increased the athletic budget by $100,000 last year, gave Yates a temporary contract as A.D. and Yates still had to go out and steal money from the little kids to fund the high school football program.

But this was not the only misrepresentation that Yates made with respect to money matters. Yates also ordered Liza Miller, the person who handles student body funds at the high school, to make out a check for $3000 to ship to the Club for a volleyball camp for the high school team. There was no purchase order nor was there a contract to support issuance of a check. In other word, he had ZERO authority to ask for a check. But Yates told Miller to write the check anyway, assuring her that it was legit.

Why does Yates think that he doesn't have to follow the rules that apply to everyone else? Robinson could have fired Yates for either one of these incidents, and he could have issued a letter of reprimand. But he didn't. Instead, he took a less severe course, issuing an 8 page directive to Yates that chronicles the "mistakes" that Yates made and directing Yates with respect to what he could do in the future.

Of course, you could say, well Bo is just trying to do right by his athletes and coaches. But let's look at what Bo and Rob Allen have been up to in taking care of their own financial interests. The coaches all signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU I) two years ago to take a 50% pay cut for the last two years in order to hold on to sports programs during the funding crunch. That was a nice thing to do and something that predated Yates' arrival in Lebanon last year. But this year, when MOU I expired, Yates went around to the coaches and got them to agree to a new MOU (MOU II) that put the coaches at 60% pay. THE DISTRICT OFFICIALS RESPONSBILE FOR NEGOTIATING WITH COACHES HAD NOT ASKED FOR ANY EXTENSION OF THE MOU I! And Yates, once again, even though he knew he was under investigation for earlier wrongdoings)stepped out and violated his job description. So Yates took the MOU II to Kim Fandino, either a co-conspirator ar patsy, and got her to present it to the district so that Yates would have a cover for his wrong-doing. so wasn't Yates just acting for the good of the kids? No. Let's look at good-old-Bo's proposed sports budget. Isn't that an interesting document: Bo put in a huge raise for himself -- going from an extra-duty contract paying him $15,000 (on top of his 60,000-something base pay contract) to either $20,00 or $22,000 for serving as A.D. Oh, let's take another look at that proposal. Isn't it interesting that Rob Allen's pay isn't 60% but 95% while the other coaches (who make less money to begin with) are supposed to settle for the MOU II rates. Let's put this in context: Bo and Rob are out there getting approximately 50% raises while everyone else is left at pay approximately 50% of what it used to be.

Do Yates and Allen really think that they should take all of the credit for Lebanon's recent sports success? And in't that incredibly selfish?

So now let's use this information to enlighten ourselves about the current board situation. Debbi Shimmin, whose husband just happens to be an assistant coach for the football team and a director for the Boys and Girls Club, decides that Jim Robinson has to go. Why? Because Robinson told Yates that he couldn't play dirty anymore. Isn't it ironic that the person who is losing his job is the one who is clean? Robinson is losing his job because of Yates' wrongdoing.

Is this what we want to teach our children?

I said...

As Rick said in his original statement to the press "Bo Yates was his flashpoint". This whole thing started because he was angry with the location of Riverview school some six or seven years ago. He became president of Citizens for Accountability. In fact, considering the process he used for our current situation this is a pretty funny quote that was in the paper. "Among Alexander's concerns are the processes used to choose the realtor and site manager for the school. Alexander alleges the public records paperwork shows procedural flaws and doesn't detail why certain individuals were chosen over others."

Because the school board at that time wouldn't sell the property and find a different location he began a recall on three of the members which failed. The other two board members were immune because they hadn't been in office for six months.
In my mind unless a board member does something really bad recalls
are a poor way to spend the school district's money.

His next move was to run against (and win) one of the members he tried to recall.
Then when two others positions were up for re-election he rounded up Josh and Chris to run against them. Chris of course turned out to be a man of high moral so Rick still didn't have the majority.
I suspect he was behind the attempted recall of Sherri, Chris and Tom McHill which also failed. Another attempt to waste the district's money.
When Tom McHill didn't run again Debbie won his spot on the board. And we all know the rest of the story from there.
The attempted recalls are a red flag on his lack of concern for the districts money. The suggestion of hiring a high priced lawyer for the evaluation was another. My biggest concern is his latest quote in the Express.
"Alexander said he isn't concerned about a lawsuit and no matter what the cost or time, he is determined to see the process through to create a better environment for Lebanon students."
No matter what the cost? This thing could easily pass the seven figure range depending on how long it takes. Hopefully Debi or Josh will be able to talk some sense into him.

Dap said...

I,

Do you remember his specific objections to Riverview? Was it the fact that it's on the other side of the dyke and therefore - supposedly - more susceptible to flooding?

Or did he actually object to the physical design of the building?

I said...

One article says, " In mounting the petition drive, recall committee members questioned the location and value of the property selected for Riverview School and disputed decisions about student safety going to and at the site.

Another one mentions the same but adds "disposal of other school district-owned properties."
I think that had something to do with auctioning off old school supplies.

There was a "town meeting" where all the professionals involved in determining if the site was appropriate for a school met with the public and answered questions. Based on the petition it looks like the concerns were more about traffic but maybe flooding was still an issue.

Calapooia said...

Whenever a local construction levy passes a few people get a lesson in government purchasing procedures.

They are very disappointed that contractors from other places come in and land the work.

Alexander showed up at the district office with his own photocopier during this time and copied perhaps thousands of pages from the facilities department file cabinets. He did not find anything especially interesting and nothing more was heard of the matter.

