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 As Controversy Grows, Ex-First Lady Laura Bush Defends Presidential Address to Students

by Gayle Early

A special Board meeting convened on Labor Day to debate airing the President’s live broadcast. In a 3-2 vote, the majority voted to censor today's speech, citing concerns that it was “unconstitutional,” “indoctrination,” and “inappropriate.” The move sparked outrage and a call to oust school board members from some parents and students, who interrupted their holiday weekend to urge that the Board air the President's speech, which they they view as inspirational to students across America.

La Mesa (September 8, 2009)—President Obama, in a live broadcast, will address school children across America today at 9:00 a.m. about the importance of working hard, setting goals, and taking responsibility for their learning. In the words of Dr. Cyndi Sutton, Principal of Parkway Middle School in a letter sent to parents Friday, September 4th,  “He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents, and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible, so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”

Obama’s “back-to-school” pep talk encourages kids to persist and succeed in school, but students at Parkway Middle and many other local schools will not get the message, at least today.



On the eve of the address, the La Mesa-Spring Valley Board of Education decided in a special meeting convened on Labor Day, that none of the children in its 21 elementary and middle schools will hear the live broadcast at school Tuesday with students in the rest of the country.

Board President Penny Halgren motioned, instead, that the District record the speech, and teachers, in consultation with their principals, may show the recording on September 9 or later, according to their discretion, in classrooms as appropriate. Parents who do not want their children to view the President’s address at any time may opt out. Members Rick Winet and Bob Duff voted for the Board President’s motion. Dr. Emma Turner and Bill Baber dissented, each having suggested in separate and highly contested motions to air the President’s speech live.


Approximately a dozen teachers and parents testified in favor of airing the speech.  None testified against showing it, though Board members said they received numerous e-mails opposed to airing the video.

“It doesn’t need to be shown live on September 8,” Halgren said.

When, then? “What about the last day of school, is this what we’re going for?” Turner asked.

“We have families with strong opinions on both sides of the issue,” Marshall cautioned. “I think it’s difficult to leave it so loose that it can be shown any time in the next month, and leave families hanging in the balance.”

The Board left it that parents will be sending in opt-out notices on Tuesday, September 8, and will continue to have the opportunity to do so, admitting that logistics of showing the President’s address at school in the future are vague.

Several parents and one student had dropped their holiday celebrations to come speak before the Board. Bri Coston, a junior from Steele Canyon and graduate of La Mesa Dale Elementary and Spring Valley Middle, stated in her public comment that “some kids just need that inspirational boost to do well in school.”

The President’s speech shows, Coston said, just how much America has changed over 250 years, “when women and African Americans had no freedoms. They were not allowed to vote and they would not have been allowed to sit in a meeting such as this one.” Now, she said, we’ve had two women running for the highest offices and an African American President wanting to speak to schools on the importance of education. Bri said that a hundred years ago, only the wealthy could afford an education, and now there were opportunities for everyone to get a good education.

“Unfortunately,” the Steele Canyon student continued, “many of our students will not obtain this, because they do not have the access to someone in their lives telling them they are worth it and they can do something. And succeed. This speech emphasizes that in order to succeed in life, one must get a good education, and this is something that anyone can do if they push themselves to do well. There is no good reason not to show this speech in our schools and provide an opportunity for kids to get inspired.”


Halgren took issue with the age range of school children intended for Obama’s address (pre-Kindergarten through high school). She said the speech, “at 18 minutes long, in the life of a 7-year-old is an eternity.”

Halgren said some kids may or may not understand words or concepts in the President’s speech. Given the number of kids listening who may not understand the address, she said, “I am not sure the return that our children are going to be getting from having 100% of them listen to the speech live, at that moment in time, with whatever teacher happens to be there, with whatever social studies-type perspective that teacher may not have, is really a wise investment of our children’s time.”

“I’m thinking about my specific children listening to his speech,” Halgren shared, in a somewhat broken, emotional statement. “Children at seven or eight years old—they had no clue that was going on in the world. I consider myself very fortunate…to have an intact family, we had enough, we had parental support, we had everything we needed to raise our children, children from a very good family. But now you’re putting them in a room where there are words they don’t understand, stories they’re being told are about children that they don’t understand, that they can’t relate to.”

