On April 2, 2007, the day before Franklin voters went to the polls to decide on two school referenda totaling $78-million, my blog had the following headline:
Franklin school officials sink to sleazy new low to get votes
The Friday before Election Day, during school time, hundreds of Franklin High School seniors of voting age were taken to an Assembly and then drilled by school personnel about why they should vote for the referenda.
Doors to the Assembly reportedly were locked so no one could leave and no one could enter to see and hear what was going on.
I wrote the following:
The impropriety of this action by Franklin school officials is clear. The surprise Assembly on the Friday before the election should never have taken place. I’m not sure if the Assembly was illegal, but it certainly was extremely unethical.
It smacks of a desperate, underhanded, sleazy maneuver by folks who must be very worried about the outcome of the election. On principle alone, these referenda need to be resoundingly rejected.
Shame on the Franklin School District for this disgusting and despicable tactic!
Later on April 2, I blogged an e-mail I received from a Franklin parent:
Now that the school district has given the senior class a civics lesson and is encouraging them to exercise their right and privilege to vote(many for the first time):
1. Will they be excused from school to vote?
2. Will the students get a lesson in how to register to vote; how to determine what district they live in; and where their polling place is located?
3. Will they provide transportation to the polls?
4. Will they earn a grade for voting—how are the students going to be assessed following this civics lesson? Will they have to wear the I Voted sticker as proof of voting?
5. Will they tack on an additional 2 hours to the make up school days since the students missed first/second hour to attend this civic lesson?
I have more questions to add but the most important one is:
When will the investigation into the legality of this action begin? Who will be held accountable?
The referenda failed miserably, losing 60-40%.
Not long after the election, the District Attorney’s office began to investigate and wanted answers from outgoing Superintendent Bill Szakacs. He did respond to those questions.
No charges were filed, but the DA’s office told me at the time it was still reviewing other options.
A few weeks after the election…
Just how naïve do they think we are?
By Kevin Fischer
April 25, 2007
During my career, I’ve interviewed literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of elected officials, policymakers and authority figures. I’ve covered just as many press conferences. After all that I’ve heard, trust me, I know when I’m being snowed.
That’s why I have to shake my head at some of the statements made in an article reporter John Neville posted today on the District Attorney’s investigation into charges of misconduct by Franklin officials during the recent school referendum. Some of the quotes are incredibly breathtaking in their posture that Franklin school officials saw nothing, heard nothing, said nothing, and did nothing wrong.
For example, School Board President James Ward said “he doesn’t know of any pro-referendum materials disseminated by school district officials.”
With regard to the much-publicized, much-talked about assembly for Franklin High School senior students the Friday before the election, Ward “said the reason he knew about the assembly was that his daughter, Anna, a senior, attended the event and told him.”
How can the School Board President be so left out of the loop and the decision-making process about an assembly of 348 students in the high school the Friday before the election?
How can the School Board President, one of the top cheerleaders for the referenda, not be aware of pro-referendum literature in the community, and literature that was actually handed out in the schools?
Then you have Franklin High School Principal Mike Cady.
In an interview about the assembly, Cady said, “No information was presented with any kind of an angle or slant.”
Neville writes that, “Cady said students were shown a 13-minute referendum video, sample ballots and a map with polling locations. Also discussed, he said, was the impact of a passed referendum on local property taxes.”
Seems to me that during the assembly, school officials certainly pointed all the arrows to a YES vote.
Was the 13-minute video produced by the school district?
Was the video produced with school district resources?
Was the video produced on school time?
Did the video present both sides of the referendum issue? (The answer to that is an obvious NO).
How naïve do they think we, the taxpaying public, are?
They conduct an assembly with voting-age students on school property during school time the Friday before the election. They play a one-sided video. They hand out ballot instructions and maps with polling places. As I stated in previous blogs, it was a last-minute desperate, highly questionable and unethical measure to take.
This was clearly an election primer geared toward getting positive votes. And we’re supposed to believe school officials when they throw their hands up in the air and claim they did absolutely nothing wrong?
Sure James Ward didn’t know anything about those pro-referendum pamphlets. He first found out about that assembly when his daughter who attended it came home and told him about it…….yeh, that’s it. My daughter told me, after it was all over.
And that assembly? They weren’t trying to pull some shenanigans. Principal Cady says it was just a “civics lesson.” You mean like a seminar on honesty in government?
If this was such an important “civics lesson,” why weren’t the non-voting age students included in this educational endeavor? Because they specifically and purposely targeted students who could go out and vote YES….that’s why. Their intent was clear.
This is simply amazing. This same band of folks tried to sell us a bill of goods with the $78-million tax increase. You didn’t fall for it. Now they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes again by claiming innocence on the one hand, and ignorance on the other (I didn’t know anything about those pamphlets. I didn’t know anything about the assembly. We weren’t telling the kids how to vote……it was a…..civics lesson. That’s it……a civics lesson).
They must think we’re really stupid. Guess what? We’re not. This doesn’t even come close to passing the smell test.
Remember everything that’s transpired here the next time they come asking for a tax increase claiming they know what’s best and you should trust them.
—My blog, April 25, 2007
Again, the “Assembly” was extremely unethical. Supposedly learned officials should have known better. They thought they could get away with it, and that’s why they did it.
School officials who objected at the time weren’t loud, persistent, aggressive, or effective enough.
The Franklin school district is the victim of inept management.
Students, their parents, and taxpayers deserve much better.
I posted this on 12/28/07:
UPDATE 12 NOON, 12/28/07: RECALLS LAUNCHED AGAINST FRANKLIN SCHOOL MEMBERS
No recalls were ever held. A recall process never got off the ground.
ICYMI: Bigger than masks or CRT…or, why the Franklin Public Schools can’t be trusted, Part One