Last night the Huntsville City School Board of Education violated their own policy on the Selection of School, Facility, and/or Property Name (Policy 2.9, presented September 5, 2013) by concluding the process and voting on the new names approximately three weeks before they were allowed to do so.
On September 5, 2013, the board met and discussed during their work session a new policy entitled, “Selection of School, Facility, and/or Property Name” (Policy 2.9). This policy was necessary to ensure that the process of receiving new names for schools would be as open to the public as possible. Laurie McCaulley, who was at that time serving as the School Board President, assured the public present that evening that the public would have every opportunity to “have input on these changes.”
Here is the text of the policy:
As you can see, in the interest of receiving public input on a matter that the school board and Dr. Wardynski should be well aware raises public interest, the naming of a school, they clearly stated in their policy that “A minimum of sixty (60) days from the date of public notice shall be given before action is taken by the Board.”
In addition, on September 5th, Ms. McCaulley clearly stated that no action would be taken by the board concerning the naming/re-naming of schools until the first board work session in November, or on November 7th. As you can see at the end of The Huntsville Times article reporting on that meeting, “The committees will report back to the board Nov. 7.” During this meeting, they made no distinction between the committees that were naming new schools and the committees renaming existing schools.
In fact, if you read The Huntsville Times article on the matter, it clearly indicates that, “Johnson High will move to a new campus that will also include a middle school. Those two schools are on the list of schools being considered for name changes.” At no time on September 5th did the board draw a distinction between schools being named and schools being renamed. They actually spoke of all of the schools as simply being renamed.
Assuming that the first date of public notice took place on Thursday, September 5, 2013, the sixty (60) days would not have expired before board action until Sunday, November 3, 2013.
Last night the board took the report from the committee on the naming of the schools a mere forty-three (43) days after giving public notice.
The board, therefore, has violated its own policies in concluding the naming of the schools last night seventeen (17) days before their self-imposed deadline.
You know I often tell my students that the only question that actually matters in nearly any discussion is, “Why?” And it’s the one we’re least equipped to answer. In this case however, I do have a theory.
The board was receiving political heat over this decision, and they don’t like political heat or pressure. Despite their claims to the contrary, they actually do prefer it when the board room is filled with nothing but employees whom they control.
That was why they held between 10 and 15 seats in a standing room only crowd last night for TFAers. (There are, by the way, only about 50 seats in the room that aren’t always taken by school district employees.)
That was why they kept the general public waiting outside until 5:15pm.
That was why they instigated a new policy of requiring all questions from the public during the work session part of the meeting to be submitted in writing (that they then refused to read out loud).
That was why Dr. Robinson decided that it would be a good idea to berate Johnson parents for supposedly caring more about the name of the school rather than the test scores when she said, “My challenge would be to those folks who have been spending a lot of time focused on the name that you might want to put that same focus on the test scores.”
That was why Ms. McCaulley seemed to have such difficulty reading citizens’ questions or putting forth a coherent statement on her position.
That was why Mr. Blair seemed incapable of doing anything other than demand complete silence from a crowd of interested citizens.
That was why Dr. Wardynski asked security to remove the few non-employees who managed to get seats in the room.
Wardynski, Blair and Robinson are all three looking ahead to their own political futures, and they decided that the naming question had embarrassed them long enough.
Mr. Culbreath’s only contribution was to claim, by holding up a folder that he “had received only a few hours ago,” that he just didn’t understand how anyone could claim that this process had been anything other than transparent.
Well, Mr. Culbreath, when the board refuses to follow their own rules, the process is significantly less transparent than it should be, don’t you think?
Only Mr. Birney seemed genuinely concerned about the process that they were pushing through when he shared that Mae Jemison didn’t appreciate her southern heritage by pointing out, “You may have the possibility of Dr. Jemison refusing this as she has publicly declaimed the fact that she was born in the south. She resented that heritage.” Mr. Birney was the lone dissenting voice on this matter last night.
Thank you, Mr. Birney.
This is just one more example of this board and this superintendent doing exactly what they want to do in the way they want to do it without consideration of what the community wants. They’ve done it with Special Education students. They’ve done it with the naming of schools. They’ve done it with the location of schools.
It’s time for all of them to be sent packing.