published Thursday, July 7th, 2011

School board club’s choice

Though it has not been officially announced, two members of the Hamilton County School Board confirmed to this page Wednesday that the board probably will vote today to name assistant superintendent Rick Smith, currently the interim superintendent, to the position of superintendent. If that happens, it will be without any solicitation or consideration of other applicants, and without any public participation in the selection process.

Appointment of Smith also will make it regrettably clear that at least a majority of the nine-member board has explicitly refused to reconsider their vote two weeks ago to jettison the codified standards for the selection in order to install Smith. These standards had required a national search for the most qualified candidate, full transparency and public forums and participation in a rigorous interview process, and a range of pertinent criteria.

Among other things, a public process would have considered candidates’ qualifications and background and given preference to a candidate with a doctorate degree, which Smith doesn’t possess. It would have showcased candidates’ strategic vision for education, programs and curriculum, and it would have addressed leadership skills and innovative ideas.

Had this opportunity for finding the best superintendent been preserved, the community, as well, could have been engaged in a meaningful discussion of issues currently on the minds of school patrons here: magnet and charter schools, multi-track curriculum, rezoning vs. new school buildings, teacher mentoring, leadership tracks and training for principals, student diversity, ways to improve academic excellence and pursuit of higher education.

As it is, the five members of the school board who voted to gut the requirements of the codified guidelines for selecting a new superintendent — Everett Fairchild, Rhonda Thurman, Mike Evatt, David Testerman and Joe Galloway — have apparently satisfied themselves privately that Smith is the person they want, and never mind the broader public’s interest in the path of public schools.

Ironically, the rush to make Smith superintendent apparently will spring in a highjacked work-session meeting that board member Linda Mosley had requested to discuss the parameters for selecting a new superintendent and contract and salary issues. Mosley said she finds the pending appointment of Smith without a broader, public process “deeply disillusioning and disappointing.”

“I think it sets us back 30 years,” she said.

She’s correct. For starters, the selection process represents a return to the misguided nexus of old, parochial cliques in the county school board and the County Commission that favor a system where a few unqualified public officials assert control over the school system’s educational programs, and casually force self-interested hiring choices via control of the superintendent’s office.

The forced ouster of Dr. Jim Scales, like that of his predecessor, Dr. Jesse Register, was driven by members of the board and the commission who are most biased in favor of suburban schools and most opposed to innovative efforts to elevate performance among students and teachers in urban schools. Thurman, for instance, has publicly railed against magnet schools, minority-to-majority transfers, and innovative, foundation-funded programs designed to boost inner-city schools.

Worse, the County Commission has grossly interfered in the capacity and viability of public schools — first by withholding needed funding for so long over the past 12 years in order to bend the school board and superintendent’s office to its will, and secondly by pushing politically aligned members onto the school board.

The appointment of Smith represents the commission’s victory over — and against — two reform superintendents who dedicated themselves to establishing an equitable school system that would work equally as well for minorities as for students in the mainly white suburban schools.

The broader public interest remains at stake in this ongoing struggle. For whatever reason or promises Smith is the choice of these cliques, his most important job will be to respect, and represent, the broader public interest in an equitable and fair public school system that will improve the broad community and the economic progress the public now envisions. If he intends to do well, that must be his first priority.

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Selah said...

This article was well written. Enough said!!! Christians it is time for knee service...for the children and only the children.

July 7, 2011 at 12:59 a.m.
rosebud said...

Wow, another cut-and-paste editorial from the Times left page. Harry, you can keep reprinting this tripe, but you can't change the fact that in 2010, voters elected a school board that promised to get rid of Scales. The board members are doing what they were elected to do. Good for them.

Janice Boydston, Charles Love and the rest of the Times' inner circle are not running the school board any more. Now go write something original. While you're at it, stop deepening the divide and give Mr. Rick Smith a chance to go forward and do his job well. Or would you prefer he fail?

July 7, 2011 at 8:15 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Self appointment to expensive jobs to the exclusion of everyone else. It's the fashion among local politicos since they evaded the election process last November. They set up a Metro Payoff Club that interlinks City and County government in a trading network that pays political jobs and sole source contracts in an arbitrary and uncompetitive manner. At this point, we're losing a hundred thousand a week to their unfair and unethical business practices used to self-appoint their way into political office. It doesn't look legal.

