Testifying at the Capitol in favor of HF208 brought back memories of a South Washington County School Board presentation from September 26, 2013. As we go forward, it is important to look back at the evidence we have collected and the battles we have fought for the taxpayers of Woodbury, Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport. As you attend district-wide budget meetings, take note as to whether District 833 Superintendents and Board Members are using their official positions to advocate for school levies using your money.
School Board Presentation
September 26, 2013
According to Parents United for Public Schools, there are two parts to school levy campaigns: the District Informational Campaign and the Citizen Promotional Campaign. Minnesota law does not allow local school boards or superintendents to use their official positions to advocate for school levies. Consequently, Minnesota school levy campaigns are typically run by citizen groups.
The goal is an informed citizenry but to avoid the perception of impropriety and to stay within the boundaries of the law:
- · Districts must provide information about the campaign in a neutral manner.
- · District funds cannot be used to promote the election’s outcome.
- · Districts may use funds for a neutral informational campaign.
- · All communication is considered public and the goal is to inform about the referendum, not advocate for its passage.
The integrity of our District is important to maintain and it cannot be jeopardized. Unfortunately, there is a perception of impropriety that concerns me greatly.
Principal Julie Nielson was pulled off of her job at Middleton Elementary to aid the district in promoting the referendum. There is a substitute principal filling her position and taxpayers are funding both Ms. Nielson , as she serves the district on her special assignment and the substitute. It would appear as if the district is using public funds to promote the outcome they desire. Typically, communication professionals write communication strategies. The District has communication professionals on staff to perform this task and once again, taxpayers are paying the bill.
Emails from Ms. Nielson were sent to all legislative representatives in South Washington County. The email reads as follows:
Hi ---------: This is Julie Nielson wanting to connect with you to set up a one hour meeting time with our Superintendent. I am on special assignment to start the year working on the district's referendum campaign and am in charge of all details surrounding getting accurate information out. Dr. Jacobus has requested time to meet with each legislator individually. I am hoping that you might be able to find time in the next 3-4 weeks to schedule a coffee, breakfast, lunch, or any time in between with Dr. Jacobus. Feel free to send back a couple of dates/times that work for you and I will check his calendar. If it is easier to give me a call, I can be reached at ------Thank you for your support and I look forward to hearing from you.
It is my understanding that these Representatives have been asked to sign a letter in support of the referendum which will be published in our local newspapers.
My question to school board members is:
· Were you aware that Ms. Nielson is serving in this capacity?
· Why are taxpayers being forced to pay for Ms. Nielson to serve in this capacity and her substitute?
· The District has communication professionals on staff. Shouldn’t they be performing this task?
· Why are emails going out to our Representatives? Is Dr. Jacubus asking for their support to promote a positive outcome?