Resident concerned about former Batavia superintendent’s input on levy

Published: Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 1:57 p.m. CDT

BATAVIA – Former Batavia School District 101 Superintendent Jack Barshinger was among those who sent emails to the Batavia School Board leading up to its vote on the 2013 levy.

That concerned resident Sylvia Keppel, who discovered the retired administrator’s correspondence through a Freedom of Information Act request. She said the email was inappropriate because he is no longer employed with the district.

“I’m sure his comments carried weight,” Keppel said.

Superintendent Lisa Hichens wouldn’t comment specifically on Barshinger’s email but said his was among many that District 101 officials received about the levy.

“He has the right to provide his opinion to the board just like anybody else does,” Hichens said, noting he submitted his input through the district website, as did the others.

Barshinger’s email included two quotes from Mark Twain:

• “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

• “Never argue with a fool in public, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”

He also wished the board good luck.

“The majority want you to pass the full levy,” he wrote. “A few, that will never let ‘the facts’ get in the way of their argument, will attempt to represent the majority.”

Keppel said the attitude of his email was condescending.

Reached by phone Thursday, Barshinger said it wasn’t his intent to insult taxpayers. He has frequently referenced those quotes when talking with school boards about the importance of listening to – not arguing with – the public during meetings, he said.

“I always encourage the board and any board of education that I’ve worked with over the years that it’s their job to listen,” Barshinger said. “If you’re talking, you’re not listening.”

Barshinger said he sent the email because he’s a resident and taxpayer and still feels connected to the district. Additionally, he said, components of the tax levy were part of a long-range financial strategy. With newer members on the board, he said, he felt compelled to weigh in.

Board president Cathy Dremel could not be reached for comment by deadline.

The Batavia School Board adopted the 2013 tax levy last month.

According to the District 101 website, the nearly $63 million levy represents an almost 13 percent increase from 2012.

The district estimates the average homeowners will see a $28 reduction on their tax bill.

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