Sunday, June 14, 2015

Editor at Bat. The Count is 2 Strikes and No Balls

I guess we thought the Sun Prairie STAR was the SPASD School Board’s newspaper of choice.  Oh wait…it is!

So why is the managing editor continuously swiping at the school board or select members?
More to the point, why is it that no one at the STAR helm seems to be doing any Fact Checking?  Hey, I found an e-mail that says, “blah blah, blah”.  Didn’t we all learn that not everything you find in emails, the Internet, or (ahem) local newsrags…is true?

We guess not.  Someone needs to set the record straight.  Since we don't have any credible journalistic presence in this town, SP-EYE will have to wade in.  Jeez…if only our local editor had just picked up the phone and called School Board president Tom Weber, perhaps there’d be much less egg on that ruddy complexion.

So… in a recent editorial, our gallant Editor threw the entire School Board under the bus, taking them to task for supporting a rally sponsored by a grass roots group called the Wisconsin Public Education Network.  For a guy so worked up about the rally, his staff had written about it in advance,

The regional pep rally gives the everyday people who care about our schools an opportunity to unite and let lawmakers know we stand together in support of the schools that are the hearts of our communities.

Is this yet another instance of the yin and yang that swirls around the editor and those closest to him?

The Single Partial Truth
SP-EYE's Fact Check arm indicates that the only partially true statement made in his editorial was the Editor’s assertion that a June 4 email correspondence indicated that the rally was "supported by the Sun Prairie Area School Board".  While that is a factual statement, the e-mail was incorrect.  It should have been stated as "School Board Members support this effort", in a more generic manner.  An e-mail sent on June 7th did not specifically state any specific support or sponsorship.  No official promotional materials for the event mentioned the Sun Prairie Area School District or School Board - in any capacity, much less sponsors or supporters.  They only said it was Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN) event.

We find that the Editor is correct in that if the Board officially was going to support the rally, it should have taken official action on this, as has been done previously.  No Board action was taken because the Board as a whole did not officially support the action.  Our Editor needs to remember that School Board members are still entitled to have an express their personal opinions on these and other subjects.  That is, of course, unless we missed that memo that the relevant section of the Constitutional Amendment has been trampled or repealed like other things of late.

So let’s look at how far off base Our Editor is.  He might want to start thinking about dosing his gluteous maximus in a pool PDQ.

Our editor writes, "Previous practice by the Board has been to discourage political activity by staffers and board members."  
Really?  Since when?  Got a policy to cite? 

o  The position of a board member is indeed political by the very nature that it is an elected position.
o  The board does not discourage district staffers' political activity - that in fact would be a first amendment violation (freedom of speech).  The Board DOES actually prohibit is political activity to be done on school grounds when students are present for any student involved activity.  (Same rules apply for signing nomination papers for example).  The policy hinges on the students though.
o  By statute (120.12, 120.13, and 120.44) the School Board has broad power to do "all things reasonable for the cause of education."

Our Editor writes, "...using taxpayer funded email to post its position and does this now mean staffers are free to use taxpayer subsidized resources to promote whatever agenda they see fit, even it goes against the interests of those same taxpayers?"

o    Did our Editor even review the District’s specific email policy?   Arguably, any district account holder is free to use their account in the execution of their position in the district.  This would include board members in their role as advocates for the best interest of the district and its students.
o    In a free and democratic society it is difficult to find any issue on which all taxpayers agree.  Staffers use district resources at times, in their job capacity, for things that are not supported by all taxpayers - take for instance teaching of evolution – We are certain this idea is not supported by all taxpayers, however, it's a concept that is taught using district resources. So is birth control.  And so are many other subjects.
o    And why is Our Editor suddenly interested in district e-mails?  We wonder why he hasn’t looked into the less than subtle internal e-mail campaign to discredit Erik Olson and then push the Board to hire Dr. Davis for superintendent? 

Our Editor writes, "We suspect that if the Board had planned to discuss this openly that one or more members of the public would have objected to any position being taken."

Really?  Did you really just write that?  Forgive us, but the only logical response to such a BSC statement is “No Shit, Sherlock!”

Hell, one community member appears at nearly every board meeting and objects to anything and everything related to the budget.  So what?  Remember we had ONE objection to the Maureen Mengelt Memorial and it had to be subsequently relocated?
Good grief!  WE SUSPECT that if the Board supported a motion for peace, prosperity, and happiness to each and every human being that SOMEONE would be opposed.  Well, probably a lot, with all those ISIS and Al Quaeda mofos out there!
o     Did Our Editor stop and think that there was no board meeting between the time they learned of the rally and when the rally happened.  President Weber first learned of the rally on June 1 so the only meeting scheduled was June 4th and putting it on that agenda was impractical.
o     The Board's position on this specific subject (the State budget) is not new.  The Board has now passed two separate resolutions regarding the State budget and in particular public school funding on two separate occasions.  These resolutions were then signed by Board Members and sent to legislators and the Governor.  There was not a single public comment either time those resolutions were taken up by the Board - the last one this past Monday evening, just after the rally ended.  These resolutions were noticed as part of our agenda and the language of the resolution attached to BoardDocs prior to the meeting.
o     Given that, it is doubtful that anyone would have spoken out against support of the rally (other than one Board Member who did not support the resolution).
o     This Board, and the previous Board, have been quite clear and have never wavered on our position with regard to the State budget and our funding concerns for public education.

And finally, Our Editor writes, "Without that objection, the rally appeared to be a taxpayer funded excuse to bash those in this state who are trying to reform public education..."
Taxpayer funded, Mr. Editor? 
Taxpayer funded?
 That’s about as likely as…

The rally was in NO way funded by tax dollars - or at least funded through the Sun Prairie Area School District.

SP-EYE learned that WPEN filed for a facility use permit and were granted one through the District's regular facility use process.  They were treated as a Type 4 user and are being charged $124 for the use of the field/chairs/stage/etc. If they had needed to use the gym because of weather, they would have been charged an additional $228.  They were treated just like any other Group 4 user.

Policy KG specifically states: "b. The Board encourages the use of school facilities to provide forums for the discussion of issues, including controversial issues, provided that such forums do not disrupt or interfere with the instructional programs of the schools. Authorization for use of school facilities shall not be considered as an endorsement of or approval of the activity, group, or organization, nor for the purpose it represents."

And how does Our Editor even know this?   It is our understanding from those present that the STAR was not in attendance. 

We personally find it interesting that the Star, while they promoted the event by running WPEN's press release, didn't cover the event at all in the paper - even though it was in their home town.  There were several news agencies at the event, or provided coverage, including:, Capital Times, WISCNews (Baraboo, Beaver Dam, Portage), Chippewa Herald, LaCrosse Tribune, Daily Union (Ft. Atkinson), Channel 3000, WISC-TV, NBC15, and others.  The event was also picked up nationally.

Shame on you Editor!  It’s hell getting old, but you might want to at least ATTEMPT to do some fact checking before tossing out one of your cringeworthy editorials.