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Letters to the Editor 12-27-11

Sanity, common sense in 2012?

As 2011 comes to a close, we hope 2012 will usher in the sanity and common sense that must prevail on the Board of Hesperia Unified School District in order to restore integrity and the desire to do what’s best for the families and children we represent. We are tired of contending with the political agendas of small-minded individuals driven by power-crazed egos.

Gadfly turned politician Chris Bentley (current board president) in his 2008 campaign promised to restore accountability and transparency to HUSD, but just the opposite has happened. In true Stalinist fashion, Mr. Bentley bullied and intimidated his way to the pinnacle of power and control at HUSD. He shamelessly manipulates Superintendent Mark McKinney and his fellow board members in order to satisfy his personal vendettas and to strike fear in those who dare oppose him.

From the outset of his presidency, Chris Bentley has circumvented and selectively applied the board policies and bylaws that are supposed to govern the HUSD. His barrage of public record requests not only paralyzes district staff members and wreaks havoc on their work schedules, but it creates the fear that they will never be able to satisfy

Mr. Bentley’s Napoleonic complex. These outrageous requests have cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars.

In a February letter to the HUSD Board, two assistant superintendents and four other district managers petitioned an investigation into the “bullying” behavior of Mr. Bentley. The plea was to develop policies necessary to prevent future disruptive bullying behavior on the part of Bentley or anyone else. Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Dr. Matt Spencer made the fatal mistake when he presented the letter. The board majority, Chris Bentley, Eric Swanson and Nicole Childs quickly reacted to this perceived dissension and did what dictators are famous for doing: silence and eliminate all those who oppose them.

What has happened since February is outrageous. Bullying and intimidation escalated. Dr. Spencer refused to allow Chris Bentley to bully him so he was summarily dismissed at the cost of $189,000. The five remaining managers who signed the letter have been targeted for termination or total submission. Accountability and transparency have taken on new meaning. The board majority has eliminated anyone who dares resist their bullying and intimidation. They make a mockery of transparency by acting behind closed doors while publicly stating they are “doing what’s best for our district.”

In 2009 Chris Bentley targeted Ruth Tur Keurst for her political involvement with the California Service Employees Association (CSEA). Ruth signed the February letter.

Assistant Superinten-dent of Business David McLaughlin who also signed the letter has been targeted by Bentley for termination.

School Police Chief Mike Graham signed the letter. Bentley immediately targeted him for retaliation. The chief was put on paid leave in August and terminated in October. He requested a public appeal to be heard by the HUSD Board. Those of you who know Mike Graham lament the injustice that is being done. He is now fighting for his professional life as he stands up to the intimidation and political agendas of Bentley, Swanson and Childs.

Without warning, President Bentley called a special meeting (for today) to decide the fate of Chief Graham. It is obvious that an 8 a.m. meeting two days after Christmas when board members Hardy Black and Anthony Riley will be out of town for the holiday will be the perfect time to sweep this travesty under the carpet without witnesses. Not only will HUSD discard the services of a quality, experienced, compassionate and honorable police officer, we anticipate a fully justified lawsuit to quickly follow, which will cost the taxpayers untold thousands thanks to Bentley and associates.

Superintendent McKinney alleges that this meeting must be held at this time to accommodate the schedules of the attorneys involved in the hearing. The last time we checked attorneys are hired to appear according to their clients’ schedule.

Superintendent McKinney contends the hearing cannot be pushed to January to allow all board members to attend at an hour that the general public can attend. Why the obvious effort to limit board members as well as the public from hearing and seeing for ourselves the evidence against our police chief that warrants his termination?

What is this evidence? When was an official investigation done against the chief, and who authorized it? These are all valid questions that board members Riley and Black have posed, and remain unanswered. It seems clear that the Board Majority will stop at nothing to silence and eliminate those who signed the letter of disapproval towards Chris Bentley, the man who has uses his political power to wage war against anyone who dares oppose him. It is true that as board members we have been open about our lack of confidence in our current superintendent, but do recall that it was Chris Bentley who agendized an item for discussion to replace Mark McKinney. Bentley has berated and belittled Mark in public, but of course Mark has allowed himself to be manipulated and controlled. Our displeasure stems from his inability to remain objective in dealing with the board, and succumbing to what he knows to be destructive policies of the current board majority.

At the beginning of the school year Chris Bentley was quoted as saying that public safety is not the priority of HUSD; education is. This statement showed how out of touch Bentley and his Board Majority truly are. School safety may not be the priority of Chris Bentley and his Board Majority, but when asking parents what they value first and foremost, their response is a safe educational environment where their children are free to learn without the fear of being harmed in any way.

School safety is a priority for our parents, and yet Chris Bentley, Eric Swanson and Niccole Childs continue to take action to eradicate our school police thereby making our campuses havens for drug dealers and gang members who will dismantle the safe educational environment we have provided at HUSD.

The termination of Chief Graham will only help to further the political agenda of the Board Majority, and will only serve once again to eliminate those that oppose their will. (This) week’s hearing is a farce, an attempt by this Board Majority to avoid transparency.

A pattern has emerged, and it is up to members of this community to oppose such dictatorial policies and remind this board majority that they serve at the will of the people, not Chris Bentley. We hope 2012 will hold a better future for this district and as the election cycle for the Board approaches, the public must speak, and the silent majority must make their voices heard by restoring civility, dignity and respect for all of those who comprise our district from its personnel to our children and families.

God Bless,

Anthony Riley and Hardy Black


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