Letters to the Editor | May 19 edition

Islanders write about incarceration in WWII and the Vashon Island School District.


Wrongs carried out in name of patriotism

On the evening of Dec. 8, 1941, there was a knock at the door of the family home in Wallingford. When my father opened it, he was faced by two FBI agents. They had come to arrest my grandfather and search for incriminating evidence. What they took away included costume weaponry (Grandpa and Grandma were in the theatre) radio sets built by his younger son, a medic in the Pacific, and cameras. After one night in a blacked-out room, Grandpa was eventually transferred to Fort Lincoln Internment Camp in North Dakota.

My grandfather was German.

Fort Lincoln held people of Japanese, Italian, and German descent during WWII. The U.S. government was well prepared to arrest people of concern, having spied on their homes, jobs, and general movements in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor. Those living on the coast were most under suspicion. The fact that my grandfather was the editor of the Staatszeitung, the Seattle German press, further incriminated him, as did his involvement in the German clubs and associations.

His incarceration would have remained a secret, but for the fact that more than 20 years ago, I discovered the diary kept by him during his stay in Fort Lincoln — tucked in a manila envelope with typewritten pages and black and white photos of barracks in the snow. When I asked my father what this was, he said, “We don’t talk about that.”

More years passed. My grandparents and parents had all died, and I took the envelope home with me, to research the untold story.

The silence and shame are very like that experienced by those of Japanese descent at the same time in history. But while the country, and especially Vashon, is waking up to the Japanese story, little or nothing is known about others who similarly suffered. It was all so wrong, all so unbelievable, all so secretly conceived and carried out, in the name of patriotism. We need to hear as much of the story as can be revealed. And then we need to remember.

– Debbie Butler


Those in classrooms have hardest jobs

The Beachcomber showed admirable restraint in your account of school district layoffs, particularly in regard to Mr. McSheehy’s salary increase.

Surely the hardest job is in the classroom, where teachers and support staff are responsible for the health, education, and welfare of students every day.

– Cynthia Phillips

Administrative furloughs

To all the families on Vashon, to the VISD Board, administration, teachers, support staff, and to all of those who care about the education of our children:

My husband is a pediatric nurse and works at Seattle Children’s. He worked at Mary Bridge during the beginning of the pandemic, and they saw a rapid and sustained decline in patients. When administration and leadership realized that the budget was becoming dangerously tight they knew they had to keep patient care at the center, and so furloughed administration, leadership, and management.

They told their front-line, patient-facing staff, “if you see your management or administrators taking a week off please know that this is not a vacation, they’re taking these days unpaid as furlough to help manage the budget and keep you working with patients. Patients are the heart of our mission.”

As a Clinical Nurse Specialist in a leadership position, my husband was among those who took furlough days (10 overall). His furlough contributed to the larger mission and helped maintain the high-quality care expected by families for their children, and protected the most vulnerable. It protected those without resources or voice to advocate for themselves. It didn’t have anything to do with unions or egos. It wasn’t an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ conflict. It didn’t raise questions of whether leadership would feel targeted. It didn’t lead to perilous outcomes. It was the right thing to do to maintain quality care for the children.

– Kaycie Alanis

Budget woes are result of failure

The Superintendent, the school board and VISD Union Leadership all failed the island children. As such, the children of Vashon will receive a lesser education because the adults were unable to master basic math. It is unimportant whether VISD salaries are comparable to other school districts. Sometimes reality makes equity not possible.

It has been well known that the 2018 changes to statewide school funding have made it impossible for school districts like Vashon to maintain programs, while providing generous staff raises; that you don’t use one-time income to fund ongoing expenses and Vashon school enrollment continues to decrease.

As such, the current situation of RIFs and program cuts was predictable. The union leadership should have made it clear to the union members that if they voted for raises there would be RIFs and program cuts.

The School Board is a totally different matter. To approve raises for the Superintendent and other administrators at the same meeting the RIFs were announced is unbelievable. Extending the Superintendent’s contract is rewarding failure. As Bob Hennessey warned on numerous occasions last year, there was not going to be enough money to maintain programs and give raises.

Slade McSheehy’s arrogance of accepting a raise, when staff and programs are being cut is definitely wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, as a parent of an elementary school teacher, I support raises for all teachers and most other VISD employees. However, as everyone who ever has prepared a family budget knows, you don’t spend what you don’t have.

– Scott Harvey