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Letter: Sequoia district information officer was doing her job

Original post made by rhine@AlmanacNews.com, editor of The Almanac, on Oct 14, 2009

Note: This letter from Bettylu Smith was published in the Oct. 14, 2009, issue of The Almanac.

I proudly serve as the Sequoia high school district's public information officer.

Given my profession, I am frequently asked, both professionally and personally, to lend a hand with the written expressions of others. I freely share of the skill I possess and, in the recent case of the district's board president, Don Gibson, I was pleased to assist him in expressing his opinion, as is his right as an American. There was nothing illegal or unethical about the assistance I provided him, nor was there a single mischaracterization or breach of confidentiality in his opinion piece.

Like our contemporaries in public education throughout the state, the Sequoia district is facing daunting challenges on multiple fronts. At the same time, every day in our district some incredibly interesting and amazing things are happening. The Everest charter school is not central to any of these challenges or achievements. It's disappointing that some community members who follow your coverage of the district would never know this.

In all the time I have worked for the district's superintendent, he has demonstrated, with courage and compassion, an uncompromising commitment to the success of all students — without regard for their enrollment in a traditional or alternative school.

Bettylu Smith, Sequoia Union High School District

Comments (4)

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Posted by writer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2009 at 8:01 am

Not only is this a pretty pathetic explanation, I'm shocked that this woman considers herself a professional writer given the number of awkward syntactical constructions in her letter, e.g. "I freely share of the skill I possess." (Guess no one edits her!)


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 14, 2009 at 9:06 am

Sorry Ms. Smith, your letter is at best self-serving and at worst completely misleading disinformation. While defending the district and herself, she doesn't seem to think there is any responsibility to keep confidential information confidential. To some extent, this is like a kid about to steal something from a store who is caught before they actually exit the store. To act like everything is fine may make SUHSD feel better, but illustrates a rotten mindset within the SUHSD leadership (I'll do whatever I can to get my way until you actually catch me).
Furthermore, with regard to the aborted opinion piece, I presume any opinion written by Mr. Gibson would note his position as President of the SUHSD BOT. Therefore, to glibly present her services as just trying to help an individual express their opinion ignores the context and influence that would presumably be associated with such an opinion piece. The SUHSD can't have it both ways. On the one hand, if Mr. Gibson wants to express his opinion as a private citizen, he is free to clear the way for that by resigning from his current position. I presume in that case, he wouldn't get the eager services of Ms. Smith. Of course, were Mr. Gibson just a private citizen, he wouldn't have access to the enrollment information provided confidentially to the SUHSD which apparently figured in the piece in some manner. So I have a question for Ms. Smith and Mr. Gibson. If there was nothing confidential in the prepared op/ed, why is it that a fellow trustee was upset enough about it to leak the story. Why is it that Summit/Everest are upset at providing information early and having it used against them? With all due respect, despite Ms. Smith's claims "I freely share of the skill I possess.." (sic), her claims of no wrongdoing ring rather hollow. It may be correct that no actual wrong was done because the piece was not actually published, but the fact that it took another trustee to raise the issue speaks volumes about the mindset within the SUHSD offices. Sadly, Ms. Smith's letter does serve as much of an endorsement for her skills either so I hope the SUHSD isn't paying her too much. Her patronizing tone further illustrates the SUHSD's hope that if only everyone knew what the district was doing, they would be happy. Actually, my gripe is more about attitude and closed mindedness than about how the schools are today, but the attitude will make it harder to avoid problems in the future.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2009 at 9:48 am

Let's see if the other Trustees have the courage to confront Mr. Gibson, Ms Smith and Supintendent Gemma at tonite's board meeting. They should at least be willing to voice their concern and discontent.

It would be nice to see some ethics and integrity from our elected officials.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2009 at 10:50 am

It is amazing to me that Ms. Smith doesn't see how doing the President of the Board of Trustees a personal favor - during her normal working hours - isn't a conflict of interest. The fact that Mr. Gibson's objective was to favor two candidates and that Ms. Smith and Mr. Gemma helped or did not object, is shameful and unethical.

This is PRECISELY the kind of behavior we deplore in our public servants and elected officials.

If she doesn't get it, she never will.

And I agree with the first post about the quality of Ms. Smith's prose. This says a lot about the quality of the district's management.


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