Candidate Rosales Wasting School District Time and Money

Candidate Rosales Wasting School District Time and Money

In a bid to promote his own campaign, School Board candidate Tony Rosales has been issuing a series of attacks on the administration of the Great Falls School District.  While it probably takes Tony a few minutes to come up with his phony accusations, the district has clearly spent a lot of time and effort to set the record straight.  And that’s too bad, because the staff has more important things to do than replying to weird accusations from a wanna-be politician.

Is This Really How We Want School Personnel Spending Their Time?

The Electric published a good story that takes Rosales’ accusations point by point and covers the district’s response.  What becomes clear from this most recent story is that Rosales either doesn’t know what he is talking about or doesn’t care what the facts are, as long as he throws dirt on dedicated public employees to further his own political campaign.  Probably a bit of  both. For the complete story, follow this link to the Electric’s article.

One of Rosales’ central accusations against the district is that a staff member, Lance Boyd, sits on the board of Peace Place, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing respite care for disabled children.   Peace Place is a great program that gives parents time to do shopping and other tasks that can be very difficult for parents of kids with special needs.  Rosales asserted that this was a conflict of interest since other providers of similar services in the community did not get that “business” from the district, with the implication  being that funding was being channeled unfairly to Peace Place.  

Hey Tony, Who’s Got a Conflict of Interest?

Responding to questions from the Electric, Rosales said that he discovered this “conflict of interest” at a local meeting on autism and decided to challenge the district.  Rosales posted that it was a conflict of interest for Boyd to serve on the board, as the district refers students to Peace Place and pays for those services. He said that he heard about the situation from another provider who was at the meeting.”

The other provider, who was apparently complaining that he was not getting referrals from the district, is Kevin Leatherbarrow, the owner of Go and Grow.  The district explained that it was not referring to them, because Leatherbarrow had previously told him they did not want to accept federal funding which the district receives.

Tony Rosales is the Chair of the local Libertarian Party.  Leatherbarrow ran as a Libertarian for the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2020.  Leatherbarrow has filed to run for the legislature in this election cycle, again as a Libertarian.  Rosales also filed to run for the legislature as a Libertarian in this cycle but withdrew, apparently to run for school board.  Tony Rosales is currently serving as Kevin Leatherbarrow’s campaign treasurer.  

If you liked the controversy and paralysis which took over county government after electing aggressive anti-government conspiracy theorists Rae Grulkowski and Sandra Merchant, you might want to consider voting for Tony Rosales. But if you want the school district to remain focused on its job, educating our kids, vote for Marlee Sunchild.

School Board Candidate Attacks GFPS Employee in Tik Tok Video

School Board Candidate Attacks GFPS Employee in Tik Tok Video

School Board Candidate Tony Rosales recently released a Tik Tok  video making vague allegations against a school district employee. Rosales notes that the employee is also on the board of Peace Place. He then questions if the superintendent and school district know about this educator’s affiliation with the nonprofit organization. He concludes by seemingly implying a conflict of interest as the Peace Place has “employees,” and, therefore, the school district employee has some sort of “obligation.”  While Rosales tries to frame this video as some sort of “gotcha,” his arguments don’t hold up to even the slightest scrutiny.

Firstly, volunteering is a good thing. Many educators also give their time to the community through volunteering, and serving on a board is one way to do that. Peace Place provides respite care for parents of children with disabilities and other qualifying needs. It’s a fantastic resource for caregivers, and it’s worthy of your support. Learn about their services here:

Now, on to Rosales’ concerns. The educator under fire is on a volunteer board for an organization that helps children. Supporting such organizations is highly consistent with the work educators already do. If an educator is aware of resources that could help a family, it’s appropriate to share those resources. As a volunteer, the educator isn’t receiving any personal financial benefit for connecting people with resources (if this is even occurring. Rosales offers no evidence of such, but the implication is there.) 

What’s more telling than the vague and ambiguous nature of Rosales’ accusations is Rosales’ own conduct in relation to the school and his campaign. Rosales volunteers with a GFPS Speech and Debate team. Rosales is presently running for the school board. In a display of hypocrisy, Rosales found it appropriate to use his volunteer role as an opportunity to further his political career. Rosales emailed numerous candidates and elected officials on behalf of the Speech and Debate team. In the email, he asks the invitees to participate in a “debate” event with his students. 

So let’s recap. According to Rosales, it’s inappropriate for a school employee to volunteer on a nonprofit board on his own personal time. However, it’s somehow totally appropriate for Rosales to use his volunteer role at the school to recruit politicians to speak at his event. Rosales’ behavior looks far more like a conflict of interest than the conduct of the school employee Rosales targeted. 

