In a Facebook exchange, Olathe Board of Education (OBOE) member Julie Steele told a father to move to another state if he doesn’t like the progressive policies of the current board.
Parent Cory Richmond, an aviation analyst, who has children that will soon be going to the district schools, wrote to Steele to complain about how the elected official turned off comments on her Facebook page, which he called “disturbing.”
In her response, Steele claimed Richmond’s goal was to tear “down my original intent and put words in my mouth.”
“I will not play that game,” the board member replied.
Instead, Steele played a far more insulting game, according to Richmond.
“Perhaps, if you disagree [with DEI and SEL], you should consider educating your child in another state that more closely aligns with your values,” Steele added, according to screenshots of the exchange provided by Richmond.
Since the exchange, Steele has either made her Facebook profile private or deleted it entirely. The Lion sought comment from Steele by text, email and phone but received no response prior to publication.
Jennifer Gilmore, who is running for an open OBOE seat after losing to Steele in the previous election by 65 votes, told The Lion that the problem with Steele and the other progressives on the board is that they run it like a family business.
The seat Gilmore is running for now is occupied by Steele’s brother-in-law.
“Her dad was on the city council here for, like, 20 years. And she was backed by the union. She’s a Democrat” said Gilmore, explaining that Steele gets a lot of support from D.C. insiders.
Consequently, they don’t care what the average voter thinks, Gilmore added.
For his part, Richmond said that he was surprised by Steele’s reaction, but he’s learning that’s how the board conducts education business in Olathe.
“Yes, I was absolutely surprised at that kind of comment from an elected leader to one of her constituents,” Richmond told The Lion. “To treat people that way who disagree with you in the community over school policies? It just seemed, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ So yeah, I was very surprised at it.”
Richmond said that currently there’s a lot of “dysfunction” on the school board, in part, because the school board isn’t interested in what taxpayers and parents think.
Steele’s response, inviting him to move out of state, is just a reflection of that dysfunction, he said.
“She could have just said, ‘Well, I’m sorry. We disagree.’ Or say something more diplomatic than telling me to move out of state.”
Gilmore charged that the nepotism and insider-dealing among board members and their friends has created “quite the circus over here” at the OBOE.
In May, an Olathe district high school principal resigned after students presented the board with an ultimatum demanding they fire him after a series of racial incidents at the school.
So whatever else DEI and SEL may be doing for the district, they aren’t preventing controversy.
Critics, said Gilmore, have taken to calling the OBOE the “Cabal,” claiming that board members and contractors for the school district have been “connected for many, many years.”
“They don’t believe that they have to abide by policy. And they believe that they govern themselves as a board,” said Gilmore.
That’s in part because progressives control the board 5-2.
“I’m running so I can be a voice for the people,” Gilmore told the Lion. “That’s what I ran on last time and I’m running on again, because I do feel like you’re just silenced. They don’t want you to have discourse with your government. They don’t realize they are the government as elected board members.”
Gilmore faces a primary election in August with a general election in November for the board seat.
In the meantime, Richmond said he’s planning on getting more involved with school board meetings, as are other parents.
“We have a school board meeting coming up, a special end of the year meeting, I think on the 28th of this month, and yes I’m planning on going and voicing my concerns,” said Richmond.