East County News Service
March 25, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Grossmont Union High School District Trustee Jim Kelly abused his authority as a public official, making false and slanderous statements during a public hearing March 17th held by the County Office of Education’s Committee on School District Organization regarding the GUHSD’s controversial redistricting plan.
In the meeting, Kelly complained of “patent misinformation” and then proceeded to make bald-faced lies slandering East County Magazine and the integrity of our editor, Miriam Raftery.
Below, we set the record straight--and provide our readers proof that the only person being dishonest here is Kelly.
"There are these articles being written by a very dishonest person who poses as a reporter, I'm talking about Miriam Raftery,” Kelly stated, then added, “If you notice she only interviews people like Nick and Priscilla Schreiber. She doesn't interview anyone from the District or any of the other Board members."
First off, our editor adheres to the highest standards of journalism including the ethical guidelines provided by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). To suggest she is “posing” as a reporter is, frankly, delusional. Miriam Raftery has been a professional journalist for over 30 years. She has won over 200 major journalism awards and has led East County Magazine in winning 88 journalism awards.
These include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. Per the SPJ website, “This award goes to a journalist whose work not only meets ethical standards but also shows uncommon sensitivity to issues. He or she pursued truth in the face of such obstacles as unpopularity, economic retribution or physical harm.”
Other awards include the American Society of Journalists and Authors national “Arlene” award for community reporting that makes a positive difference. She has twice received SPJ’s James Julian Award, named after an SDSU journalism professor, for community reporting. She has won numerous first place awards from San Diego Press Club and SPJ for investigative journalism and news reporting and also received the League of Women Voters Media Award 2012, as well as a Women in Leadership Award from the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce in 2015. She has published thousands of articles in major newspapers, national magazines and news services.
As for Mr. Kelly’s ludicrous contention that we only interviewed people on one side of the story, what he fails to mention is that we repeatedly asked for interviews from the GUHSD’s superintendent and board majority including Kelly, and the district refused to participate in interviews.
Here is our email exchange with Catherine Martin, in which we invited the Superintendent, the board majority members and/or other district representatives onto our radio show:
On Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 3:09 PM, Miriam Raftery <email@example.com> wrote:
East County Magazine Show on KNSJ invites you to participate in a radio show discussion on redistricting set to be taped Tuesday at 12 p.m. at our studio in El Cajon (1625 East Main St., Suite 204). The interview will air the following Friday.
We are seeking a broad spectrum of input including hopefully a district representative such as the Superintendent or a board majority member, a representative from Diego [Valley Charter] (which had the attorney send the letter that started all of this), the Lemon Grove/Spring Valley community that stands to gain representation on the board, the Alpine community and Chaldeans who have voiced concerns over the new plans, and Trustee Schreiber who would lose her seat if the plan is approved.
Please advise if this day and time works for you. Thanks.
Miriam Raftery, Producer
East County Magazine Show
From: Catherine Martin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, March 07, 2016 8:44 AM
To: Miriam Raftery
Subject: Re: radio interview invitation
Ralf will be flying at that time and unable to participate.
Of course, even if the Superintendent was traveling, the District could have sent a board majority member, attorney, demographer or other representative to the radio show, but did not.
Moreover, we previously sent a detailed list of questions to Martin asking for the district’s responses on February 22nd .We received a reply that partially answered some questions and we published Martin’s responses here the very next day, on February 23, devoting several paragraphs to her responses: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/it-gerrymandering-final-vote-thurs-grossmont-redistricting-alpine-and-chaldean-advocates-object-ask We have also quoted comments made by board members made during the public meeting at which the redistricting vote was made.
Finally, after Trustee Kelly made his rude, false and slanderous remarks regarding our editor and our reporting, East County Magazine reporter Leon Thompson confronted Kelly to ask specifically what he thought was inaccurate. He asked to speak with Kelly to get his views at that time, too. In response, Kelly “turned his back and walked away,” Thompson told Raftery.
Raftery then sent an email to Kelly on March 18 clarifying that we had reached out to him through Martin to request interviews. She then repeated our offer to interview him, making clear any scheduling needs would be accommodated: “Our door remains open anytime you are willing to be interviewed on the redistricting issue.”
Kelly has failed to respond, a full week later.
Clearly he is not interested in being interviewed, only publicly slandering our media outlet, which has provided in-depth coverage of the controversial redistricting plans and other serious issues involving the GUHSD. Apparently he is afraid to answer potentially tough questions posed by an award-winning journalist.
Our coverage was taken seriously by the County Grand Jury in its report that cited our past articles as evidence and made recommendations for reforms which the GUHSD board majority chose to defy. That led to a lawsuit by Alpine residents and the Alpine Union School District against the GUHSD over alleged bond misappropriation for spending bond funds intended by voters to build an Alpine High School and spending that money on other projects. The district claimed an enrollment trigger was not met, but others contradicted that assertion. Some evidence suggested that building the high school would result in increased enrollment and bringing back students who have left the district to attend charter schools that many parents believe better suit their students’ needs, particularly minority and immigrant students --the very same groups that the federal and state Voting Rights acts are supposed to protect.
Instead of adapting to meet those needs, the district retaliated with a lawsuit seeking to shut down charters serving minorities – and has now proposed district boundaries that would carve up the large Chaldean voting block into three separate districts and deny Alpine a voice on the board entirely, still refusing to build an Alpine High School or turn over the money to the AUSD to do so. As a result of its punitive actions against schools helping minorities and its pattern of arguably discrimination, the district now is faced with potential litigation for alleged Voting Rights Act violations - but instead of drawing up boundaries to maximize the odds of fair representation for all district residents, it has instead continued its pattern of punitive retribution against its most vocal opponents.
The Grand Jury did not buy the district’s arguments. Neither did the County Board of Education, which recommended approval of Alpine parents’ request to break away from the GUHSD and unify the AUSD so that it could build the long-promised high school.
One final thought: If the County is seeking an alternative to the redistricting plan that forces Schreiber off the board, it may wish to consider the option of a new plan that would draw Trustee Kelly out of a district instead--the only trustee who has cowardly attacked the media with provably false smears.