At the age of 73, after making a small fortune through an award-winning career in Hollywood, Jeremy Hoenack knocked on and put door hangers on over 1000 doors in 110° heat to get 360 signatures to be on the ballot for a seat on the Litchfield Elementary School District Governing Board.
Hoenack, who relocated to Arizona to escape the insanity of California before it was hip, wanted to save public education. To that end, he humbled himself before the voters and begged for their support.
He won the election, but at a price he could not have anticipated. It is hard to place a price on innocence, but one would imagine it is steep.
Now, Hoenack says he won a ticket to a “horror show.”
Litchfield Elementary School District does better than most schools in Arizona. With a dismal math proficiency rate of 57 percent, and a reading proficiency rate of 56%, Hoenack finds himself asking how bad it is for kids in the schools with lowers scores? He asks how it is possible that his district and others have time to waste on political pablum posing as curriculum when kids are so starved of math and reading skills.
I interviewed Hoenack to find out just how it feels to be one of the few school board members in the state willing to take on the failing status quo:
Q: What did you expect to find, when you took your seat on the Board and how soon did you realize that it would not be what you expected?
I decided to run because someone told me it was the most thankless job in the world, and I like challenges. I was not officially seated until January, but soon after the election the District Superintendent Jody Gunning was very welcoming. I met with some of the key administrative staff and toured two schools. I was very impressed with how well she managed a huge organization.
On December 1st, I attended a board study session as a member of the public. About 55 minutes into the meeting the last topic was an Equity Statement. I didn’t know much about open meeting laws, but it was surprising to me that over and over again, Board member Kimberly Moran, who was pushing this Equity Statement, admitted that she had not gotten any feedback from the public. At one point, another board member expressed concerns that a shady racial quota hiring practice could “get ugly – sideways.” Ms. Moran responded, “and it would be obvious.” The discussion bounced around the lack of awareness of the public, then Board President Danielle Clymer reminded the board members that ultimately the vision and the direction of the district is decided by the Board, as if that authority justified keeping the public in the dark.
On December 8, the Equity Statement vote was the last item. It came up after 2 hours and 18 minutes of boring business, and much of the audio was unintelligible. When Ms. Moran presented the Equity Statement with Kendi’s definition for the first and only time ever in an open meeting, the audio was better, but it was presented as hard-to-read whole pages and not broken down into PowerPoint slides as is normally done, so I never noticed it. Ms. Moran briefly discussed each item until she got to the definitions, which she quickly glossed over, just mentioning that there are definitions. But she did bother to make a highly legible PowerPoint to share a lyric from Starting Now, by Toad The Wet Sprocket and an implementation timeline.
Hiding Kendi did not matter, because it was voted on minutes later with no input from the public. It was not until weeks later that I saw the Equity Statement on the Governing Board page of the LESD79.org website. For the first time, I noticed the definition of anti-racist which stated, “We subscribe to author Ibrim X, Kendi’s definition: One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’”
Funny how they left off the end of the quote, “The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.” Therefore, everyone is a racist and race must dominate one’s thinking at all times. For example, Kendi implied Amy Coney Barrett is a “white colonizer” who uses her two adopted Haitian children as “props.” Those kids are well educated, happy and an integral part of her large, beautiful family.
I believe Kendi’s name and the District’s allegiance to his definition were intentionally concealed from the public until after the December 8th vote.
Q: The Board seems to be focused on students’ feelings more than on educational outcomes. Does this help or hurt students overall?
Student feelings are important especially when there are discipline problems but what kids really need to succeed is truthful information. Studies show that setting goals and expectations are one of the strongest levers in education. For decades it was believed that running a mile in under 4 minutes was impossible and no athlete was able to do it. Then, someone who did not believe in impossible did it. The next year, 14 people ran the mile in under 4 minutes and now it is so common that no one thinks about it.
Our country is not perfect, but it has been the most successful at solving problems, especially those related to race. We elected a black president – twice. We are the least racist country in the world as demonstrated by millions of people doing anything they can to come here illegally or legally. The school district has never had a complaint about racism.
So rather than giving kids truthful information, the school district has embarked on a secret Transformational Equity Work, to implement what in my opinion is systemic child abuse. Subscribing to Ibrim X Kendi’s definition means the district has embraced a continuous obsession with race. Everyone is either a racist or anti-racist. “There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’” The clear inference is that white kids by default must feel they are bad and oppressors who need to examine their every thought, words, and actions to find subtle manifestations of racism that are surely there, and black and brown kids by default must feel they are victims who will be held back by systemic racism. Telling kids they are bad, or cannot succeed, is child abuse according to many experts.
Kendi says, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” So, the Board, rather than address the main problem of kids not learning reading and math, has infected the district with Kendi’s lunatic hate, which parents describe as everyone hating everyone.
Q: Are decisions driven by a small group of activists on and off the Board or are they largely responsive to the Litchfield community has a whole?
At the December 1, Board Study Session, Ms. Moran implied that the Equity Statement came from a Diversity Empowerment Committee which included herself and individuals involved with Anytown Leadership, Inc. which is a social-justice advocacy organization focusing on students.
As for the community input, there was none, as admitted by Ms. Moran, on December 1. Instead, the Board and the District have concealed this. Mid-January 2021, Board President Clymer posted the quarterly Governing Board President Letter, which welcomed me as a new member, but made no mention of the new “Equity Statement.”
Eventually a link was posted, but it was not until February 16, 2021, that a ten-page LESD Transformational Equity Work document was posted on Google Docs, only accessible to the Board and perhaps a select few of the staff. It outlined in detail a timeline on how Kendi’s philosophy would be implemented at Litchfield. Three pages are devoted to curriculum changes. Goal 4.3 is shocking: “Ensure teachers have clarity, knowledge and agency to “adapt, modify or enhance” curriculum” and “to explore ways to enhance curriculum … to bring cultural awareness and diverse voices and perspectives to their students. According to this, teachers will be encouraged – if not required – to enhance all of their curriculum as per Kendi’s brand of child abuse because of the Governing Board’s “Equity” mandate to adhere to his anti-racist theory.
Q: As a Board Member, what can you do?
Being a minority of one I knew my single vote would never count, but an up-coming agenda item, teacher contracts, caught my eye. I realized the teacher contracts should be modified to require specific performance from teachers to address the dismal academic achievement scores in the district and to prohibit teachers from teaching Kendi’s ideology or even inferring that kids, by skin color, are victims and therefore cannot succeed, or are oppressors and bad, which again is child abuse.
On February 21, I wrote a letter to Superintendent Ms. Gunning stating that the district could be open to liability if it did not prevent that, and that it would be considered negligent because it was fully aware of the potential.
On the next day, February 22, at the regular board meeting, when the teacher contract came up on the agenda, Superintendent Gunning suddenly announced that she had received information which her attorney, Jennifer N. MacLennan, Esq. of Gust Rosenfeld P.L.C. needed to review and therefore the teacher contract meeting would be moved to an executive session the following Tuesday, March 2nd. Then prior to March 2nd it was again postponed to Wednesday, March 3rd.
I sent letters to everyone I knew explaining the potential for teaching Critical Race Theory, the upcoming vote on teacher contracts, and relevant links. By March 3, the Board received 40 letters from the public, unanimously expressing surprise, horror, and opposition to the direction the district was taking, and the need for specific prohibitions in the teacher contracts. There were no letters supporting “Equity” or leaving the contract with no prohibitions.
During the March 3 Open Special Meeting, the sole agenda item was teacher contracts. When I attempted to present reasons why changes to the teachers’ contract were needed, the entire Board, and especially attorney MacLennan did everything possible to shut me up. At that point, the executive session was over, and she was merely a member of the public and should not have been allowed to speak. Nonetheless, she repeatedly warned me that I was violating Open Meeting Laws, even though I was clearly presenting why the contract needed to be changed which was the entire purpose of the meeting. Finally, I just started to make my presentation. They all started speaking at once to stop me from revealing what the district was hiding with the secret LESD Transformational Equity Work, when it should have been figuring out how to raise dismal achievement scores. When I stated that I was speaking for the 40 people who wrote eloquent and scholarly letters, Board member Melissa Zuidema astonishingly said, “That’s because you wrote letters to them!” I stated that it is part of my job as a board member to inform the community about what is going on in the school district. MacLennan continued to badger me with unwanted and false “legal advice.” While they were all attacking me, President Clymer, called for a motion to vote, the motion was made, seconded and the voting began. With my “nay” vote I clearly stated that the action of the Board was despicable and that they should be ashamed. The meeting was adjourned.
Before the meeting, I gave my proposed changes to the Board, but I was unable to present them to the public during the meeting or even get past the introduction of my presentation. My presentation was 1. Where we are 2. How we got here and 3. What needed to be done. It would have taken less than five minutes for me to read my prepared presentation.
Why was attorney MacLennan there and allowed to speak at all? She was no more than a member of the public at that time, with no right to speak at all, yet the Board let her beat me up and badger me over and over. She served no purpose except to keep me from exposing the deception of the Board and District, including the Transformational Equity Work document they were hiding, which proved why students needed to be protected in the contract.
I don’t remember anything in my ninth-grade civics class that said an elected board member could be “canceled” from presenting the concerns of the public pertaining to the item on the agenda.
The late afternoon of March 3rd, Superintendent Gunning and Board President Clymer sent a letter out to ~12,000 parents stating that there were no changes made to the curriculum and that that any future changes would have to be voted on. Her letter disingenuously omitted any mention of the LESD Transformational Equity Work document, or that curriculum, hiring and discipline is actively being changed to Kendi’s race perspective, per the district’s infatuation with Ibrim X. Kendi’s racist lunacy.
Q: Where do you go from here?
I am not a legal expert, but I feel like I am living in a horror movie. My job is to get the kids out safe.