Backlash Over Employee Halloween Costumes Sweeps District

Fiona Murphy, Editor-in-Chief

November 1, 2019

Superintendent Roger Macdonald and the Northern Humboldt Union High School District confidential staff face backlash from teachers, students, and parents over Halloween costumes worn to the district office yesterday. In a Facebook post by Tammy Pires, the superintendent’s secretary, the staff posed dressed as M&M’s with a caption that read, “We’re just ‘sitting here at the cinema eating our m&m’s’. My co-workers are awesome!!” 

Pires was unavailable for comment by press deadline.

JoAnn Moore, English teacher and negotiations chair, among with many other teachers expressed outrage, drawing a connection between the costume choice and Arcata High Senior Zoey Clark’s comments at a board meeting on October 8th. 

At the board meeting, Clark said, “I see you guys up here, no offense, eating M&M’s like it’ some sort of cinema show.” 

Zoey Clark’s full comments at the October 8th board meeting. The specific comment mentioned in this article starts at 2:07.

Clark woke this morning to find herself at the center of the issue. 

“At first I didn’t feel personally attacked and then I saw the post and I feel a little personally attacked,” Clark said. “That they decided to do that was a little immature, it shows that there is a gap in judgement on their behalf,” she continued

The AHS community swiftly called for consequences for the action of the superintendent and staff, citing the impact it will have on the district as a whole and the students themselves. 

“The administrators that are pictured should be held to a higher standard. I think that they should resign immediately. I think that the other people [involved] should be publicly reprimanded,” Moore said, “The idea that so many students are fearful to speak out to people in authority, that this could make them more fearful defeats the whole purpose of what we try to instill in our students.”

Many more teachers, as well as parents joined the outpouring of anger and disappointment following knowledge of the event. 

Alex Kantner, Arcata High English teacher, said he was “speechless with rage” after he learned of the post.

“It truly shocks and disappoints me that someone in charge of upholding the District’s Vision, Mission, and Goals as well as the Professional Standards expectation not only allowed but participated in [the costume and post],” Michele Bisgrove, a parent, said in an email to district employees.

Some, however, were not even aware of the events or remain apathetic. 

“To be honest, I don’t really care,” Hayden Santche, an Arcata High senior, said. “I thought it was kind of funny.”

The administration denied any malicious intent regarding the costume or the Facebook post.

“If you believe that a group of professionals would dress up like that to mock a students, wow, that would be very bad. I don’t believe that that’s the case,” Macdonald said, “This is an example of a not great Facebook post. 100%, absolutely, and that student does not need to be brought into this.”

Macdonald highlighted the high tension in between the district staff, teachers, students, and community members following this year’s negotiations. Since the start of the negotiations process, which has since ended, rhetoric between the district and their staff has become increasingly hostile. 

“I think that outside [the post] so much has been said, and so many feelings have been hurt, and so many people are stressed that we are in a place right now in our district where we really need to work hard to tone this down,” Macdonald said. 

The superintendent said he is taking steps to minimize the harm caused by district employee actions including contacting Clark’s family, but was unable to comment on possible repercussions for the staff who participated at press time. 

However, it is clear that this event has hurt the Nohum community. 

“I have lost all confidence in the leadership at the district office,” Moore said in a public statement.

Students Speak Out:

Jack Taylor, Opinion Editor

Photos by Will Oviatt, Photography Director