Email Exchange with Dixie Allen on the State Board
Paul Rolly gives new meaning to the word spin after publishing an article in the SL Tribune today indicating that I got into a “vicious e-mail exchange” with Dixie Allen of the State School Board and that I became “unhinged”. So I decided I should publish the email exchange since it’s obvious that others are floating the exchange around and it now needs to be seen in full light.
Mr. Rolly also makes several false assumptions in his article such as saying this is a right-wing movement. It is not. There are Democrats I have corresponded with such as Lynn Stoddard, a respected retired educator who has been outspoken against Common Core for its inability to individualize education for students. Lynn just had an op-ed published in the Deseret News which I encourage everyone to read. (link)
It’s humorous as well that Mr. Rolly says we’ve “[requested] volumes of records” when in fact we have had to dig and find documents ourselves on state and federal websites to put together a picture of the federal plan to nationalize education.
Mr. Rolly also says Carol Lear denies saying what I quote her saying below, but that came directly from communication she had in April 2012 acting in her capacity as the legal counsel for the USOE to Utah school teacher Christel Swasey. (link)
In April of this year the State School Board held a public forum to listen to public concerns on Common Core. After announcing how they wanted public input, they worked to stack the deck with UEA, PTA, and school teachers to come speak in favor of the Common Core and not actually let the public air their full concerns.
At this event, they passed out a flier with what they labeled fact and fiction, taking everything that parents such as myself have raised concerned over and calling them fiction, while listing their own explanations as fact. In their “fact” sections they didn’t reference a single document. Over the next couple days, Utah school teacher Christel Swasey wrote a rebuttal to their flier and listed numerous documents in support of the evidence as to why they were wrong. I then posted the rebuttal online and sent this first email below to the State School Board, Superintendent Shumway, and legislators. Here is the full exchange.
Dear State School Board and USOE,
Having seen your full color flier on Common Core this past week, a Utah teacher has prepared a full rebuttal based on documented facts, and challenges you to refute it.
It is so unfortunate that you feel the need to tear down policy, procedure and curriculum rather than build on what can work and move forward. I want so to build on what is good and improve on that which is not working. We need to prepare our students to be capable of working in a world economy and striking out against anything that may improve our curriculum because it comes outside Utah only undermines our chances to prepare our students for the world they are inheriting.
Regardless, I will take the credible concerns from teachers, parents and students and work to improve on our curriculum and support systems to the degree we can afford to do with the dollars and structure we have available.
Would love to have you work with us, instead of against us.
So far our concerns have fallen on completely deaf ears. Nobody at the USOE or state board has given any validity to what we’ve brought up. These concerns have been called lies and misrepresentations, or dismissed as “fiction” in official documents by the State Office and Board. I wouldn’t exactly call that seeking to work with us, especially considering that our facts are backed up by actual documents while the board flier passed out last Thursday didn’t have a single reference to back up your “facts.” We would love to have our concerns receive serious and honest answers but, so far, that’s not been the case.
Maybe that is because we don’t have time to chase all your conspiracy issues down — we are too busy making sure we have our curriculum in place, assessment that correctly assesses the curriculum, quality instruction in every classroom, evaluations of teachers and principals to insure such quality instruction and support from our legislature to properly fund the system. We do not have time to chase the conspiracy issues that you and others keep bringing to our table. We are absolutely convinced that this adoption of core standards is a step in the right direction and regardless of your issues, we will be working hard to amend, improve, add to and assess these standards — rather than wasting time trying to answer all the questions that have no bearing on the quality of education we are providing.
That’s what I wish you were working for.
We know the board is busy and the state office as well, and yet we’re not even asking you to do a ton of research. We’ve done it for you and are just providing it to you. It’s quite stunning that you would call our concerns conspiracy theories when they come right out of documents the state office has filed or direct quotes from officials that are well aware of what’s going on.
For example, is it a conspiracy theory that Larry Shumway went on Rod Arquette’s radio show and announced that he’s concerned how President Obama and Secretary Duncan are taking credit for the Common Core standards and how the DoEd is already pressuring the state in some way associated with the standards? http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/utah-state-superintendent-admits-to-federal-pressure-on-cc/
Is it a conspiracy theory that Retired Appellate Judge Norman Jackson reviewed the documents we have concerns with and said:
“What is the role of the federal government in Common Core standards implementation? According to proponents of the standards, the federal government has had NO role in their implementation. Concerned citizens, including mothers and teachers, have done their homework and conclude the opposite. They asked me to examine the contracts. Based on my examination of three underlying contract documents—I concur with the citizens.”
“In 2010, the State of Utah (Executive Branch) joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. In 2011, the Consortium signed a Cooperative Contract with the U. S. Department of Education. These contracts legally bind Utah to proceed with implementation of the Federal Common Core Standards.” ?
Is it a conspiracy theory when we say the standards are not great and Utah doesn’t currently have the right to modify them and then USOE legal counsel Carol Lear says, “The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it. If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.” ?
The problem we face is that everyone at the state who claims to value local control is so busy with so many things, they don’t want to hear from concerned citizens who have spent literally hundreds of hours researching what’s going on. It’s easy to dismiss someone else’s concerns when you label them liars and conspiracy theorists, but that doesn’t do anything to build the relationships of cooperation you claim to value.
I guess what I am saying is — We have heard your message and are working hard to be sure we are doing what is appropriate to move forward and support quality education for the students of the state. You do not need to keep beating us over the head with the same message.
At this point one of the legislators who had been following along emailed this response.
I have been following this ongoing conversation between you and Oak Norton. I am disappointed that a state employee would be as dis-respectful to a private citizen as you have been to Mr. Norton. I appreciate citizens who contact the state regarding issues that could impact the education of our children. Could you please help me understand your hostile attitude toward Mr. Norton? His emails present legitimate issues and concerns with common core. Wouldn’t it be better to respond with rebuttals that qualify and support Utah State Office of Education positions on these issues rather than attacking people as conspiracy theorists.
Rep Mike Noel
P.S. Retired Judge Norman Jackson is a solid citizen and a good friend
This email was followed by another representative making this comment and Rep. Noel’s final response.
I believe that Dixie should be able to express her opinion as a state employee or as a private citizen. We should be able to get input from anyone and everyone regardless of their employment. If Dixie wants to share her opinion with us on any issue, I welcome it.
Representative Jim Bird
I agree that Dixie can share her personal opinions as can any state employee or any member of the USOE or State School Board. However, I strongly believe that state employees when dealing with their customers (the public) have an obligation to be professional and to answer inquiries from the public in a professional manner. I am sure you agree that we don’t want state employees treating members of the public, and especially your constituents, in a rude condescending manner. I think you are stretching it to say Mrs. Allen is responding to Mr. [Norton] from a personal point of view. Read her statements, she is expressing the opinions of the USOE and from her position as the Vice Chairman of the State School Board. When she assumes that role, she is no longer afforded the option of being disrespectful to those that may offer a different opinion on what I consider is an important issue. FYI, I also don’t think Dixie was sharing her opinion with you or me or any of us, I think she was responding to a request for a policy review of the implementation of Common Core to Mr. [Norton]. I was actually interested in seeing what the official response was going to be from USOE and the Board, as opposed to … stop pestering us with your conspiracy theories. Have a nice day.
[Rep Mike Noel]
That’s the “vicious” and “unhinged” attack in all its gore. Mr. Rolly sure weaves a fancy spin of events to marginalize people. Maybe the SL Tribune headline was properly titled after all.