A final but compelling comparator is Rosales’ response to the city commission’s coming safety committee. This group is essentially a list of the current commissioner’s closest pals. The most glaring cronyism is seen with the appointment of Jeni Dodd. Dodd and Commissioner Rick Tryon are close collaborators, with both writing for the hate blog, E-City Beat. E City Beat. Dodd is equally cozy with Commissioner Joe McKenney McKinney. Now, despite a total lack of expertise and any relevant qualifications, Dodd will be giving input on of possible future levies and even budget management. Dodd’s presence on the committee is a fantastic example of an actual and alarming conflict of interest. Rosales is surely aware of this issue, as he too is slated to be on the committee. 

Rosales is clearly willing to throw an educator under the bus in the hopes of gaining popularity for his campaign. Yet, he doesn’t apply the same standard of conduct for himself, or his friends on the city commission. 

Should Rosales somehow be elected to the school board, how could he expect any GFPS employee to trust him? 


Oops! Endorsement Uh-Oh

Oops! Endorsement Uh-Oh


Republican candidate for Superintendent of Schools, Susie Hedalen, recently published this endorsement ad on Facebook.  Aside from using a photo of an anti-public education  Governor, can you spot what’s wrong with this picture?

Remember, dear Susie is hoping we’ll elect her to run our public schools. Does this “endorsement annoucment” fill you with confidence in Susie’s skills?

GFPS Office Staff Fight For Fair Contract

GFPS Office Staff Fight For Fair Contract

Schools across the nation are facing a teacher shortage and Montana is feeling the squeeze as well. Recent laws passed by Montana’s supermajority-Republican legislature seek to divert tax funding to private charter schools, and wage stagnation makes retaining teachers and faculty an ongoing challenge. Now Great Falls Public Schools face another hurdle- the extremely low wages paid to their office staff. Anyone working a full time job deserves livable wages, and that’s what GFPS office staff are now demanding.

Read the full statement from the Great Falls Association of Office Personnel Union here:

‘Fighting for a fair contract,’ Great Falls Public Schools Office Staff Head to Mediation

(GREAT FALLS, MONT.) – The Great Falls Association of Office Personnel, a union of school office staff affiliated with the Montana Federation of Public Employees, has requested the assistance of a state mediator in ongoing contract negotiations. Sixty-four office staff members in Great Falls Public Schools have worked without a contract since their previous agreement expired June 30th.

Requesting a state mediator from the Department of Labor and Industry comes in response to a breakdown in contract negotiations between the school district and office staff. Offers from the district–most recently an additional $0.64 an hour–fail to honor the integral role office staff play supporting and protecting students, families, and faculty throughout the district. This most recent offer also fails to recognize and repair a decades-old pay scale that has been made inadequate by the increased cost-of-living in Great Falls. The first mediation is scheduled for Thursday, October 26th.

“Currently, when we start working for the district, we make between $13.59 and $16.73,” said Association of Office Personnel President Daneen Pate. “After 25 years of service to this district, the most we can earn is between $16.42 and $19.53 an hour. These wages are no longer livable, they don’t keep pace with other school districts, and they’re not fair market value. We’re fighting for a fair contract because we love the students in our care and the district shouldn’t force us to choose between them and putting food on our families’ tables.”

Office staff are often the faces of their schools. They’re the first to greet students, caring for them when they’re sick or acting out. Parents and families interact with office staff daily, relying on them for timely updates and assistance. Office staff also help with scheduling, record keeping, finances, school activities, and attendance. Despite fulfilling their important roles with commitment and skill, the school district’s most recent offer would mean that, on average, office staff would make only $30,261 per contract year. Their counterparts across the state average $41,744 annually. The average Great Falls administrator makes $107,564 per year.

An average entry level administrative assistant at Malmstrom’s Delta Solutions makes between $44,000 and $56,000. New administrative assistants at Montana Highway Patrol and Montana’s average fast-food worker earn over $42,000 in a 2,080-hour year of work.

In the lead up to mediation on October 26th, the Association of Office Personnel have shown solidarity by wearing buttons reading ‘What Would You Do Without Us? Worth more than 64¢’ and black shirts every Wednesday. Members, with the support of other district faculty and staff, will continue these activities, and, if necessary, ramp them up as they continue to bargain for a livable wage.

“We are hopeful the mediation results in a fair agreement, but if it doesn’t then our office staff members are ready to stand up for themselves, their families, and Great Falls’ students,” said MFPE President Amanda Curtis. “Our entire statewide union will have their backs.”
ANOTHER Republican Police Blotter

ANOTHER Republican Police Blotter

When we wrote our first Republican Police Blotter post we didn’t think it would become a regular thing but. . . .

Belgrade school board trustee, Brian Heck has been arrested in a human trafficking and child exploitation sting organized by law enforcement in Gallatin County.  He has been charged with patronizing a prostitute.  Heck has resigned his  position.  Of course School Board trustee positions are nonpartisan.  But during his campaign, the Belgrade News reported that Heck said, “I will have no tolerance for progressive social agendas being pushed on children in the classroom” and that he was a big “parents’ rights” advocate. He also received a $300 contribution from the local Republican Party during his school board race. He only had one other contributor.  We’re going out on a limb here and saying he is a Republican. Correct us if we are wrong.

