Meridian School Uses Parent E-Mail List For Political Effort Opposing Luna Plan

Looks like the principal of Meridian’s Renaissance High School is using confidential parent e-mail addresses for partisan politics to oppose State Superintendent Tom Luna’s latest plans to revamp Idaho education spending.

GUARDIAN reader Chuck Everett was contacted via e-mail from his child’s school with the following message and attachment.

From: McGrew Wendi [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 9:29 AM
Subject: Important Letter for Parents Regarding Superintendent Luna

Please read the attached letter from Mrs. Alicia Peterson. If you have questions or comments please feel free to email Alicia at [email protected] Thank you!

Wendi is merely the messenger and was ordered by the principal to send the message to parents in an effort to solicit favorable testimony before the legislature. When he asked for equal time and access to the list of parental e-mails, Everett said he was met with silence.

Regardless of the potential impact on a school or district, the GUARDIAN feels it is not only inappropriate, but illegal to use public resources to advance one’s political agenda. Mr. Everett was just one of the parents who felt their trust was violated by using their e-mail address for partisan purposes.

UPDATE 6:30 p.m.–Meridian Schools spokesman Eric Exline told the GUARDIAN the use of the confidential parent list was indeed inappropriate. As a potential remediation, he offered Mr. Everett the opportunity to send an opposing view e-mail message to the same list of parents. The school would not disclose the names, but would gladly send the message.

We think it was a good move by the Meridian School to both admit the mistake in judgement and offer the fix.

Entire partisan text follows:

To Parents of Renaissance High School students,

My name is Alicia Peterson. I work at Renaissance in the Safe School Room and also as the Academic Accountability Program coordinator. I am also a mom of three children who attend school in the Meridian School District, one of whom attends Renaissance. Ms. Andrew asked me to attend a meeting with Dr. Clark regarding Superintendent Luna’s proposal for education reform. I have read some of the details of Mr. Luna’s plan in the newspaper and was concerned about how my kids would be affected. After meeting with Dr. Clark, I realized that Mr. Luna’s plan would have a greater impact than I had expected.

Superintendent Luna wants to increase class size. He says that the average class size, statewide, is 18.5. I don’t know about you but we have never had a class with only 18 students in it. In reality, the minimum number of students in a high school class would be raised to 25. This may not sound like a lot, but if there are not at least 50 students who want to take the class, thus meeting the minimum number to create two classes, there could potentially be 49 students in one class. That is a frightening number to me.

Superintendent Luna wants to decrease the number of teachers in the state by at least 770. This would result in 132 teachers losing their jobs in the Meridian School District. The teachers let go would probably consist of those who teach music, PE or other electives. Our students need these courses to help them get into good colleges as well as well rounded students. The decrease in staff would also result in 47 support staff being lost. This includes secretaries, nurses, library staff, and special education staff.

Superintendent Luna is also proposing that high school students take 6 of their required classes online. These online classes would be taken at school, but without a certified teacher in the room to answer questions or provide assistance. Before I worked at Renaissance, I was a substitute in the school district. I didn’t like to sub in math or science classes because I am not strong in those subject areas. How would a person not trained in certain areas be able to help these students? Also, the number of students assigned to an online teacher would increase. Would the students really be getting their needs met? How can you pass online English without writing a paper? Can you learn chemistry or biology without participating in a lab?

Superintendent Luna proposes to give every high school student a laptop. My children have a computer at home. The computers that are in their bedrooms do not have internet access as I want to see what they are working on. I want them to go to bed at a decent hour and not be online with friends or playing games. I have a filter on my home computer that blocks pornography. First, how can Superintendant Luna go around my rules for my children in my home? Second, who is paying for the filter and the internet service that is going to be required for kids to use their computer at home? Last, who pays to replace the computers if they are lost, broken or stolen?

