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UPDATE: District Superintendent issues apology to Apple Leaf editorial staff

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UPDATE Sept 18 8:35 a.m.

Wenatchee School District Superintendent Brian Flones met with Apple Leaf editorial staff this morning to apologize and make amends with the publication.

“I wanted to make sure we have good communication with The Apple Leaf, and support you in the future,” Flones said. “That was a difficult situation, but the reality was it never should have happened.

Superintendent Brian Flones

Superintendent Brian Flones

Flones said that The Apple Leaf should have been invited to the closed meeting from the start, and excluding them was a mistake. He stated that the situation was “awkward,” and that it would not happen again.

“This was a good opportunity for us to learn as adults,” Flones said.

Flones also addressed Deputy Superintendent Jon DeJong’s comments at the district office that student reporters “tend to ask more questions than professional reporters.”

“The line of questioning might be different from a student reporter than that of a professional reporter,” Flones said.

The Apple Leaf Editor-in-Chief Adrian Robinson expressed her gratitude at his apology.

“We’re thankful for him coming in here and apologizing to us. It means a lot to have someone of such a high standing at the district office coming in and taking responsibility for other people within his jurisdictions actions,” Robinson said. “We appreciate the fact that he did it so gracefully and that he took the time out of his day and out of his healing.”

Flones is still on medical leave from the district due to hip replacement surgery, but felt the situation required his personal attention. Flones said that his condition was improving

“I’m on the mend. I’m looking forward to being back and working with everyone.”

Flones also stated his plan to have a similar conversation at a later time with Wenatchee Education Association (WenEA) president Kris Cameron, who was also turned away at the press meeting.


 

UPDATE Sept 17 7:45 p.m.  

The Wenatchee School District issued a news release this evening in response to the Apple Leaf editorial staff’s request for a public apology from the district.

“One of the lessons that the students learn in our schools is that when you make a mistake you must admit it, be smart enough to learn from it, and strong enough to correct it,” the release read. “We plan to learn from this mistake by including The Apple Leaf on any future invitations for meetings with the other media.”

According to the news release, the district held a meeting that was not open to the general public and had only invited The Wenatchee World, KOHO radio, and KPQ radio to attend.

The release said that the claims of the district’s attempts to “muzzle the voices of the students,” were patently false.

The district expressed it was “disappointed in the actions of the Union in attempting to attend a closed meeting,” saying that if the union had provided the district notice, they may have been able to coordinate a joint meeting.

The Apple Leaf editorial board will meet district Superintendent Brian Flones at Wenatchee High School tomorrow morning to discuss the situation. Flones said he called the meeting to mend the relationship between the newspaper and the district.

The press release read as follows:

“One of the lessons that the students learn in our schools is that when you make a mistake, you must admit it, be smart enough to learn from it, and strong enough to correct it.

On September 16, 2015, the District held a meeting and invited three local media outlets,which included The Wenatchee World, KOHO Radio and KPQ Radio. The meeting was not open to the general public.

The District is proud to be associated with the Apple Leaf. It has shown itself to be a valued media outlet and has been recognized as such on a state and national level. It was a mistake to not invite them to the meeting. We plan to learn from this mistake by including the Apple Leaf on any future invitations for meetings with the other media outlets.

It has been reported that the District attempted to muzzle the voices of its students. This statement is patently false. After the September 16 meeting with The Wenatchee World, KOHO Radio and KPQ Radio, the District held a private meeting with the Apple Leaf where the District shared all the information that was discussed in the September 16 meeting. The District welcomes the voices of its students and encourages the Apple Leaf as a forum of student expression.

The District is, however, disappointed in the actions of the Union in attempting to attend a closed meeting. If the Union provided the District notice of its desire to attend, we may have been able to coordinate with Union to hold a joint meeting.”

 


 

The Apple Leaf editorial staff has voted 6-1 to request a public apology from Wenatchee School District Deputy Superintendent Jon DeJong, along with a promise that no such restrictions will be placed on the student newspaper in the future.

This decision is in response to DeJong’s refusal to admit Managing News Editor Moses Lurbur and Wenatchee Education Association President Kris Cameron into a news conference detailing the district’s position on teacher contract negotiations that took place yesterday.

Editor-in-Chief Adrian Robinson

Editor-in-Chief Adrian Robinson

“Our job as journalists is to ask questions, even the hardest ones. Sometimes, it takes many questions to get to the bottom line. A vital part of journalism is questioning, and reporting accurate information is dependant on the action of inquisition. We cannot avoid that,” Apple Leaf Editor-in-Chief Adrian Robinson said. “The fact that they denied a press organization — even a student press organization — the right to sit in on a public press conference is preposterous… The Wenatchee School District is clearly attempting to muzzle the voices of its students.”

After Lurbur was denied access to the conference, a private appointment was scheduled to accommodate the extra time that a student journalist would take up, as they tended to ask more questions than “professional” journalists, according to DeJong.

Robinson attended the appointment in place of Lurbur. School district representatives at the meeting included Dejong, Chief Financial Officer Les Vandervort, Executive Director of Human Resources Lisa Turner, and Executive Director of Student Services Mark Helm. Also in attendance at the meeting was publisher and chairman of The Wenatchee World, Rufus Woods.

The Wenatchee School District is clearly attempting to muzzle the voices of its students.”

— Adrian Robinson, Apple Leaf Editor-in-Chief

According to Robinson, Woods immediately inquired about the denial of Lurbur to attend the meeting, to which DeJong responded that the conference had been a “closed press conference.” Following the meeting, DeJong requested a private conference with Woods

Wenatchee Education Association President Kris Cameron

Wenatchee Education Association President Kris Cameron

“I think it was really inappropriate to exclude the Apple Leaf from that discussion. The Apple Leaf is a legitimate news organization and there was no reason to exclude them from that briefing,” Woods said. “If it happened again, I’ve asked my staff not to go any briefing if [the Apple Leaf] is excluded. I think they made a bad decision.”

Cameron expressed her outrage at the situation.

“I was really furious that a reporter… Was turned away in such a disrespectful fashion,” Cameron said. “We are a learning institution and here we have a young person who’s learning this craft and we denied him that opportunity to participate in that process. What does that say about us as a school district?”

 

Adrian Robinson and Moses Lurbur contributed to this report

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “UPDATE: District Superintendent issues apology to Apple Leaf editorial staff”

  1. Jane Hansen on September 17th, 2015 6:16 pm

    This is so not ok. The Apple Leaf is the press as much as any other news program or paper. However this is typical of HR Lisa Turner and Les Vandervort. They try hard to cover up what really happens in the school. When people are being called in Lisa has many times denied them have someone sit in with them. I know many HR people and she is the only one I know or have ever heard of not allowing someone present when requested. I spent many years in upper management and would have immediately dismissed anyone who did that. Not surprising that these people do not want anyone who might disagree or be critical of them

  2. Kris Cameron on September 18th, 2015 6:38 am

    I was notified and encouraged to attend a district press conference on the budget and contract negotiations by a member of the media. As president of WenEA, I would be derelict in my duties if I did not attend a press event where public statements were being made about issues that affect my members. It was only when I arrived at the event that the Apple Leaf reporter, Moses Lurber, and I were notified that it was a closed meeting for only the Wenatchee World, KPQ and KOHO radio. The implication that I knowingly attempted to attend a closed meeting is false and insulting.

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