The Importance of a Plan

On Tuesday, May 17 at an Employee Conference between laid off employees and the Huntsville City Board of Education, Mr. J. R. Brooks, the board’s attorney stated that, “state statute does not require that the superintendent or the board give their reasoning” supporting their plans to lay off employees.

Assuming that Mr. Brooks is correct, he is claiming that the superintendent and the board are not legally required to present any justification for their life-altering decisions. As Mel Brooks told us once, “It’s good to be ‘da king.” A king doesn’t need a plan, only the will and the force to implement his (or in this case her) decisions. Plans are for little people who have no power.

While I certainly do not wish to minimize the fear and uncertainty that these dedicated public servants are facing as they wonder how they are going to make their mortgage payments next month, this attitude is disturbingly familiar to me and hundreds of other parents of special needs children.

Just hours before Mr. Brooks (J.R. not Mel) made his pronouncement concerning the autonomy of the superintendent and the board, Dr. Robinson informed me that Dr. Moore has decided that the report that Ms. Sledge presented to the board on May 5th was the only report on the segregation plan that she was going to offer to the board or to parents.

It’s good to be ‘da king.

So what more could anyone expect from the superintendent and the central office? Not much, just:

  1. A clear, detailed description in writing explaining exactly what they are planning to do,
  2. A description, of any kind, of why they are segregating our students, or
  3. A discussion or approval of the segregation plan by the board.

It’s fairly clear that Huntsville City Schools is in trouble and that we haven’t had a clear plan in place for sometime. We are probably $20 million dollars in debt. (I say probably because I’m not sure how we would know. There are currently five (5) different databases containing the financial records of the system. And these five (5) databases do not agree with each other. So, I find myself wondering exactly how we would know we were $20 million dollars in debt. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that we are.) The superintendent has provided such weak leadership that she had to be replaced by an outsider. Enrollment in private schools and those choosing to home school their children has never been higher.

And yet the board attorney is advising the board that state statute does not require reasoning or the delineation of a plan.

If this is so, the state statute needs to be changed. Now.

For government to be effective, it must be transparent to the governed. It must be responsive to the governed. In must include the governed. Huntsville City Schools has managed none of these. We do not know what they are doing. We do not know why they are doing it. Our concerns are being dismissed, ignored, or denied out right.

We were told on March 16th that there was no plan to segregate our children. Mr. Blair also said on the 16th that even if there were a plan, that it would have to come before the board for discussion and approval before it could be implemented. The plan began to be implemented at least as early as Tuesday April 5th. We were told on April 6th that Ms. Sledge would present the plan, along with her reasoning for the plan, in writing to parents immediately. We were told that the plan would be presented along with her reasoning to the board on May 5th.

In short, nothing we have been told has been fulfilled.

They have no plan. They see no need for a plan. Since the state statute doesn’t require it, they aren’t going to do it. And so the superintendent is balancing the budget on the backs of the powerless, the voiceless, the weak, our children without needing to offer any justification for her actions.

Planning is important–even for a king.

On April 27th, tornadoes hit every county in Alabama killing over 300 hundred and knocking out the power to the northern part of the the state for a week. Madison City had generators on hand to run the refrigerators and freezers in their schools to prevent the loss of perishable food. Madison County did not have generators, but they did procure refrigerated trucks to store the food until the power came back on. The trucks cost Madison County approximately $7,000, but they only lost approximately $250 worth of perishable food. Both systems had a plan.

Huntsville City Schools allowed their food to perish. They lost approximately $175,000 in food.

The average Instructional Aide makes between $10,000 and $13,000 a year. (Stop for a moment and let that sink in. When HCS decided to layoff people, they laid off those who make just slightly above minimum wage. Some of the most valuable people in the system, and we pay them barely more than minimum wage. By way of comparison, Dr. Moore earns $197,685 a year.)

Huntsville City Schools threw away thirteen aides for a year for lack of a plan.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.