Turner countered, “I don’t think it would be detrimental to our children in this district to sit though a 15-18 minute speech by the President of the United States. A lot of times when they have a lesson in school they don’t always ‘get it.’ That’s why the President’s giving the speech! The fact that some of it might go over their heads is no reason not to show it in the classrooms.”

The U.S. Department of Education notified school districts by email on August 25 of the President’s speech and offered links to “a menu” of optional classroom activities, written by the Department’s teachers-in-residence, to stimulate class discussion “on the importance of education in their lives” (. It also posted on its website a “Letter from Secretary Arne Duncan to School Principals” with the recommended class activities.

Duncan’s notices were “an invitation” for schools to tune in to the speech, its chief purpose “to encourage educators to use this moment to help students get focused and inspired to begin the new academic year.” The choice to participate, his letter stated, was not mandatory, but “entirely up to schools and their communities.”

Superintendent Brian Marshall initially proposed that La Mesa-Spring Valley schools that have the technology could air the live broadcast, with parents not wanting their children to see the address having the ability to opt out. Middle schools would have shown the address in lieu of their usual morning televised school address, and teachers K-5 could have made the decision how and when and if to play the speech, said Marshall. Letters were sent home Friday, September 4, but after the school board’s September 7 game-time decision, Marshall left new phone messages with all district families that LMSV schools would not air the live address as previously scheduled. Parents could send opt-out letters to any future classroom viewing of the President’s address.

Superintendent Terry Grier, of the San Diego Unified School District, gave his schools and teachers the choice of including the address in their daily lesson plan, emphasizing it was not a requirement, with children having the opportunity to opt out. Superintendent Janice Cook, of the Cajon Valley School District, stated that the President’s address would be best viewed at home with family, but that some teachers may choose to air the speech, though “we will not be encouraging teachers to do so,” and that students not wishing to view it could opt out.

There was frequent confusion among the La Mesa-Spring Valley Board what it was debating in its Labor Day proceedings: Was it about airing the speech itself or allowing the suggested classroom activities that came with the speech? Dr. Emma Turner, Vice President of the Board, pointed out the only item stated on the Agenda was to discuss whether to air the broadcast. Other members stated that their discussion should include the Department’s corresponding suggested activities, but since none of the Board had the list of activities with them at the meeting and no one could delineate what exactly those activities entailed, Turner stated there could be no meaningful discussion of classroom activities and requested their decisions be solely about airing the speech, as stated in the agenda she was given.

Board Clerk Rick Winet was the most outspoken board member against airing Obama’s speech, being first to motion that the speech not be aired, with Bob Duff seconding. After hearing an impassioned round of public testimony in favor of airing the broadcast live, Winet said, “Let me answer a few of the folks here that have come up with their shocking belief that we would actually not show this particular address. Apparently, a few of you are not very familiar with the constitution of the United States. Would you like me to read some of it to you?”

After people in the audience indicated curiosity about Winet’s constitutional challenge, Winet cited a passage, not from the Constitution, but from the Department of Education (Code 3403, Education Chapter 28, he said), which discusses the rights of local governments in education institutions concerning its own educational programs and policies.

“This is from the Constitution of the United States,” Winet insisted, although he read from an educational code, which apparently codified his chief criticism of the President’s speech: “The establishment of the Department of Education shall not increase the authority of the federal government.”

Providing a speech and offering a curriculum, Winet said, “is not in [Obama’s] jurisdiction. This is in our jurisdiction, the School Board Members. This is not something he is to overtake [sic]. We are the ones to decide on curriculum. It is constitutionally incorrect for him to overstep these bounds.”

Winet cited one of the Department of Education’s suggested activities: ‘Write a letter to yourself. And ask what can you do to help the president.’

“How far have we fallen?” Winet asked the Board. “What we have come to is this, a scenario where we would like to have the President of the United States, and all his beliefs, and all of his ideas, come to us and tell us what he believes what should happen in regards to our school curriculum. We should go ahead and take 20 to 30 minutes of planned curriculum, unconstitutionally, and allow him to do whatever he’d like to do.”

Winet opined that the initial email sent by the Department of Education “was full of political rhetoric and lesson plans,” although Winet did not specify particular points of political rhetoric. (Upon request, Board President Penny Halgren forwarded East County Magazine the Department’s email; click here for the full text.)