This is the thing about Rick Alexander. He constantly digs for dirt and recruits dissatisfaction. He never has a positive or hopeful message.

Dap said...

"Give me power and attention" is rarely a positive or hopeful message.

I said...

I appreciate all the info on Rick I can get both positive and negative. I'm putting things together and finding an eerie similarity between the two men despite the obvious differences. I'm thinking of making a proposal to Dap that we co-author a best selling mystery around this. The title of course would be Hometown Insanity
A true life blog about the fight between two men over the same cause and how it tore an entire town apart.

I'm not sure if the name of the authors should read "Dap and I" or "Unknown"?

Dap said...

I'm thinking pseudonyms.

Calapooia said...

Well maybe there is an overlap of personalities- stubborn and single minded, but the scale of their intellect is so vastly different that I would hardly see them as twins.

Well maybe, twins where there is this evil misguided twin and he goes after the good twin and... Hey! Maybe there is a good book in there for you.

I said...

After reading through the archives of the Lebanon Express trying to understand the law suit filed by the superintendent against Rick and Josh things are becoming much clearer.
(By the way Dap, if the book makes millions we will owe much to the Express for their excellent reporting and coverage of this.)

Here's the link to explain how I've come to my conclusions:
http://www.lebanon-express.com/articles/2007/01/24/news/top_story/story_top.txt

There are also some items under Code of Ethics for School Board Members I want to point out.
These came from the Oregon School Boards Association web site.
Board members do not manage the district on a day-to-day basis.
Individual board members may not commit the board to any action.
Makes decisions only after the facts are presented and discussed.
Understands the chain of command and refers problems or complaints to the proper administrative office.
Recognizes that the board must comply with the Public Meetings Law and has authority to make decisions only at official board meetings.
Insists that all board and district business is ethical and honest.
Is open, fair and honest -- has no hidden agenda.
Takes action only after hearing the superintendent’s recommendations.
Presents personal criticism of district operations to the superintendent, not to district staff or to a board meeting.
Respects the right of the public to attend and observe board meetings.

It appears Jim felt Rick and Josh were acting outside of their authority.
"Robinson's attorney said in a letter sent more than a year ago to Wineteer and Alexander that they had acted outside their authority as board members." Nowhere can I find the specific actions referred to but from other articles think some had to do with the charter school, personnel, and union negotiations.


An example would be if Bo went to a board member to complain when his AD contract was not renewed and they took it into their own hands without first discussing it with Jim or made a decision between themselves and not at an official board meeting on how to handle it then they are acting outside their authority. Or if one member gave someone the impression they would be hired for a position within the school district without bringing it up at a board meeting first and getting the majorities approval.
I'm not saying that's what happened, it's just an example.

Jim did not feel the other board members were doing it which is why he only sued Rick and Josh but they brought the other board members into it making them liable for their actions.

"The school district was not a party to the suit originally. The district was brought into it when Alexander and Wineteer filed a motion in court that the district had to be included and the judge agreed."
This forced the district's insurance policy to pay the $11,551 bill by their attorney Paul Meadowbrook. (I could write a whole other blog about this guy.) The insurance cap is $25,000.
Had the bill been more than the cap I assume it would have come out of district funds.

Now, to protect the other board members, any future board members and school district funds from other questionable actions by individual board members, Jim had his attorney draw up an agreement which was approved by the majority and signed by the chair and then dropped the law suit.
"The vote, which was taken in a public meeting following an extended executive session, was unanimous among the three board members who were present.

The agreement was reached between attorneys for Robinson and the school district, but also brings an end to the original legal action against Alexander and Wineteer, who are represented by Paul Meadowbrook.


Sprenger said the agreement redescribes the roles of board members and the superintendent, affirms that the board recognizes and will abide by the superintendent's contract with the district, and states that board members' authority is as a group, not as individuals.

“By signing the agreement, we acknowledge that this is how it should be,” she said. “I expect the agreement will send a message that the majority of the board wants to quit bickering, but I'm not under the misapprehension that it forces anyone to do anything.”

In essence, the Superintendent is responsible for running the district within parameters set by the board.

The original defendants, Rick Alexander and Josh Wineteer, did not attend any part of the meeting. Board chair Sherri Sprenger said they were notified of the meeting by mail and phone.

“I would rather all board members had been here,” she said."

The entire agreement is in the link above but here's a couple of things that pop out at me.

"In the event claims are made against any individual board member as a result of engaging in unauthorized conduct as described herein, the board member may not be entitled to a defense and indemnity on said claims, either by the District or its insurance carrier."

The District has agreed, which agreement is hereby affirmed, that if criticisms, complaints and/or suggestions regarding the administration of the District, including any and all matters with respect to personnel, should come to the attention of any Board member or members, such member or members will promptly refer such criticisms, complaints and suggestions to the Superintendent for study and recommendation to the Board. Individual Board members are not authorized to intervene in the complaint process.

I had previously thought it was strange for a superintendent to sue board members but after reading through years of archives I realize how out of control Rick was and am not sure what other recourse was available to Jim. Rick could have very well put the entire district in harms way and Jim spent his own money to protect the district. I'm also concerned that with Jim on leave Rick may start back to his old ways.


Now, before I explain the eerie similarities between the two men, does anyone know if Rick graduated from high school and if so, which one?

Dap said...

I,

Will you please send me an email at rhetoricalwasteland@gmail.com? I'd like to be able to communicate other than solely in the comments section.

Thanks.

 
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