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Two school board members regret blocking Obama speech

Union Tribune (2009-09-10) Michele Clock

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More Info: La Mesa Spring Valley School Board, Local Politics

Two school board members regret blocking Obama speech

By Michele Clock

Union-Tribune Staff Writer

6:35 p.m. September 10, 2009

  • Statements from board members

    La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board meeting

    When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

    Where: Parkway Middle School, 9009 Park Plaza Drive, La Mesa, in the auditorium.

    More information:

    LA MESA – As angry parents planned to confront the La Mesa-Spring Valley school board at a meeting Tuesday over its decision preventing teachers from showing President Barack Obama's education speech to students the day it aired, two board members Thursday issued apologies for their votes.

    Board President Penny Halgren and trustee Bob Duff – two of the three who voted to not show the speech Tuesday – said they were mistaken.

    “If I could roll back the clock and do it again, my vote would have been to show the speech live in our classrooms,” Halgren wrote Thursday.

    Duff wrote, “After seeing the President's speech, I now believe the message should have been viewed live and I regret I was responsible for the delay.”

    Trustee Rick Winet stood by his vote not to show the speech live, arguing the White House's requests were “a direct assault on The Constitution.” Winet said public school curriculum is supposed to be determined at the local level, and that the speech and accompanying assignment for students to write a letter violated that rule.

    The five-member board voted 3-2 in a special Labor Day meeting not to show the president's speech the next day and instead record it for later viewing. Trustees Emma Turner and Bill Baber opposed the motion to block the speech. Halgren crafted it after several others failed, including one to ban the speech entirely.

    Elizabeth Bacting, a Spring Valley resident whose daughter attends the district's Parkway Middle School in La Mesa, said she was “furious” about the decision. “I don't understand what the board was afraid of,” she said.

    Bacting said she thought Obama's race played a role in the board's decision.

    “I don't know how it could be anything else,” Bacting said. “Every other president has been allowed (to speak to students) if he so wishes, and it hasn't been this big of a deal.”

    Halgren said race wasn't a factor for her and broke down in tears during an interview this week.

    “I didn't understand that people thought it was more important for all the kids to see it live,” Halgren said. “I missed that totally. I thought it was more important to (have a) conversation around the content of the speech.”

    In contrast, Winet issued a statement that criticized the White House's suggestion that students write a letter about how they could help the president. Although that idea was revised, Winet wrote that he “would not and will not ever support this sort of selfish, socialistic message as public school curriculum.”

    District Superintendent Brian Marshall said he had planned to allow the district's 12,500 students at 21 schools to view the address and give parents the choice to opt out. But on Friday the board scheduled a special Labor Day meeting to discuss the speech. Many parents said they were upset about the short notice and timing of the meeting on a holiday.

    Winet said this week that he and board members had received hundreds of e-mails. Marshall said he had never seen a bigger response from the public on a district issue.

    Local teachers union President Paul Schnaubelt said the board's decision left the impression the board doesn't trust principals and teachers to handle curriculum and instruction.

    Michele Clock: (619) 542-4577;

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    Title Two school board members regret blocking Obama speech
    Publisher Union Tribune
    Author Michele Clock
    Pub Date 2009-09-10
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    Keywords La Mesa Spring Valley School Board, Local Politics
    Media Type Linked Article
    Media Group News
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    Topic revision: r1 - 16 Sep 2009, RaymondLutz
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