Letters to the Editor: 4.25.2013

School board candidate reminds public to vote

To the Editor:

Thank you for considering the three remaining candidates for the Ennis School Board. Hopefully the next 30 days will find the Board engaged and invested in an appropriate settlement with TRS. Even when that occurs, there will still be significant financial matters and structural issues to resolve in order to provide the quality educational experience that we all desire for the young members of our community.

Regaining the support and trust of all taxpayers must be a goal of the new Board. Success will not be easy or quick. My dad always counseled me to remember the old adage, “Thirty years to build your reputation, thirty seconds to lose it”.

I would appreciate your support for this election. I will make decisions that will be reasoned, fact-based, and within the legal and fiduciary duties of the Board. Students, staff and taxpayers are all recipients of the value of a quality education if delivered properly within our means and with integrity.

Please continue to support our local public educational system by voting on or before May 7.


John Scully

Ennis, MT


Vote for Maria Lake


Dear Editor,


Upon hearing that Maria Lake was running for Ennis Schools Trustee my initial reaction was “GREAT!” Monday I received Maria’s flier wherein she listed a number of traits she would bring to the job. As I read the list I checked them each off with, “True, true, true…” to the very end. I have worked closely with Maria and know that she is not one to make snap judgments or have knee-jerk reactions. She does not hold grudges; she is the antithesis of pettiness. If Maria Lake becomes a trustee she will put the students and community first and bring honor to Ennis Schools.


Claudia Sneigoski

McAllister, MT


Reader responds to Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor:


I find it quite ironic that Ms. Frye claims to have a goal to rebuild the community’s trust with the board and yet she did not tell the whole truth in her letter to the editor last week. Ms. Frye admonished her fellow board members for going along with the advice of the school attorney, but she forgot to tell you that she too voted for that same advice at the special school board meeting held on March 5, 2013. At that meeting the board, along with the school attorney, discussed going to mediation with TRS. The board voted unanimously to enter into mediation with TRS and have the school attorney and Mr. Overstreet represent the school district.

At the board meeting held April 10, 2013, Ms. Frye had this issue put back on the agenda. She claims it was because community members had requested that a board member be present at the mediation. However, there were six people present at the meeting who spoke in favor of a board member being present at the mediation. One of those was David Kelley and another was an attorney from Sheridan, whom I don’t believe is a taxpayer in the Ennis School district. At this meeting, both Ms. Frye and Mr. George “changed” their previous votes and voted against the advice of the attorney. I don’t really think six people constitute the “community” and even warranted putting it back on the agenda.

Ms. Frye has claimed to stand strong on hard decisions, but apparently flip-flopping on this issue, and then not even being honest about it in the paper, is how she feels she is rebuilding our trust.

How sad for Mr. Overstreet that Lisa Frye, Craig George and Mike Richmann don’t even trust Mr. Overstreet to represent us.

With that in mind, I will be voting for John Scully and Maria Lake. They will honestly represent us and keep the best interest of the kids in mind. I hope you will join me in voting for true honesty and real integrity and not half-truths.


Thank you,


Ken Sciuchetti

Ennis, MT


Richmann best for school


To the Editor,


I am writing in support of Mike Richmann for School Trustee. Mike will stand for honesty and transparency. I believe he will work hard to help resolve or School District’s financial issues in the appropriate way. I know he will work to see the Adult Ed. And Transportation funds reduced to normal levels and excess funds used to reduce taxes.

The issues with TRS have gone on for almost three years now during which time tens upon tens of thousands of dollars have been paid to the District’s attorney. He is committed to resolving this debt promptly and fairly. He is a person with integrity, common sense and a strong respect for others. I hope you will vote for Mike Richmann on Tuesday, May 7.


Jim Huckins

Ennis, MT


Madison County Library needs one-time mill levy


Dear Editor:


This letter is to urge Madison County residents to vote “For” the one-time mill levy to help build a desperately needed addition to our Madison County Library.

