Letters for May 20, 2004
Not a hero
I’d like to correct a statement attributed to me that suggested that I am uncomfortable being seen as an “advocate” for Jeff Sloan. What I said was that I was uncomfortable being seen as the “champion” of the Sloan cause. I do not want to be seen by anyone as some kind of hero because of my position on an issue. There is nothing heroic about merely stating what you believe to be right and standing by that belief, something that every member of the board did in this case. I think my previous statements in open meetings make it clear that I have advocated for Mr. Sloan.
Regarding the reassignment of Principal Jeff Sloan, it is unfortunate that the superintendent of schools and four very decent men on the school board are being vilified, by some, in response. Character assassination is the weakest defense and one I’m sure Jeff neither requires nor encourages.
During the hearings and even now the children are watching us. What lessons are they learning? The end justifies the means? If you think you’ve been wronged, do wrong back? It’s OK, even good, to disrespect public administrators and elected trustees? Blow your top, it’s healthy? I don’t pretend to be above these thoughts and actions; they are default settings in my psyche too. I mention them as a reminder for those swept up in this drama.
Your editorial on May 13 was stomach churning [“School board did its job”]. Instead of belittling the thousands of Chicoans who support Jeff Sloan, your paper and the school board should look at the big picture. Chico is the victim of a dirty trick by Scott Brown.
The fact is Superintendent Brown has the power to move personnel within the district at his discretion. He could have quietly transferred Jeff Sloan at any time. But instead of taking the heat for making a stupid move, Brown whipped up some insignificant yet serious-sounding charges against Sloan then duped the school board into doing his dirty work for him.
Thanks to Mr. Brown, a good man has been wronged, a great school has been damaged, and several members of the school board face certain removal in November’s election after blatantly ignoring the wishes of the parents and students most affected.
Instead of focusing on serious issues like the budget crisis, declining enrollment or construction of the overdue high school, Superintendent Brown opted to shish-kabob the School Board and drag Chico through this expensive and completely unnecessary mess.
Now watch for more accusations and heads to roll as Mr. Brown settles other old scores before he laughs all the way into his retirement on Chico tax dollars.
This letter is in response to the May 6 letter from Mr. Jones [“Go fish, Joe”] of Red Bluff condemning Orland High School and the Orland Unified School District for allowing Country Joe McDonald to perform for our senior class due to his past participation in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War.
I am the history teacher who helped organize the event, along with student Jason Rhoades. It was a history teacher’s dream to have an individual who appears in our textbook come and perform to our students as well as provide keen insight to what was going on during the turbulent days of the war.
I am extremely careful in presenting both sides of all the issues that I discuss in class. This is especially true with the Vietnam War. It is my job not only to present my students with the historical information surrounding events like Vietnam, but to also get them to form their own opinions and come to their own conclusions.
Mr. Jones, neither the Orland Unified School District nor I had a political agenda by bringing Country Joe McDonald in to speak to our students. It is not my job to force political thought on my students, and I resent that you are implying that I do so. I have great respect for all who served our country in any armed conflict, or in peacetime, as Country Joe did.
We all know someone who served or died in Vietnam. In fact, I have a Vietnam combat veteran lined up to speak to my U.S. history classes. It is an important part of our history, and it is who we are. To ignore the anti-war movement in teaching the time period would be to deny my students a comprehensive history of the times.
Orland High School
Mr. Jones should have gathered a few facts before he wrote. First, only seniors attended the performance in the multipurpose room at OHS. Second, Country Joe did not go on a tirade against the war in Vietnam or coerce the teens in a hearty recital of the “Fish Chant.” And he made a point of saying that drugs certainly did not work out for him. He didn’t berate young Americans currently in U.S. military service, and he didn’t mention he served in the U.S. Navy from 1959 to 1962, which negates Jones’ claim that “McDonald never had to risk his life for his country.”
Last week, for Mr. Jones’ further information, a Vietnam combat veteran spoke at Orland High. It is one of the few times in my life where I’ve witnessed freshman-aged students not even whisper during a 90-minute period. The students were enthralled by the speaker and quite moved by his experience “in the Nam.” How better to learn from that time period than by hearing people who were part and parcel of the times?
In the past, Orland High School has been the center of negative attention for students fleeing to other districts and the perception it is riddled with drugs and a bastion of gang affiliation and membership. Those perceptions are unfounded, and I would be happy to personally refute them to anyone who wishes to visit our campus rather than berate it second-hand. Come and see for yourself.
Orland High School