Right out of the gate, Jennifer Edmunson addresses the issue that many are asking: why does a local home educating parent want to be on the Luther School Board?
“I go in knowing that I’m looked at as an outsider; I home school. I understand the skepticism of why I want to be on the board. I get that. Honestly, I go back and forth because it’s easier and it’s safer to stay on this side,” said Edmunson who home educates her two youngest children and moved to Luther about seven years ago.
“My concern is the children’s education. And the backup these teachers are receiving from the school district,” she said. “Before you can even get to that, you have got to know the financial ground that the school district is on.”
Edmunson said she began earnestly taking an interest in the school district when the campaign heated up on the school bond election around August. (Voters soundly rejected the bond in October). At first, she was simply reading an article on the school’s website. When the verbiage referenced outdated social media use by students such as MySpace, she was curious and ran the article through a plagiarism website, and found the article had been lifted from another publication without attribution. She brought that concern to the September board meeting during public comments and was met with nothing.
“It made me questions everything; It made me want to know. They could’ve shut me down after the September meeting and changed the article or said they made a mistake, but they totally dismissed me and everyone’s concerns.”
Because she said she likes research (and has a calculator on her phone), her questioning led to what amounts to her own investigation, At about the same time a citizen’s petition began circulating to call for a formal audit of LPS. Before long, she began making Open Records Requests for emails from the superintendent and board chairman, copies of bank statements and other paperwork. She began making calls to other school districts, vendors, the State Department of Education and others.
“Everything I find out, it’s worse than I think it is. And I dig more and I find out it’s still worse and I’m not even to the end of it yet. It’s ORR (Open Records Request) after ORR and a lot of math and more ORRs,” she said. She brings her own paper and makes her own copies in the superintendent’s office, and said she appreciates the kindness she has received from school staff members. She has not personally met with the superintendent.
With budget cuts from the state looming, Edmunson said she believes the district is in more dire financial health than she thought, with unpaid bills, suspect expenditures and possible overages from the most recent bond issue. The 2014 one million dollar Agriculture Building and Transportation Bond, Edmunson says, actually cost $1.6 million and includes purchases outside of the bond for things like books, supplies, letter jackets and computer networking. For example, the bond was written for the ag barn to cost approximately $216,000, but according to Edmunson’s research and addition on all building related purchase orders, the barn cost almost three times that amount.
“I’m not sure there’s a guy out here who’s built a metal barn who has spent $600,000 on it,” she said adding that she’s not opposed to the purchase of needed items but the money needs to come from the correct funding sources.
As the school board election loomed, she said she received support and requests to run. Still, running for the school board was not in her plans. After all, she said she home educates and has a very busy life. But here she finds herself, a candidate for a five-year term for the seat that former board chairman Dr. Aaron Bachoffer resigned from a day after the November meeting. She has one challenger, Steven Broudy, also be featured in The Luther Register.
“I don’t have a dog in the fight. I don’t have somebody that is dependent on a job, don’t have a kid in the school. There is not a way I can be influenced one way or the other. I just want the truth. I want a firm fiscal foundation. I want teachers to have resources and the encouragement they need. I want these students to have the best shot,” she said.
The election is February 9, 2016.