I’ve learned my lesson about endorsing candidates for school board. Two years ago, I made the mistake of endorsing Carlos Matthews in his run for the District 5 seat currently held by Mike Culbreath. That was before Matthews became one of Dr. Wardynski’s favorite people in the fight to drop the J.O. Johnson name, but nevertheless, I made a mistake in endorsing him two years ago. I assumed that he was being honest with me when he told me that he was concerned about the direction the district was taking. He has since done nearly everything in his power to help the district along that very same pathway.
So let’s just say that I’ve learned my lesson about political endorsements.
But because of the number of requests I’ve received, I will state openly those whom I will not be supporting and why in the upcoming races. You can then decide for yourself whom you think you should support.
Anyone But Current Board Members
While I would assume it would go without saying, I would start by saying that never, ever, ever, will I ever support any of the current Huntsville School Board members in any future election in which they might seek office.
This year, Dr. Jennie Robinson is seeking a seat on the Huntsville City Council representing District Three. She will be opposed Walt Hennessee.
Dr. Robinson has proven herself to be little more than a cheerleader for which ever superintendent the district has hired. In the May 20, 2010 board meeting, a mere month before Dr. Moore received a new and final contract from the board to sit home and do little to nothing during 2011, Dr. Robinson had this to say about Dr. Moore’s financial wisdom:
I have heard concerns about accountability and funding and this Board and the Superintendent. The thing she (Dr. Moore) does well is finances. She and I both tried to convince this Board not to give step raises. It’s a miracle Dr. Moore has been able to accomplish what she has. We need to make sure you (Dr. Moore) are a part of the process. I believe in the strength of this school system.
Her cheerleading for all things Casey Wardynski has been exhaustively documented on this site.
Additionally, Dr. Robinson has certainly been willing for the district to participate in her own self promotion during this election year. One look at the sign promoting the new site for the new Grissom or the new Whitesburg will show you that someone in this district recognizes the importance of putting Dr. Robinson’s face before the public during an election year. I have found no records of how these signs were paid for.
Exactly what “leadership” has Dr. Robinson demonstrated here other than supporting everything that Wardynski wants to do?
Also running for an additional, higher seat is Mr. David Blair. He is running for the District 7 Alabama Senate seat currently held by Senator Paul Sanford. While I thought Mr. Blair didn’t have a sign, I was incorrect. Here’s his:
In addition, there are also numerous examples of him yelling at the public during board meetings. He evidently long ago decided that his job as a school board member was to tell the public when they were out of line rather than, you know, representing them.
Hopefully he will take his “bunker mentality” and just go home. Anyone who wishes to avoid the public by hiding in a bunker doesn’t need to be elected to the senate.
For the Sake of Transparency
But the primary reason that none of the current members of the Huntsville City School Board of Education should ever be elected to any other seat occurred this week when they “urged the Judge to ignore all of the community comments offered inside the federal courthouse” last Friday.
That’s right. In addition to stacking citizens’ comments at board meetings, reducing citizens’ comments from occurring at every meeting to just one meeting per month, refusing to televise or record citizens’ comments at board meetings. requiring that all citizens’ questions be written out so that they can then ignore them during Board Work Sessions, to holding “community conversations” at which the community doesn’t have the right to ask questions, our board has demonstrated a consistent fear of questions from the public about their decisions.
They are so terrified of the public’s questions that they filed a motion on Tuesday to have the comments from the public removed from the court record.
They filed this request despite having already lost a prior motion in April to exclude letters from the community concerning the rezoning process.
Thankfully, Judge Haikala denied the request on Thursday stating:
For the sake of transparency, the Court has placed in the records the letters that the Court received from member of the Huntsville community. Although not itself evidence, such non-party input has helped the Court identify at an accelerated pace the evidence that the Court needs the parties to develop and present to enable the Court to evaluate the Board’s pending motion to approve a student assignment plan. For these reasons and those stated above, the Court denies the Board’s motion to exclude.
You may read the Court’s decision for yourself, here.
In short, because they are terrified of including any public opinion that doesn’t support their own views, the Board has twice asked this Court to dismiss the views of the public from the public record.
They believe in democracy so long as the people do and think what they want the public to do and think.
Honestly, that they even bothered the Court by filing the motion to exclude is just a brain dead decision. It shows that they believe the comments made hurt their case and that the public has, in fact, been excluded from this process.
Laurie McCaulley, naturally, thinks this interpretation is incorrect. (Oh and by the way, McCaulley also has her own self-promotion going on like Robinson’s at the site of the “new Johnson.”) That’s why this morning on Carlos Matthew’s “Uplifting Huntsville City Schools” Facebook page, she posted the following:
Perhaps Ms. McCaulley should leave the legal discussion to the experts. The Court clearly states in the conclusion of the ruling above that the citizens’ comments or “non-party input” is “not itself evidence.”
In other words, her concern that the judicial system would be reduced to “anyone standing up saying anything whether it is fact or not or is it just an opinion” (assuming that I have understood her complaint correctly—it isn’t completely clear what she’s attempting to argue) has been rendered moot by the Court, who clearly understands the law far better than Ms. McCaulley.
The Board, despite Ms. McCaulley’s opinion on Facebook, does not want the public comments in the record. That is why they filed a motion, twice, to exclude public letters and public comments from the record.
If she, as the Vice-President of the Board, did not want to exclude the public comments, she should not have authorized Mr. Brooks to file the motion to exclude. Twice.
$1.3 Million for Some Legal Fees
Oh, and by the way, the Board began this process of achieving unitary status on June 21, 2012 when they hired Ms. Maree F. Sneed, a partner at Hogan Lovells in Washington, D.C., to represent them in the case against the Justice Department. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t appear that the district has in fact paid Ms. Sneed nor her firm for her time. There hasn’t been a single check cut to either Ms. Sneed nor Hogan Lovells since June 2012.
After doing some long overdue research into Ms. Sneed, I noticed that she lists among her “Memberships” the following:
- Faculty, Broad Urban Superintendents Academy
- Board of Advisors, Broad Foundation, and
- Board of Directors, Teach for America, D. C.
Perhaps her fees are being paid for by Mr. Eli Broad out of thanks for the wonderful return on investment that Wardynski has proven to be. (I doubt it. We’re probably just paying her with the American Express so the true cost of this legal action can be hidden from the public.)
We have, however, paid Mr. Brooks and the firm of Lanier, Ford, Shaver, and Payne a total of $1,388,049.66 from June 2012 until March 2014 (the most currently available check register from the district).
That’s right. We’ve paid at least $1.3 million dollars solely to Mr. Brooks firm over the past twenty-two months. If Ms. McCaulley is correct that the board does not want to exclude public comments, perhaps she should request some of those funds back from Mr. Brooks.
Support Blair and Robinson Only If You Oppose Democracy
In short, if you wish to have public officials who hate, fear, and do whatever they can to exclude public opinion on public matters, then by all means vote for Mr. Blair on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 and Dr. Robinson for City Council in August.
If, on the other hand, you believe public opinion does actually matter in public matters, I would suggest that you look elsewhere for representation. Mr. Blair, Dr. Robinson, and the rest of the Huntsville City School Board of Education think that the public should keep their opinions to themselves.