The DVUSD board and superintendent at the Jan. 24 meeting.
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Commenters debate BCHS parody video at DVUSD governing board meeting

2/1/17

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

ANTHEM – A parody video featuring Boulder Creek High School administrators Lauren Sheahan and Jay Kopas sparked debate after the video, which was intended for BCHS staff, was made public.

The video depicted Kopas as President Donald Trump and Sheahan as advisor Kellyanne Conway. Throughout the approximately 7-minute video, the administrators parodied well-known Trump quotes, with phrases like “Build a wall” and “Make Boulder Creek great again”.  

Some community members took issue with the video. It was shared with national media, eliciting a firestorm of responses on social media. As the issue of the video grew, a petition asking for the firing of Kopas and Sheahan was created, and a petition to save their jobs was created, as well. Both administrators are currently on paid administrative leave, according to a Jan. 26 email from DVUSD, pending results of an investigation into the matter. No timeline for a decision has yet been set.

The Deer Valley Unified School District released the following statement regarding the video: “The skit, which was made for a faculty meeting, was meant to be light-hearted and entertaining and not disparaging. The District was unaware that it was made and does not endorse it.”

On Jan. 23, Principal Sheahan released a letter to Boulder Creek stakeholders with more information on the video.

“Last Thursday, our faculty attended our annual State of the School meeting where we spent an hour reviewing school data from the fall semester,” the letter states. “Before beginning this important and serious work, we attempted to use humor as an attention-getting opening. We presented a parody skit of President Trump and his spokesperson as a way to connect with this week’s inauguration while celebrating achievements of our school. Our intent was to share it only with the staff and connect the satirical skit to our work ahead for the rest of the school year. We apologize if our Presidential parody offended anyone. In no way should it be viewed as a political statement or intended to be malicious toward our students, parents, or staff.”

Sheahan concluded the letter by noting that she knows that she is held to a high standard for professionalism and that she regrets that this skit has upset some community members.

“I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended. I will continue to celebrate everything wonderful at Boulder Creek high school and in our community,” she wrote.

At the Jan. 24 regular meeting of the DVUSD Governing Board, commenters debated the fallout from the video, some calling for the administrators to be removed from their positions, others expressing support for the administrators and asking that they be allowed to stay.

Commenter Dawn Rundle stated that she wasn’t there to personally attack anyone; she expressed disapproval over the video.

“As a community, we can agree that we wish it had not come to this, but evidently, actions do have consequences, regardless of its intentions,” she said.

Commenter Sara Mackey stated she was both a BCHS parent and volunteer; she said that the clip was taken out of context and was not politically motivated. She asked the board to leave the administrators in their jobs and allow them to make the situation right. 

“There is no need to end their hardworking careers over something so ridiculous,” she stated.

Joseph Pitts, a BCHS student, also spoke in support of Sheahan and Kopas. He emphasized that the video had been made explicitly for the staff, noting, “Had this video been sent to the students, I would not be standing here this evening.”

He reiterated that staff should never express political views to students and that the video was never intended to do that, that the purpose of the video had been to make the teachers laugh and alleviate some of the stress of their workdays.

“I ask the board, do not deprive us of these excellent administrators,” Pitts said. “Stand with us, stand with the students, stand with Boulder Creek.”

Several BCHS staff members also spoke in support of Sheahan and Kopas, calling them kind-hearted and supportive of students, staff, and community.

 Melody Holehan-Kopas, District Lead Librarian and Kopas’ wife, also spoke at the public meeting. She used the situation as a teachable moment to students present, emphasizing that they should always use care in what they put on the internet.

“Let these administrators be an example of the consequences,” she implored students.

Holehan-Kopas said she hadn’t wanted to attend the meeting, stating that she hadn’t needed any more reminders that her husband and the principal “made a huge mistake in uploading that video to the internet.”

“But when I got home from work to find that they had both received emails and phone calls with death threats, I changed my mind,” she said.

Holehan-Kopas said that the meeting in which the video was shown was positive and the staff had background on what was depicted: that the portrayer of Trump was also a supporter of Trump and that the principal was a supporter of another candidate. According to Holehan-Kopas, despite their political differences, these administrators always worked well together.

Former DVUSD Governing Board member Ron Bayer also commented, giving a scathing description of the district.

“As stupid and ridiculous as the video at Boulder Creek is, this is symptomatic of a failure of leadership in the Deer Valley School District,” he stated.

He said that serious allegations have surfaced on social media that the assistant principal was running a pay for play scheme at the high school and asked the board to open an independent investigation.

“This administration has proven that they are incapable of doing an investigation,” Bayer said.

The petitions for both retaining and firing the administrators continue to collect signatures; no decision from DVUSD has yet been released. Further details on the outcome of the DVUSD investigation will be printed as they become available.