Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Steve Swisher: A Mixed Legacy

Steve Swisher has been pushed out of his job in Crook County.

As is the norm in such cases, specifics are hard to come by; the people involved will keep mum publicly and say only that it was "time for a change."

But it's a safe bet that what ran Swisher's tenure onto the rocks in Crook County is the same stuff that caused problems in Sisters during his tenure.

A person intimately involved in the workings of the school district told me yesterday that Swisher is a " better to ask forgiveness than ask permission kind of guy." That seems spot on.

That can be a dynamic leadership style. A person who is willing to push the envelope gets things done. And Swisher got things done. We have a thriving Sisters Schools Foundation largely because of him. Swisher navigated the school district through a potentially disastrous budget crisis. Sisters School District hasn't had a strong sense of leadership in the superintendent's office since he left.

But character is fate and Swisher's style eventually brought grief. Swisher's relationship with his school board soured when several board members put him under heavier scrutiny than he liked during the process of building Sisters High School. He bristled at what he considered micromanagement — at what was really board oversight that was long overdue.

Oversight does not appeal to a " better to ask forgiveness than ask permission kind of guy."

The classic example of the pitfalls of Swisher's style is the debacle that ensued from the Sonrise Christian School "homeschool" program. Sisters is paying a $1.2 million debt to the state for that disallowed program.

Swisher has never taken any real accountability for this mess. Turns out he asked neither permission nor forgiveness.

Swisher must have known he'd worn out his welcome when he left Sisters and when the board could have asked his to come back, they didn't. Too much baggage.

He moved on, eventually winding up in Crook County. He took some of Sisters' best administrators with him: Jim Golden, Lora Nordquist...

Apparently, it wasn't a happy tenure. A lot got done, but the " better to ask forgiveness than ask permission kind of guy" eventually ran out of rope.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Here we go! At LAST.. Maybe Mr.Swisher will be held accountable for the all of his BAD business!! We all think His going to "CROOK" county pretty much illustrates as to his business practices! ,,,He should be put in jail ...He is corrupt and now is being "fired" .. what an example of bad government!

    Editor's note: This comment was moved from "School district should take a firm line with developer" for relevance.

  2. Hi Jim:
    The comments by Anonymous (July 30, 2008 9:46 AM ) are a prime example of what we have spoken about in the recent past – In my opinion: Anonymous comments have little or no value. We respectfully disagree on this subject. As the editor of the Nugget and Admin of the Nugget News Blog you make the policy decisions.

    I would however like to get others opinions on whether anonymous comments should be considered on The Nugget News Blog. At minimum the persons name or Blogger/Open Id be required to submit comments. Granted a person can hide behind a “fake” name or login id but at least the readers of the Nugget News Blog can track comments from individuals etc. Only you as the admin can track the IP address but it has very little value to the readers of the blog.

    A quick check of other area blogs/media or newspapers accepting online comments:

    The Source Weekly – Open comments, no moderation
    The Bulletin -- Registration Required
    Oregon Live – Registration Required
    Redmond Spokesman – Open Comments – Moderated
    Statesman Journal – Registration Required - Name or registration Required
    Willamette Week – Name, Email required
    The Registered Guard – No comments (online)
    Eugene Weekly – Open comments with verification option.

    So it's a mixed bag out there in the blogosphere.

    Jim: Think about changing the policy on anonymous comments. 'Me thinks' it's best for the community and the Nugget. People that hide behind anonymity and post truths, half truths and lies with no regards and often with the full understanding of the impact to potentially false statements.

    I'm not going to comment on your post or the anonymous persons comments ( July 30, 2008 9:46 AM ) as this is not the point of my post. Rather use this as an example of why anonymity should not be considered on a blog like that of The Nugget News.

    I wonder if the person making the statement, “He is corrupt,” would make such a statement if he/she used their real name? It might suggest defamation and libel should it not be found true.

    Thanks for the ear!
    Todd Dow
    Sisters Oregon

  3. Please Jim step in here and tell us what you think this forum should be about ..since you created this I would just like to say that the previous post is exactly why I remain to be anonymous. The previous author has concluded that I want some sort of aurgument or dialogue ..I was just hoping to give an opinion.. All his writings are not going to change opinions..Anyway thank you for doing all of this! Good Luck at your job! I will remain anonymous because this would be the type to slander because I don't agree with him!

  4. Todd Dow is wrong. I am guessing that it was you, Jim, that set up and moderates this blog. The decision whether to post anonymous comments or not should lie fully in your hands.

    A couple of observations about anonymous postings:
    1- You'll get more comments than you would if you disallowed them, and that is a good thing. Even if some of them are crap.
    2- Anonymous comments are usually given less credence than those that are signed; especially ones that are anonymous, and suspect in nature.(Hell, a lot of them are just outright dismissed).

    The other thing that Mr. Dow needs to remember is that he has the ability, as do others, of simply not reading this thing. If he's offended or disagrees with the content, he can go elsewhere. This is a much better choice for the rest of us rather than censorship. It's kind of like complaining about the crap that's on T.V. Well then, shut the S.O.B. off!

    So Todd, why don't your start your own blog (other than the art thing) and write whatever the hell you want. And then you can moderate comments from anonymous sources all day long.

    Oh, and by the way, Steve Swisher is a BOOB! If nothing else, it always pissed me off that he chose not to live in the district that he was superintendent of. We have a couple of higher-ups in this district that could afford to learn that lesson.

