[LCSD] Mary Northern

I just ran across a comment from Mary Northern on last week’s LE editorial. I am, frankly, floored. Speechless. I’m going to try and go through this comment, but know that my initial reaction was something on the order of ‘holy shit’.

Caveat: While it is technically possible this is not actually Mary Northern, I see no reason to think it’s anyone but her. Someone correct me if you know better.

The first two sentences:

” I am only guessing that AK wrote this piece and I have to ask you PLEASE!!! if you are going to try to presume to know something about what you are writing about you should research the facts!!!!

Yes, she used that many exclamation points. Nothing technically wrong with that, but it’s generally the province of the ironic or the immature.

So what facts is Northern presuming the Express doesn’t know? Let’s see:

“at the expense of the other eight public schools” Do you have any idea how much money Lebanon is able to keep extra because of the Charter School??? Not to say anything about the jobs were created. They will be able to keep about $400,000 this year alone not to say anything about the other years we have been in this district. The district keeps about $7,200 for every Sp. Ed. student that we educate, we have about 15 now I think. The district keeps $1,200+ for all the other students. The district was even making about $.10 a carten on our kids milk. So now we buy direct.

Whoa. I’m going to assume the numbers Northern quotes are correct. I have no reason not to. There are, however, other facts that seem relevant here. For example:

1) If PIE did not exist, most (but not all) of the students at Sand Ridge would be attending LCSD schools – and the LCSD would keep all of the money.

2) There is a cost associated with sponsoring a charter school. It takes time and energy on the part of LCSD employees, for one – and given PIE’s inability to file the necessary paperwork with the state regarding the registration of teachers and administrators, it seems to have taken a substantial amount of time on the part of LCSD employees. This time has a monetary cost.

The state is not stupid, or at least not completely stupid; when the charter school law was passed, I’m sure this realization was part of the reason sponsoring districts are allowed to keep up to (I think) 15% of the per-student dollar allocation from the state, depending on the age of the student. I’m not sure anyone has done the math, taking into account exactly how many hours each LCSD employee has spent working on charter school business, but it’s clear that the money the LCSD keeps of the per-student allocation is not pure profit, but used to cover the cost the district incurs.

3) I don’t know what the deal was with the milk cartons. Not sure why it was included in the comment. To me, it makes Northern sound even more irrational and angry. I should note, too, that this has nothing to do with whether it is true or not. Assuming it was true, then PIE did the right thing – but then once it’s done, you drop it and move on. No reason to get apoplectic over milk, right?

4) The job-creation bit is arguably the same as the per-student allocation bit: Most of those jobs would be in the LCSD if PIE didn’t exist. Those students don’t just disappear.

5) The overall assumption that Northern seems to be making is that PIE and the Sand Ridge students came from nowhere, and therefore, any money the LCSD keeps is both unfair to PIE and pure profit for the LCSD. Needless to say, this is wrong. There is a fixed pool of students in the LCSD, so (again, most of) the students at Sand Ridge would otherwise be in the other eight LCSD schools. I have to wonder if Northern gets this and is just being cynical in her comment, or really doesn’t get it. I only bring up the latter possibility because she sounds so unhinged and angry in her comment.

Anymore, there’s more to the comment:

I know there is a math problem going around but come on!!!

Based on the test scores I’ve seen, Sand Ridge might have the biggest math problem of all. Also, how is this relevant? And why are there so many exclamation points?

AK you have been very one sided since I’ve been in Lebanon, you need to just report the news correctly, unbiased.

I’m not sure exactly what Northern is referring to here, as the comment was left on an editorial, which means that the writer is allowed to put their opinion in. If Northern is upset that the Express is not framing the issue as “the LCSD is stealing from PIE,” maybe that’s because it’s not true.

I tend to hear often from anti-Robinson folks that the Express does not report the news correctly, but I rarely hear a specific example of an instance where the Express failed to report something newsworthy. Remember, just because it makes Robinson look bad doesn’t mean it’s newsworthy, and neither is the newspaper obligated to adopt the framing of the issue that a particular reader wants.

(As an aside, I’ve also noticed that many of the people who are upset with the Express have no idea how a newspaper works, and the things they get upset about are a newspaper being a newspaper. More on that at a later date.)

The remainder of the Northern comment:

Everyone knows you have had a problem with Rick, get over it!! Rick has nothing to gain here, Rick is for the kids, Rick is for the teachers and staff that have to put up with bad politics. Recalling Rick and Josh would be a big mistake they are some of the very few that are fighting for what is right!!! You tell me what they have to gain?

1) What does ‘get over it’ even mean in this context? Northern fails to address even a single reason the Express has given in its editorials regarding why the Express is supporting the recall. Maybe that would be more helpful than ‘get over it’.

2) Northern’s characterization of Alexander is pretty much in line with what I’ve heard from other Alexander supporters. I’ve heard it enough to believe it’s a genuinely held belief on the part of many. That said, I want to offer two caveats: First, that this characterization is not held by everyone. Lots of others folks I talk to don’t think Alexander is for teachers, staff or students (and there are varying opinions as to what he’s really for or about). The second caveat is that to an extent, Alexander’s intent doesn’t matter. It’s his effect on the district that matters, and on that count, I – and many others – would argue that he’s been a terrible board member. I have been surprised by the number of people I talk to that personally know Alexander and swear up one side and down the other he’s really trying to do what he thinks is the right thing. That’s better than the alternative, but it’s not good enough. If good intentions were all it took, we wouldn’t be in this mess, would we?