As a regular patron of the library, I assure you that the current building (which is nearly 100 years old) is sadly showing its age and is dreadfully inadequate to meet our needs.  The proposed new addition will not only be a beautiful complement to our existing facility, but will provide such basic needs as ADA compliant restrooms, hot water, an adequate electrical system, and urgently needed space for our children’s learning area and public meetings.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the new addition will provide climate-controlled space for our archives and county records.  These are some of the oldest documents related to Montana’s history and deserve to be protected.  Without the new addition our historic building and documents will continue to deteriorate.  Please vote “For” the one-time mill levy to help save Montana history…for us and for future generations.


Gary Forney

Ennis, Montana


Board members supports mediation process


Dear Editor,


I read Lisa Frye’s letter in The Madisonian last week. I felt compelled to respond and clarify the facts.

On March 5, after discussing the options, and hearing comments from the public, the board agreed and voted unanimously to go to mediation and not to go to trial, as it would be lengthy and costly. Ms. Kaleva explained the procedure to the board. We were advised that mediation is closed to the public. The School Board and the Board of Trustees for the TRS cannot attend the mediation, as it would violate the open meeting laws. All board members agreed to have Superintendent John Overstreet represent the Ennis School Board with the school attorney.

On March 11, Elizabeth Kaleva explained how the mediation would work. Ms. Kaleva told us that she and John Overstreet would bring back the best deal they could get for the school district and it was up to the Board to make the final approval. A motion was made to have John Overstreet and Ms. Kaleva mediate for the school district. All board members voted in favor, including Lisa Frye and Craig George.

The School District was notified the mediation was set for April 23, 2013.

April 10: Board members Lisa Frye and Craig George wanted to send two Board members to the TRS Mediation. The entire board discussed this issue several times.  The mediation would have been postponed if the Ennis School Board changed the mediation rule that was agreed to. A motion was made to send two board members to mediation. Lisa Frye and Craig George voted for it. Jim McNally, Mike McKitrick and I voted against it. I feel the district has to get this issue over the most cost effective way. I was not willingly to compromise or delay this process for an indefinite period of time. I do believe in honesty and transparency. I have nothing but respect and trust for our superintendent John Overstreet. I know John Overstreet will represent the school district with integrity.

I will be supporting and voting for Maria Lake and John Scully on May 7, 2013.



Bill Clark

Ennis, Montana


Time part ways with school district attorney


Dear Editor,


In a 3-2 decision, the Ennis School Board voted not to be represented by any Trustee at the upcoming mediation with the Teachers Retirement System. Instead, the Ennis School District will be represented by Superintendent John Overstreet and the school’s attorney, Elizabeth Kaleva. At stake is an $188,000 claim TRS has against the District, ticking away at 7.7 percent interest.

I have no problem with Mr. Overstreet or Mrs. Kalava attending the mediation and offering their personal findings and opinions regarding whatever final offer TRS throws on the table. What I object to and strenuously so, is the absence of at least two elected Trustees being present along with Mr. Overstreet and Ms. Kaleva.

The final decision to accept or reject the TRS offer will be made by the Trustees. If no Ennis Trustee attends the mediation due to the narrow 3-2 vote, it means the final decision will be based on secondhand information. In the legal profession, secondhand information is defined as hearsay.

But it defies logic to specifically exclude duly elected Trustees

From hearing first hand the various offers from TRS, it makes no sense. However, cutting the Board some slack, it needs to be noted that Mrs. Kaleva recommended that Trustees not attend the meeting. Such poor advice goes hand in hand with other questionable suggestions she has provided in the past.

I am flabbergasted an attorney, Ms. Kaleva, would urge a client, the Ennis School District, to base a decision involving $188,000 plus 7.7 percent interest on hearsay. As an attorney, she should know better. If she doesn’t know better, she should.

The upcoming School Board Election offers three fine candidates for Trustee. I will cast my vote for Mike Richmann, an unwavering voice advocating even further change in the direction in which the Ennis School District is headed. The District needs change. Mr. Richmann can help with that change.

It is my hope that with two newly elected Trustees another important step in the right direction for the District will be taken. I also hope, the first order of business after the election will be the hiring a new school district attorney. The time has arrived for Ms. Kaleva and the Ennis School District to part ways. Actually, the time is long overdue.