Regarding the President’s speech itself, Winet said, “there are a number of antidotes [sic], personal things—and I’m sorry about your shock, but it’s obvious you don’t understand how this country does operate under this [sic] constitutional… boundaries.”

At this point, a member of the audience spoke out, against protocol, and the hearing descended into momentary chaos:

This is getting personal and he has more than three minutes,” said Leah Piffard. “That’s not right.”

Winet responded to Piffard, “I’m an elected representative, you’re a public member. You had your three minutes.”

Winet had rebuffed Piffard after her public comment about Piffard’s admittedly contentious email correspondence with the board member. Forced to winnow a lengthy email correspondence to a three-minute comment, Piffard excerpted Winet’s condescending responses to her concerns to a few pithy extracts, such as his reference to her “empty email;” his comment, “I am certain that your opinion holds more weight and significance than numerous Governors, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and millions of your fellow Americans;” and “In our Representative Republic, the President of the United States, and the Secretary of Education are public servants, not kings of every and any domain in which they decide to dabble.”

Piffard said she didn’t know the Secretary of Education and the President were ‘dabbling’ in education.

Winet dismissed Piffard’s comments directly: “When you make accusations in public comment like that, you’re making a very hollow type of presentation,” he said.
“I’m an elected representative of the people, and you’re welcome to run against me.”

“Don’t worry, we will, you’ll be out,” one man said. Board members called for order in the growing chaos; Halgren asked for control in the room or members of the public would have to leave. She requested that Winet address the Board members with his comments, rather than confront the public directly.

Vice President Turner said to her fellow Board members, “I understand your concern about indoctrination. I don’t agree with it, but I understand. President Obama wanted to speak to our kids. Presenting the text of the speech, she said, “There’s no curriculum in here. I’d appreciate it if you or any of the other board members can show me anywhere in this speech President Obama is trying to indoctrinate our kids. President Obama talks about things that happened in his life, things that happened in other people’s life, trying to give kids inspiration and motivation so that they can do a good job despite their odds.

“Who would not want kids be motivated to be good, productive citizens, instead of filling up these incarceration facilities?” Turner asked. “I don’t know why you ran for school board, but I ran because I’m here to help the kids. “When I read this speech I was so inspired—I can use this, being on the California School Board Association.”

Turner said teachers often ask her ‘how can I help people in my classroom or my district who aren’t motivated? How can I inspire them? How can I get them going?’ “President Obama gave concrete examples of the language in here teachers can use to help their kids. I find it a very helpful speech, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said.

Winet wondered if, at the end of the President’s televised comments, he might say something like, “’You should watch me tomorrow night, in the full session of Congress’?

“I don’t trust the man,” Winet said. “What we were provided with, how this was to transpire, has changed numerous times.” Winet reiterated his concern about curriculum. Turner reminded him the Board was charged with discussing the speech, not the “curriculum.”

Member Bill Baber said he received more emails opposing the speech than supporting it. In an email he wrote to his constituent, Leah Piffard, and which he read at Monday’s hearing, “I asked for this special meeting because I felt this was not the type of issue that should be made unilaterally by our Superintendent and because a special meeting gives the public an opportunity to participate in the decision.”

There was no opposing commentary in the public portion of the hearing, but one of the oppositional emails, from emigrants from the former “communist” Yugoslavia, was read into the record. The email likened Obama’s speech to the indoctrination of communist dictator Marshall Tito, where “school children were mandated to wear red scarves and sing in praise, ‘Comrade Tito, we pledge to you, that we will not stray from the road you lead us to.’….”

Jay Steiger, a father of students at Murdock Elementary, spoke about his school’s back-to-school night the previous Thursday. He found an anonymous leaflet on his windshield “calling on parents to keep their children home from school next Tuesday,” referring to Obama’s upcoming address. The letter, he testified to the Board, said ‘we must all send a message to educate, not indoctrinate.’ Steiger said that the Department of Education and President’s message challenging students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning “sounds like useful advice to me….What sort of message does it send to the children for parents, or Boards, who literally refuse to listen to an address from the President?” he asked the Board.

Said Baber, “The people elected Mr. Obama to be the President with their votes. That means his Office deserves my respect, and the respect of our school children. If the President inspires one student to greatness, it will be worth all this angst.” Baber said he’d hoped to watch the address with his eighth-grade student in her class Tuesday.