What can parents who are opposed to Luna’s plan do? First, e-mail your representatives. They tally comments both for and against. Second, public testimony is scheduled for Monday, February 7th at 3pm in the Senate Education Committee. The testimony will continue for the next 4 days. Individuals can sign up to speak and will be given 3 minutes to testify. If you do not want to speak, that is okay. You can also just show up to the testimonies. When you sign in, they ask if you agree or disagree with the proposed bill. Please show your support for our students. Students are also welcome to attend and share their testimony. Ask them how they feel about these proposed changes.

If you would like more info, please e-mail me at [email protected] . Thanks for your time!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Is the school system top heavy with administrative costs? What the hell is a “safe school room” and why do we have an ” Academic Accountability Program Coordinator”
    It looks to me that these should be the first jobs cut! The waste in our school system has got to stop. The local districts march out the teachers that would be lost in the new plan. What about all these stupid support positions such as the above?
    If we are serious about saving money, we best start looking at the need to have 115 different independant school districts in this state. At some point, the education system has got to realize that “WE DON’T HAVE ANY MORE MONEY”!!!

  2. I grew up in Southern California in the 1960’s and school districts were UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICTS over 50 years ago. Taxpayers/patrons knew it was less costly and eliminated administration costs in favor of putting money in the classrooms.

    We moved to Idaho in 1978 and there are an ungodly number of school districts in Canyon County in a state that had less than a million people. All in the name of “LOCAL CONTROL”. The magical words of wisdom on all the need for all the school districts.

    I will submit that Idaho Taxpayers are paying a heavy price for “LOCAL CONTROL” and getting virtually nothing in return. Elimination of administrative overhead and support staffs, centralized purchasing, duplication of IT costs and more. It just does not add up in my mind the costs outweigh the benefits. A flatter leaner structure makes quicker and better decisions for everyone including students and teachers.

    Flattening of school administrative costs in Idaho may be forced upon the unwilling bureaucrats running Idaho schools when they finally realize we are out of money and political will to tax more for schools with all the admin burden on the table.

    Idaho now has about 1.5MM people and there is still no good reason to have all the school districts.

  3. I don’t see how this is political — it is talking about a proposed plan, which it seems to me is what we should do, no matter how we feel about it. Any type of sweeping proposal like this is needs lots of discussion. And as to whether parents should be contacted through a school list, just how is this different than sending a letter home with students asking parents to vote for a school bond. And, by the way, if our parents hadn’t voted in favor of those school bonds, you baby boomers wouldn’t have had classrooms to sit in or teachers either.

  4. When do I get my free laptop? A friend from a recent cruise worked for this school district and I learned that Meridian boasts the largest school district in Idaho. I can’t remember much about Meridian 40 years ago. This Luna guy must be a real firecracker.

  5. Oh my is the pond of the teaching profession being made to ripple again. I think Luna should suggest the children get paper and scissors instead of computers (I personally think a computer for every child is not feasible). Back to the paper and scissors. They would increase the dexterity of the child; teach them to follow lines assuming free cutting was not allowed; and the teacher could bone up on global warming.
    On a more serious note I am so sick and tired of our children being exploited and dumbed down for the ideas of-yes I am going to say it- seflish linear thinking nincompoops.
    Hey I wonder how much school districts could make by selling their student’s parents information list.
    Don;t forget to tell your child you love them as the interest of politics sure do when the legislature is in session.

  6. A few questions and thoughts before we proceed with the giant leap:

    This is a good way to preserve the bloated administration at the expense of the teacher student ratio. Can we see a list of cuts and why? Is there even room on the desks? Is there enough electrical outlets? Who’s got the contract for those computers?

    I do believe in keeping up with technology and our kids are falling behind the world in nearly all the disciplines, but has the State demonstrated how this will fix that overall problem?

    Also this will give advertisers, politicians, and special interest groups in-their-face access to the children. Just look at the damage Al Gore did in ten years with false information. Will the education department be controlling that access? Will they by charging for it? What’s the cost of that access? Just think if you sell personal care products and have special marketing access to teen girls for example.