Jerry Welch

Ennis, Montana


Reader addresses Medicaid, private school issue Part One


Dear Editor:


I find it mind boggling that Ms. Bradley can ask so many questions with such a vast subject matter in one article.  Just enough half-truths and misinformation to cause damage, but never enough information to substantiate anything.

The legislators receiving insurance is part of their pay and they only receive it while they are legislators, while people receiving Medicaid do not receive it as part of their pay, so to put it in the same category is ludicrous.  Medicaid is usually received along with other welfare programs that people receive congruently.  To be clear – the reason they didn’t expand the Medicaid was they wanted program reform first instead of just throwing more money at something that isn’t working.

The private school issue – How is the Legislature giving your tax dollar to anyone else – they want to give a tax credit (a small one).  Pat Bradley doesn’t mind that those parents have to pay for both public and private school.  Insinuating that people who don’t send their children to public school are wealthy is incorrect.  A lot of Montanans home school and are not wealthy at all, but are very committed to the education of their children.  They have to buy curriculums, all the while paying for everyone’s children in public school.  Something to remember is we all continue to pay into public education before and long after our children are grown, so it is only logical (and the right thing to do) that parents should receive compensation for alternative educational choices.


(Continued next week)


Christy Wagner

Harrison, Montana


Elect Scully and Lake

Dear Editor:

Electing Maria Lake and John Scully as Trustees of the Ennis School District will bring increased transparency and accountability to the district’s policies, processes and finances.

Both candidates have raised families and thus have first-hand experience with the importance of quality public education and the ongoing challenges related thereto. Both candidates have achieved excellence in their professions by strategic thinking and planning followed by effective leadership.  Both candidates have added value to their respective communities by volunteering and guiding a multitude of successful community efforts.  Both candidates have the wisdom to listen and a history of becoming and keeping informed, insuring that they make informed decisions.  Neither of them will blow an uncertain trumpet. Both candidates have the emotional intelligence to honorably represent our school district.

Your vote for Maria Lake and John Scully will be a wise investment in the futures of our young people, tomorrow’s leaders!


Mary G. Oliver

Ennis, Montana


As simple as black and white

Dear Editor,


A year has nearly passed since the community of the Ennis School District elected me to serve as a Trustee to represent their interests.  In the few short weeks remaining, you will be asked again to select the two best representatives to serve your interests.  I truly have no idea who will win the majority votes.  Three dedicated people of varying backgrounds have placed themselves before you.  I say “dedicated” because that is what they will need to be to effectively face the challenges remaining from the past and to succeed in setting and meeting the District’s needs for the future.

When you select the candidate of your choice for the upcoming election, there should be no doubt in your mind as to who deserves to represent you and your interests.  It should be clearly a black and white decision. Have you ever noticed the editorials of The Madisonian are printed in black and white?  (Only do the editorial comments themselves add the needed color).  Have you ever noticed your ballots are printed in black and white?  Did you know that the Montana School Laws book is also printed in black and white?  Trust me, if you don’t have a copy of the laws you might look them up on your computer.  They too will be displayed in black and white.  Shades of gray are not acceptable.  Most printing is done in black and white because it is more cost effective.  So are decisions.

I could have written about right is right and wrong is wrong, but black and white as it is printed here is exactly the same.  Without adding any color, my ballot will reflect an (X) next to the names of Mike Richmann and John Scully as Ennis School Board Trustees in this year’s election.


Craig B. George

Ennis, MT


School board chairperson addresses letter to editor


Dear Editor,


I am writing in response to Janice Cleverley’s letter to the editor in last week’s Madisonian.

She stated Craig George and I, “Originally just wanted to write a check for $188,000 to TRS without even waiting for the final ruling.”  That is false.  I never stated that.  It is clear we owe TRS money, but I do not believe the District should pay the $96,000 that is Walsh’s share of the $188,000 (which, by the way, has gone up with interest).  I believe that we could have paid our share with what we have paid so far to the District’s attorney, Elizabeth Kaleva. In fact there was a settlement offer last August for less that Ms. Kaleva never disclosed to the Board.

