Audio of two consecutive RVSD board meetings 2017
For a pdf version to read
I’m fed up with propaganda being fed to our community. And I’m tired of the lies, distortion, and being personally targeted.
I have watched the fabric of our communities be torn apart by a fight over resources that could have been managed with restraint, thoughtfulness, public process, respectful debate and, where necessary, outside help. Instead, we are in the midst of a downward spiral here in the Ross Valley, with a level of rhetoric, reactivity and propagandizing that only makes sense (to me at least) as a reflection of national politics. People I know to be kind and caring individuals who love their children and believe they are supporting local public schools, place STAND signs on their property, magnets on their cars, and are fearful about the impact of RVC. As a result, there are school-aged children in our neighborhoods who, if in trouble and in need of help in an emergency, would hesitate to approach a house with a STAND sign in front of it to ask for help.
I’m writing from the vantage point of someone who has personally been caught in the distressing crosshairs of vitriolic propaganda, simply for voicing a reasoned opinion and critique, and despite having no direct personal stake. I’m concerned when I hear highly vocal STAND representatives beating the drum to memes I know to be distortions of simple truths. I’m tired of bystanders being manipulated and susceptible to misinformation and not having access to intelligent – and professionally mediated – debate. I want more of us to demand intelligent forums in order to find solutions that offer something other than a campaign of manipulated information.
Neither of my kids went to MAP, but I have been a hard-working supporter for and advocate of public schools for over 20 years. I ran bond/parcel tax campaigns in the 90’s, started the Yes Foundation with Katie Rice, participated in intensive district-wide strategic planning processes to re-vision White Hill, served on non-profit boards in both Novato and San Rafael to support public schools there, among other significant investments in public education during my life.
But I’ve now had a very personal and deeply distressing experience with how the processes of distortion and distraction can cause thoughtful people to ally themselves with destructive tribalism.
The devil is in the details. Which is why I’m asking those of you with patience or curiosity to take a deeper dive into the dynamics of propaganda that are being used to turn neighbors into enemies.
I have been repeatedly accused by some of the most prominent and prolific STAND members of calling RVSD Trustees and STAND members “Nazi sympathizers” (on NextDoor and on IJ comments, it’s now morphed even further to having been called “Nazis”). I’ve been publicly labeled and criticized by RVSD trustees. There have also been far nastier, threatening, and personally disparaging comments made by social media commenters whose cowardice and immaturity are emboldened by pseudo-anonymity.
As a long term observer and community volunteer, I’ve had the chance to see many superintendents and school boards in action. But I found some of the dynamics in the past few years troubling enough to re-engage. As the conflict escalated here in the Ross Valley, I expressed my opinion. And that’s when I was introduced to a level of dysfunction and distortion that I couldn’t possibly have imagined had I not personally experienced.I do not believe what has happened to me is an isolated incident – which is why I now instinctively question the version of facts reported by either RVSD or STAND.
I have experienced personally how the district governance team responds inappropriately, disproportionately, and destructively to dissent or critique and, then, how some core STAND members distort this response with the flames of propaganda. Because of these experiences, I believe we as the public do not have access to an accurate picture of the details of the RVSD/RVC conflict. When given the opportunity to address errors, RVSD leadership, rather than acknowledging the possibility that misjudgments may have been made, instead refuses to reconsider and, doubles down using your tax dollars and mine to fight an ideological battle.
Now I understand better why people are afraid to speak up at board meetings or write emails to their elected representatives on the Ross Valley School Board, or the superintendent, for fear of harassment, intimidation, and becoming a target for bullying and public abuse. We deserve more from our leaders and we need to understand the role that some community members are playing on their behalf to distort and propagandize.
My experience started after I read a carefully and strongly worded statement at the 4/18/2017 RVSD board meeting about an offhand “joke” at the previous meeting about surrounding the charter with razor wire. (A link to the audio of the board meetings in question can be found below.)
Grossly mischaracterizing my comments, in a non-agendized response fully out of board protocol, RVSD Board President Anne Capron invoked a false “Nazi sympathizer” meme, and then, repeated it three times, focusing only on perceived victimization of the board – never acknowledging or addressing the comments made two weeks prior. Efforts to address the misrepresentation were denied – both in the moment and in follow up emails to the full governance team.
The most personally hurtful and chilling part of the audio is near the end. Without my presence, the superintendent listened passively while each trustee spoke specifically and disparagingly about me, recounting and reinforcing a false victim narrative among themselves, of being abused and mistreated by me. The reality is that I have never appeared before this board, although it is true that I have exercised my civic right to go on record with 2 letters to the editor in the IJ, with links below, that were critical, but hardly abusive.
What was deeply troubling was the anger and vehemence of the accusations, by the mantle of protection afforded by the superintendent, and by the maligning of my character. But my personal feelings aside, this exchange revealed the entrenched dynamics in the governance team that have proved extremely costly to this community. What I heard was a superintendent and a governance board that, in the face of criticism: avoids responsibility for errors; girds itself in its own victimization; lashes out in personal ways to identify an enemy; doubles down to waste precious resources to justify its behavior (creating and posting a transcript); engages in and disseminates further false projections (claiming that I called the press to humiliate them when, in fact, a concerned member of the childcare community had done so because of another badly handled issue); and then stands by and allows the incident to be amplified.
And, as predicted, within days, and as has been the case for 15 months since, the meme that “the school board and STAND were called Nazi sympathizers/Nazis” has been repeated ad nauseum on social media, most recently on NextDoor just a few days ago…and has been used, oddly, to slander RVC with which I have no formal association.
If you are troubled by any of this, please consider some future action. Send an email to trustees and indicate that you, too, are an “outlier” when it comes to holding public officials to a reasonable standard of behavior, or that you, too, want a different path in public process that doesn’t involve demonizing your neighbors’ choices. And, importantly, consider whether the leadership in place in the Ross Valley District is appropriate for the task at hand.
Audio of the board meetings referenced, condensed to just the full context of the relevant parts (razor wire comments, full speech, and board reaction)
Marin IJ Reader’s Forum: “Troubled by district’s handling of charter”
Dec 11, 2015 – by Lisa Canin
Marin IJ Reader’s Forum: “Trustees should be ‘independent’ managers”
Oct 13, 2015 – by Lisa Canin