Monday, April 11, 2011

Purge Continues At Alta High School; Assistant Principal Mark Montague Transferred To Butler Middle School In Cottonwood Heights

The full scale witch hunt and purge launched against Alta High School by the Canyons School District continues unabated, although the latest victim got a relatively soft landing. Assistant Principal Mark Montague, who along with Principal Mont Widerburg was placed on paid leave after the Klan hood incident at the March 17th spirit bowl at Alta, has been transferred to Butler Middle School in Cottonwood Heights where he will serve as assistant principal. The current assistant principal at Butler, Corrie Barrett, relocates to Alta to replace Montague in the same position.

Any negative impact upon Montague will be likely in career progression. A move from an AP slot at a high school to the same slot at a middle school is not looked upon as forward career progression. While all schools within the district are treated with equal importance, middle schools have fewer student than high schools; a middle school admin job is not considered as difficult. This means that Montague can probably kiss off ever getting a principal's slot within the Canyons School District, and may have a difficult time competing for any other principal's slot within the state of Utah. But at least he still has a job. Since this post, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Montague, who has worked in education for 33 years, said that Butler is a “great school”, but declined to discuss the reasons for his move.

The former principal, Mont Widerburg, was actually slated to transfer to a facilities job in the district office, but decided to suddenly "retire" after the controversy broke. Widerburg insists the retirement was "voluntary". Widerburg exited with class, saying "Take the challenge to teach, and learn the principles of love, caring, compassion, understanding, tolerance and especially forgiveness. Promise yourselves that you will respect others and treat them with dignity. Do everything to combat the evils of the world and to promote good."

Of course, if you really believe Widerburg's retirement was completely "voluntary", I have a bridge over Utah Lake I'll sell you. Oops, wait a minute, I forgot......somebody actually wants to build one.

Meanwhile, another result of the continuing purge is that three Alta students were charged were issued citations for unlawful acts in school, all class B misdemeanors. Two of the students were cited for allegedly texting an image of a burning cross and a Klansman superimposed with the phrase "Alta Pride". Police would not confirm whether the student who wore the pillowcase was one of the three. There was also reportedly verbiage that went along with the pictures, but neither police nor the school district would confirm or comment on that. The texts were not sent from white students to black students and were not believed to be racially motivated, but apparently were sent while the students were on school property.

The Canyons School District has announced a so-called "plan of action" which will involve providing wholesale diversity education and indoctrination at all Canyons schools. The efforts could involve resources and assistance from outside organizations including the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the First Amendment Center, the Utah 3Rs Project, the Utah State Office of Education, the Utah Inclusion Center and the Human Rights Education Center of Utah. This broad-brushed sledgehammer approach is despite the fact that, by Superintendent David S. Doty's own admission, the problems at Alta are the result of the actions of only a very few malcontents.

Larz Cosby, the bi-racial student who unleashed the publicity blitz, still continues to hold forth on his blog. He continues to take a lot of heat for obsessing with the issue, comments are about 50-50 for one opinion or another.

Update: Mark Montague got a ringing endorsement posted by a former student of his as a comment to the Tribune story.

DrGroovey 12 minutes ago:
Mark Montague was a teacher of mine at Brighton High School back in 1986 and 1987. He is one of the finest social studies teachers I have ever known. He also taught the Model United Nations class. His classes did wonders at exposing a bunch of east side teenagers to the realities of the problems in society and made us think about what was happening in the world around us. He taught us about civil rights and respecting those around us. I never heard him say anything or saw him do anything that would condone or even tolerate a racially insensitive word or action.

That is why I think it is sad that he has been put through the recent turmoil at Alta High. The media keeps repeating that he was put on leave, and strongly implies that he must have done something wrong. The fact is he did nothing wrong, except maybe be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I understand the Canyons District needed to do their investigation, but it was wrong for them to throw loyal educators under the bus before they figured out what was going on.

I wish Mark Montague well at Butler Middle. It will be nice for him to be able to continue his career being a role model to students in a place where he won't have to deal with all the crap the district threw on him at Alta.

John B. Wilson
Brighton High, class of '87

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