Missoula and Kalispell School Board Members Defend Elsie Arntzen
After all of the Montana AA School superintendents sent a letter expressing ‘no confidence’ to OPI Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, KGVO was contacted by members of AA school boards in Missoula and Kalispell questioning the purpose of the letter.
Michael Gehl is a trustee with the Missoula County School Board.
Gehl described his reaction when he initially read the ‘no confidence’ letter.
“I was out traveling on business last week and I heard this and it was just like, what poor leadership did these superintendents show?” said Gehl. “This was total lack of professionalism on their part, and it really got me mad. I'm sitting here thinking if I worked for any business you can think of from your own station, or I'm even a manager at Albertsons to even a store employee at Town Pump to any other business, and I went out and wrote such a public letter, I would probably be looking at getting terminated.”
KGVO spoke to Arntzen regarding the letter, and she said not one of the signees ever called or contacted her about the issues in the letter, to which Gehl agreed.
“As Elsie stated, and her staff stated, these issues were never brought to light with them,” he said. “It was total lack of professionalism. It's not how we do business in Montana. It's not the Montana style. It's not how our folks react. When we have a problem with each other, we talk these problems out, we deal with them. It was an obviously orchestrated attack against an elected official who I happen to have a lot of faith in, and that I believe is doing a good job.”
Jim Riley is a trustee with the Smith Valley School Board in District 89. Riley referenced several controversial issues for school parents that he says Arntzen fought to oppose.
“You know, one of the things that Elsie stood up for, overwhelmingly in my community, is that we don't want critical race theory in our schools,” said Riley. “We want parents to be involved. And we want to have ‘mask optional’ choices, not mask mandates. Elsie supports those three things and in my community, that's not a partisan deal, that is how we feel as conservatives and that's what the people voted for. Overwhelmingly, 70% of the voters in the state have voted conservatives into office. So you can call liberal versus conservative, but what I call it is 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 her or met her before in my life. She handed me her cell phone number and said, ‘Jim, please contact me if you need anything’. I have developed a relationship with Elsie over the last five months. I've used that number a dozen times, and she's responded via text, email or by phone to help me do my job. And I can expect nothing less of her as it relates to the superintendent and what they've requested of her, and so to me, when I look at this, it seems much more like a politically driven stunt as opposed to nonperformance, and I take issue with that.”
In part, the support letter states support for Arntzen’s stand on topics such as teaching Critical Race Theory and gender issues.
You aided parents in resisting superintendent agendas of forced masking and Equity Policies. You helped parents expose and ban pedophilic grooming materials like Gender Queer and Lawn Boy. You brought parent concerns over racist Critical Race Theory curricula to the attention of the Montana Attorney General, who declared the hateful material and messaging to violate the Montana Human Rights Act. Despite hate from the Left, you shouldered these burdens on behalf of the vast majority of parents from around Montana who oppose the school bureaucrats’ radical agenda. Montana has rarely seen a more effective advocate for parents and students.
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