School superintendent's e-mail raises concerns among some in district - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

School superintendent's e-mail raises concerns among some in district

Oracle School's boss urged passage of prop. 100 and voting out of state leaders

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Posted: Monday, May 17, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:12 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

The Pinal County Attorney's office has warned the superintendent of the Oracle School District that an e-mail message he sent violated state laws.

In a letter dated March 26, Pinal County Attorney's Chief Civil Deputy Chris Roll notified Superintendent Todd Kissick that an e-mail he sent violated prohibitions against use of school resources to influence the outcome of an election.

Kissick sent the e-mail to 73 recipients, including district employees, wherein he encouraged support for Proposition 100 and the voting out of legislative incumbents.

"Paying these crucial taxes is certainly better than the alternative we face if we continue to follow the Arizona Legislature's lead," Kissick wrote in the March 5 e-mail.

The superintendent also urged district employees to kick state legislators out of office.

"The time has come to expect more from your state legislators. Either they perform or we need to vote them out," Kissick wrote.

The message also contained comments about former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the so-called "birther" bill, which requires presidential candidates to provide the Arizona Secretary of State with verification of citizenship and age to have their name appear on the ballot.

"I'll show them Obama's birth certificate when they show me Sarah Palin's high school diploma (I'm sorry Palin fans, but she is as dumb as a post)," Kissick wrote in the e-mail.

Kissick's comments caused concern among some district employees and parents.

In the aftermath of the e-mail, the superintendent decided to report himself to the Pinal County Attorney, who agreed that the e-mail violated the law.

"You have used the authority of your position as superintendent to influence the vote of subordinate employees in regard to the one-cent sales tax increase proposal and certain Arizona legislators," Roll wrote Kissick.

Roll wrote that the message appeared to violate tenets of Title 15 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Kissick was admonished to refrain from further political statements or from using his "position of authority to influence the vote or political activities of subordinate school district employees…."

To date, no civil charges have been filed against Kissick.

In an interview, Kissick said the e-mail was intended to express his concerns over the possibility of having to lay off district employees in the event the one-cent sales tax doesn't pass.

"It was during a time when I was very frustrated at having to cut staff," Kissick said. "It was more of rant telling of my frustration."

The district has staved off any employee layoffs in the recent budget travails that have impacted many districts across the state. Instead of layoffs, the district decided not to fill five teaching positions vacated by retiring educators.

The district also plans to leave open a special education teacher's assistant position and maintenance worker job.

The Oracle School District Governing Board voted last week to renew Kissick's contract through June 2013.

 

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