There’s an old Mark Twain saying that truth is stranger than fiction.
We can only surmise that Mr. Twain had just conducted a study of Lakeland Union High School when he made this statement, for no novelist could concoct a stranger tale than the true-life antics of the LUHS administration and its supportive school board.
We’ve chronicled it all here in our pages, as we almost single-handedly are reviving the age-old newspaper tradition of serializing works of fiction. Or works that should be fiction.
We’ve reported how the administration team sought to justify a benefit payment for themselves by writing up their own accomplishments, which LUHS administrator Todd Kleinhans said he would “embed” in their final evaluations.
We’ve reported their annual $20,000 pilgrimages to suspect educational conferences – where they eat steak and lobster while nearly half of their students are on free and reduced meal programs for the poor – conferences on which they continue to waste tax dollars despite the results: a DPI rating as one of the worst schools in the state.
We’ve reported the fiasco of the hiring of the head boys basketball coach and the mystery list of purportedly negative comments about new coach Rich Fortier from his former employers – former employers we couldn’t turn up by actually calling his former employers.
And, as we report in today’s edition, Mr. Kleinhans took some time at Monday’s school board meeting to whine and complain about records requests by this newspaper. Odd, given that filling records requests is one of his statutory responsibilities.
By the way, this newspaper has made seven open-records requests of Mr. Kleinhans during the timeframe he complained about, two of which he hasn’t fulfilled. We suspect it is less the workload that causes Mr. Kleinhans to chafe and more his contempt for the state’s open records and meetings laws.
So, it is no surprise that, as also is reported in today’s edition, Mr. Kleinhans acknowledges in response to our latest records request that the district simply didn’t bother keeping all emails prior to September 2011. That is to say, LUHS staff were free to just throw those public records away.
Startlingly, Mr. Kleinhans was apparently one who did just that. He and others deleted emails even though it was long-established state records retentions’ policy to keep emails for seven years, except in narrowly defined circumstances. Certainly by late 2009, any competent or vigilant district administrator would have known this; staff would know this, too.
But as Mr. Kleinhans makes clear in his letter to The Times acknowledging that many emails have gone away, it was not narrow circumstances prompting deletions but a simple matter of policy.
Indeed, Mr. Kleinhans informs us that the “only emails” that exist prior to September 2011 are those “that the sender or recipient have either saved to a folder on the District’s server or maintained in their individual email accounts.”
Thus the survivability of emails has depended not on legal exceptions but on individual happenstance. Yes, truth is stranger than fiction.
Stranger still is the continued support of the administration by the school board. They sit in awe of Mr. Kleinhans, drinking in his crackpot education theories about “the vision” and his contempt of the open-records law, quite like flower pots sitting on a ledge waiting to be watered.
Perhaps they know that truth is stranger than fiction, and are just waiting and hoping for a storybook ending.