After all of the Montana AA School superintendents sent a letter expressing “no confidence” to OPI Superintendent of Public Education Elsie Arntzen, the KGVO was contacted by members of the school boards of the United States. AA to Missoula and Kalispell questioning the purpose of the letter.
Michael Gehl is a Trustee of the Missoula County School Board.
Gehl described his reaction when he first read the “no confidence” letter.
“I was on a business trip last week and heard this and it was like, what bad leadership did these superintendents show?” Gehl said. “It was a complete lack of professionalism on their part, and that really pissed me off. I’m sitting here thinking if I was working for a company that you can think of from your own station, or if I’m even a manager at Albertsons, or even a store clerk at Town Pump for any other company, and i went out and wrote such a public letter, i would probably consider being fired.
The KGVO spoke to Arntzen about the letter and she said none of the signatories had ever called or contacted her about the issues raised in the letter, which Gehl agreed to.
“As Elsie has stated, and her staff have stated, these issues have never come to light with them,” he said. “It was a total lack of professionalism. This is not the way to do business in Montana. It’s not Montana style. This is not the way our people react. When we have a problem with each other, we discuss those problems, we fix them. It was an obviously orchestrated attack on an elected official in whom I have great confidence and who, I think, is doing a good job.
Jim Riley is a trustee for the Smith Valley School Board in District 89. Riley referred to several controversial issues for parents of students that he says Arntzen fought to oppose.
“You know, one of the things Elsie has stood for, the vast majority in my community, is that we don’t want critical race theory in our schools,” Riley said. “We want parents to be involved. And we want to have “mask optional” choices, not mask mandates. Elsie supports these three things and in my community this is not a partisan agreement, it is what we feel as Conservatives and this is what people voted for. Overwhelmingly, 70% of the state’s voters elected the ruling Tories. So you can call it liberal versus conservative, but what I call it are Montana values and trying to maintain our way of life here. “
Riley described his first meeting with Superintendent Arntzen.
“I met her in June at a public event,” he said. “I had never seen or met her before in my life. She gave me her cell phone number and said, “Jim, please contact me if you need anything. I have developed a relationship with Elsie over the past five months. I have used this number a dozen times and she replied by text, email or phone to help me with my job. And I can’t expect anything less from her when it comes to the superintendent and what they asked her, and so to me when I look at this it looks a lot more like a political move than a non-performance, and I dispute that.
In part, the letter of support expresses support for Arntzen’s position on topics such as teaching critical race theory and gender issues.
You have helped parents resist the Superintendent’s forced masking programs and fairness policies. You’ve helped parents display and ban pedophile grooming materials like Gender Queer and Lawn Boy. You brought to the attention of the Montana Attorney General the concerns of parents about racist critical racial theory programs, which said the hateful material and messages violate Montana human rights law. Despite the hatred of the left, you have taken on these burdens on behalf of the vast majority of parents in Montana who oppose the radical agenda of the school bureaucrats. Montana has rarely seen a more effective advocate for parents and students.