Over 500 Montanans Sign “Vote of Confidence” Letter Supporting State Superintendent

Montana State Superintendent of Instruction, Elsie Arntzen.

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Over 500 Montana signatories including school board trustees from Flathead, Lincoln, Missoula, and Ravalli counties and two-dozen elected officials have signed on to a “Vote of Confidence” letter supporting Montana’s head of schools, State Superintendent of Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

“We write to refute the unauthorized “no-confidence” letter recently sent to you by certain school superintendents gone rogue,” the letter states. “We thank you sincerely for the compassionate, professional, and steadfast support you offer to local school boards and, most of all, parents and students. We are so proud of you and the work you do.”

Board Trustee for Missoula County Public Schools Mike Gehl and Smith Valley School Board Trustee Jim Riley released the letter Monday and said that they continue to receive signatures from elected officials, parents, and school board members statewide.

Last week, nearly a dozen school superintendents from around Montana circulated a letter criticizing the state’s head of schools claiming that their jobs were made “increasingly difficult” because of the State Superintendent’s term. Media editorial boards also chimed in; in a Missoulian editorial titled Arntzen should start doing her job, newspaper staff wrote, “We particularly abhor her efforts to undermine elected school board trustees and fight their measures to control the spread of COVID in classrooms.”

Since early January, Montana school boards and school superintendents have been the subject of criticism and pushback from parents at school board meetings. Chief among complaints from parents are school board requirements for children to wear a face mask in order to receive in-person instruction and teachers integrating critical-theory into K-12 curriculum.

In a statement, Gehl and Riley addressed friends and colleagues regarding the letter of support, “Good afternoon friends and colleagues. This week was a tough week for Elsie Arntzen in the public arena. Unaccountable superintendents from Montanas AA schools criticized her in a very public way. She is accountable to the citizens of Montana, not these 8 superintendents.”

A Montana AA School is a designation from the Montana High School Association, a private organization which provides forms and documents to school administrators regulating high school athletics in addition to COVID-19 rules, requirements, and considerations. MHSA corporate sponsors include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana and Stockman Bank.

State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen was re-elected in 2020 gaining 72,952 more voters over her 2016 turnout and besting Democrat Melissa Romano for the second time.

Near the start of her second term, Arntzen requested Attorney General Austin Knudsen weigh in on whether or not instruction related to “critical race theory” (CRT) violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

In May, AG Knudsen released his binding opinion saying, “The use of ‘Critical Race Theory’ (CRT) and so-called ‘antiracism’ programming in many instances is discriminatory and violates federal and state law. The AGO, which carries the weight of law in Montana, was issued after a May 12 request from Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.”

In August, as school boards were preparing COVID-19-related restrictions for the new school year, Arntzen released a joint-letter with Governor Greg Gianforte urging school boards to support family choice rather than school force.

“While the CDC has repeatedly changed its mask recommendations over the last 16 months, trustees and superintendents should give due consideration to available data and the voices of Montana parents as it relates to whether their children are required to wear masks in schools,” the joint-letter stated.

The letter from the the Governor and the State Superintendent came two-days after MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson shutdown in-person access to school board meetings after a packed meeting of the school board-appointed “COVID Taskforce.”

Arntzen also attended a Parental Rights event (video) hosted by CrossPoint Church in Missoula at the beginning of November where she discussed increased social studies standards in Montana schools referring to the binding opinion on CRT, how parents can get more involved in their schools, and new professional development standards for teachers. “It’s not a right to teach, it’s a privilege to teach,” Arntzen said.

Board member Mike Gehl was also in attendance and mentioned that six school board positions were up for re-election in Spring 2022. The filing deadline in Missoula County for school board candidates is 5:00pm on March 25th, 2022. Election day is less than two months later on May 3rd.

State Rep Brad Tschida (HD-97) and State Senator Theresa Manzella (SD-44) signed the letter of support and shared statements:

In light of Elsie’s comments, that NONE of these superintendents sought a discussion with her or or staff, their letter appears to be an ambush of her and her office, rather than a justifiable action.

Further, these superintendents have forced needless mandates (specifically masks) on students, in direct opposition to the wishes and demands of parents of these students, without scientific support of their edicts, this seems a pure political action on their parts.

Feedback from parents would underscore and support my contention.

State Rep. Brad Tschida (HD-97)

Elsie is one of the most professional, gracious, hard working people I know. Obviously, the political polarization our country is in adds an extra degree of difficulty to managing the Office of Public Instruction. Elsie doesn’t want the public school system to be about political games and ideologies. She’s working hard to place the focus on quality, wholesome education for students, while at the same time respecting parental rights and choices. I support her efforts 100%.

State Senator Theresa Manzella (SD-44)

Read the letter:


Roy McKenzie

Roy McKenzie has lived in Missoula since 2017 and runs his own software development company. Roy is the Editor of Missoula County Tyranny. Get in touch with him on Telegram.


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[…] of the MCPS Board of Trustees in the past without a mask without dramatics and that his recent letter of confidence in support of Montana State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen was the difference Tuesday […]

JoDee Koss

Thankyou for standing against the masks, they are totally uncalled for and is the experimental vaccine. And their CRT is absolutely evil and teaches hate and decision. Thankyou for standing up for Montana and our ,and our Childrens freedom.

Charles Ibey

There shouldn’t be any mandates they are unconstitutional! Period

Do you trust the Missoulian media outlet?
Will you vaccinate your child?
Do you trust the Missoula City-County Health Department?

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