John Burton Alpine School District Board Candidate

Part I: John Burton calls me a Bald-Faced Liar
Part II: John Burton’s Serious Ethical Dilemma

-Part I-

I want to make something very clear concerning what I write and publish to the website. I never publish anything that I don’t believe to be accurate information. I do not lie or *make up* anything to stir things up. I try to always make sure what I’ve published is correct.

I say this because it has come to my attention that John Burton has been calling me a liar in correspondence with people for insinuating that he may have been involved in the confiscation of math textbooks at several schools in Alpine. This is part of an email that was forwarded to me.

John Burton wrote:

“Since you call Oak your ‘friend,’ I’m sure you have read his personal home page. One of the statements that he makes on one of his links is very interesting because it talks about my involvement in Investigations Math. Let me quote it for you. ‘ASD actually confiscated textbooks at 4 known schools to ensure teachers had to switch to Investigations math. John Burton, candidate for school board in American Fork, was over those schools at the time. His direct role in that (if any) is unknown.’

[name removed] the statement that I just quoted to you penned by Mr. Norton is a bald-faced lie and Oak knows it!!! I am totally offended by it!” (John’s emphasis, not mine)

The careful reader will note that I said Mr. Burton’s role in the confiscations (which did happen) is “unknown” but that he was merely the administrator over the elementary schools at the time of implementation. My friend, who was kind enough to play ping-pong email for John and I, then received another email from John which contained this new information about his service.

“I wasn’t even at the district office when Math Investigations was implemented. Go check it out in the Human Resource Department and you will find out that I was appointed a supervisor of elementary schools after Math Investigations had been implemented. Obviously Oak hasn’t taken the time to do this.

At the time of implementation I was principal at Legacy Elementary and my school opted not to implement the program. Therefore it would have been ridiculous for me to confiscate the books at my school since the teachers and students would have had no books to use at all!!” (Emphasis mine)

On the first point, John is right. I didn’t take the time to do that. I wish I had more time on my hands to try and verify every fact with every available source, but I relied on a teacher who said she was there at the time and that was her recollection.

John’s second point claims he was principal of Legacy Elementary when Investigations was implemented and he turned down the program. This was new information to me so I emailed John and asked him for a timeline of his service so I could then provide it to my source and try to get to the bottom of the issue. I told him if I was wrong that I would gladly publish it on my website so everyone could know the facts as they really were.

John wouldn’t reply. I emailed again and he wouldn’t reply. I made a third and final offer to him nearly 2 weeks ago and he wouldn’t reply.

So I checked with my source and she maintains that her recollection was correct that John left Manilla to go to the district, but left a little wiggle room saying maybe he went to Legacy and then to the district, but she didn’t think that happened.

A small fragment of doubt had been cast between what John claimed and my source’s recollection, so I wavered a bit trying to know what to publish. Thankfully, my good friend Doug Cannon had taken up the anti-Investigations math fight a few years before me and just provided me with GRAMA data that helps reveal a much clearer picture.

First, I found on John Burton’s campaign website a timeline with some of the information about his service that I was trying to get from him.

Alpine School District, Administrator K-6 Schools, 2001-2008
Alpine School District, Elementary School Principal, 1980-2001

So John transferred to the district office in 2001, probably making the transition in the summer of 2001 so that a new principal could start the 2001 school year at John’s school.

This first pdf provided by Doug Cannon to me, shows the cost of Investigations math being implemented in Alpine School District, as well as a table showing when every school implemented Investigations math. You can see that both Manilla and Legacy elementary schools implemented Investigations math in the 2001-2002 school year, and that neither principal at the time was John Burton, he was already at the district. That is a direct contradiction to what John represented in his emails above and this comes from district materials.

PDF see page 4 (GRAMA Reply 1-14-2003)

The next pdf is dated in 2003 (which is after everything took place) and shows John signing a district document in favor of Investigations math.

PDF see page 1 (ASD letter 1-27-2003)

Giving John a big benefit of the doubt, maybe he was principal at Legacy when Investigations math was first offered and maybe he turned it down (don’t know since he won’t verify his service record), but it seems clear from the record that he was at the district office when the schools that confiscated textbooks performed that action and it seems clear he was fully on board with the district in embracing Investigations math. People that know John have identified him as a strong constructivist. In other words, if you want fuzzy math to continue in Alpine School District (as it does still continue), then elect John. He’s going to keep it going. His role in the confiscations mentioned above is unknown, but it seems clear he was at the district office from the records just provided, and he was not principal of Legacy Elementary when it was actually implemented.

