A pair of public school board trustees from Missoula and Kalispell emailed a letter to state Superintendent Elsie Arntzen this week, refuting recent criticisms of her leadership of the Office of Public Instruction.

On December 9th, the superintendents of Montana's AA school districts sent Arntzen a letter stating that they have "no confidence" in her leadership, and listing several points of contention, including a high rate of OPI staff turnover, and a backlog in applications for teacher certification. They also took issue with Arntzen's expressed support for parents opposed to some school district policies, including mask mandates. The letter accused Arntzen of vilifying public educators.

Click HERE to read the AA Superintendents' Letter

Arntzen at the time dismissed the letter, and subsequent public criticism, as a political stunt, noting that none of the signatory superintendents had ever contacted her to discuss their concerns.

Missoula County Public Schools Trustee Michael Gehl told the Montana Free Press that he felt that
Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson's signature on the letter was "totally inappropriate." “He is an employee of the school board, of the district, and he’s kind of overstepped his bounds,” Gehl said.

Gehl said he felt a response was needed, so he and Smith Valley District 89 Trustee Jim Riley wrote to commend Arntzen's job performance, crediting her with “eradicating waste, fraud and abuse from the tired and entrenched OPI bureaucracy,” and stating that if that has caused a high rate of staff turnover, it was long overdue. They also praised her support of parents and local school boards.

Click HERE to read Gehl and Riley's letter 

Gehl and Riley's letter was also signed by several Republican state lawmakers, two in-state parental rights groups (Stand Up Montana and Montana Parents' Rights in Education), and more than 500 Montana citizens.