The governing board president of Flagstaff charter school Northern Preparatory Academy (NPA), Cristy Schaefer Zeller, resigned Thursday evening after calling parents and students opposed to mask mandates “the worst of humanity who can’t STFU [shut the f*** up].” It isn’t immediately apparent what prompted Zeller’s social media post, but that same day several students refused to wear masks as required by NPA’s mask mandate, which had just gone into effect.
In her resignation letter, Zeller said that those who were upset by her remarks and called for her resignation were bullies. Despite Zeller’s track record online of speaking freely about her beliefs, she claimed that she had no way of defending herself or standing up for her beliefs.
It doesn’t appear that NPA leadership wanted Zeller to resign. In an email obtained by AZ Free News, NPA Superintendent David Lykins told parents on Wednesday that Zeller’s comments were her own and not authorized or endorsed by any aspect of NPA. Lykins wrote:
Dear NPA Community,
I wanted to acknowledge that one of our NPA Governing Board Members had made statements on their Facebook account as a private citizen that do not reflect the core values of Northland Preparatory Academy. These comments are the views of an individual and they were not authorized or endorsed by the NPA Governing Board as a public body, NPA as a school, or NPA’s faculty and staff.
I have met with this Board member this afternoon and she has issued a public statement regarding this issue (see attached). Additionally, I would also like to share that all pertinent information surrounding these statements will be shared with the remainder of the Northland Preparatory Academy Governing Board for future discussions and planning at the Board level.
I received communication from an NPA parent today that shared the following, “leadership is an awesome responsibility, and as leaders we are human and make mistakes.” I agree with this statement, but also feel it is important to acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them and take actions to prevent them from happening again.
Zeller’s statement read:
I am proud to serve on the NPA Governing Board as its President. It has come to my attention that statements I made on my personal social media accounts have been circulating among the Flagstaff community. As a private citizen I work as an activist, however my personal opinions and politics are mine alone, and do not reflect those of Northland Preparatory Academy or its Governing Board. I continue to remain committed to NPA’s mission and the health and safety of our community, and making NPA a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all. (emphasis added)
In her post condemning those opposed to masks, Zeller cited that her fellow liberals, as well as a number of educators and health care workers she’d spoken with, were angry and frustrated. She claimed that Flagstaff’s socioeconomic systems are falling apart.
“[…] Us liberals tend to want to be fixers and empathetic and all the rainbows and unicorns. No more. As MTV taught us… it’s time to stop being polite and start being real. Get busy,” wrote Zeller. “I am not being dramatic. I have spoken with dozens of people in education and healthcare that are about to break, if they are not already broken. They are angry, sad, and defeated. They love their professions, but despise their jobs right now. The anger and frustration is electric. It did not have to be this way. We are so angry that we now have to spend our time dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face.” [emphasis added]
Last Friday, AZ Free News reported on Zeller’s Facebook post and her other social media posts ridiculing mask critics, Trump supporters, and Republicans as “idiot a**holes” and intellectually inferior. At the time of publication, Zeller’s Facebook and Twitter pages containing these remarks were public.
Zeller’s resignation letter is reproduced below:
To the Members of the Northland Preparatory Academy Governing Board and Administration:
I have come to the very difficult decision that it is time for me to resign my position as President and Member of the Northland Preparatory Governing Board effective immediately. I am immensely proud of the work we have done together over the last five years. Our accomplishments together include:
Hiring of a new Superintendent
-A Board Statement on Gun Violence
-A Board Acknowledgment of Racism at NPA and a plan to address it, which included the establishment of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
-Navigating the last 17 months of the COVID-19 pandemic
-The courageous decision to mandate masks on the NPA campus this fall.
I care deeply for the students and faculty of NPa, and a large part of me feels that I am abandoning them at a time when strong leadership is more important than ever. It is antithetical to who I am that I would allow someone else to bully or pressure me into such a decision, however I find the current situation to be untenable.
The personal toll that the last 17 months has taken on me and my family has finally become too much. The attacks I have endured are unacceptable and unwarranted. This did not start yesterday. It began over a year ago. My husband, myself and my children have experienced negative backlash in small and large ways because of my strong stances on public health and anti-racism.
Over the last 48 hours I have received DOZENS of harassing emails, phone calls and text messages. I must prioritize my mental health over this continued abuse, especially when I cannot defend myself or stand up for what I believe in.
I have been targeted by a few individuals and I fear that they will continue to escalate this according to a playbook being followed around the United States. I want to remove myself from the situation, as the longer this goes on, the more you are all distracted from the incredibly important tasks ahead, and the more ineffective I become in my role.
I will work in whatever capacity you all would like to help transition the committees I chair and my notes from the last Board meeting. You will just need to let me know how and if you would like me to assist with the transition.
I admire you all deeply and I hope you know that this decision weighs very heavily on my heart and will for some time. I will be supporting you as a member of the public and fellow parent.
I will continue to advocate for children in the most important ways. I hope that NPA will continue to make every decision student-centered, just as I am doing now.
As of press time for this report, Zeller’s social media pages and all posts relevant to this and other related reports have been either removed or made private.
The board president of Northland Preparatory Academy (NPA), a Flagstaff charter school, called parents and students who disagree with mask mandates “the worst of humanity who can’t STFU [shut the f*** up]” about their freedom. Governing Board President Cristy Schaefer Zeller leveled these criticisms in a Facebook post late Friday night. Zeller’s complaints followed the first day of NPA’s reinstated mask mandate, during which three students reportedly refused to wear masks.
“We are so angry that we now have to spend our time dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face,” wrote Zeller.