-Part II-

John recently retired from Alpine School District (2008) and went to work for Utah Valley University as the Field Supervisor of Secondary Prospective Teachers. If he is elected to the school board, he will have a direct conflict of interest with his job because the students he reviews will also be applying for work at Alpine School District. If John will be able to put pressure on principals to hire his students, or if principals feel there is a benefit to hiring the students John recommends, or students want John to review them in hopes of getting favorable placement in ASD, these situations create ethical issues for John.

When I sent John the timeline request mentioned in Part I above, I also sent to him a question asking if he was planning to resign his job at UVU if elected to the school board. He refused to answer that question. He is certainly aware that this issue exists but he does not want to answer the question. It would be nice to know if he would resign so we could be assured there would be no ethical issues that surround hiring issues as they relate to his reviews.

Mr. Burton has avoided all of the Meet the Candidates events in AF so his refusal to answer the conflict question and to appear in public is disconcerting to say the least. Why would someone who wants the job of a school board member run a campaign in near complete isolation and privacy? It makes no sense unless he’s got something to hide or he is doing this under pressure from someone else such people at the school district.

I’ve also received reports from very unhappy parents asking why some sitting principals (Jason Theler at Lindon Elementary and Gary Gibb at Legacy Elementary) are campaigning for Mr. Burton.

If you would like to email John and ask him for yourself if he plans to retire from UVU if he is elected, please feel free to do so. Here’s his email address.

Dear John, if you would be so kind to answer this question, I’d be happy to post it here on the website so the public has your response.

13 Responses to “John Burton Alpine School District Board Candidate”

  • Pwarren627:

    Oak, has Legacy Elementary gone back to traditional math or are they still using Investigations? I don't live in the ASD, but I have grandchildren in that school. Thanks.

  • I couldn't tell you and if you called the school they would say, “we use Scott Foresman Addison-Wesley and take a balanced approach to math.” The truth is, the district lied to parents when they provided us a “choice” of programs and they hand picked this one for broad teacher support because there is a direct integration plan from this curriculum with Investigations math. The week before school the year they switched to SFAW from Investigations, teachers went into their classrooms and had an Investigations book on their desks and were told, “you can use either program as you see fit.” Now schools use either program as they want, (some fully Investigations), and parents were lulled back to sleep thinking we'd accomplished a change. 100% of district teacher training is constructivist.

  • Lewis B:

    Does anyone have the state testing data that shows the test scores of the kids since investigations math was implemented? I'm wondering whether the scores have gone up or down.

  • Lewis B:

    Oak, your campaigning for Tim Osborne will have a negative effect on him. You do not have broad based support in the American Fork community and most residents there will vote against him if they see your name attached to his. While many residents agree with you over investigations math (I agree with you on that point), it is your other foray into politics over the school board motto that has residents concerned over your endorsement of Osborne. Whether you agree with this or not, many residents are beginning to view you as an “in your face” conspiracy nut and that doesn't help Osborne at all. I predict that Osborne will be handily defeated in the upcoming election.

  • Lewis, I did this analysis back in November 2005 and it shows a 4 year history from when Investigations was put into the district in 2001 through 2004. Results were stunningly negative. The district kept touting how level 4 CRT's (mastery) were going up and completely ignoring they were increasing failure rates at a rapid pace. My analysis and graphs are here:

  • Lewis B:

    Thanks for the information, but there is a confusing disconnect that I can't quite figure out. If our students are failing to achieve minimal mastery in math, how is that our schools continue to make AYP every year in mathematics when the threshold for making AYP continues to rise? That data that you are showing should also be reflected in AYP statistics but they are not. Can you explain this.

  • Great question Lewis. I think this will open up an opportunity for some additional research, but the basic difference is CRT (criterion reference test) scores are a measurement of where the students are at at a given point in time. AYP is not a test but levels set by the state as to what “adequate yearly progress” levels should be. States can set their own AYP levels and it varies wildly. This Wikipedia entry (…) shows how Illinois set their AYP and also mentions how some states like Missouri lowered their standards to ensure students would pass AYP. I don't know how Utah sets their standards.

