Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Breaking News: Jim Kach Endorses Carl Piedmont

In an odd email, the infamous former school board member Jim Kach has endorsed Carl Piedmont for school board.   Kinda.  Some questions spring to mind: Did Mr. Piedmont's crack campaign team seek that endorsement?   Was Kony already committed?  Is there some secret plan to boomerang off the coattails of Mr. Kach's 1953 to 822 reelection loss to the then largely unknown Ed Charle?

I'm going to assume Mr. Piedmont didn't seek out that endorsement. But I think we should use the endorsement as an occasion to ask the questions that had they been asked of Mr. Kach might have avoided a very trying period for the district.     That will be my next post.  Feel free to add a comment below with a question you'd like to ask the candidates.  I'll try to send out the questions in a day or so and see if I can get some replies.

On Jim Kach

I'm pretty surprised that Jim Kach and Henry Brackett are involved in this election cycle.   I would have thought they'd try to lay low for a while and let the voters forget about the disastrous tenure of then Chairman Brackett.  I personally was quite willing to avoid mentioning it ever again, as I mistakenly assumed there would be no reason to.

But here we go again.  Let me just sum up the past by saying that had the district known about Mr. Kach's propensity toward hateful, bigoted, and ignorant tweets as well as his plans to "starve the beast" and to replace the superintendent through illegal, secret meetings, we probably wouldn't have elected him.  But we did, and Mr. Kach's conspiring with then Chairman Brackett resulted in the board twice being found guilty of violating New Hampshire Right-To-Know laws.  The second judge imposed the maximum penalty available.  Shortly after, Mr. Kach and Mr. Brackett failed to win reelection.  I'm surprised Mr. Kach would want to even mention the word "superintendent" in a mass email for fear of stirring up this sordid past.

So I'm not really sure why an endorsement from Mr. Kach is the least bit desirable. I'm not sure the email should even be considered an endorsement. Mr. Piedmont's flyer is forwarded without comment.  But it's been a few days now and I think it's safe to assume Mr. Kach supports Mr. Piedmont.  Let's assume that subsequent emails containing Dr. Newkirk's and Dr. Rotner's campaign materials without comment will not be forthcoming from Mr. Kach.

The Genesis of F.O.R.E.

The odd part of the email,  the part composed by Mr. Kach, was entitled "The Genesis of F.O.R.E."  In Mr. Kach's creation myth, the 2005 superintendent search that resulted in Howard Colter being hired included two people, board member David Taylor and district parent Lorna Jacobson.  Apparently they, together with board member JoAnn Portalupi, spawned the evil F.O.R.E. (Friends of Oyster River Education, forenh.org) six years later when their hand-picked overlord Colter was thwarted  in his attempt to hire Justin Campbell as high school principal by the heroic board, including Messrs. Brackett and Kach.  F.O.R.E.'s plot for world domination includes providing child care on site so parents could attend important school board events. The horror!

The bulk of Mr. Kach's prose from his email
Mr. Kach glosses over the part where the job became open only after principal Laura Rogers quit in disgust over the political climate in the district.  He doesn't mention how the students marched in protest of the board's action.  I must have missed where he revealed that Justin Campbell was subsequently hired as principal of Hanover High, the number one ranked high school in the state. How he and the board then proceeded in illegally in secret toward a deal to pay Howard Coulter a full year salary and benefits not to work.  What about the subsequent controversies over tweets and illegal meetings and votes?  It sounds to me like it was a very appropriate time for concerned citizens to get organized and try to rein in the school board run amok.  I think Mr. Kach may be downplaying his own role in the formation and nurturing of F.O.R.E.

I'm not a member of F.O.R.E. so I can't speak authoritatively on their formation.  But this creation story seems pretty weak.  When I look at Mr. Kach's F.O.R.E. list, I see a group of people, many of them parents of current and past district students, who have been involved for a long time.  Some have served on the board at various times in the past.  They've served on committees.  They've always acted in what they thought was in the best interest of the district.

Kenny Rotner's on the list.   He's cared about the district for a long time.   He's been involved as a parent, as a doctor, and as a member of committees.  He's now found the time to serve on the board directly, and we will all be lucky to get him.

I don't really get the visceral hatred for F.O.R.E.  They didn't even endorse candidates in March 2012.   They didn't endorse Ed Charle over Jim Kach.  They didn't endorse Maria Barth over Henry Brackett.  That was me.  Where's my highlighter of hate?

