EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Jeremy Baumhower’s response to an email he received yesterday from AWS Board member Doug Zimmerman.
Dear Mr. Zimmerman,
Good Morning. First, I wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation for the time you spent writing your email. You put a lot of effort in choosing very specific things and words you wished to convey to me; sharing what information you could with your side of the Kaylee Halko discussion.
Here is my response…
Thank you for showing me and everyone who cares about Kaylee and children in general, the person you exactly are. I wish to express my deepest appreciation for the years you have publicly served. I know your decision to run wasn’t money based, you wanted to “affect” change.
I believe after reading your email, your time remaining in public office will be less than you thought before you decided to hit “send”.
As a father of four children, I am well aware that bullying is a world-wide issue and not exclusive to the Anthony Wayne School District. My involvement with sharing Kaylee Halko’s bullying began when I was made aware of the Instagram pages created, the words and hate that filled it’s content and by it’s authors. I still can not fathom how something like this happens.
I have never once tried to “vilify” a ten-year-old child, the alleged person behind creating the various social media sites. I understand that every child is a product of the home they are raised in; 10 year-old children make mistakes. I am also aware a 10 year-old’s brain is not evolved or educated enough to understand the gravity of what was created. My focus has never been on the alleged “bully” but those who are responsible for educating his/her brain.
My motivation in sharing the Halkos’ story with the community is based solely on your district’s refusal to call what happened to Kaylee what it was… “bullying”.
I have acted as a vehicle of words for both Tim and Marla Halko. I have also posted any and all communications I have received from the district’s office, including the email you sent yesterday.
Monday morning, I sat there in your presence, with a crowd full of people all wanting simple answers or to hear comforting words. I was amazed with what I heard you say about your amount of sleep and the non-affect of Kaylee’s case has caused.
I was more saddened by what I didn’t hear you, nor any board member say. Your choice in not apologizing to the community, that packed that room on a Monday morning during the summer, over their upset feelings was shocking, your choice in not apologizing to the Halkos who were moving because of what happened in a school district you are responsible for, showed those in attendance the quality of person you are.
Apologies are not an admission of guilt, but rather a display of compassion, sympathy and empathy.
You mentioned your family history with a parent, an uncle and grandparent all being involved in education. “I bring to the table nothing but an open mind, some common sense and a desire to help ALL the students and families where I choose to raise my family.” As noble as your original intentions are, it appears that you might be under-qualified to sit on a board of education. I am a son of a welder, a nephew and grandson of carpenters. I fully comprehend that watching my grandfather swing a hammer fails to qualify me as an expert in carpentry, yet alone to sit on a board who’s responsibility is coming up with guidelines and policies to protect and educate future carpenters.
You also encouraged me “to get out from behind your keyboard, step up and do something for your community”. “This is an off year, but school board election will be held throughout the state next year. Head down to One Government Center, pick up a petition, walk around your community and get signatures run for office. Put down your stones and step into our glass house, take on some responsibility…and maybe in the end you may earn the respect of your children for doing the right thing. ”
Speaking out for families like the Halkos; is my way of public service. I am a public figure, not because I was elected but because people choose to read my words. I open myself to public criticism, like you; it comes with the job I choose.
I don’t need to run for a public office as a way to make a difference in this community. I do not have a current resume that lists the various things and boards I have been a part of, if people wanted to know they can “google” me. Rather than publicly boast in an effort to seek approval, I choose to volunteer privately, to use my creativity, my heart and reach to affect positive changes in the very place I am choosing to raise my family. I do not need an official title, “writer” or “dad” fits me just fine.
You referenced my “children’s pride” and or lack therof in me, a couple of different times. I do my very best with every word I have ever typed to show them who exactly I am. I hope one day they will have a sense of pride of me, especially for taking on bullies like you.
Since you were so quick to address my children’s pride, let’s talk about yours. I am sorry if my posts about you have upset your 21 year-old daughter. It was not my intention to insult you to your child. I am aware that you have served four terms (16 years) on the AW Board of education. It has been brought to my attention that your 21 year-old daughter did not attend nor graduate from the very high school that your board of education creates policy for. I know that your son attended, currently attends AWHS and also this very daughter attended to a certain grade level, before moving to a private school. This leads me to various questions about how much belief and confidence you actually have in the district you are sworn to serve. It leads me to speculate with questions like “Was she bullied?”, “Why does he pay money for an education for his daughter, while deciding policy for free ones?” etc.
I was more alarmed with how you introduced your daughter in the email. “I received a text from my 21 year old daughter this morning, her Facebook page was blowing up with your ”blog“ about yesterday morning’s meeting. I gave her a call, and the first words out of her mouth were ”I’m guessing this guy doesn’t have all the facts or you wouldn’t have spoken up.“ I explained to her the whole story and all she could say was ”WOW“ and ‘I’m proud of you dad’”
I am curious what federally and state protected information you could share with her that you, nor any other board member could not share with the rest of those attending Monday’s meeting? You gave her the very information that 100-plus people were seeking and never heard. I believe that is a violation of two families’ rights according to state and federal law.
While sharing this story I have always positioned it as The Halkos vs AWS BOE, not the Halkos versus the “bully’s” family. I have come to the conclusion that my posts make it is impossible for you to ever relate; no one sees them-self as the villain. You were forced to pick a side early on, the Halkos or the alleged family of the bully. It appears by your refusal to call the Instagram pages an act of bullying, that you sided against the Halkos.
I wonder what factors came into this decision? If I were to speculate again, after getting your sense of “boys will be boys” theory in life; I would think you would have to consider the long-term potential of both involved. One child comes from a family with enough wealth to donate a smartboard while the other child has a terminal prognosis. It could have simply been a decision based on numbers, years of life remaining. I am sorry, but such decisions and lack of public empathy leads to possible conclusions like this.
The best thing that will ever come from your email to me, is that you have unintentionally motivated people to run for public office, specifically the Board of Education in the Anthony Wayne School district.
I am certain that your public service days are now numbered. It will be my honor to share this email, Kaylee’s story with each and every lawmaker who can replace you effective immediately. It will be something that may give my children a sense of pride if nothing else does.
Enjoy all your future nights of sleep, may they be less-filled with the burden of inspiring children not to bully. People have said the bullying in AWS has increased dramatically over the last couple of decades. I think 13 years ago may be a better a guestimate.
PS. The 10 year-old girl with progeria’s name is KAYLEE Halko, not Kaley. I am sure the thorough investigation covered that very small detail.