As Natrona Trustees Bid Farewell, McCullar Denounces Incoming Trustees
Following the November election, four members of the Natrona County School Board of Trustees were voted out, including Kianna Smith, Dave Applegate, Clark Jensen, and Debbie McCullar.
While Applegate and Jensen didn't run for reelection, Smith and McCullar did, with Smith receiving 4,100 votes, putting her in eight, while McCullar got 5,015 votes putting her in fifth and 864 votes away from Mary Schmidt and staying on the board.
At their last school board meeting, most members took the time at the end of the meeting to thank everyone for their time on the board, what they were able to accomplish, and what they will miss about the people leaving.
Jensen and Applegate both spoke in their speeches about how thankful they were for the work done by the current and former superintendents in handling COVID-19 and for the work done by everyone else they've worked with on the board.
Smith thanked everyone on the board for the work they did on the books and said that it might be good that she's leaving because of how much things have changed since she came on in 2018.
"The last two years have seen a political shift that has been marked by a succumbing to a national narrative of fear," Smith said. "Fear of not being in complete control, fear of certain ideas, fear of those that might bear to disagree with us. And those groups by those fear ascribe every problem to a concerted 'agenda' on the part of those on the other side to destroy the nation from within. We've given in to this fear that if we don't fight this battle that we've conceived of in our own minds, freedom itself will crumble. That's just it, this battle only exists in our minds. Narratives based in fear never represent the full picture, this us vs them story only has as much power as we choose to give it."
McCullar, however, gave a 12-minute-long speech where she, besides thanking everyone on the board, condemned two of the incoming board members, Jenifer Hopkins and Schmidt, though mostly the latter, for the impact they've had on the community.
"My comments tonight however are mostly directed at the newly elected board member Mary Schmidt, the moms and patriots anointed leader and driver of discontent among her minions," McCullar said. "When you guys first came to the board, I thought you were a passionate group who wanted masks to be optional because they weren't good for our kids and I whole heartily agreed. We asked for your opinions, but because of an overabundance of concern, we didn't vote to apply for a variance, our mistake, and the crowd roared, and you haven't quit since. This has been going on for more than a year and a half. First, we got schooled on you by critical race theory, which we didn't even teach, and then you moved on to your 15,000 book title search at Kelly Walsh High School. That was anal Mary, but you did find two books on your Moms for Liberty talking points to be outraged about, I guess it wasn't completely fruitless. These books, that have been on shelves for three years and been checked out to fewer than 20 students over that time. You used those books to inflame the community, but that didn't stop you, nope the pornography claim was born. A new battle cry. We should have been able to discuss this issue respectfully without all the theatrics and manipulative language."
McCullar condemned Schmidt specifically for what she said during the meeting on Sept. 26 after the death of Mauro and Mateo Diaz.
"For months on end, this board listened to you while you moms and patriots for liberty disparaged us with your threats, bullying, constant insults, and sarcastic remarks," McCullar said. "As you watched us, I watched you. I also watched as you disrespected other community members who came to speak against your book challenge. Mary, you showed me your true colors the night of the Diaz rosery. That night the boardroom was full of students and adults who wanted to offer their opinion on censorship of the books. I watched as you rushed forward, second at the mic that night and magnanimously suggested that we postpone the comments because of the Diaz tragedy. Mauro was my friend and I resent you using his death to try and manipulate the occasion. You were so transparent. You were in a panic because those weren't your people here to speak, you spent the rest of the evening leaning against the back wall with a scowl on your face. Maybe you were hearing those demonic screeches you claimed to occur when those opposed to censorship speak."
McCullar said an incoming board member, Michael Stedillie, should sue Schmidt over the comments made on Facebook that he is "for the sexualization of children."
"I want to tell you, Mary, I was really impressed when you congratulated Mike Stedillie on his victory and you told him you looked forward to working with him," McCullar said. "And then in your next post, you encouraged your minions to attend tonight's board meeting because Mike is against censorship, which you equate with condoning the sexualization of children. It seems that anyone who disagrees with you is a pedophile. In my opinion, Mike should sue your ass. Bet he's really anxious to work with you. By the way, I never heard a single one of you apologize for the remarks of your fellow patriot Mr. Paulson, who also believes if one is against censorship, that makes one a pedophile. Mary, you tout on social media that you are a Christ follower, but you are really a hypocrite and a bully. As a matter of fact, we now have a police presence at board meetings because of the uncivil rhetoric and the division you've sown in this community...your year and a half attending meetings has been a huge distraction and a disservice to our kids. Fact is, you're an activist home-school mother and you don't know what you don't know. You attended a budget meeting and then you came before this board to suggest that we didn't need to spend all that money on food costs. If parents were providing for their kids, we should just give them a peanut butter sandwich and a carton of milk. That was a heartless comment Mary, develop some empathy."
While McCullar spent most of her speech condemning Schmidt, McCullar said at the end that she hopes Schmidt learns from her time on the board to become a better person.
"You have the opportunity to learn, and I heartfully hope that you will take advantage of the wisdom and experience of the other members of this board. I hope that you will listen to learn. I hope that you will throw your agenda away and leave your political and religious biases at the door because if you don't, you will never get seven of these trustees to support any of your ideas. Know that your job is not to micromanage the district, but to keep a 30,000-foot view on the system...the voters of Natrona County did a real disservice to the school district because 60% of you stayed home and enabled two home-schooled activists to win seats on the board, not the best outcome for our kids."
Several members of the audience gave McCullar a standing ovation after her speech.
Schmidt has put out a response McCullar, addressing many of the claims made about her, including that she was not part of the original mask protest, that she did not create the NCSD variance page, that she had a cordial conversation with Stedillie at the latest meeting, and that she and Hopkins criticized Paulson after his comments at a meeting in October.
According to her statement, Schmidt has reached out to the current chairman of the board, Raymond Catellier, and "expressed my interest in working with them," and has not yet gotten a response.
Schmidt said in the statement that she continues to believe those that want to keep the two books in school libraries support the sexualization of children.
"If you support keeping books that are intended for school-age children that instruct on sexual acts, toys, occupation, and surgeries then yes, I believe that you are supportive of the educational sexualization of children," Schmidt said. "If you support keeping books that depict sexual graphic pictures and sexually graphic language, then yes, I believe that you are supportive of the sexualization of children."