  5. The purpose of a "comment” is to comment on the content of the article or respond to others who have responded to the article's content…not the name of the author. In dealing with someone of Steve Swisher's caliber anonymity is a matter of self-preservation! This man has spent most of his adult life bending, twisting, and self-interpreting the regulations and laws that govern Oregon Public Schools. He even spent a period of time engraining himself with the "Mover's and Shaker's" in Salem. On the surface this would make a resume look awesome. But what boils below the surface is far more sinister. He comes into districts with his very educated and knowledgeable management style, he aligns himself with powerful county people and organizations, he puts people from his personal circle into positions of power within the district, he creates a sense of strong leadership, and at his last three tenures he found a way to get more money for the district through ADM's (average daily membership).
    He has changed his MO slightly on how he gets those added ADM's: Brookings-Harbor he closed the doors on an alternative school that was obviously reaching kids in order for the district to receive the ADM money, he claimed it was because their needs weren't being met as best they could the following article tells a different story ( Sister's was obvious (yikes). Finally in Crook County... removed from his position in mid contract for ADM and financial concerns... in Crook County he created an in district Alternative School that at best is dysfunctional and run's somewhere between 60-438 kids a year through it. 60-438, seems like a wide gap in numbers doesn't it? That’s because when Swisher and school administrators are asked about the enrollment numbers they are vague and non-committal to any specific number, the one number that remains valid with the Oregon Department of Education is 438 (42% of the High School enrollment that year)?????

    Isn't it about time this guy has to take responsibility for his actions and is removed from the educational arena!

  6. What Mr. Dow doesn’t understand is that many people don't want the things they say online to be connected with their offline identities. They may be concerned about political or economic retribution, harassment, or even threats to their lives. Hard to believe that should be a concern in such a small town as Sisters, but it is. Whistleblowers report news that companies and governments would prefer to suppress; human rights workers struggle against repressive governments; parents try to create a safe way for children to explore; victims of domestic violence attempt to rebuild their lives where abusers cannot follow.
    Instead of using their true names to communicate, these people choose to speak using pseudonyms (assumed names) or anonymously (no name at all). For these individuals and the organizations that support them, secure anonymity is critical. It may literally save lives.
    Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:
    Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society, or in our case a tight nit community suspicious of outsiders, or thinking not conducive to the wants of a few.
    The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym "Publius," and "the Federal Farmer" spoke up in rebuttal. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment.
    The right to anonymous speech is also protected well beyond the printed page. Thus, in 2002, the Supreme Court struck down a law requiring proselytizers to register their true names with the Mayor's office before going door-to-door.
    These long-standing rights to anonymity and the protections it affords are critically important for the Internet. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the Internet offers a new and powerful democratic forum in which anyone can become a "pamphleteer" or "a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox."
    Step down off of yours Mr. Dow.

  7. The notion of it being easier to ask forgiveness than permission is a quote often used also by our current SHS principal, mentored by Swisher. Hmmmm

  8. WOW! I think we all pretty much agree on the Mr. Swisher issue & I for one do hope KARMA has her way with him!
    Jim, I do agree that this is YOUR blog, no, rather, I thank you for providing a safe place as OUR blog & agree with my fellow "anonymous" identity holders that in a community of this size & nature it is safer for some to remain anonymous. There are people here who imagine themselves powerful & they are vocal and can be vicious in attacking one perceived as smaller or weaker, and for no other reason than perhaps they chose to disagree or stand a bit off the p.c. "center".
    I do hope, Jim, you will continue this blog & feel free to moderate where necessary and thanks again for the freedom of speech & opinion allowed here.
    Oh, and Todd... grow up ~ we all have opinions! They are just that ~ opinions ~ everyone has them & some of us choose to disagree with each other ~ that's OK! And some (like me) choose for the sake of peace not to identify ourselves online and therefore turn this into a personal spitting match. I don't need to shout my name out there, I just want to speak my mind without fear of condemnation by someone else who has a louder voice, has hours to read & time to write novels here. I am not eloquent with my words, nor do I have hours on end for reading & responding to every blog entry. I am way too busy living life & trying to love people ~ even those I disagree with. I find a few things to be passionate about & try not to be a busy-body with my nose into everything, but some things are worth speaking into.
    Free speech, freedom from intimidation, free enterprise, just to name a few.
    I LOVE this town and I love the folks here, I love the diversity, I love the talented artists in our area. I love that justice is sought, and I love that both sides of issues are given the opportunity to present & vent & speak out. Whether political, religious, headline news or small town news there are always at LEAST two sides & I for one, like the challenge of reading or hearing the "other" side ~ it causes me to think, to ponder, to perhaps grow in my understanding & compassion ~ to see things from another persons' perspective. That, Todd Dow, is why this blog needs to remain anonymous. So that people will feel free to speak up & perhaps we can all grow up, just a little bit more.
    Still anonymous

  9. Astonishing attack on Mr. Dow. He was polite and respectful in voicing his OPINION, which is what all the (other) anonymous poster are arguing for! How ironic that he gets attacked! He made a suggestion, backed it up with evidence, and looked at what other sites do. That warrants "grow up!" and "start your own blog so you can write whatever the hell you want"? Irony.

    If I were a betting man, I'd place money that Eric Dolson wrote the 8:10 post.

  10. if I was a betting man I would think that the last anonymous post was written by Mr. Dow.