Baber acknowledged the role of federal government in education. “We take Title I money. We follow ‘No Child Left Behind.’ In general, we don’t want federal government running education because we believe education at the local level is better, but we are taking federal money and I think we have to factor that it.”

Baber said he thought teachers should decide which class would show the address, such as in social studies, rather than in band. “Let them work it out, I don’t think every teacher has to do it,” he said. “I’d like to see it at some point in the day when it’s appropriate. I want to give the teachers the discretion, with their principal, to make that choice.”

Turner said, “The subject, the course, the class is not the point. The kids—in that class—that [Obama’s] trying to reach, that one child you spoke of that would make all the difference for you, could be in that band class where it wasn’t shown.”

Member Bob Duff noted that if the district were to air the live speech on Tuesday, some families would keep their children home and the schools would lose funding for the loss in attendance. “It bothers me that any number of kids whose parents take them out of school because the school is going to show the program…because it’s an idea that a parent thinks something bad is happening there that this ugly person up there in the office that they didn’t vote for is going to be putting something on their child that they didn’t want,” he said.

Turner pressed members of the Board to express whether they thought they were afraid kids would stay home from school during Obama’s speech “because of something covert or underhanded.” She asked the Board if they thought the President of the United States even had a right to talk to all the kids in the Nation.

Winet said, “It depends on what he’s talking about.”

Turner waved the speech. “OK, this is what he’s talking about.”

“I haven’t heard anybody tell me why they don’t want the President’s speech to be heard at the same,” she said. “All I get is answers about the curriculum, which is not on the table.”

Halgren responded, “I think you’re talking about wasting a lot time for young students.”

“Eighteen minutes is not a lot of time,” Turner said. “Kids may not understand every single word that’s said. But kids understand ‘you can do it.’ ‘I did it, I know it’s hard.’ Kids understand those words.”

The Board also debated whether to post a link to the President’s address on its district web page, Baber weighing in, “The White House has its own website. We don’t need to be doing their work for them….There’s this theory that once you put something on the website, then that’s ‘yours’—when you put that speech in there, many people with consider that to be endorsing the speech.”

Halgren said that a link to the President’s speech was reasonable, that “not everybody in the world knows how to get to the White House.”

After the meeting, Dr. Turner spoke with ECM. “I’m disappointed in my fellow Board members that they would vote not to show the presidential speech, and I think it’s a cop out, the way they did it.”

Penny Halgren also said, in a discussion afterwards, “I just think there’s so much controversy, I think [our decision] gives an opportunity [for parents and teachers to review the address]. It’s such a wide range of students that he’s going to be talking to, there’s going to be a lot of children who don’t get it at all. So I think it’s more appropriate for teachers to choose what’s appropriate for their students. Potentially it’s a great message to children, but I think it needs to be handled on an individual-class basis.”

Halgren asked those around her about their desire to have the President’s speech aired live.

Sophie Coston, a student teacher in third-grade, at Chula Vista Elementary, said not doing so “will really lose the impact. It will have a very good effect and impact.”

“Everybody’s going to be going home tomorrow, if they were able to watch it, and it’s going to be talked about. To take the energy—a lot of kids are starting school tomorrow and that’s the intent [of the speech]—to have it shown tomorrow, you get some momentum and can move with that,” said Kent Coston, who also spoke at the hearing.

“You do have a large percentage of children who will go home tomorrow, and they won’t get that at home,” Sophie Coston added. “They don’t have parents who are going to be interested in showing them the President’s speech. They will have nobody to watch it with. If they watch it at school, with their teacher, they have someone that will instill a discussion with them.

“Our kids are going to go home and say ‘our school district, our teachers, our principals, didn’t see that it was important enough for us to watch this. On the day that we were supposed to watch it,’ she said. Our kids are smart. Things will not go over their heads as much as you say they will.”

“Maybe the intent of the President’s speech is to have a great impact. In my opinion, it won’t have that impact,” Halgren answered her, “if you round everybody up and say, OK, you’re going to sit through this.”

Sophie Coston spoke of the social studies curriculum for her third graders, implying that some of the Board members are out of touch with what students are learning: “They students are getting stories about kids from other countries, they’re not rich, they have different, diverse backgrounds, they do have to work.”

