Teacher’s Email Rocks Alpine District

Teacher email hits district

You’re all aware that Rhonda Bromley, Alpine School District spokesperson, recently sent out a personal opinion piece trying to discredit the SaveASD website. She not only sent it to several thousand ASD employees, but to government officials throughout Utah County and even at the state level. Two weeks ago she had it published in the Sunday edition of the Provo Daily Herald. Now it is featured on the district website’s homepage and is being sent out to parents via PTA newsletters across the district. If you missed her letter it’s right here:

Rhonda had sent Susie Schnell and I a copy of her letter many days before she sent it out far and wide all over the state. She told us it was only fair that we got a copy of what she’d been sending out to friends and neighbors who were concerned with what they had been hearing. Susie then typed up a nice response back to Rhonda to explain that our problem isn’t with teachers, but with the district’s insistence in following a Progressive Education Agenda written by a socialist and humanist. If you haven’t read it, it’s here:

Rhonda was in possession of Susie’s letter long before she sent out her own opinion piece to government officials, teachers, and the press. However, she neglected to send out Susie’s response resulting in a one-sided treatment of the controversy. Therefore, Susie chose to make her private letter to Rhonda public by posting both letters on the SaveASD website. The story might have ended here except that Rhonda’s letter to all the district talked about the SaveASD site thereby driving traffic to the site (tip for budding political players out there–be careful about pointing people to your opponent’s message).

Well, I received a couple of interesting emails yesterday. The first was from a man who seems to indicate he’s not with ASD but was told by a district employee that an unauthorized letter was sent to the entire district list. The letter, from an anonymous ASD teacher, replied to Rhonda’s opinion piece by asking teachers to look at both sides of the story before they jump to conclusions.

The man who wrote to us suggested that we distance ourselves from this letter if it’s not from us. He eventually got us a copy of the original letter which had a From name of “Save ASD <happyteacher76@….>”. I don’t know why this anonymous teacher chose to put “Save ASD” in the ‘From’ field but it was not sent by SaveASD. Perhaps he/she is a supporter who just wanted to make sure teachers read the message.

During the course of the day we received multiple copies of the anonymous teacher’s email as well as the most panicked response to a situation I’ve ever seen and it came straight from Superintendent Henshaw. First is the letter from the teacher and then the Superintendent’s response.

Dear Fellow Teachers,

We all know our district has many critics. As educators we should always be careful not to side with the critics or the districts too quickly. When issues arise we should do what we teach our students to do, think critically and consider all points of view.

Recently a district spokesperson penned an editorial that blasted the critics and characterized them as being extremist. Please join me in examining all sides of the issue before categorizing people falsely.

For example, the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) is a very liberal organization promoting many things counter to what I see as a good educational system, yet many of their influential members, like John Goodlad, are highly influential in our system. The critics of the district are opposed to these influences and want to see the district move in a way that reflects the culture of the district. Please read through these links explaining why the critics are saying what they are saying before coming to any conclusions.

–An anonymous teacher—

Superintendent Henshaw’s response:

This morning a mass email was sent through our system from “happyteacher76.” The email was from an anonymous person who claims to be a teacher in the district.  In working with technology, it appears to be an email from someone outside of the district, who is not a teacher, and who went to great lengths to protect his/her identity.  While there are times when anonymity may be appropriate, this is not one of those times.

As a district we have tried to encourage transparency and open dialogue among employees.  It is not uncommon to hear from an employee who wishes to express a differing point of view.  The value of identifying oneself in this process allows for further dialogue and mutual respect while either agreeing to disagree or coming to a resolution.  Anonymous letters do not allow for this process and therefore are not given much credibility.

The content of the email suggests that the district is tied to certain philosophies that are counter to the culture of the community.  It lists as its subject, “Rhonda Bromley,” which suggests that the person is opposed to an editorial authored by Rhonda.  The person disparages Rhonda’s editorial by using the phrase, “blasted the critics and characterized them as being extremists,” which is an inaccuracy.  The editorial sought to respond to misinformation and present the district’s point of view.  Unlike the mass email, the editorial authored by Rhonda was clearly underscored by her signature and the personal courage that it reflects by expressing her opinion in the public square.

It is against district policy to send out mass emails to all employees without authorization of the district.  We regret that this email has resulted in considerable distraction to you as employees and appreciate your efforts to keep focused upon the best interests of students.

Superintendent Henshaw and Cabinet Members

This is my favorite line: “While there are times when anonymity may be appropriate, this is not one of those times.”

I would love to know from the superintendent’s perspective just when it would be appropriate for someone to retain their anonymity? “Yes, my name is Jane Doe and I sent it out.” As if this teacher wouldn’t be fired on the spot for using his/her real name in such a letter. Why on earth would this letter not have any credibility? What does the district find so objectionable? This teacher is merely inviting other teachers to read both sides of the story and then come to a conclusion, not telling them what to believe.

The Superintendent’s letter also admits that everything sent to the whole district has to be approved and authorized by the district so Rhonda’s original letter would have had direct approval from Mr. Henshaw.

It’s also mind-boggling that Superintendent Henshaw AND the Cabinet Members (did you know the Superintendent has a “Cabinet”?) say Rhonda’s letter didn’t “blast the critics.” The Superintendent’s letter above says that Rhonda’s letter was to correct misinformation presented on the SaveASD.org site yet neither in his brief letter, or in Rhonda’s 5 pager which he approved, could they identify a single instance of misinformation on this website. This is compounded further by the contradiction in their emotion-laden letter which was sent out far and wide. Here are some relevant clips.

“I am disturbed about the recent creation of a website called ‘Save ASD.'”

“The fact that the ‘saveasd’ website could be created and opinions can be expressed freely and without legal repercussions is evidence of democracy.”

“It is important for all of us to ask questions and do research on our own to find out if things that are being sent to us or told to us are true.”

“I invite you to do your own research and find out for yourself what is going on in our schools. I invite you to stop spending time creating websites and writing and sending e-mails to each other, but instead join the hundreds of other parents who are actually volunteering in the schools serving the children every day. If you find something that concerns you, I invite you to talk to the teacher, principal, or others so that your concern can be addressed. Don’t just believe what you are reading from me or from anyone else. Find out for yourself. You live in a country that allows  you to do that. Take advantage of that right! I am confident that if you take time to do your own research and make your own decision, you will find that Alpine School District is accomplishing great things.”

Yes, ask questions, do your research, don’t believe everything you are told, unless part of that research causes you to question the district and adopt an alternate point of view because critical thinking isn’t tolerated at the district office when it contradicts the official position. What are you afraid of Alpine? Independent thinking?

-Oak Norton