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Pamphlet has photo of school with 'closed' printed on it

A political flier circulating in some Missoula neighborhoods displays a photograph of Lowell Elementary School with the word "closed" in bold print stamped across it.

It's false and misleading, school district officials say.

Three school board candidates pictured on the flip side of the flier say they weren't aware of its content.

The woman listed as the person who authorized and paid for the pamphlet, Missoula City Council candidate Allison Handler, couldn't be reached for comment Saturday.

Missoula County Public Schools officials say the message is "absolutely untrue," and they encourage anyone with concerns or questions about the validity of the flier's message to contact Lowell School or MCPS administrative offices.

The flier tells residents to "Vote May 8 to save our schools" and shows photos of school trustee challengers Colleen Rogers and David Merrill and incumbent Suzette Dussault. Three trustee seats are open on the MCPS board in Tuesday's election.

Handler, is also pictured next to a quote that states: "The closure of neighborhood schools is a shocking reality." The message also encourages residents to vote for the three candidates to "keep our school open and fully funded."

Leslie Wood, Handler's campaign treasurer, said Saturday she didn't have much information about the flier design.

"I wasn't part of the design team that put this together," Wood said.

She also didn't know how many had circulated in the community.

The misleading aspect of the flier is that Lowell School isn't targeted for closure, said Mary Vagner, MCPS superintendent, when contacted by the Missoulian on Saturday.

"It's absolutely not true," Vagner said.

Vagner said she hadn't seen the flier yet, but she heard of its existence Friday and that it gave the appearance Lowell School is closed or going to be closed.

"If anyone gets that piece of material delivered at their home, please call Lowell School or my office because it absolutely is not true," Vagner said.

On Friday, she asked the building principal to contact his staff members and his parent-teacher association to let them know this was circulating in their area. Anyone with questions about the flier may call Vagner at home at 251-3353, Lowell School at 542-4040 or Vagner at work at 728-2400, Ext. 1022.

Dussault said she didn't know Lowell School would be displayed in the literature.

"I knew that a piece was going to go out that endorsed all three of us," Dussault said. "But I didn't know the content."

She said her campaign is built on truth and trust.

"This is not at all who I am or what I am about," she said.

Rogers also wasn't aware of the flier's content.

"It didn't come out of my campaign, and I wasn't consulted on it," Rogers said.

"I'm just trying to focus on the positive and what I can bring to the board," she said.

Merrill said he knew Handler had planned a literature drop but he wasn't consulted about it.

Reporter Jane Rider can be reached at 523-5298 or at

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