Kent Coston added, “Some [of the Board] are very out of touch with the constituency—the kids that they serve. To serve the constitution and not the kids is a pretty big problem. And to not understand the capacity of the kids—to think, ‘these kids aren’t so bright, so maybe we shouldn’t show this. That’s actually very disturbing for the President of the Board to carry that opinion.”

Halgren said, to this point, earlier, that she “wasn’t suggesting that the students are not smart enough. I’m suggesting they’re not mature enough, they don’t have experience, it’s a matter of life experiences. What your circumstances are, who your friends are, and who you’re surrounded by. Either you have that experience or you don’t.”

Regarding the lack of evidence for “controversial elements” in the President’s text, Halgren said to ECM, “I think a lot of the controversy began before the contents of the speech came out. There was an email from the Secretary of Education saying President Obama wants to speak to all the children in the country. But he didn’t really say exactly what he was going to say.”

ECM asked Dr. Turner about the constitutionality of the President’s speech. “No one debated that because it’s ludicrous. He [Winet] picked something out that didn’t have any bearing on what we were talking about. He’s saying the federal government should not control the decision of the locals about the education of our kids. Duh! We know that. But we get strings tied on us by the State, as well as the Federal level, as Baber mentioned. What about ‘No Child Left Behind’? That’s a mandate, we have to make sure we reach almost an impossible standard. So, for him to say that about the President’s speech, moves the whole debate to the area of ‘OK, this is influenced by the federal government, and we need it out, of our control, is ridiculous. He should be talking about ‘No Child Left Behind’: why don’t he get on that bandwagon if he wants to get on: ‘oh, you’re controlling us, you can’t control us.’ The President’s speech does not rise to the level of controlling us, from the federal level. That’s ridiculous. That’s not why we came tonight. That’s not why I came tonight. He didn’t make any sense.”

How does a parent explain why the President’s speech will not air tomorrow in local school districts? Turner said, “I kept asking for an explanation of what they found objectionable with the speech. Did you hear me get an answer?

“The fall back to anything you don’t have an answer to,” she said, “is usually you change the subject. You bring up something that has nothing to do with it, like the curriculum ideas, which wasn’t in the agenda. You can’t have a substantial debate with someone who won’t give you anything to debate. Who keeps changing the subject. It’s hard for me to answer that question for any parent who would call me. Why do they object to it, and why are they airing it the next day? They’re going to see it anyway, what’s the big deal? I refer you to the minutes of the public meeting. Talk to the three Board members who voted for this. I asked them several during the meeting, and they didn’t give me a response. See if you can get one out of them.”

ECM invited Member Winet to comment about the Board’s decision to kill the live feed. “Ask the President,” he said. “That’s what I understood her motion to be.” Bottom line, why the Board made this decision? “Well I voted ‘no’ so you probably don’t want my opinion. You should probably ask Penny.”

Superintendent Brian Marshall made it clear that no LMSV school may air the speech tomorrow. He reiterated, in a phone message to all families in the district, Monday evening, that any student may opt out of viewing the video in their individual classrooms, should the teacher show it. He appeared, to ECM, to be disappointed by the Board’s decision. “Why not air it tomorrow? I’m not sure. I think it has something to do with logistics. But I am an employee of the Board. I will carry out the Board’s decision.”

Ironically, CNN reported Monday that former first lady Laura Bush defended Obama’s address. CNN quoted Mrs. Bush as saying, “I think that there is a place for the President of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children, and I think there are a lot of people that should do the same. And that is to encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have.”



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comment from School Board Trustee Bill Baber to author

Today Board members Halgren and Duff made public apologies for their votes to prohibit the live broadcast of the President's speech. I spoke with each of them today and I believe they know they erred and they are truly remorseful. You can read about it in this SDUT story. (link below)

I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and I have learned the best way to respond is - admit your error, apologize to whomever you hurt, get back to work, learn from your mistake, and don't do it again ! Please give Halgren and Duff credit for having the courage to admit an error - that type of courage is uncommon in elected officials.

