Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Pro-YMCA flyer prompts apologies

Hemingway principal says school mistakenly allowed material to reach students

Express Staff Writer

Officials from the Wood River Community YMCA and Hemingway Elementary School apologized this week for distributing to Hemingway students a flyer that urges public support of the YMCA?s proposed recreational facility in Ketchum.

In responding to questions about the matter on Monday, Oct. 11, both parties said the pro-YMCA flyer was sent home with students of the Ketchum school as a result of oversights by both entities.

Hemingway Principal Don Haisley on Monday issued a letter of apology to ?parents and patrons? of Blaine County School District for allowing the flyer to be distributed to all Hemingway students.

The letter states: ?I am writing to apologize for a flyer that was sent home from Hemingway Elementary School on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2004, promoting a ?yes? vote on the YMCA project. The wording on the flyer was not approved by me and it is not the position of either Hemingway School or the Blaine County School District to either support or oppose the YMCA project.?

At issue is a flyer distributed to students Oct. 6 by the Ketchum-based YMCA group, which has proposed to build a $16 million recreation facility and community center on the city of Ketchum?s Park and Ride lot, located at the corner of Warm Springs and Saddle roads.

Ketchum city officials last month agreed to conduct an advisory vote in the Nov. 2 election to determine whether citizens support a proposal to lease a portion of the Park and Ride site to the YMCA for 99 years, at a cost of $1 per year.

If a majority of voters approve of the plan, the city will almost certainly provide the YMCA with a detailed, long-term land lease.

The YMCA flyer in question announces two ?open house? meetings on Oct. 14 and Oct. 16 to inform the public about the proposed recreational facility and various YMCA programs.

The flyer also employs bold lettering to ask Ketchum citizens to ?vote yes? in the advisory election, in support of the proposal to lease the public land to the YMCA.

?Vote yes to the YMCA and a stronger future for all,? the flyer states.

In his letter, and subsequently in an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express, Haisley said he never intended to allow any material promoting the YMCA to be distributed through Hemingway Elementary.

Haisley said he told YMCA representative Jason Fry on Sept. 29 that the YMCA could distribute a flyer through the school if it did not promote the YMCA project and was submitted in advance so it could be reviewed and approved by school administrators.

Haisley said the flyers were brought to the school the morning of Oct. 6, after a deadline set so they could be proofed before being distributed to students. Teresa Beahen, executive director of the YMCA, was then mistakenly allowed to distribute the flyers, Haisley said.

?She caught us at a busy time, and I told her she would need to put them in the teachers? boxes herself,? Haisley stated in his letter to parents. ?Having had clear discussions with both Ms. Beahen and Mr. Fry about our remaining neutral in the YMCA dialog, I trusted they would honor our position and I made the mistake of not proof-reading the flyers.?

Beahen also issued an apology for the incident, saying the pro-YMCA phrase was not intentionally included on the flyer.

?Having the ?vote yes? on the bottom of the flyer was a complete oversight on my part,? she said. ?I?m accustomed to seeing it on all of our material and it was mistakenly left on there.?

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