Thank the flying spaghetti monster that I did not make any promises to be a better version of myself this year because that Acorn editorial has me giving all sorts of side eye. Like whiplash level side eye. Jorrey, why you gotta do this to me on DAY 2 of the new year?
So, if you didn’t catch it, The Acorn published an editorial commenting on the current tension/situation within our school board — particularly regarding the shenanigans (that’s really too light of a word) of the self-anointed “watch dog,” Sandee Everett and Dr. McLaughlin’s comments at the last board meeting. First of all, doesn’t “Watch Dog Sandee,” sound like a bad sitcom? Totally wish it were just that.
Look, I'd be down with a legit watch dog. Can it come in Corgi form? Vigilance is important — even critical, especially when our future generation of learners’ quality of education is on the line. As a parent of a child enrolled in the CVUSD, I'm all on the transparency train.
Hard questions have to be asked … and sometimes they lead to hard answers. Unless you’re Sandee Everett, whose tactic is to literally throw shit at a wall during board meetings and then ask 1,425, 400 questions about where the shit came from, and then boast she’s a watch dog for it. Again, I want a Corgi. Is that too much to ask?
Anyway, the Acorn has run with the whole “watch dog,” descriptor for her as evidenced in the editorial, but I think we can all agree there’s a pretty thick line between acting as a “watch dog,” or as that of an “attack dog," and the editorial lightly explores this concept.
In response to Trustee Sandee Everett’s increasingly erratic behavior behind the dais, writing: “Everett’s actions over the past year have gone way past the point of watchdog to attack dog,”
“But what Everett does goes beyond, and for her and her supporters to say otherwise is pure political gamesmanship. We don’t know if the atmosphere she’s created qualifies as a hostile workplace, but we know it isn’t helping.”
While I can appreciate the directness of these two sentences (take this compliment Kyle, trust me), that’s about all I can appreciate. They’re easy to overlook when you examine the editorial as a whole, which starts off insinuating that the board isn’t already working on important challenges as the result of not being able to “form a united front.”
The editorial goes on to examine the relationship between Ms. Everett and Superintendent Dr. McLaughlin, who, at the last school board meeting, publicly aired more than a dozen instances in which he believes Ms. Everett has used her position to lie about his character and his intentions in work-related situations, creating what he described as a “hostile work environment.” Having attended a majority of the meetings in which these instances took place, I can recall the examples he cited which include (transcribed from the recorded footage):
There have been a number of false accusations in public made about me by you. As the board’s only employee, I feel this “gotcha” leadership style has truly impacted my health, impeded my ability to effectively run the district, to lead staff through difficult matters related to the board matters, and at times, make decisions out of fear that myself or staff will be called out in public because they do not align with board member Everett’s belief system.
I have a list of at least 12 accusations that you have made publicly since January of 2019, as your only employee, the board’s only employee, I find it reprehensible that this continues. You cannot lead a district this way.
If you want me to go off the list, it started off in January:
- Superintendent staff provided feedback to trustee area maps prior to the board reviewing maps. NOT TRUE.
-Statement made during a board meeting: Superintendent having relationship with an attorney prior to a time working on area trustee maps. NOT TRUE.
-Statement made during a board meeting: Superintendent or staff already having a relationship with demographer prior to working on area maps. NOT TRUE. We worked in a professional manner, with the demographer that won the bid for the project.
-Statement made during a board meeting: District committed fraud (Sandee interrupts here) when providing documentation to our JPA for reimbursement during the Woolsey Hill Fire. NOT TRUE. (At this point Sandee is vehemently trying to call point of order to talk over Dr. McLaughlin so I missed a few here.)
-Hard to hear here for a second … gets back in at: Superintendent worked with other four board members to decide what area trustee maps would be selected as a final map. NOT TRUE.
-Statement made during a board meeting and followed up in a lawsuit: Your requested information about M&O budget was not honored. NOT TRUE. Information was provided in an email.
-That your requested information about text books was not honored. It was clear in an email that the district staff would be providing and getting you the material prior to the school year getting up and running. Materials were provided at a later date.
-I was told in an email that I mishandled the censure request. NOT TRUE. I worked with the district attorney to work through the process.
-Last board meeting it was that civic center fee schedule was supposed to be brought back for approval at that meeting. NOT TRUE. It was always discussed that a committee work through the process and bring it back when it’s ready.
Tonight I think you’ve made at least three accusations. Add those up. I’m telling you as your employee, it’s got to stop.
