Why is it I just can’t seem to get over feeling like famed NY Yankees catcher Yogi Berra? Whether it is legislators trying once again to sneak themselves a big increase in their compensation or school board members looking down their noses and trying to shut-up the community they serve to me it’s just like Deja vu all over again!
At a meeting of the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board about a month ago board member Cory Underhill interrupted and tried to shut down the comments of several parents during the open Call to the Public. While board members are permitted under Open Meeting Law to respond to criticism after the speaker has completed his/her comments, they may not take away the citizen’s First Amendment rights to speak freely. Board president David Sandoval sat quietly by and did not correct Ms. Underhill’s glaring violation.
And here we go again. Tuesday evening at the meeting of the Litchfield Elementary School District Governing Board member Kim Moran at least twice interrupted speakers by disrupting their comments by holding up a sign for all intent and purposes calling them liars. Board president Danielle Clymer did not comment upon Ms. Moran’s sign and rightfully so. If Ms. Moran chooses to treat her constituents so disrespectfully on video during a board meeting, so be it. That is now in the record. However Ms. Moran’s actions disrupted the speakers infringing upon their 1st Amendment rights to express their opinion within their allotted time. Ironically, this occurred just after Mr. Chris Thomas, attorney for the AZ School Board Association, provided the board members training in Open Meeting Law including Call to the Public.
These are just two recent examples of the utter lack of respect elected governing board members display for the community they serve. Déjà vu Yogi, Déjà vu.
Subject: Conduct of board member Kim Moran during public speaking in last night’s school board meeting
Good morning Superintendent Gunning, Governing Board Members, and Mr. Thomas,
As a collective group of parents and citizens of the District, we would like to say how disgusting the behavior of Kim Moran was last night during the public speaking portion. For an elected official to act so childish, so arrogant, so condescending and entitled is shameful and she made an absolute mockery of the meeting, not to mention lost any shred of credibility she may have had for herself and her stance on her Equity work.
Additionally, President Clymer – how did you not intervene? How did you not reprimand Ms. Moran publicly for this display? How did you sit there and remain silent, and not stand up for your constituent, the citizen? Instead, you make Mrs. Schwartz the VICTIM by telling her all of this was considered part of her 3-minute time limit. Not 2 speakers earlier, when someone who was speaking in favor of the equity plan was met with some boos from the audience, you didn’t skip a beat – you let her know you would give her extra time for the disturbance. However, when a disturbance was made by a member of your own board, it was excused by you. What a horribly weak act, and shows a complete lack of leadership and discipline. Not to mention, she did this TWICE and you said nothing. The second time when Mandee Lott was speaking, a very emotional, respectful, speech from the heart that a member of the public musters up the courage to do in front of 200 people, only to be met with the arrogant, condescending display from Ms. Moran. There is no excuse for your silence and not controlling your board member.
Back to the issue – for Ms. Moran to not be able to control her emotions enough, and for her ego to take over like that to willfully construct a sign reading “NOT TRUE” and hold it up in the face of a retired, taxpaying citizen (who was an educator herself for 30 years, mind you) is abhorrent.
I also find it incredibly ironic this happened not even an hour after Mr. Thomas gave a slideshow presentation on the Open Meeting Laws and the Arizona School Board Association’s goals and intents of these meetings. Slide #20 states “(a board member) can respond to criticism made by those who addressed the board.”
However, is holding up a sign in defiance an appropriate & accepted response? Are we at a protest here, or are we adults that are capable of having a conversation with each other? I assure you, Mrs. Schwartz could have handled a conversation very easily. Ms. Moran probably knew that, and that’s why she chose to display a sign instead of talk like an adult. And furthermore, was she even being criticized? My contention is Cynthia Schwartz was not criticizing Ms. Moran at all. Here is the verbatim transcript, starting at 1:26:18 in the meeting shown here on the district’s official YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSdZeUk2oI0
“Cynthia Schwartz. The equity statement that the governing board approved in December refers to Kendi’s definition of anti-racism. Even if tonight, or in the future, the governing board decides to delete this sentence from the equity statement, it does not negate the intent to follow the anti-racist agenda that is put forth by…”
It is here at 1:26:38, Ms. Moran decides to hold up her sign reading “NOT TRUE.” You know how it went from there, and Mr. Thomas I invite you to take a look and listen as well. We have recordings made from the audience that do not cut out the crowd noise like the YouTube video does, but needless to say the crowd of parents and citizens were appalled by Ms. Moran’s actions.
To say this was unprofessional is a severe understatement. Over the past year, we have seen so many stories online and in the media about school board members, school board meetings, and the over the top antics and theatre that is created and makes for viral news stories. How could you let that happen in LESD? A once proud district, will now be shamed, laughed at, and shared millions of times online.
By now, you certainly know we have done a considerable amount of media. Ms. Moran couldn’t have given us a better gift unless she put a bow on it. This will be distributed to every local and national media outlet, every website, throughout social media, and will be sure to bring much more attention now they will all see Ms. Moran’s true colors. We will also be including our local elected representatives who have been very interested in what is going on and have asked us to keep them apprised.
Signed respectfully and as one,
With fellow concerned parents/citizens: