Candidate email rattles District 51 teachers, union
Despite concern from some of the people who received it, it does not appear an email school board candidate Ann Tisue sent last week to 1,600 District 51 employees violated any campaign laws. But some of its content is being disputed by the head of the local teachers’ association.
In the email, Tisue introduces herself to the email recipients, mostly teachers, and outlines issues she would work on if elected, such as “identifying cost savings to prevent future layoffs” and “eliminating waste.” She adds she would promote school and student accountability, make sure educator evaluations in accordance with Senate Bill 191 are fair, reward good teachers, emphasize core subjects, develop additional income sources for the district and prevent layoffs if general fund cuts continue.
At the end of the email she wrote “repeated statements by The Sentinel that I oppose the mill levy override are untrue.” The Daily Sentinel has printed that Tisue said last month she would probably not vote for the District 51 override question, Referred Measure 3B, on the Nov. 1 ballot and that she wants voters to pick a side on the override for themselves.
Jim Smyth, president of the Mesa Valley Education Association, which works like a union for the school district’s teachers, responded to Tisue’s email late last week with an email of his own to teachers. In that email, he wrote he had received “many, many emails from (MVEA) members” about Tisue’s letter.
“You must also know that when MVEA interviewed (Tisue), she stated that she opposes 3B, supports charter schools to supplant public schools, supports vouchers and tax credits, and supports merit pay for teachers whose students do well on standardized tests,” Smyth wrote.
Attempts to reach Smyth for comment Monday were unsuccessful. Tisue didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Superintendent Steve Schultz wrote an email to the recipients of Tisue’s email Monday, clarifying that the district has not endorsed any candidate for school board and that staff email addresses are available to the public on the district’s website.
“As we told Ms. Tisue, we are not aware of any law prohibiting a candidate for public office from utilizing publicly available information to send emails from a private internet service provider (ISP) to our staff,” Schultz wrote.
District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said Schultz sent the email because teachers had contacted administration, concerned the email may have broken campaign laws because it was sent to district accounts or that teachers had accidentally broken campaign law by reading the email on school computers.
It is against the Fair Campaign Practices Act for school district employees to use work email accounts to express support of a candidate or use district resources, such as a computer, to work on a campaign. David Price, an attorney District 51 regularly consults, said he is “not aware of any campaign-related law that (Tisue’s email) would violate.”
“If an employee receives an unsolicited email from some third party and reads it at work, I don’t believe that is contributing to a campaign or contributing to a campaign event,” Price said.