Mrs. Cleverley also states that Craig George and I voted against Mr. Overstreet’s recommendations numerous times this year.  Let’s review those votes:

The Board voted to buy the parking lot property across from the Elementary school.  I voted against that purchase because at the time we did not have the Denning and Downing audit results, and I thought it premature to make a large purchase before having those results. We also made the purchase at full asking price, which I would not agree to either.  Paying full asking price without negotiating is silly, as Mrs. Cleverley seemingly agrees with given her comments about TRS.

I voted against deposing Sandra Lane because I did not believe it was in the best interest of the District. In light of Sandra’s affidavit to TRS, such as Doug Walsh falsifying payroll records, I thought seeking further details would be a detriment to our case. We should not have paid Elizabeth Kaleva to help TRS build their case.

Because the Board is the elected governing body and ultimately the client, I firmly believe we should have sent at least one Board member to the TRS mediation.

I fully supported renewing John Overstreet’s contract, however, Mrs. Cleverley implies that the Board should always vote according to the Superintendent’s recommendations. That line of thinking is exactly what has caused the problems this District has been struggling with.

I believe that neither Mike Richmann nor John Scully will be a rubber stamp.  I support them both.  Please vote Tuesday, May 7.




Lisa Frye

Ennis, Montana


Lake cares for children of community


Dear Editor,

Over the last weeks, we have read many letters to the Editor in support of Maria Lake’s candidacy for School Board Trustee.  These letters describe Maria as intelligent, capable, honest, a good listener, fair, trust worthy, impartial, and someone who does her homework to understand a matter.  We fully agree with all of these, yet believe the qualification most important for the position of School Board Trustee has yet to be expressed.  Maria Lake has a love and passion for the children of this community.

We have three children who attend the Ennis schools.  All three know and love Maria because she has earned that love and respect not only by being their elder, but because she listens and has lovingly guided them.

There is no doubt that Maria Lake will always do that which is in the best interest of our children.  She will do so because she sincerely cares for them and our community.

We ask others to join us on Tuesday, May 7, in electing Maria Lake as School Board Trustee.  We know that she will do an exemplary job for this community, and most importantly, it’s children.


Steve and Marthe Elliott

Ennis, Montana


Time to move forward


Dear Editor,


With the school board election looming, I offer you a few facts:

#1: Beginning in 2001 with the decision to make Mr. Walsh a part-time superintendent and ending with the Attorney General’s decision regarding the building of the new school in 2011, many decisions, some questionable, were made by the board of trustees of the Ennis School District.

#2: The trustees who served on the school board during this ten-year period cover a broad spectrum of our fine community. Dave Schenk, Roy Pederson, Marc Glines, John Hauck, Janet Dochnahl, Jim McNally, Jerry Welch, Dave Clark, Eileen White, Tony Tezak, Gary Croy, Mike McKitrick and Brett Owens all served on the board and had a hand in the decisions made during this time period.

#3: With the audit complete, its findings reported and the TRS issue hopefully near its end, the issues still surrounding our school can be solved. As Mr. Overstreet pointed out, we didn’t get to this position in a year, it won’t all be fixed in a year.

Now, an opinion based on these facts. The time has come to move positively into the future. We have got to stop making these issues personal, pointing fingers and blaming individuals for the decisions that were made by so many. Stop beating the dead horse. We must work together to solve the remaining issues, with the students’ and the district’s best interest in mind.

With this in mind, I ask that you look closely at this year’s candidates and decide for yourself, the two people best suited to help our school and our town to actually move forward in a positive manner.




Chad Coffman



Readers supports Richmann for school board trustee


Dear Editor,


We have to admire all candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring for the position of Ennis School Board Trustee. We are fortunate to have Mr. Overstreet as an excellent superintendent who is working hard for our school, including a resolution to the TRS issue.

Now we need to appoint trustees to help him continue forward. There are still millions of dollars to be distributed out of Adult Ed funds, and I believe Mike Richmann will be an asset in doing that. Mike’s background in management and finance as well as his experience dealing with federal, state and local regulations and legal issues give him a unique skill set to help resolve the school’s financial problems. Mike has attended many school board meetings over the last several years and has demonstrated a firm grasp of our school’s funds and how they can be legally reformed.

