Misdirected protest shoots messenger, disregards facts

By Linda Bentley | November 25, 2009

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cshs protest
Counting babies in strollers and pre-schoolers, approximately 35 people joined in the protest.
Photos by Linda Bentley

Adults teach students name-calling, vindictive behavior and disrespect for the First Amendment whenever they disagree

CCUSD – A.J. Davis, a 14-year-old freshman at Cactus Shadows High School, sent out an e-mail early last week stating she was seeking support on an issue she feels “very passionate about.”

She wrote, “I am aware that the editor of the Sonoran News has been publishing very critical and disapproving things about our school district. He seems to publish only negative when it comes to CCUSD, and I feel that it is his duty to publish both sides of a story in his paper.”

Davis indicates she hasn’t personally read the newspaper and doesn’t explain what “things” she is talking about.

Nonetheless, she has decided Sonoran News was responsible for “the failure of the K-3 override not passing!” and decided to organize a protest against Sonoran News.

While Davis claims she received “permission from the city (sic) of Cave Creek” to hold last Thursday’s protest, Cave Creek Town Marshal Adam Stein said an adult called to ask if a permit was necessary. And, Stein said he didn’t grant permission, he only informed the caller she did not need a permit so long as they didn’t block the right-of-way.

The protest was held across the street from Sonoran News, west of Foothills Granite on T.C. Thorstenson’s property, where approximately 35 people showed up, including pre-schoolers and infants in strollers.

However, there is only one set of facts, which were reported after performing extensive and grueling research of the districts’ financials, historical election information, along with detailed explanations as to why specific letters to the editor, which presented partial and misleading information, or that just stooped to name-calling for justification, purportedly as “the other side of the story,” weren’t published.

ron weissFor example, Ron Weiss, a realtor with Russ Lyon/Sotheby International Realty, submitted a letter saying the district’s tax rate had decreased by 73 percent, so voting for the override was a “no brainer.”

Both Weiss and the district have touted CCUSD as having one of the lowest tax rates in Maricopa County, which is only one side of the story or rather one half of the equation.
The tax rate is not a stand-alone factor and must be multiplied by the assessed property valuations in the district, and CCUSD has some of the highest valuations in the state.

For example, while the product of 2X12 is greater than the product of 5X3, to proclaim that two is 60 percent less than five would be irrelevant and serve no purpose.

If Davis actually researched the facts behind what she claims to be protesting, her protest should have taken her to a school board meeting where all those involved in making the district’s financial decisions can be found.

While Sonoran News attended the Cave Creek Unified School District governing board meeting at which the board voted to call for the May 2005 K-3 override election, none of the participants in Thursday’s protest were present.

At that meeting, former Superintendent John Gordon explained the purpose for the override was to institute all-day kindergarten, since funding for all-day kindergarten was being slowly rolled out by Gov. Janet Napolitano, giving priority to districts with the highest numbers of Title I (free and reduced lunch) student enrollments.

Gordon pointed out, since CCUSD had so few Title I students, it would be one of the last districts to receive funding and would be competing with Paradise Valley and Scottsdale, which were already committed to offering all-day kindergarten.

Voters approved the K-3 override that May.

However, in the very next state budget, Napolitano provided statewide funding for all-day kindergarten.

What did the district do with the override money no longer needed for all-day kindergarten?
We know former Superintendent Tacy Ashby received a 32 percent raise shortly thereafter.
And, property taxes are substantially higher this year despite valuations being down.

Facts are sticky things. If the facts paint a negative picture of the district, Sonoran News is only reporting them.

While students carried handmade signs at the protest saying things such as “Sonoran News = Sensationalism” and “Students First,” Weiss carried a professionally made sign that called Sonoran News a “cancer on the community.”

That same evening, a Sonoran News advertiser received an e-mail from “Vinny tizzio,” which translated to the e-mail address pres_ak@yahoo.com.

He wrote, “I’m curious as to why you would advertise in the Sonoran News. The Sonoran News is anti-children and their advertisers are being boycotted because of this.”

He concluded with, “I hope you are not anti-children also. We would hope that you would support our community.”

It was signed “Ron.” (Weiss?)

The recipient responded by asking, “Ron who?”

He replied, “Scottsdale resident that would never think of using your services and encourage neighbors and friends to do the same.”

The recipient wrote back, “I am by no means anti-children … We have attended and supported the Cave Creek Unified School District for the past 16 years. I have voted for the schools in every election …

“I take your e-mail as a threat to me personally and my business … please refrain from your slanderous threats. Believe me, I take defamation of my character very serious.”
Other Sonoran News advertisers received identically worded e-mails from the same e-mail address only the sender signed subsequent e-mails “Vin” instead of “Ron.”

The following day, an article about the protest appeared in a Phoenix newspaper. The comments went on for page after page.

One comment posted by LovestoDance, read, “The Bozos who think the protest was the product of a 14-year-old girl's own mind and conscience need educational therapy. Oh wait, you can't get education in the CCUSD because they waste taxpayer money on bureaucrats and administrators. The money those fools spent on consultants (trying to figure out why they lost the previous override ballot measure) was another example of waste and mismanagement …

“The force behind the protest was Kiwanis of Carefree, which is controlled by a corrupt core of angry old men who basically hate anyone or anything that tries to shine a light on real truth. They have already organized a campaign of threats against Sonoran News advertisers, and now have enlisted CSHS students to pitch in. ‘Being passed out was a list of advertisers for the paper with the idea to ban business at these places as an effort to hurt the paper.’ This is right out of the Kiwanis playbook. Corrupting students is even more despicable than corrupting politics in their stinking speed-trap town.”

Davis’ e-mail to rally support for her protest concluded with, “If you have any questions or need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact my parents …”

Photo above: Scottsdale realtor Ron Weiss took advantage of the protest to teach students vindictiveness with his sign. Weiss’ apparent vendetta against the newspaper stems from the editor’s refusal to print a misleading and factually incorrect letter to promote the K-3 override.