Zeller called Arizona, Florida, and Texas “banana republics.” She claimed all of Flagstaff’s systems were “falling apart.” Zeller also suggested they treat those expressing opposing beliefs as “a**hole[s]” and “bullies.”
“Don’t be crazy and cause a police situation but show support. We know what to do with bullies. Do it,” wrote Zeller.
In response to a tweet from Stop the Steal founder Ali Alexander saying that he would give his life to fight for the truth about the election, retweeted by the Arizona Republican Party, Zeller called Trump supporters “idiot a**holes.”
“Apparently these idiot a**holes are ready to die for @realDonaldTrump,” wrote Zeller.
In reference to the October 7 debate between then-Vice President Mike Pence and current Vice President Kamala Harris, Zeller insinuated that Pence had the mental acuity of a toddler.
“Maybe @vp touched his butt hole and then touched his eyes and got pink eye. Like a toddler,” wrote Zeller.
As of press time, Zeller’s post criticizing those opposed to masks was public. The entirety of Zeller’s post is reproduced below:
“What’s on my mind Facebook? A whole crap ton of anxiety. That’s what is on my mind.
I am deeply worried about our educators and health care workers. I have seen and heard things this week that are frankly shocking. Things that are unacceptable in the wealthiest country in the world.
Maybe it’s better in states that aren’t devolved banana republics like Arizona (I see you TX and FL). Here, in Flagstaff, AZ, our systems are falling apart in very frightening ways. I am not being dramatic. I have spoken with dozens of people in education and healthcare that are about to break, if they are not already broken. They are angry, sad, and defeated. They love their professions, but despise their jobs right now.
The anger and frustration is electric. It did not have to be this way. We are so angry dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face.
So what do we do? We know we can’t change minds of a portion of the population. I can’t waste my time on them anymore. My like-minded people, here is what we can do:
*If you see someone being an a**hole (picketing your child’s school, accosting a school administrator, demanding unreasonable things from a health care provider)… step in. Be brave. Be a helper. Don’t be crazy and cause a police situation but show support. We know what to do with bullies. Do it.
*Write a thank you note, send an email to the educators and healthcare workers in your life. The small things make all the difference.
*Become an activist. Write your lawmakers, submit public comment and demand better.
*Be kind and patient. If things are imperfect or inconvenient at the school or the hospital, know that the front line person you are talking to is not to blame. They showed up for work. It’s a systemic problem resulting from lack of staffing, general a**holery from the highest levels, messed up politics, lack of funding, and things beyond their control.
Finally.. Us liberals tend to want to be fixers and empathetic and all the rainbows and unicorns. No more. As MTV taught us… it’s time to stop being polite and start being real. Get busy.”
Northland Preparatory Academy (NPA), a Flagstaff charter school, segregated maskless students last week after suddenly reinstating its mask mandate the night before. NPA called the area for segregated students an “alternative placement classroom.” The three students weren’t given direct teaching and were tasked with homework.
12 year old Olivia Oravitz was one of the students placed in the alternative placement classroom. Olivia recounted to AZ Free News how she was taken into the nurse’s office for not wearing a mask. Soon after, Olivia said that she was joined by several other maskless students – a 9th grader and a 12th grader.
According to Olivia, they spent their entire first period sitting in the nurse’s office. They were instructed to have their parents pick them up.
Olivia’s father, Jeff Oravits, recorded his encounter with NPA officials. When he arrived at the school maskless, NPA staff wanted him to wait outside but he refused. Staff allowed him to remain inside, and Jeff requested a meeting with the principal or superintendent.
The audio recording reflects that NPA Principal Jay Litwicki did meet with Jeff. The principal concurred with Jeff’s assessment that they were “isolating” maskless students. However, Litwicki informed Jeff that they wouldn’t be sending maskless students home after all because there were so few students that NPA would be singling them out. Instead, Litwicki explained that they were setting up an alternative classroom.
Litwicki noted that school staff didn’t anticipate students to be maskless.
The principal explained to the Oravitses that maskless students wouldn’t receive direct instruction until further notice. Rather, the segregated students would remain in the alternative placement classroom and receive visits from some of their teachers during preparatory periods.
Photos provided by the Oravits family show that the alternative placement room was bordered by computers and empty in the center.
At no point throughout the whole day did NPA require the segregated students to mask up.
Olivia described to AZ Free News how they didn’t have any regular teaching. Instead, the segregated students were monitored by several staff members while they did homework, and visited by some of their teachers periodically to review assignments.
Olivia added that the three segregated students were given permission to leave the classroom, and weren’t required to wear masks as they did so.
The NPA Governing Board reinstated its mask mandate during a special meeting last Thursday, voting 9-0 in favor of it. The board patterned its rationale for doing so after other school districts reinstating their mask mandates – they argued that laws don’t go into effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends, regardless of any retroactivity clauses. In the case of the mask mandate ban, that would be September 29.
In an interview with her father’s radio show, the Jeff Oravits Show, Olivia said she was disgusted by the board’s decision. At first, she planned on wearing a mask with “9/29” written on it, to signify the day the board promised to rescind the mandate. Olivia encouraged her peers to do the same.
The day after the board’s decision, however, Olivia said she’d changed her mind. She said she wondered why NPA decided to reinstate masks at all, after all this time.
“I’m just tired of them taking away my freedom to decide what’s best for me,” said Olivia. “If it hasn’t worked, it’s probably not going to work by now.”
Olivia told AZ Free News that she would’ve been fine with being removed from school, because she didn’t want to attend somewhere that removed students based on that mandate.
“I kind of went into it with nothing to lose – if I got kicked out for not wearing a mask, I didn’t want to be in a school that did that to me,” said Olivia.