    The CRT scores in the link I gave you above just give the horror story as to what happened in the years immediately following the implementation of Investigations math in 2001. When I presented those graphs and data to the school board in 2005 they just tossed them in the “round file” and it took a couple more years of major effort to get rid of the program (sort of) after a lot of negative press and the legislature helping to raise state standards. The last few years they teach the times tables, long division, and division by fractions, when those were removed from the district for a few straight years. Unbelievable.

  • Landersonmj:

    The truth usually always surfaces.
    I just hope the public in American Fork are aware of this situation. And cast a vote for Tim Osborn….I really like Tim Osborn and think he has done a good job for the ASD. I live in Saratoga Springs, not in Am F district…….good luck.
    Keep up the good fight, Oak. If John Burton will not attend a “meet and greet” school board meeting, I'd say that was a big problem for him.
    I attended one such meeting in Am Fork, back when the senator candidates, Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater met……….he was not at that meeting either. But the other Am Fork school board candidates were there; Tim and one other one…??

  • Loni:

    Let me first say that I don't know John Burton and I don't live in ASD, so I have nothing to gain or lose by commenting. But, it seems to me that Mr. Burton does have a possible defense on one of those issues. It is my understanding that plans and decisions are made concerning curriculum, etc. for the following year, during the previous year. So if fuzzy math was adopted and implemented by ASD the same year (2001) that Mr. Burton transfered to the district level, then it seems to me that that decision was made in his absence and without his input. He would merely be beneficiary of a plan created by others for him to run.

    In his error, however, if he disagreed with the plan, a meeting could have been called to alter the plan before implementation and it appears to me that that was not done. According to your report, he also did sign his support of it. That tells me that he actually does support the program, which contradicts his campaign claims, or he may very well be opposed to it, but did not read it before he signed his approval of it, which is a serious concern to consider.

  • I emailed John and asked him if he plans to retire from UVU if he is elected. Here is his response: 08/24/10

    Hi Kyle,

    It appears that you have read Mr. Norton’s “Part II: John Burton’s Serious Ethical Dilemma.”

    No, there is no conflict of interest and I will not resign my position at UVU if elected to the Alpine School District Board of Education.

    I would never put pressure on any administrator to hire any candidate from UVU. My position here at the university does not depend upon how many prospective teachers I can place in Alpine or any other district.

    On Mr. Norton’s website, he is simply speculating what might happen. I totally disagree with his speculation.

    There is an established process in place for recommending and hiring teachers in the district. Principals interview and select the candidates they want for teaching positions at their schools. They make their recommendations to the Administrator of Human Resources. The Administrator of Human Resources takes these recommendations to the Superintendent who shares them with the board members and asks for their approval of the recommendations. As a board member I would never attempt to circumvent that process.

    I have checked with both Alpine School District and Utah Valley University and neither entity sees any conflict of interest whatsoever!

    Thanks for your email. Have a nice day.


  • Thanks for asking Kyle. I can't say it's shocking that both ASD and UVU see no conflicts of interest for John since his placement on the board benefits both establishments in ways they desire.

    UVU benefits by having an ASD board member working at UVU in their teacher prep program which gives them prominence within ASD and gives principals reasons to hire UVU's students without direct pressure from John. “Oh, is this one of the students you reviewed?” I'm sure there's no potential for abuse because no district employee plays political games for advancement. ;) John doesn't need to attempt to “circumvent that process” as he states. It's the fact that the potential for abuse exists that his running creates a dilemma.

    ASD benefits because they get one of their own back that loved Investigations math. The status quo can be maintained without a threat to the constructivist agenda.

  • Guest:

    I'm a little behind on this thread – but it seems that this situation is rather similar to that of board member Guy Fugal's company getting a lucrative contract with the district while he is a sitting board member. Now, I've been told that there are processes in place that decide who wins a contract that shield him from having anything to do with whether or not his company is selected. My response to that is – yeah right! Call me a skeptic, but sometimes avoiding the look of impropriety is just as important as not acting improperly.

  • It appears we have a case-in-point that whether or not John would interfere with the hiring process, sometimes political favors just “happen” because you have an inherent conflict of interest. Check out this news about Vern Henshaw’s son getting hired over *qualified* teachers when he was not.