Critical Race Theory in Westonka Schools

Powerline Blog’s John Hinderacker posted an excellent discussion this morning on Critical Race Theory (CRT) being the top issue in school board elections throughout the country. I encourage voters to read it here: CRT: IT DOESN’T EXIST…AND IT’S AWESOME! The local Westonka community has had it’s share of these discussions and the issue will hopefully drive a much higher turnout to the school board election tomorrow, November 2, than most.

CRT, as Hinderacker states, “is a racist and anti-American set of dogmas” and is a vehicle to influence our students’ perceptions of the world and indoctrinate them. We must ask current school board members why they don’t denounce it. To claim it doesn’t exist is nonsense but unfortunately that is all the incumbent school board members are willing to say and how they have evaded the issue that everyone else is aware of.

GET TO THE POLLS, WESTONKA, AND VOTE!

November 2, Polls open from 7am-8pm. Two locations:

  1. Mount Olive Lutheran Church fellowship hall, 5218 Bartlett Blvd., Mound
  2. School district offices, Educational Service Center community room, 5901 Sunnyfield Rd. E., Minnetrista

To determine your polling location, use the Secretary of State pollfinder, http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

Westonka Schools’ contempt for election law

Westonka Schools established additional criteria for people to serve as election judges on their absentee ballot board for their 2021 school board election scheduled for November 2. One had to have served as an election judge in the 2020 general election in order to serve. At least that’s what this Republican applicant was told by the school administrator.

The school board then appointed five school employees, who had not served as election judges in the 2020 general election, to their absentee ballot board and appointed them election judges as well. When they realized that ruffled the community they called a few ‘real’ election judges and scheduled them for a few absentee ballot board duty shifts. The problem is these five school employees, who do not qualify to be election judges according to the school’s criteria, are, and have been, scheduled on the ballot board duty roster without ANY election judges present since the beginning of October.

This means employees of the school are accepting and rejecting ballots for the same candidates who will have authority over them and their livlihoods. This is the very reason the legislature mandates that election judges, and not government staff, must accept and reject absentee ballots. Elections should be fair and free of any appearance of conflicts of interest. No one is accusing anyone at Westonka Schools of mishandling ballots and that is not the point here. The point is the Westonka school board has shown contempt for Minnesota election law by violating statutes they have been made aware of:

Putting 2 and 2 together

I noticed last weekend the supposedly brand new “independent” political committee promoting the incumbent Westonka school board candidates had not filed a campaign finance report, despite seeing lots of signs around town. So, I sent an email to the address listed on their signs asking why. I got a response on Sunday that they had filed their report with the school district. Miraculously Sunday afternoon their report was uploaded to the school district’s campaign finance page. Guess that was an oversight. I can overlook oversights.

What I first noticed, upon opening the We Are Westonka campaign finance report filed Sunday, October 17, was that the political committee’s expenditures far exceeded their reported contributions on this first (ever) report. In fact they only reported $100 in contributions while spending over $1,100 on signs and buttons. Hmm. A brand new committee isn’t going to have funds to carry over…unless they’re not brand new….I’m confused.

A campaign finance report is supposed to account for all contributions and all expenditures but this one clearly did not.

I noticed reports filed by Yes Westonka, the former political organization that pushed the school’s past bond referendums, and this is what I found:

  1. The Yes Westonka Annual Report 19-20 showed a $1,200 contribution from the Teacher’s Union and showed cash on hand of $1,498.20. To-date no subsequent reports show expenditures of those funds.
  2. The Yes Westonka Annual Report 20-21 shows $0 contributions, $0 expenditures but, interestingly, the “cash on hand” field was deleted entirely from the report. Was there a reason they didn’t want to show the $1,498.20 sitting in the account prior to the school board 2021 election? Did they think they could just delete a mandated field from a required report and no one would notice? What happened to the $1,498.20??
  3. The signature at the bottom of both Yes Westonka reports is Lori Wollner, school board incumbent Gary Wollner’s spouse. Well, that explains why they couldn’t use Yes Westonka as an independent political committee now, doesn’t it.

This is the kind of thing one could file and win a campaign finance violation over, but why? The complainant would likely incur thousands in attorneys fees and the political committee would get a slap on the wrist without any meaningful consequences.

Better to just let the community know and ask the school district why they are overlooking these violations.

VOTE FOR NEW SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS ON NOVEMBER 2!

