The E-City Beat opinion piece entitled “Mob Rule Dominates Great Falls Public Education Meeting” (1/4/2023) grabbed my attention. Its author Jeni Dodd identified herself as a “creative, multi-faceted, multi-talented, knowledge junkie. Liberty, integrity, truth, and critical thinking are among my most important precepts.”

Having attended that meeting, I found her article title completely confounding. So, I read the first sentence.

Amid a chorus of boos and shout-downs, there were a few brave souls that dare (sic) to express opinions unpopular to the summoned mob.”

Wow! We must have attended different meetings. This “mob” consisted of an engaged, but largely respectful group of parents, current and former teachers, administrators, and legislators. Ms. Dodd followed that introductory grenade by stating that the above sentence was “my overall impression of the recent meeting … .”

Was she dreaming? 

Ms. Dodd continued by “blowing” the line of communication that led to almost 200 people attending the meeting:

“… Moore originated the communication by sending an email to Great Falls Rising, who then forwarded it to the Cascade County Democrat Central Committee, who sent it via Mail Chimp to their mailing list.”

I sincerely doubt that only Great Falls Rising forwarded the communication to the Cascade County Democrat Central Committee. There were at least two other sources sharing communication about the meeting, each of which had CCDCC members as part of their email lists. The CCDCC could have gotten the information from any number of sources.  

Ms. Dodd blustered on, “Moore approached me after the event, and I was surprised when he ask (sic) me if he had answered my question. 

The question wasn’t hers; Rep. Krebs demanded that Sup. Moore defend how he had come to hear about the meeting.  Ms. Dodd later followed up by pointing her hypothetical finger at Sup. Moore as she rudely asserted, “You didn’t answer his question!!!!

I also let him know I had seen the message he sent to his so-called ‘partners’ and asked, ‘Who were these partners?’

He answered, ‘I sent an email to Great Falls Chamber, Yes to Education and the education advocacy group Great Falls Rising.’ 

By the way, his words, not mine, categorizing Great Falls Rising as an ‘education advocacy group.’ I would beg to differ.

I don’t know about you, but when someone won’t give a straight yes or no answer and instead, deflects questions and redirects to another topic, it makes me uneasy and suspicious. I subsequently told Moore that this wasn’t the first time I’d seen him evade and avoid answering questions.”

Really? I think Sup. Moore directly answered Ms. Dodd’s question. Maybe she should ask the real question: why does the MT OPI not want the educators it is meant to support attending meetings it organizes?   

Here’s my impression of the Anrtzen’s “faux” public education meeting.  

Sup. Arntzen organized the forum to attract a specific minority of Montana residents in each of the towns she visited.  She did this by selectively sending meeting notices through certain sources to get the audience she wanted to interact with –  Republican legislators so that they could use the meetings as a way to spread disinformation and raise popular support for  for passing anti-public education legislation.  (She held a fifth “forum” on January 2nd at the Capitol Building attended by her selected audience and, I would guess to her dismay, Occupy Montana Leg attendees there to express their opinions during the opening session of the Legislature. They watched as the meeting that she had tried to orchestrate in Great Falls actually played out in Helena (as it had in the first three meetings she produced in other Montana cities.) They said wildly conspiratal things: that public schools are “confusing” students by moving “far, far Left”, and that school administrator positions are a waste of taxpayer money. 

Sup. Arntzen’s selection of the first four Montana cities for these “productions” (Kalispell, Stevensville, Billings, and Great Falls) is illustrative of Sup. Arntzen’s true purposes. She did not list Bozeman, Missoula, Helena, or Butte. What’s the difference? The four cities that got selectively-sent notices were Republican and the four which did not were Democrat.

The “chorus of booss” referenced by Ms. Dodd was directed at Sen. Emrich’s (R) suggestion that the inadequacy of funding for education could be addressed by reducing the funding directed toward school administrators. The “shout-downs” were an automatic shock response by attendees to the suggestion that too much funding was going to administrators and that reducing administrator funding could begin to adequately address the education shortfall. It was also a result of the obvious, insidious attempt to pit teachers against administrators by Sen. Emrich and other Arntzen “production” partners including Rep. Kerns. But Sup. Arntzen et al totally misjudged their audience. At one point, she asked the attendees who support public schools to raise their hands. With the exception of these legislators, nearly the entire room did raise their hands. Sup. Arntzen had an agenda she wanted to communicate, but she was forced to read the room. Regrettably for her, educators and parents were allowed to voice their very real concerns about education in Cascade and surrounding counties. 

Ms. Dodd concluded her fallacy-filled confabulation with this:

A picture emerged from my attendance at this forum and it isn’t a pretty one— the picture that far too many of the summoned bunch that attended don’t want parents and taxpayers to have a voice with OPI and legislators in a public forum— at least not a voice that they can’t control.

Ms. Dodd, in the above quote, got it backwards. In fact, the Great Falls “bunch” was a voice that they (Sup. Arntzen et al) could NOT control.  

Below is a summary of the suggestions coming from many of the meeting’s “uncontrollable” attendees:

  1. We must pay our educators a salary commensurate with the responsibility they bear for our most valuable resource, our children.
  2. We must bookend traditional K-12 education with

(a) public preschools taught by certified teachers in all school systems and 

(b) direct connections to post-secondary training/education leading to jobs. 

    3.  We must address the mental health/substance-abuse issues that threaten our children.

    4.  We must fully fund the woefully underfunded federal special education mandate

Readers of this commentary, please look carefully if you see/ any legislators referencing parent/public comment as a basis for an education bill. If the reference differs from the four suggestions listed above, they may have originated from a deceptively choreographed series of meetings like Sup. Arntzen’s that produced a predetermined result supporting the game plan of the MT Republican party to destroy Montana’s vitally important public education system.

Finally, Ms. Dodd failed in her self-proclaimed devotion to liberty, integrity, truth, and critical thinking. In fact, her opinion piece is filled with untruth, emotionally-based conclusions, and attempts to manipulate its readers.  

Integrity?  Sadly, Ms. Dodd, on that criteria you earned an “F”!