Cooper Principal Apologizes For Endorsing Candidate In Newsletter

School newsletter prompts apology
Star Tribune

A principal in the Robbinsdale district is sending a letter of apology to parents this week after he wrote a column in a school newsletter highlighting DFL Senate candidate Mike Ciresi.

“My intent was not to endorse him through the  article,” Cooper High School Principal Mike Favor said Wednesday. “My intent was to tell  that I’m meeting with people about our issues.”

In the February newsletter, Favor wrote that Ciresi was a “great advocate for education” and “you may be familiar with Mike Ciresi … he is currently seeking the DFL nomination to run against Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., in the 2008 Senate race.” A spokesperson for Ciresi’s Senate campaign said the candidate was not aware of the letter before it was published.

Robbinsdale School District Superintendent Stan Mack said the newsletter should not have been used to potentially give advantage or free advertising to any candidate. He said he heard from about a dozen parents who were upset with the newsletter.

“The reference to anything with  running for office … really is the issue,” Mack said.

Joann Knuth, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, said the letter was an unusual communication from a principal to a school community.

“In terms of their official role as a building leader, principals need to be nonpartisan,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean outside of their job they need to be nonpartisan.”

Favor, who said he counts Ciresi as a mentor, has talked with him and other community leaders about how the school will support areas like athletics and the arts after voters turned down a 10-year levy of $23 million a year in November.

The majority of Favor’s column in the newsletter focused on the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children, which Ciresi’s law firm started to give grants for education, public health and social justice programs.

“I’m just asking him for direction and advice on everything from the referendum not passing to the expectations of No Child Left Behind and meeting the diverse needs of a mobile student population,” Favor said. “I wanted to let  know I’m meeting with people in the community about the plight of education.”

Mack stressed that Favor’s work at the school supersedes any error in judgment he made. Favor is also paying for the cost of mailing the apology letter to all the parents who received the newsletter.

“I don’t want to lose focus on what is most important and that’s serving parents and children,” Mack said.

——

Will Mike Ciresi reimburse Mike Favor for that free advertisement?

Here’s an interesting detail from a MN SunPost article on the subject:

The superintendent’s office is supposed to review such documents prior to publication, Mack said, but in this case, an assistant principal designated to secure permission for the letter never made the telephone call.

“Mike delegated someone to send the message to ask, but they never got an affirmation from my office,” Mack said. “They should not have moved forward with it. Had the call been made, this never would have happened.”

Once again, the Superintendent’s office is involved.

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