You and your fellow citizens did your job in our democratic system - your story and emails changed Mr. Duff's and Ms. Halgrens's perspectives (I tried at the meeting and failed - you accomplished what I could not !) Thank you for exercising your power in a democracy to make your government work better.

p.s. here is the latest SDUT story about the apologies

Two school board members regret blocking Obama speech*

Winet's public statement: full of illogic, irrationality

I received this statement as a parent, after I complained about the Board's decision to censor. Would any of you intelligent ECM readers like to take this on? A great exercise in civics and logic that should be presented at the next Board meeting Tuesday! Note that Winet makes it sound like the President's address was compulsory. In fact, the White House and Dept of Education made it clear this was an opportunity, not an assignment, and the suggested classroom activities were optional as well. One of the sinister "curriculum" activities my kid did after the speech: Write down your goals and one thing you can accomplish toward toward them today."--ooh, dangerous. Winet is clearly fringe material and needs to be replaced asap.

September 8, 2009

Public Statement by Rick Winet
School Board Trustee, La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board

Re: President Obama’s Address to School Children and the La Mesa-Spring Valley
School District Board Decision

I appreciate and respect the passion and the opinions expressed by both sides on this topic.

It is my intent to describe in this statement my reasoning behind voting in the majority for the Board Action taken on September 7, 2009.

The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Board voted 3-to-2 to record the speech and lesson plans provided by the President and the Secretary of Education on September 8, 2009, allow for parent participation, notification, and opt-out, and then have the President’s message delivered in the appropriate K-through-8 classes – as determined by the teachers in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.

My personal objection to the proposed presentation and curriculum by the President and the Secretary of Education centered on 2 areas:

1. This was a direct assault on The Constitution of The United States of America. U.S.C. code 3503 clearly states that Congress prohibits the Executive Branch from overriding local school boards and local branches of government of control of public school curriculum. This Secretary of State, Arne Duncan, issued a politically charged e-mail along with irresponsible “lesson plans” in his initial notice to public schools. The President’s “speech” and the Secretary’s “lesson plans” were changed and revised no less than twenty times prior to September 8. While many would like compare this presentation to that of prior Presidents Ronald Wilson Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, neither of these Presidents included public school curriculum in their communications with students. This administration actually lowered itself to asking students to “write a letter to themselves and ask themselves what they can do to help the President.” I would not and will not ever support this sort of selfish, socialistic message as public school curriculum.

2. The President’s speech and lesson plans were, in the end, clearly focused to deliver a message to high school age students. While I concur with most of the contents of this final script, this is not a meaningful message for the great majority of La Mesa-Spring Valley students. We are a K-through-8 school district and, as Board President Halgren clearly stated in her motion on September 7 (which I seconded and Member Duff concurred), this message was not appropriate for a vast majority of our students.

La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board Members have received hundreds of e-mails on this topic. Prior to our Board decision on September 7, a majority of those communications were asking us not to show the President’s message live on the morning of September 8. And, in contrast, the majority of e-mails we have received after the Board direction have been critical of the action.

Once again, I understand and respect the passion of each citizen’s opinion on this topic.

Our Founders created three branches of government, so that we would have these types of “checks and balances” – It is my opinion that this Executive Branch, at this time, reached beyond its boundaries and a balanced response was required.

The majority of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Board acted with this responsibility in mind on September 7, 2009.

Rick Winet

Missing the point on the President's speech controversy

I think I'm missing something, can someone help me see through the blinding flash of the obvious?

--The President of the United States wanted to take 20 minutes of his very busy day to address school children starting the new school year.
--We told them to work hard, keep trying, and don't give up (BTW never knew Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team).
--Some people think this was a waste of time, too political, or unconstitutional.

Are these people quitters? Habitual welfare recipients? Too dumb to know what political, unconstitutional, and antidote mean? I read the article attached. Seems the biggest opponent from the "Board" couldn't get his sound bites correct.

"Regarding the President’s speech itself, Winet said, “there are a number of antidotes [sic], personal things—and I’m sorry about your shock, but it’s obvious you don’t understand how this country does operate under this [sic] constitutional… boundaries.”
At this point, a member of the audience spoke out, against protocol, and the hearing descended into momentary chaos:"

Maybe he should have worked a little harder, tried a bit more, and not given up on grammar and American history when HE was in school as he clearly can't conjugate verbs very well nor does he know how the country operates under constitutional boundaries. Seems to me he's just a bit jealous that these kids are getting a "pep talk from the Pres" when he clearly could have used one in his youth.

... or maybe he was just drunk?

