Oregon Tea Party
First, before I get into the recap, let me say how humbled and impressed Oregon Tea Party is by our members. We only had a few hours to mobilize on this. I was seriously thinking there might only be 6 of us there. We ended up with a group of about 40 of us there from all over the area. Well done! The first indication that it would be a special night was evident on arrival. A couple of news vans and a few police cars. Must of thought it was a Yamhill County 9/12 meeting or something (I kid). Upon entering the school I found a large group of Tea Party folks gathered in the entry way. They were opening doors for other attendees and mingling with the teachers and parents.
The meeting kicked off with the District Superintendent, Jerome Colonna, speaking to the group. He indicated that this was their final budget “listening session” but that they wanted to honor the people who had come out and hear what we had to say. Their request was to first allow them to get feedback on the budget issues and then promised to give us time to speak at the end.
I was so proud that all 40 Tea Party members waited patiently and respectfully for 90 minutes while we listened to the various teachers and parents share their opinions about some of the planned cuts. It was great to hear the passion from the various teachers. Our group even managed not to snicker while one teacher explained the value of her “Spanish for Native Spanish Speakers” class. A couple of our members even weighed in on the budget issues – with one gentleman captivating the room speaking about how district money is being diverted to fund urban renewal.
After the full 90 minutes, the Superintendent announced that they would now switch gears and hear from everyone on other issues. I guess this is public employee code for “beer-thirty” as the teachers and parents bolted out of the cafeteria like it was on fire. I was a bit disappointed at their hasty retreat as I would think this issue would concern them as well.
Tom Cox kicked things off with a very diplomatic and gracious speech that set the tone for a very constructive session. We had a nice mix of speakers – some very precise and eloquent, some very heartfelt and sincere. They really did a great job of putting a face on a group that is the focus of such unwarranted hate.
Some highlights were Congressional Candidate John Kuzmanich having a spirited (one sided) debate with the Superintendent and sincere, heartfelt comments by Kristina and a few of the other women attending. They really helped put a human face on the issue by painting a picture of how the violent threats impacted them and their children.
The organizer of Clackamas Tea Party, [Sarah Seale], gave an emotional take on women who were afraid and didn’t turn out for the latest Tea Party event in Clackamas.
The low point was a teacher who did stay asking very nastily “how many of you actually have kids that go to Conestoga”. This was followed by a swell of voices correcting her by emphasizing that many of us in the room are paying for the Beaverton Schools and that we are the group that was attacked from their school.
Another high point was when one member asked the Superintendent point blank whether they would have reinstated Jason Levin if the group he attacked was a racial minority or gay/lesbian group. The Superintendent had no answer for that – which of course was the answer we all knew anyway.
In the end, the Superintendent could not go into much detail due to the ongoing investigation. The main progress was their acknowledgment that they need to do a better job of communication with us on this issue and resolved to do so. I asked point blank why the district had not yet reached out to our group, since we are the targeted victims of this hate and could be helpful in the investigation. Again, they had no answer and so they tried to change the subject. He did not have much of an answer beyond committing to communicating better with us in the future.
My assessment is that they really didn’t have a good sense of what Jason Levin was really up to. They seemed genuinely troubled by some of the more inflammatory and hateful posts by Jason and seem to want to do the right thing in this case. My feeling was that they really didn’t understand the full depth and breadth of Jason’s activities until the meeting and are likely regretting reinstating him.
I believe we were successful in our goals of ensuring the district addresses the issue fully and in a timely matter going forward. They indicated that the BSD HR investigation is set to wrap up by the end of this week and we should know a lot more then.
Tom Cox closed it with one of the best lines that “Silence equals consent” or something to that effect.
Thanks again to everyone who showed up on such short notice. I think it will make a significant difference on how this is handled going forward.