Eventually, we will have an emergency that requires the people to rely on these government offices. Those offices will have no true influence of leadership because the people involved in this self-appointment process have made the decisions into an illusory sham.

Government is not set up for people to pay themselves like royalty. Our local Republicans don't understand this. Ever since Bob Corker was able to finance his Senate race by repainting the lines on the street, these people have been salivating at the thought of taking money while telling people whatever.

We need a return to government service, and serious penalties installed for these people who have chosen to deliberately misuse the system for self service. Salary caps near the average citizen's annual pay would be a good place to start. A sliding pay scale similar to federal and state military pay by rank and experience, at those kinds of dollar levels, with those kinds of legally binding ethics requirements on pay and gifts, would be a positive change.

If the personal favorites of politicians are such strong choices, then its likely that they could survive professional and public hiring scrutiny. Instead, we're left with this.

The list of payoffs and business deals involving cronies paying themselves is getting long and sordid.

$328,000 website to former Mayor Kinsey's friendly design firm.

The self-appointment of County Mayor Coppinger.

Scathing political attacks on arts and human services; followed by poor city policies on police support.

An oblique mention of a $1.2 million dollar pay problem for firefighters.

A $10 million "redefining" of liability in the City budget.

McKamey animal shelter contracts that allow policing of citizens by an unaccountable privately held company.

Quiet de-funding of local methodone clinics for addicts and psychiatric treatment centers.

De-funding the AIM Center, a mental health outreach program that sets up halfway houses. They're in Prebul's old Jeep dealership building downtown. Their shutdown coincides with his expected release from Federal prison. His 10 year plus expected sentence was reduced to one, thanks to the political influence of people who are making these other payouts now.

July 7, 2011 at 8:32 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Surprise firing of five County Jail deputies to save money. Dollar value of their total annual incomes? County Chief of Staff salary.

The arbitrary appointment of Bob Corker's man to County Chief of Staff. No experience. Never been sworn to government service as far as we can tell. He gets $120,000 and control over everyone else. He's probably just minding the store for whomever.

A scuffle over getting rid of the schools Superintendent, to install who they want. Cost to get rid of the old, suddenly? $300K. Cost to install the new? Whatever that salary will be.

Half a million dollars to appoint who they want to the schools before the next large, Presidential, election cycle. While it'll only command local influence, it's obvious that someone is paying to install who they want to influence the whole group of voters later. A significant body installed with specific political leanings is likely to either command or persuade at the next set of elections. By then, they can sweet-talk or take what they want to get their way.

Because elections and the regular process aren't good enough, apparently. Secret hiring and firing practices just cost us half a million with the schools situation alone.

We pay for it all. Some collective of power hungry people will get the goods, but we will get the bill every time. Taxpayer dollars.

Yet, they poormouth the budget while paying themselves enormous sums.

Instead of what's right, we get this.

July 7, 2011 at 8:50 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

If that website deal did come with a $60K federal grant, then I hope the ethics requirements that go along with that money lead to some indictments. You cannot use federal tax dollars to pull this kind of a sham on people.

July 7, 2011 at 9:07 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Who finances the loans for all of these arbitrary removals and appointments? Wasn't Bob Corker elected with financing from the check cashing people? Governments and businesses alike need loans to finance their day to day operations. It's not just done on cold collections of taxpayer dollars.

Who is profiting at what rate in lending the money to make these political changes happen?

This is the summer before a large election year. Looking at Representative Scott Desjarlais' campaign next door, we see the trends in GOP financing. They want fund matching. Representative Desjarlais was crying poormouth on his YouTube commercials, after raising a million himself; then, he received his next million, to secure his seat, from GOP money laundering payoffs possible thanks to the Citizens United decision.

So, the first part of the year was about being ideologically in line. This irritated opponents' supporters and caused distraction. This season is about raiding taxpayer coffers to walk off with huge sums to be used as seed money for future campaigns. Later, we'll see the fund matching return in full effect. Except this time, because of the elapsed time since Citizens' United, they'll all be ready.

It's going to be expensive to have the GOP around. They save a lot of money from their wallets by helping themselves to our taxpayer money daily.

July 7, 2011 at 10:02 a.m.
chet123 said...

SORRY ROSEBUD...WE DONT NEED SODDY POLITIC IN CHATTANOOGA....

July 10, 2011 at 8:46 a.m.
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