  7. This is another example of some in the education field not understanding the line between their job, and political activity while at work. It is sad that an educated Principal does not understand this. While at work they are not to advocate for or against any one political view. As much as the teachers and the Union hate it, Tom Luna is the legitimately elected Superintendent of Public Education. If they disagree, they are free to advocate their point of view after work. But to use taxpayer funded data bases and e-mail addresses, is unethical and likely illegal. Would it be any different if Sheriff Raney had his deputies putting up campaign signs while on duty in their patrol cars?? There is no difference. Using taxpayer funded resources is wrong and the Principal should make a public apology…..

  8. PS: Cyclops, we do indeed have more money. The reason why our political and super smart people like to point to Europe is their huge tax rates. Perhaps they will be taxing net worth soon in addition. They point to China because they want that kind of power. As was shown this past Fall the people will give them more power to spend more. For example, how much unused capacity at our mostly new airport, now given the green light for debt expansion.

    Perhaps we should change over to a shareholder type voting system?

  9. The entire issue is really pretty simple…it all comes down to money. When one looks at where the existing loot goes one inevitably finds about 80% goes to pay and benefits and less than 20% to everything else, buildings, books, supplies, buses, fuel utilities, everything.

    So, when the educators demand more education money they really mean more money going to them in increased pay and benefit schemes, not more going to actually educate Junior.

    Equally, when taxpayers or government speaks of cuts to education, the same educators know that means less for them, as they get the lions share to start with.

    Just follow the money…education has little do do with the real discussion, who gets the money does.

  10. Dr Spiegelvogel
    Feb 4, 2011, 4:14 pm

    The email using the school email system was a misuse.
    The email was partisan.

    The district’s response was appropriate.

    Where’s Chuck’s response to close out this incident.

  11. I would wager Luna and the 90% of the Idaho legislature could not pass an SAT college entrance exam.

    These are the people who make our laws for everything, including education.

  12. One needs only to look at Meridians employment site to understand the depth of ridiculousness this district operates at.
    Why do we need the following?
    ERI assistant
    IBI professional
    ERR assistant
    MEI assistant
    PBI assistant
    Overcrowded assistant
    Safe school assistant
    Sign language interpreter
    Consulting teacher.

  13. Dog, I would wager a goodly percent of our union educators also could not pass a SAT exam today…

    The difference is, Luna and his folk can be removed from office while the union folk cannot.

  14. Rod in SE Boise
    Feb 4, 2011, 10:47 pm

    Just a few thoughts:

    Our students lag behind those of most other advanced countries. We need to catch up, especially in math and science.

    Idaho teacher pay lags behind that of nearby states. Low pay = less talented teachers = less well educated students.

    The Boise School District just finished consolidation. Remember all the old schools they tore down?

    You can’t make money (educated students who can get good jobs and pay taxes) without spending money.

    Demonizing teachers is DEFINITELY the wrong way to start.

  15. Some comments seem to indicate that Luna is a dictator and whatever he wants should come to pass. I thought everyone still had a right to input, discussion, analysis, criticism and alternative proposals. Believe it or not, teachers, parents and school administrators are also citizens of Idaho

    EDITOR NOTE–Based on what we heard from readers, the frustration seems to be the other way around. Citizens don’t have the resources–be they lists or cash–to mount campaigns for or against issues. We certainly agree BOTH sides should have the rules on any public issues.

  16. Chuck Everett
    Feb 5, 2011, 10:40 am

    Dr Spiegelvogel, my response shouldn’t be necessary. However, Eric Exline, PR man for the Meridian School District, did offer to send out to the same e-mail list an opposing viewpoint.

    My problem with this action is the old “two wrongs do not make a right” philosophy.

    Using this e-mail list to distribute political propaganda is wrong and quite possibly against the law. That is a profound statement.

    My point was NOT to argue the merits of either viewpoint on this important topic.

    It is important to understand that the Meridian School District, through Mr. Exline, only offered to continue to offend people. Does no one care that Administrators and School board personnel are spending their time trying to influence public opinion instead of doing their job, TEACHING. They only offered to “continue to offend” when they were called on the carpet. These type of actions by the school district have happened in the past and will happen in the future until disciplinary action is taken.