Planning & Parks Commissioners sought – Minnetrista

If you are a Minnetrista resident and want to get involved in your community consider filling out Minnetrista’s Application for Commissions and Committees and volunteer to be on the city’s Planning Commission or Parks Commission. Each commission has two seats to be appointed with terms beginning January 2022. There is one incumbent on each commission requesting to continue and one open seat on each commission as well. Applicants interview with the city council and are appointed by the council.

Planning Commission
The Minnetrista Planning Commission consists of seven (7) members and two (2) alternate members who serve as a volunteer advisory commission appointed by the City Council. The Planning Commission is a recommending body to the City Council which reviews public and private development proposals for consistency with the Comprehensive Plan and the City Code. The commission meets the fourth Monday of each month. Each commissioner serves a four (4) year term.


Parks and Recreation Commission
The Minnetrista Park and Recreation Commission consists of five (5) members and two (2) alternate members who serve as a volunteer advisory commission appointed by the City Council. The purpose of the commission is to advise the City Council in the providing of recreational areas and facilities in relation to land use and citizen requests within the community. In addition to the five (5) members, a council member designated by the council is an ex-officio nonvoting member of the commission. The commission meets the second Tuesday of each month. Each commissioner serves a three (3) year term.

Vote NOW for Westonka school board!

This school board election is one of the most important votes you will ever cast and will determine the curriculum and values taught to our students for years to come.

There is literally NO EXCUSE not to vote. You can vote any weekday between now and the official “election day” of November 2 by going to the school district offices (doesn’t matter what precinct you’re in) at 5902 Sunnyfield Rd. E, Minnetrista. Bring an ID with you because technically this is absentee voting, but it’s “no excuse absentee voting”. Between Oct. 26 and election day the process is a bit more simple and voters can feed their ballot directly into the voting machine intead of putting it in a sealed envelope to be processed by the absentee ballot board.

Challengers to the school board incumbents are:

Rachael Myers: https://www.facebook.com/RachaelMyersforWestonka email: rachm82@hotmail.com
Dr. Gregory Snyder: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100073424764260 email: greg@snyderemail.com
Kathleen Olesinski: https://www.facebook.com/Kathleen-Olesinski-for-Westonka-School-Board-108677431555264
Katie Holt: https://www.facebook.com/holt4westonka/

The above challengers are focused on education, not politics, and making sure our students get the skills they need to become productive adults in our communities. In my opinion any of them would be preferrable to the incumbents below. GET OUT AND VOTE!

Current school board incumbent candidates (running again) are:

Brian Carlson: Unable to locate candidate FB page or website at time of publishing
Loren Davis: Unable to locate candidate FB page or website at time of publishing
Gary Wollner: Unable to locate candidate FB page or website at time of publishing

Update: Westonka absentee ballot board will include election judges

Approximately an hour after yesterday’s blog post was published regarding the school board’s improper resolution appointing school employees to its ballot board, the school sent a letter to election judges inviting them to serve on the absentee ballot board for the school board election.

Westonka improper resolution set to undermine integrity of school board election

How to win an election in Minnetrista? Have your friends accept and reject all the absentee ballots and exclude statutorily required election judges from the process. Done.

Despite being informed on Monday of Minnesota’s election law requirements for establishing absentee ballot boards (203B.121) for school board elections, the Westonka school board voted unanimously at it’s Monday, October 4 meeting to ignore the law and appointed five school employees to the ballot board instead of election judges.

These five people are school employees, who are accountable to the school board for their employment, and will be accepting and rejecting all the absentee ballots (likely a majority of ballots cast) for the incumbent school board candidates that currently fund their jobs in Westonka schools. Somehow that conflict of interest appears just fine with the school board and the incumbent school board candidates running in the November election.

The video below is my testimony to the school board Monday evening.

The school board resolution and list of appointments that passed Monday is below.

“This matter, and how it is handled, will either show the district voters they can have confidence in the school board election outcome, or they cannot.”

Shannon Bruce

An election judge that was trained in the duties of an absentee ballot board in the 2020 election in Minnetrista spoke as well. She had requested to be on the ballot board but was not appointed. No reason given.

How do we expect our children, who attend Westonka schools, to abide by the law when their school leaders thumb their nose at election law and blatantly violate it with impunity for their own benefit.