I look forward to May 7 when I can cast my vote for Mike Richmann. I believe Mike’s informed and inquiring participation on the school board will help restore faith in our school district and will be just what we need to further our progress. A vote for Mike Richmann on Tuesday, May 7, will make a positive difference.


Cedar West

Ennis, Montana


Lake gains support


Dear Editor:


Personally, there is no way I would want to be on the Ennis School Board of Trustees.   The role and responsibility to work for the greater good and to improve the quality of education in our community has not been easy.  Trustees have the difficult task to be forward thinking, design a blueprint for the future, avoid stagnating in past issues by applying lessons learned, and foster an environment of professional trust. I’m too impulsive to steady that courageous course.

Fortunately, this community has an individual with the qualities that an Ennis School Board Trustee requires. Her name is Maria Lake. She is grace under fire, compassionate and possesses honest open communication skills. She can take the heat of public scrutiny that is inherent as a school board member. She leads as a fact gatherer, sees the big picture, and utilizes excellent collaboration skills. She values the feedback of others, positive or negative, incorporating and carefully weighing that feedback in her decision-making.  If it is important enough to say, it is just as important to her to listen, absorb and disseminate.  That is the art of communication and the backbone of leadership.

Maria is not a complainer, no doom and gloom here. Difficult issues are opportunities for change, adjustment, growth – not road blocks. Maria is motivated by her love of this community, her desire to serve, and her belief in the potential of every child. The quality of the teachers, staff and employees of the Ennis schools inspire her. She works here, she lives here, her grandchildren attend school here, and she will faithfully serve here. Maria Lake, the right choice for Ennis School Board of Trustees.


Jode Boyles Briggs

Ennis, Montana


Reader shows support for Maria Lake


Dear Editor:


Two years ago, I was in a real jam.  My assistant’s husband accepted a job offer near Lewistown, which meant she and her family would be moving when the school year ended.

As happy as I was for her, I had no idea who might replace her.

Thank goodness, though, for my Fairy Godmother, Maria Lake.

“I understand that you might be looking for a new assistant,” she said.  “If so, I have the perfect fit for you.  She’s got experience in the industry, is a person of integrity, and is the best there is regarding concierge-level customer service.”

“Are you applying for the job?” I asked.

“No,” she said, laughing. “But my daughter, Nicole Fredson, might be interested.”

“But you’re her mother,” I said.  “Moms are all biased when it comes to their kids.”

“Just ask around,” she said, smiling and confident.

So I did.  And, just as Maria said, the sentiment was unanimous.

Within a week, my problem was solved.  Even better, two years later, our office has never run smoother.

And you know whom I have to thank?  Second only to Nicole herself, Maria Lake.

What’s more, I have gotten to know Maria in a way few others could, not only as a friend and a client but also through the lens of her daughter.  Even at her lowest moments, as her late, dear husband, Robert “Bob” Lake, and her mother, Esther Marzullo, declined then ultimately passed within forty-eight hours of one another, Maria was a devoted servant, a woman of compassion and faith, who was others-minded to the finish.

If I could reverse roles with her and play the part of Fairy Godmother (a pretty disturbing thought, I know), I would wave a magic wand and install Maria Lake as one of the next Ennis Schools Trustees for the sake of our kids, our teachers and administrators, and our community, for she is wise, compassionate, fair, faithful, considerate, smart, lovely, talented, kind, and exceptionally gifted.  Most rare of all, she is selfless, motivated only to serve the interests of others.

Maria Lake for Trustee!

Jon Goodman

Ennis, MT


Thank you

The families of Brendan Glenn Reints wish to thank everyone for their kind deeds, words of comfort and expressions of love during this difficult time of sorrow. Knowing that there are so many caring individuals who generously share of themselves is such a blessing. Your presence, cards, calls, meals and donations brought comfort and ease to the family. Brendan meant the world to us and knowing he touched so many lives will help us continue on this earthly journey without him… Until we meet again.

Sincerely Grateful,

April, Corbin and Mira Reints
Opie and Robin (“Angel”) Reints and family
Danny and Gennene Devers and family
Harvey and Boots Lake and family
Rick and Julie Carpenter and family


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