    Thank you!

  17. I don’t believe anyone is trashing teachers. Their bosses? You Bet!!
    I don’ believe the starting salary of teachers in Idaho are related to their competency. Once that degree is earned, young teachers want to live in places like Idaho so they may take advantage of the hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, kayaking etc., that we have virually minutes from the city. An opportunity to live in cities with low crime rates and family friendly attitudes. Yet they want a salery commensurate with the L.A Unified teachers starting salary. Sorry folks, it simply doesn’t work that way. As with any business, it is a question of supply and demand.
    The problem that must be addressed is the bloated,overbuilt bureaucracy in our educational system.

  18. Rod, it is not demonizing teachers to note that throwing more money at the same teachers will not result in anything improving except the educator’s next vacation. If money worked the DC schools would be astounding (in a good way).

  19. Chuck: “Against the law”? What law would that be? Do you even understand how a school board works? It is elected, by voters. One of its jobs – as an elected body – is to “influence public opinion.” If you don’t like that, if you are a MSD patron, then next time you “vote” for someone else. If you are not a MSD patron, no one gives a rip what you think.

  20. We have poured billions and billions of dollars into education over the last twenty years. And yet….. our graduation rates are a little less than they were 20 years ago.

    I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that more money even if it’s “for the children” is not the answer. Basically we’re acting insanely, doing the same things over and over again and getting the same or worse results.

    I guess my question would be, where is the money going, where has all the money gone? They don’t even teach cursive handwriting anymore in elementary school. What exactly do they teach? Not cursive and apparently not science.


    Let me answer for Chuck. Look up Idaho Code 18-1359. I tried to cut and paste it, but the comment section would not allow me to do it. It is on the web if you go to the Idaho Statue web page.

  22. Chuck Everett
    Feb 8, 2011, 7:15 am

    Thanks Smeg, just now saw the post from ‘Dad.

  23. I’m still trying to figure out how 50% of the State buget goes to schools. Not sure its correct but I would think its for about 25% of the people. If you figure the amount of students in this state and compare it to the amount of non students. What % is it.

  24. Robert – it’s “for the chillllldddrennnn”. “They are our feuwchchchuuuurrrre.” Well mostly for teacher’s salaries, but you get what I mean.

  25. Some of us close to the situation do not buy the parents protest, nor the students uninformed whining. I have been teaching online courses for 8 years and I get students who were definitely not prepared for college. My husband is a jr high teacher. He would benefit from a merit system. Evidently not everyone feels as confident that they can, or the teachers would be saying “bring it on” based on merit.

    There is no reason a student cannot write a paper nor interact with a teacher online.Do we have people in the correspondence school mentality of 30 years ago? I took an online anatomy course 40 years ago – video feed. Teachers do not need to be in the room to “connect” with students. Nearly every college now has online courses.

    To not expose students to the future of education is child neglect. Parents should be focusing on how the online education is designed and managed not, IF it is appropriate. It is inappropriate not to introduce them to the future. I believe, properly managed, if the naysayers would just stop the rhetoric and get with the 21st century and say how are we going to do this, the product of our system will improve.

    There are teachers protected from performance accountability. I get audited 2x per year and I can assure you the audit is more thorough than sitting in on any class for an hour and reviewing ISATs. Merit pay is how the rest of the world (except government employees, oh yes – these are unionized government employees)earn a living. The rest of us function on our merits, we earn our way by putting out a good product. As a college instructor, I am getting sent low quality products that would never be released to the public in a business trying to make a profit. Cheaper, better, faster – pick 2 – I think it can be done better and cheaper – maybe even faster if the college credit course are online – as many junior colleges across the country are doing.

    The whole resistance is just nonsense and NOT in the best interest of the future of our kids. Even Harvard has online classes!!! Get over it – if you have never done it, you have no business acting out (parents not kids – they get to act out sometimes) Parents you need a time out!

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