Northern’s comment scares me a little. Either she’s totally cynical about how things work, and understands the points I made about where the money comes from and where it’s spent vis-a-vis the LCSD and PIE and is just trying to put one over on people (or work the refs), or she – disturbingly – doesn’t even understand how the relevant state laws work and why they exist.

Either prospect is not good. I have never met Mary Northern, and am not going to pass judgment on her character (or her intentions, natch). However, I can say that I think this comment is a very, very bad presentation of her and by extension, PIE.

I’ve seen several comments in other places that suggest that Northern really does view things as us-vs-them, LCSD-vs-PIE. This is not helpful, if true.

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14 Comments on “[LCSD] Mary Northern”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Rather than blogging about it, why don’t you go talk to Mary face to face? Also, won’t you always side with A.K. since she is your mother? Actually, the district does gain money because most of the Sand Ridge students would not be going to other Lebanon schools if Sand Ridge did not exist…they’ve actually taken polls among the parents. Most would either homeschool, travel outside of Lebanon or go to a private school, anything but Lebanon.

  2. Dennis Says:

    Also, won’t you always side with A.K. since she is your mother?

    Do you have kids? Are you serious?

    Honestly, by the way: No, not at all.

    Interesting point about Sand Ridge parents. Any data to back that up? Can you find the results of the poll and send them to me?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I have to agree with anonymous at 8:09p.m. In fact, it was a Lebanon School District Superintendant that approached PIE and asked them to become a part of the District, so that the District could then begin to receive funds for those students. Prior to that, the District didn’t receive any funding for them.

  4. Dennis Says:

    I am curious – who was PIE sponsored by before the LCSD? Because as far as I know, charter schools in Oregon have to be sponsored either by a school district or the state Department of Education.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    If the Sand Ridge parents would home school, rather than put their kids in regular schools, then they currently have their kids in the charter school because of the money they don’t have to spend on books and supplies more than any other reason.

    It is all about the money.
    PIE wants the money.
    They are in Lebanon because they could get a “fresh start” and the money.
    They have started a school in Sweet Home, and wanted to start one in Albany, because they want even more money.
    They can make a LOT of money even if they don’t actually start a new one–but just try to.

    They talk about the money more than anything else.

  6. Dennis Says:

    For that matter, if PIE is really that unhappy with the LCSD, why don’t they just get sponsored directly by the state? That is an option, and I have no doubt the current board would support that move if it’s what PIE wanted.

    Or is it possible that despite all the kicking and screaming on PIE’s part, they know the LCSD is actually easier on them than the state would be?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous at 9:33a.m. said, "They can make a LOT of money even if they don't actually start a new one–but just try to." Wow, if your statement was true, it would be wonderful! However, it's not. Obviously, you have never looked over a Charter School budget. I have and they do the impossible with very little, if any left over. They are definately not "making a LOT of money". Plus, if you would take the time to get to know those involved you would know that their hearts are for & about the kids. Charter Schools are not money makers!

  8. Dennis Says:

    I think what Anon @ 9:33 is alluding to is the money available from the state earmarked for the creation of new charter schools.

    I don’t think it’s an accurate statement – at best, there are only so many times one could apply for a new school, get startup funding and subsequently fail to actually open a school – but I think I understand where it comes from.

    I guess the other bit I’d add is that it’s possible that some people involved in charter schools are in it for students, and some are in it for money. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    “who was PIE sponsored by before the LCSD?” No one. They were a self sustaining private school that began in 1992. Due to their private status the District didn’t get any money for their students. It was the District that approached them, not vice-versa.

  10. Dennis Says:

    Then why did PIE agree to work with the district, and how did they become a charter school, not a private school?

    I need to do some more reading on this, clearly.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Regarding your 10:03 comment:
    What money???

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Sept. 29 10:00am Anon said: “(t)hey do the impossible with very little, if any (sic) left over. They are definately (sic) not ‘making a LOT of money’.”

    Without arguing over what constitutes “a lot of money”, here are some figures from PIE’s Form 990 for its fiscal year ended 6/30/07.

    Cash in checking and savings: $291k, up 71k from the prior year.

    Unrestricted fund balance, $279k, up 221k from the prior year.

    Excess of revenues over expenses, $221k. In the prior fiscal year the excess was under 40k.

    Your readers can view this information themselves by visiting http://www.guidestar.org and searching for People Involved in Education. It’s free.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Why can’t you call Mary and ask if they still have the results of the parent survey? It’s no secret who you are, so why not be up front? I am sure she would welcome a meeting with you. Since she was at the charter school in the beginning, she would know how it started and all the rest of the details. Mary sounds like she wants the public to know the facts about the school, maybe you could help get those facts out. The South Main campus is where Mary’s office is and the phone number is: 451-2030

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Dennis siding with his mother? Oh god, have you ever had an intelligent child? Besides, if you know A.K., you would know she plays her cards real close to her chest.

    And to reply in the wrong thread (probably), ‘yellow journalism’ at the Lebanon Express? That is a stretch. Actually, in my professional journalism experience, the LE is a pretty good little weekly. And A.K., even if you don’t agree with her, writes a real editorial, not those bits of yellow ink Hasso Hering could never win an award for…

    Lebanon has problems. Welcome to a former logging community in transition to who knows what. And if it continues to vote Republican, it is pretty predictable that it will become another ‘Potterville’ of some sort.

    So, are you going to do something positive like help a kid with their homework, teach them a skill, create a job for them, mentor them, or…

    Just some thoughts.

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