Letters for March 15, 2007

A time of reckoning for CUSD
Re: “Abuse of authority” (Cover Story, by Robert Speer, CN&R, March 8):

Thank you for your informative and aptly titled article that shed new light on what was arguably Chico Unified’s ugliest chapter: the tenure of megalomaniac [Superintendent] Scott Brown and the ousting of one of the district’s most capable administrators.

Three of my kids attended Marsh [Junior High] and benefited from Jeff Sloan’s extraordinary leadership. While some of his subsequent actions to vindicate himself have gone too far, he remains a man of exceptional gifts who deserves to have this miscarriage of justice redressed. Regardless of one’s personal opinion of Sloan, I hope all would agree that this kind of abuse of power will not be tolerated in positions of public trust here in Chico.

As for what can now be done, I suggest the following:

1. The CUSD board appoint a committee to conduct a quick and thorough investigation. Any employees found to have been complicit in Brown’s machinations should be disciplined or terminated.

2. Rick Anderson and Rick Rees, the two remaining culpable CUSD trustees, offer a public apology for supporting a monster and allowing him to abuse a district employee under their watch.

3. The CUSD offer Sloan a formal apology and fair restitution, including a return to his former position, unless future district employment was specifically prohibited under the terms of their recent settlement.

4. As for Scott Brown, self-described “private citizen": a public flogging would be nice, but probably not as remedial as the district pursuing every legal option to hold him accountable for his actions.

Tom Mount

When I read the account of what really happened to Jeff Sloan and his vice principal, Frank Thompson, three years ago, I felt ill. To think that a successful principal—respected by faculty, staff and students—could be railroaded the way he was, it is obvious now that justice was not served.

Furthermore, to read that Scott Brown wrote his doctoral-degree thesis on “The Critical Role of the Superintendent in the Induced Exits of Tenured Certified Staff,” I feel doubly ill. Obviously, he had a vendetta against Mr. Sloan and decided to “try out” the theories of his thesis.

Jeff Sloan has had to spend thousands of dollars defending himself. His good name has been harmed. What message does this pathetic episode give our children about civics and the law, about common decency and fairness, about due process?

A terrible injustice has been done to Sloan, Thompson, their families and their friends. The new school board should rectify this immediately.

Nancy Main

Thanks to Bob Speer for shedding new light on the ongoing Jeff Sloan controversy. I recall that many of us wrote letters pleading with board members to stop their stiff-armed saluting to Superintendent Brown, when they were supposed to be overseeing him, but to no avail.

Brown is now gone for good, and not likely to confess his sins. But should justice have to come by spending Sloan into bankruptcy in legal fees? Isn’t it about time board members like Rick Rees not only make a public and abject apology but set in motion undoing the terrible damage they have done? Andrea Lerner and Kathy Kaiser, who weren’t there at the time, should consider the abundant protections they treasure as university faculty and insist that the same be offered to Sloan.

When letting bygones be bygones is the easy thing to do, and indifference the order of the day, people of conscience and good will must take responsibility for changing things.

Donald Heinz

Over 30 years ago, I lost a position when my boss committed a similar unscrupulous act. I had a young family to support, and conventional wisdom from friends and family advised me to quit and walk away.

What a mistake. Your article brought back all the pain that was associated with such a horrible ordeal. One doesn’t recover; it is with me every day and remains one of the biggest regrets in my life that I didn’t have the same courage to fight back.

I honestly don’t care if your school district goes broke over what they did. I will tell you this: When I hear that the perpetrators are fired, arrested, or in orange suits picking up freeway garbage, I will take my wife and family to a dinner, buy the finest wine they have, and only then will feel that I too have survived.

Thomas Pritchard

Editor’s note: We received no letters critical of the story, just two anonymous phone calls.

Dramatic loss
Re: “Breaking theater news” (Arts DEVOté, by Jason Cassidy, CN&R, March 8):

I was alarmed to read that Joe Hilsee will no longer be the Blue Room’s artistic director as of June 15. This bodes ill for theater in Chico.

Finding someone with Hilsee’s talents, power and drive in theater is rare. With Hilsee gone, the Blue Room will probably do a few bland musicals, some sentimental dramas, a few children’s shows and then collapse.

I’ve taught at California Institute of the Arts and done hundreds of shows. In my experience, without the motivation and drive of real theater artists, theater dies on the vine.

Ever since Pioneer Days got banned, Chico has been sliding into banality and insipidity. When Hilsee leaves the Blue Room, we may as well put up signs at the city limits saying, “Welcome to Chico—we’re now as dumb as Red Bluff.”

Michael M. Peters

Editor’s note: For more about Hilsee’s departure, please see Newslines.

Unite, neighbors!
I am a Chico State student currently enrolled in an American-government class in which we are encouraged to get involved in government affairs. My group and I have decided to get involved at a local level by trying to raise public awareness about the dreadful condition of North Cedar Street.

I, along with many of my peers, live in the Avenues, where we find North Cedar Street to be our main route to campus and downtown Chico. We pay the price as our vehicles need to be serviced more often due to the wear and tear of potholes and uneven road surfaces. We are wary of walking to our homes through this poorly lit neighborhood (also lacking sidewalks).

The neglect of North Cedar Street represents a further disregard for the residents of this neighborhood. We know the city understands the hazards that this street poses, but we feel that it is necessary for city officials to place this issue higher on their priority list.

We’ve heard talk; now we ask for action!

Kristen Thengvall

Another call to action
March 19 marks the four-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. On March 6, Zogby International reported that President Bush’s approval rating had dipped to an all-time low of 30 percent, and only 23 percent rated him favorably for his handling of the war in Iraq. In the March 2-4 USA Today/Gallup Poll—asking, “In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?"—59 percent of Americans polled said yes!

I urge you to not make the mistake of missing attending one of the important peace demonstrations this weekend to voice your concerns.

Lana Kitchel
Los Molinos

Editor’s note: Check Scene for Iraq War anniversary events and Culture Vulture for more on civic involvement.

Re: “M&T mine appealed” (Downstroke, CN&R, March 8): Local opponents of the proposed M&T gravel mine west of Chico tell the CN&R that if the project is approved, they do not expect Parrott Investment Co., owner of the nearby Llano Seco Ranch, to finance a lawsuit, at least not by itself. And they hope no such action is needed.