So then things get weird. Why is this editorial fighting itself? I feel like it writes a sentence. Then punches itself in the face and then writes another sentence to balance out the other sentence. For example, it first says, of McLaughlin’s comments, that this “should not then be taken lightly.” And then, in the next breath takes the position that Dr. McLaughlin deserves the abuse because he earns a salary for his job, and that his transparency about Ms. Everett’s lies was “unbecoming of the position” and that he should expect to “take the criticism.” Taking criticism by the way, is one thing. “Suggestions of fraud, graft, backroom dealings,” (and that is a quote from the actual editorial) is another. (And, lest we forget, Sandee Everett remained silent as her friend, Barb Sponsler, alleged that Dr. McLaughlin and an Acorn reporter were having a late-night tryst in the board room after a meeting. Surveillance footage revealed otherwise, and documented Ms. Everett walking out with Ms. Sponsler during the time she alleged the incident had occurred.)
Jorrey, this is a bad take.
And it brings me to another point: why do we expect those suffering abuse to remain silent for the appearance of grace? If that’s what it takes to be graceful, I’m not sure it’s all it’s cracked up to be. Actually, when I think of all of the women screaming in mom groups at one another to “HAVE SOME GRACE,” I can confirm I want none of it. It was Dr. McLaughlin’s refusal to stay silent, that was described as unbecoming — not Sandee’s behavior? Ya listened to a man lay his heart out about his health being affected by a rogue trustee and you wrote a whole editorial to categorize it as unbecoming?
I’m familiar with this line of criticism from often well-meaning individuals and it’s maddening — this notion that you can only respect certain people you believe are supposed to stay “above the fray (which in this case means being silent).” Let me be real with you. “The fray’s” perfectly highlighted curls are suffocating us like Ursula-level tentacles after she gets King Triton’s scepter. Wait a second. Did she use her powers and steal your voice and then cast a spell on you that you tried to fight off as you wrote this? Cuz, that would actually make more sense.
But it’s more than a bad take, it’s a lazy one. Instead of allocating resources to do a really solid piece of reporting on these allegations and the history behind them, as well as providing context for environment, (aside from the one article published on it after the board meeting), you wrote an editorial that acted like it was going to get in trouble if it went over the word count or didn’t have a balanced number of sentences going after either “side.” It reeks of the “there are fine people on both sides,” approach, and GAG.
And folks, sometimes there just aren’t. I understand The Acorn needs paid subscribers, and has its concerns about alienating a percentage of its readership when it takes on stronger, GASP “controversial” opinions, but … if the result is to throw some bread crumbs to everyone so you can say: “see, we’re fair!” while in effect doing a large disservice to the true reality of the situation, why bother? Either really tackle the issue, or don’t.
Since 2016, I’ve witnessed Sandee Everett blatantly disrespect teachers via her poorly constructed, failed lit censorship policy.
I’ve watched her verbally attack both parents AND students while seated at the dais after disagreeing with them.
I remember when she voted to cut public comments short, effectively denying students who had been standing for six hours the ability to speak … and then voted to give herself extra time to speak instead.
I’ve seen her comments online denigrating PTAs.
I sat horrified as she attempted to put our student trustee on the spot, asking her if she ever knew anyone who had been raped (can you imagine attempting to force a student to answer that at a school board meeting without any real knowledge if the student herself is a victim?).
I watched as she told a trans student he was a bigot after he asked her to help represent him and students like him.
I’ve witnessed her texting audience members while seated at the dais, and also taking pictures of us. I’ve watched as she’s rolled her eyes at parents she disagrees with, during public comments.
I heard about the comments she whispers under her breath, hoping the mic won’t catch them.
I remember that she lied on her ballot designation, listing herself as a school counselor — she’s not one.
I remember when she attended an anti-public school forum as a trustee, and used her presentation to denigrate trans students while announcing her re-election intentions.
The list goes on and it’s an important one to remember.
But for some reason, The Acorn thought the hottest take from this whole Sandee-orchestrated circus was to suggest that when those who suffer abuse as the hands of the abuser speak up … it’s “unbecoming.”
As much as Sandee dreams of wearing a watch dog cape, she isn’t one. She’s a disruptor. She is an organizer of chaos, doing so with the intent of tarnishing our district and district personnel’s reputations for perceived political gain. Interestingly enough, the term “watch dog,” is more commonly associated with journalists. A quick internet search, for example, pops up with this response first: “The role of a watchdog journalist can be that of a protector or guardian. The role of a watchdog journalist as a guardian is to supply the citizens with information they must have "to prevent the abuse of power," and to "warn citizens about those that are doing them harm."
So, Acorn, I ask: When will you make this role of watchdog journalism the priority, instead of your laser focus on not appearing biased? I know you have capable reporters. I know this editorial is not the best foot you can put forward. I’m respectfully asking for more from you in 2020. And Kyle, you know I’m nothing if not honest. Pick up the phone and give me a ring if you want to talk about it. I’d rather cheer you on, as a supporter of local journalism and its importance in our community, than come at it from this angle. You're our one legit local paper. Help us out here.