Last week at the Ferndale School Board public meeting, School Board Member Hugh Foulke was given the “chilling effect.”
In a legal context, a chilling effect is the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction. The right that is most often described as being suppressed by a chilling effect is the US constitutional right to free speech.
Hugh Foulke ‘s treatment at the Ferndale School Board’s open public meeting last week needs to be addressed. Mr. Foulke is a public servant to the people. The people have placed their trust in him (as we do all public representatives) to represent the best interests of the citizen’s, but most especially to the children. Mr. Foulke was publicly chastised for speaking on this program as a private individual. I will leave the legal do’s and don’ts of that to the experts. As reported to me by people present at this meeting, Mr. Foulke was rebuked for over an hour because he shared the results of his questionnaire and his concerns about a $125M school bond levy. Mr. Foulke dialed into the Ferndale residents by performing an independent, personal poll of why people “were” or “were not” supporting the bond request. What was done to Mr. Foulke has a label. It is called the “chilling effect.”
If all politicians were as dedicated to the process of representing the people as Mr. Foulke, shouldn’t that be a good thing?
~ Kris HaltermanFSB – Discussion of Foulke Foulke Survey Ferndale Record Article
Ferndale School Board scolds Foulke for radio spot on bond
• Wed, February 19, 2014
Lengthy ‘discussion’ also criticizes community survey
FERNDALE — The Ferndale School Board, along with district administration, combined to deal a harsh lecture that lasted more than an hour during its Feb. 11 meeting.
The target of the group’s angst? Fellow board member Hugh Foulke.
The discussion of “School Board Operating Norms,” as it was labeled on the agenda, was a surprise to Foulke, who stirred the board’s frustration when he sat for an interview on a local talk radio program.
“I’m still sort of stunned,” Foulke said in an interview with the Record on Friday, noting that he has a lot he would like to say to the board and will probably do so in writing.
School board president Lee Anne Riddle said the purpose of the discussion was twofold: First, to express to Foulke the board’s concerns so he will think about them in the future. Second, to put the rest of the board’s version of the situation on public record in response to his radio interview.
The radio program, which aired Feb. 1, was Saturday Morning Live with Kris Halterman. During the show he shared his misgivings regarding the $125 million Ferndale High School bond. He also shared on the program his individual efforts to survey residents of the school district regarding their opinions on the bond and why.
Board members were given a seven-page, point-by-point discussion guide that not only explored the radio interview in 15 separate chunks, but also brought up past episodes of similar grievances in an effort to establish a pattern of behavior that the board considered disrespectful to the body and ill-suited for a school district representative.
Quinn is credited in the document with organizing the interview into the 15 chunks for discussion.
The document opens by naming both the interview and Foulke’s survey itself as being problematic, in part, because he did both without informing the board of his actions ahead of time, a “violation of teamwork and trust,” according to the document.
Foulke acknowledged several times to the Record that he believes good communication is desirable and that the board could improve dramatically in this area.
The discussion guide tacitly approved of Foulke’s efforts to disclaim his radio interview by noting that his views were his own and that he did not speak for the board. But it went on to say that it didn’t matter — that, in a sense, he always speaks for the district by virtue of his position.
The document dug into the past to bolster this criticism of Foulke by mentioning as related problems his public support for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project and opinions he expressed regarding the closure of Mountain View Elementary School.
Riddle said the board did not officially censure Foulke. In the discussion guide, however, Foulke is accused of forcing the district to report itself to the state Public Disclosure Commission due to parts of his survey that administration worried constituted campaigning.
The survey also prompted the board to complain that individual surveys such as Foulke’s are off-limits in favor of centralized community surveys that are built collaboratively.
“Four of us felt like Hugh didn’t follow our agreed-upon protocol,” Riddle said, noting that in addition to the school board’s own social contract governing conduct, it also holds to the standards set forth by the Washington State School Directors’ Association.
The document swears off any notion that Foulke was being punished for dissenting from the majority on the decision to run the bond.
Foulke, for his part, defended his survey, noting that he did it not to find out who was for or against the bond, but rather what reasons they had.
One of the questions on the bond asks No voters whether a $60 million bond figure would change their mind.
“$60 million is just approximately half, that’s all,” Foulke said. “It’s perfectly innocent.”
Foulke said his goal was to reach at least 20 people in each one of the five areas of the school district for the face-to-face poll. The format, he said, is important to him, due to high degree of nuance you can pick up with personal contact.
“But I have to believe that it is legal in America to go find out what people think,” Foulke said.
Many of the discussion points are sprawling in their scope as they attempt to rebut Foulke’s on-air comments. In one case, the writer claims Foulke implied that the rest of the board members had no consciences when he said he didn’t support the bond based on his own conscience.
Foulke noted that he isn’t interested in further damaging his relationship with the other board members. However, he did contest many “discussion” points that implied he wasn’t interested in teamwork or school facilities.
In addition, Foulke said, arguments over the relative importance of a new high school tend to obscure the fact that great work is already being initiated to improve graduation rates.
“Ferndale High School has a disproportionately high number of students that drop out (as early as) 9th and 10th grades,” Foulke said. “That’s a serious issue.”
“I do agree that the high school has plenty of physical problems. In this economy maybe we should take care of those problems incrementally,” Foulke said. “I’m not at war with the board. I like the superintendent and I think she is a terribly able person, very dedicated. I just happened to disagree with her. She has the interests of the average students at heart, not just the best and brightest.”