In other news, on July 12th Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen pled guilty to causing a rear end collision in Helena Municipal Court.  The accident occurred on June 12.  She was cited for following too close.  Arntzen initially pled not guilty but changed her plea.  Someone must have told her that rear ending another person’s vehicle is almost always the fault of the person in the following car.  She was fined $100.

Speaking of Arntzen’s driving skills, in June of last year she pled no contest to passing a school bus with its stop arm extended.  She said she was unaware she had done it.  The video provided by the bus driver clinched the investigation.  Ironic that, in her official capacity, she oversees the School bus safety program for the state.  

School District Accepts Canvas, Recognizes Election Errors

School District Accepts Canvas, Recognizes Election Errors

This week the Great Falls School Board voted 4-3 to accept the election results for the May 2, 2023 school board election. Typically accepting the canvass- which means accepting the results of the election- is a perfunctory measure. The Election Administrator provides the election results and the total cost of the election, and the School Board simply accepts the results. However, the days when Cascade County’s election results can be relied on are long past.

Before the vote, Superintendent Tom Moore and Brian Patrick provided an overview of the canvass, including highlighting several significant errors. Many of these errors were first brought to light by the Election Protection Committee. Moore discovered further errors during the private meeting in which Sandra Merchant provided the canvass results.  Moore noted that voters in Districts 19C and 21B were seemingly not mailed their absentee ballots whatsoever. Merchant seemingly ignored over 400 registered absentee voters in these districts. The District was also provided different voting totals. The Election Administrator first provided results, but the County Attorney’s Office then provided different results, with a difference of 75 votes. Although Patrick asked the County Attorney’s office to explain this difference, the District did not receive a response before Monday night’s School Board meeting.

The District also provided a list of 17 questions to Merchant which were vital to the discussion of the Canvass. Merchant failed to respond to a number of those questions. Moore intimated that after asking the County Attorney’s office about why Merchant had not provided these answers, the County Attorney stated that they could not MAKE Merchant do anything but could only offer advice and recommendations.

Another tremendous concern is the cost of the election itself. Despite requesting a mail election in their original agreement, Merchant refused to honor this request. Rather, Merchant opted for a more complicated and likely more expensive hybrid election, which included a poll election. Poll elections require renting a space and paying additional costs of staffing that election. Merchant originally provided the District an estimated cost of around $41,000. It appears this estimate was based off a previous mail election, which would not accurately reflect the costs of a poll election. The District requested the bill for the May 2, 2023 election, but as of Monday, Merchant had not provided this.

Accepting the results of the canvass also obligates the School District to pay the Election Administrator for the cost of the election- a cost that is still unknown. Trustees asked questions about the obligations of the District should Merchant’s bill exceed the original estimate.  Trustee Bill Bronson indicated that he would refuse to pay any excess costs and would be willing to take the matter to court if necessary.

The Trustees were presented with various options as to how to proceed. If the Trustees opted not to accept the canvass, they could pursue a separate legal route which would allow the Board to appoint 3 members for a one-year term, and then put all candidates on the ballot again during the next election cycle. Not accepting the canvas would also mean the Board would not have to agree to the yet-undisclosed total cost.

After lengthy discussion, including public commentary and an examination of legal recourse, a motion was made to accept the results of the canvass. The votes were as follows:

Kim Skornogoski- No
Marlee Sunchild- No
Amie Thompson- No
Bill Bronson- Yes
Gordon Johnson- Yes
Mark Finnicum- Yes
Paige Turoski- Yes

Skornogoski, Sunchild, and Thompson all indicated they were uncomfortable accepting results when they recognized the process was flawed.  In his comments, Bronson explained that his understanding of the law influenced his vote. As the results showed a decisive victory for the winners, he believes case precedent would show that the flaws in the election were not enough to overturn the results. Turoski acknowledged the incompetence shown by Merchant in her running of the election, but still opted to accept the results as the two losing candidates did not voice any objections.

Now voters must await Merchant’s final bill. When will it be provided? No one seems quite sure. Merchant, who failed to even attend a recent court hearing regarding her work, did not attend the School Board meeting either. Merchant has refused to speak to the media (save a far-right radio station, which she has graced with her presence). She fails to respond to emails and telephone calls, and apparently even the County Attorney’s office has seemingly given up on getting her to perform her job duties.  If Merchant will bill the School District for the excessive costs of the poll election remains to be seen. Regardless, those additional costs will come straight out of our pockets. It is our tax money that pays for all of this, including her $70,000 annual salary. When Merchant chooses to run the least economically feasible type of election, our community suffers the costs- both literal, ethical, and legal.