What is this straw man about "firing" or "buy-out"? The facts are meticulously laid out in court documents.  The judge found that board members Kach, Brackett and Turnbull held secret, illegal meetings in which they interviewed and deliberated upon superintendent candidates for weeks without the authority of a legally passed motion of the board.  New Hampshire law requires elected bodies to do their work in public in most cases, and to publicly declare when non-public sessions are convened.

Nobody ever claimed that Howard Colter would have trouble getting another job.  No one knew he was done with this one because the deliberations were done illegally in secret.  Nobody ever claimed Howard Colter didn't like his severance deal -- it was a year of pay and benefits, for pete's sake, $185,000 if I recall.That's a 0.5% hit to your taxes as you paid for two superintendents in FY12.  Thank you Mr. Kach.  What do you call it if not a buy-out?

By the way, if you live in Lee, please vote for Scott Bugbee over Henry Brackett.  You'll be doing your part to keep the town from embarrassing itself by electing a two-time guilty Right-To-Know offender as selectman.    We'll probably save money on lawyers as well.

Back to the email.  What is with the creepy highlighting of the UNH employees in blue?  My wife's a UNH employee, and presumably not Mr. Kach's favorite person.   Lots of UNH employees live in the district, and many of those have kids in the schools.  But Mr. Kach seems to have a problem with all UNH employees involving themselves in the school district in which they live. Imagine educators taking an interest in local schools.   There must be something nefarious going on.
The quote, meaning "to appear rather than to be" is on the fireplace.

And finally the Cicero quote, "Esse quam videri" ("To be, rather than to seem").  It sounds existential, but it's usually interpreted as "to be good, rather than just to appear good."  It seems ironic in Mr. Kach's case, who neither was nor appeared very good during his board service.   But it does give me a chance to refer to Machiavelli's and Steven Colbert's version: "videri quam esse."  It really captures Colbert in three Latin words.

It also reminds me of Mr. Kach's foray into existentialism at a school board meeting at the height of the tweet controversy.  Mr. Kach invoked Sartre's pour soi / en soi distinction (i.e. he claimed he was being treated as an object), presumably casting my wife Ruth Sample in the role of the Other.   Ruth's also a Philosophy professor, and despite her Other concerns with Mr. Kach, she gave him high marks for using the terms correctly.  I'll have to try to dig out that video.

Please add your questions to the candidates in the comments below.  Broad theme: Questions to ask to help avoid the next Jim Kach on the school board.


  1. I would like to ask Mr. Piedmont what it means to "have skin in the game"? I've heard this phrase often in our district, but I'm not clear what the intention or understanding of the phrase means to him. Thanks.
    Jennifer Rief

  2. I got this email from John Collins, who's too cool to comment here directly. I've edited it lightly as part of my long term project to groom John for his run for governor. - Dean

    Please ask each candidate what his personal views are on evolution, creation and intelligent design, and the place of each in a HS curriculum. The personal views part is important. Everyone has a right to their beliefs, but I'd like to know what they are to help me decide who to vote for. Second, I would like to know specifically and in detail what "initiatives to keep drugs and alcohol out of our schools" he would "promote". [The words in quotes are from CP's campaign site, but it's a general question.] Ideally, I'd like him each of them to address the balance between such initiatives and the long-standing OR tradition of respect for our students. As an example, would the candidate consider bringing drug-sniffing dogs into ORHS -- at the risk of destroying the bond of trust and mutual respect that exists?

  3. Mr. Piedmont also said that he is "experienced at student teaching." I don't know what that means.

  4. Also, has Mr. Piedmont attended any School Board Meetings? Was he at the deliberative session? Dean said that he called out Mr. Piedmont's name so that he could meet him, but that no one answered. I don't know why you would not go to the Deliberative Session if you are running for School Board.

    I know Dr. Rotner was there, as was Tom Newkirk (who is already serving, so obviously he attends the meetings!) I'm not sure anyone has been as actively involved in School Board matters as Kenny Rotner. He is about as dedicated as anyone I have ever seen to our schools.

  5. To the best of my knowledge Carl Piedmont has not attended any regular school board meetings. Tonight's his last chance.

  6. Kenny and Carl both attended tonight. They stuck it out to the bitter end, after a two hour football presentation and discussion and another hour of audit, etc. (Great job on the audit, Sue!)

    Glen Miller gave a good pitch (pass?) on football. Krista tried to get a club team approved in what was supposed to be her last board meeting. That would have got football into ORHS and it wouldn't have to be re-approved for a couple of years, when the club turns varsity. That was moving too fast so they approved a parent survey and other stuff to keep the ball rolling. But there's a pretty good chance ORHS is getting a football program. The Megan thing makes some sense now -- too many doctors and doctors spouses might mean no football, and rumor is Carl's kid plays football.