I thought it was fair to give the school board a chance to do the right thing. However, they’ve made a choice that will undermine the confidence Westonka district voters have in the outcome of the school board election. It would’ve been a simple thing to appoint election judges and put the matter to rest.

Thank you, Westonka school board, for proliferating distrust in our government institutions. And thank you as well to the incumbent candidates on the school board for making sure the votes are counted by your friends. And we wonder why we can’t get good people to run for office anymore.

Westonka election judge and absentee ballot board appointments

The full recorded video of the school board meeting can be found here.

Westonka school board violating MN election law

The Westonka school board is planning to appoint people to their absentee ballot board at their school board meeting scheduled for Monday, October 4, 2021, 7pm, 5905 Sunnyfield Road, in the Performing Arts Center, Minnetrista, MN.

The school board packet shows they are appointing only “deputy clerks” (five of them!) to their absentee ballot board, which is in charge of accepting and rejecting all the district’s absentee ballots in the upcoming school board election, for which absentee voting has already begun. Their resolution shows they intend to appoint five deputy clerks and no election judges to their ballot board.

Minnesota Statutes (203B.121 – see below) require that school districts establish an absentee ballot board that must consist of a sufficient number of election judges…” and the school district is either ignorant of Minnesota election law or has chosen to ignore it.

Chapter 203B.121 goes on to say that a ballot board “may” include deputy city clerks. That means a deputy city clerk, of which the city of Minnetrista has only one, not five, and her name is not on the list of persons to be appointed. There is simply no statutory provision for school districts to appoint school district employees, as the board is planning, to their absentee ballot board and arbitrarily call them “deputy clerks” to get around appointing election judges.

You won’t hear the incumbent school board candidates calling out this election law violation. Who wouldn’t want their school district friends in charge of the ballots?

If the Westonka school district wants the electorate to have confidence in the outcome of the school board election this is no way to go about it. If you care about fair elections and believe your school district should follow state election laws please attend the school board meeting Monday night and let your voice be heard.

203B.121 BALLOT BOARDS.
Subdivision 1.Establishment; applicable laws.

(a) The governing body of each county, municipality, and school district with responsibility to accept and reject absentee ballots must, by ordinance or resolution, establish a ballot board. The board must consist of a sufficient number of election judges trained in the handling of absentee ballots and appointed as provided in sections 204B.19 to 204B.22. The board may include deputy county auditors or deputy city clerks who have received training in the processing and counting of absentee ballots.

(b) Each jurisdiction must pay a reasonable compensation to each member of that jurisdiction’s ballot board for services rendered during an election.

(c) Except as otherwise provided by this section, all provisions of the Minnesota Election Law apply to a ballot board.

Westonka School Board Election-VOTE!

The only school district with a school actually located in Minnetrista is the Westonka school district which has three school board seats up for election in November 2021. If you’re in the Westonka district it is imperative you vote. Our community and students’ futures depend on it.

I attended the League of Women Voters school board candidate forum on September 17 and came away more convinced than ever that the Westonka school board needs new members, more connected to the community. You can watch the forum here. There are four challengers and three incumbents running:

Challengers: Katie Holt, Rachael Myers, Kathleen Olesinski and Gregory Snyder

Incumbents: Brian Carlson, Loren Davis and Gary Wollner

As is typical at LWV events many of the questions were designed for incumbents to answer, containing specifics about past board actions, plans, etc. that challengers weren’t privvy to. Regardless, the challengers stood up well and, frankly, any of them would be an improvement over the tax and spend, mask and vaccine mandate supporting, incumbents.

Early voting has started so get yourself over to the Westonka School District office now:

In-person absentee/early voting for the November election began Friday, Sept. 17 and continues through Monday, Nov. 1 at the school district offices, 5901 Sunnyfield Rd. E, Minnetrista. Absentee voting is being conducted during regular office hours Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. On the last day for absentee voting, Nov. 1, the office will be open until 5 p.m.

Beginning Tuesday, Oct. 26, through the end of the absentee period, voters will be able to cast their ballots by inserting them directly into a ballot counter, just as they would on Election Day.

The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 2, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. There are two combined polling places:

  1. Mount Olive Lutheran Church fellowship hall, 5218 Bartlett Blvd., Mound
  2. School district offices, Educational Service Center community room, 5901 Sunnyfield Rd. E., Minnetrista

To determine your polling location, use the Secretary of State pollfinder, http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.