Board Pushing Ideology Onto our Kids with Censorship

My daughter goes to school in La Mesa, I've had it with the board and received a public statement by Winet that states they won't "support socialist agendas" that pretty much sums it up. Winet and the other 2 board members that shot down the President's speech are clearly getting their information from A) Aliens B) Rush Limbaugh C) Glenn Beck D) All Three. I will not have them push THEIR ideology onto my daughter via fascist censorship.

PARENTS: PLEASE JOIN ME AND OTHER PARENTS AT THE LA MESA SCHOOL BOARD MEETING THIS TUESDAY AT 7pm. Please, let's not sweep this under the rug. The board has pretty much taught our children that it's okay to not respect the president and that a few fear mongering parents who use fear to mask their racist views are the majority. THEY AREN'T!

I hope you'll be there this Tuesday to speak up for what's right and our kids.

Missed a piece of history

I just think it’s sad that the district put their political views before our children. Our kids missed this historical event and wonderful opportunity to hear the leader of our great country speak directly to them. Shame on you LSVSD!

Bias for and against President Obama's speech

I find it funny that the people on the school board are showing their political bias. What are they afraid of? I think they are afraid that children will respect the President. I will tell many that hate against the president is already to late. What you fail to realize that the young people in this country are looking to the future and see that President Obama IS looking beyond either party. What I see is people who think like people on this board is part of the problem not the solution. All you see is negativity. How sad because what I see as the real problem is that these people hate Obama because he is black. Now I live in the south and am a senior citizen white woman. I am calling it like it is. All of those people on the board should be ashamed of themselves. None of them ever minded when any republican spoke to the children. So that is what the problem is.


WIth village idiots like Winet controlling curricula and access to kids' minds, I am truly saddened and dismayed. The future of our country is growing more dismal each day. When I was a child, I was overjoyed to receive a letter from the White House. It created a sense of joy and excitement, and made me curious about government. Winet is either a racist or a religious nut, but in either case, his presence on any board, especially a school board, is a disaster.

A message crafted for students is dangerous? A message of "read more, study hard, work hard" is inappropriate? Amazing. And very very sad. I will say this, though, if I see any applications for jobs which contain LA MESA-SPRING VALLEY as part of their schooling, I will not hesitate to trash that application and hire someone else. I cannot afford functional illiterates (Mr. Winet is a prime example) working for me. My clients deserve better.

Board cancels Obama speech

I represent the teachers of the La Mesa Spring Valley School District. As reflected by the community we serve, many of the members of our teachers Association are Republican and/or conservative. Today our members were very disheartened to be working in a district that would take such action.

It is patently unfair that we are required to work with very difficult students and our school board would knowingly stop us from using the power of the presidency to motivate the students. I have been a teacher, and an educational leader in this district for almost 25 years. We recently took a 3% pay cut in order to maintain the programs necessary to continue our educational excellence. I am saddened that our Board is is more concerned with partisan politics than about the children they serve.

The teachers I represent will continue to ensure that the students of this district receive an exemplary education as reflected in our school rankings and test scores. I would hope the public is as outraged as we are and will make sure the board hears their displeasure.

Call it what it is

If you don't see what it really is about that shame on you teachers. Nothing more than racist. Seriously, nothing but hate for a black president. Seeing and calling it for what it is.

Here are links to contact the board members

for those who wish to voice their opinions:


Paul, thanks to you and all the hard-working teachers who are dedicating to teaching our kids under increasingly trying circumstances in this era of budget cuts. I agree with you that this district and others in East County should strive to do better with regarding to motivating kids to stay in school.  Did you know that the Kumeyaay school run by the Indians has a 100% graduation rate from high school?  This is unheard of in our local public schools.  What lessons should we learn from our Native American neighbors? 


Why anyone would be afraid to let children hear a speech from ANY president that aims to inspire kids to stay in school is beyond me.  The text was released before this vote, so anyone could have seen that the text was not partisan and contained no political propaganda.  This should not be a left/right or a black/white or a rich/poor issue, in my view.  Also what lessons do we teach our children about respect for authority if we censor a message to schoolchildren from our president? Whatever happening to respecting the office, even if one disagrees with the office holder? The increasing rudeness we are seeing towards public officials, whether from disruptive hecklers at townhall meetings to now this, is deeply troubling.


I've heard from some parents who kept their kids home today in protest, so this decision cost the district some ADA money as well as community goodwill. 


I've also heard from one fed-up parent who is considering a run for this school board.