published Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Rick Smith’s challenge

The Hamilton County school board’s decision Thursday to hire Rick Smith as the system’s new superintendent precisely followed the script fixed by the controlling five-member majority that ordained the process and the outcome — all in secret.

That’s the problem with it. The flawed process was entirely predictable. And it was entirely wrong.

It was all engineered and accomplished by fiat outside the legal boundaries of the state’s Sunshine Law. Public participation and comment regarding Smith’s selection were arrogantly barred. Smith’s contract and $163,500 salary were admittedly determined privately by board chairman Mike Evatt while he (Evatt) was on vacation — though possibly with secret communications with other members of the board’s majority: how could we know? — and agreed to by Smith in a private, three-minute conversation with Evatt.

And even before the predetermined deal was officially approved in the set-piece Thursday board meeting, Smith selected the top five key members of his staff in the central office. In doing so, he wrongly circumvented the regular procedure of posting the positions, allowing applications from others, and presenting his choices to the board for approval.

Smith’s revelation of those appointments during his ritual coronation prompted George Ricks, one of the four board members excluded from the secret process, to observe: “This has become a debacle. This is not done right. It doesn’t look right.”

That is a gross understatement. The board’s disdain of the public’s right to transparency and participation in the selection of a superintendent, of course, has become increasingly apparent for weeks.

• It first appeared when the secretly arranged ouster of former Superintendent Jim Scales broke in the news.

• It continued with the five-member vote to jettison all previous requirements for a national search and public process for a new superintendent, including a rigorous review of applicants’ strategic vision and educational qualifications (including the preference for a doctoral degree).

• It moved a step further when the board’s majority devised a rule that Smith could be moved from “interim” superintendent status to official status within 15 days, the minimum public notice.

• And it culminated Thursday not only with the concluding chapter of the flawed process, but also with Smith’s premature and presumptuous staff changes.

The entire process has illustrated not only a breathtaking degree of casual arrogance and hubris by the five members of the majority. It also constitutes a complete disregard by the board’s five controlling members for public accountability and responsible communication with the school system’s constituencies.

Owing to the shotgun selection process, members of the community at large have not had the opportunity to get to know Superintendent Smith’s educational views, goals or vision for the future. If he has a mandate from the board, it also is a secret.

However well-intentioned he may be, we do know that despite his long interest in becoming superintendent, Smith never chose to pursue a doctoral degree, the standard requisite for higher-level superintendent candidates. We also now know that he has willingly condoned the secret selection process that deliberately changed the old selection rules, excluded the public, and operated by back channel communications.

None of the latter builds confidence in his selection. The perception of Smith is further undermined by the long support of him by board member Rhonda Thurman, whose hurtful racist resentment of magnet schools and initiatives to strengthen inner-city schools raises broad concern about the direction Smith would take the school system.

There is apparently little the public can do, at least until the next school board elections, to coax or coerce better behavior by the school board’s majority members except to show its concern. Outrage at the board’s arrogant snub of a public process, and board members’ seeming indifference to Thurman’s racist opposition against special programs for inner-city schools, leaves us with scant reason to endorse Smith’s selection.

He has a lot to prove, and a large divide to heal. We wish him wisdom, courage and success in fairly improving the school system across the board — in behalf of all our children, and the community’s progress.

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rosebud said...

Harry Austin's Challenge: to find something new to whine about. You lost, Harry. The public has spoken. You and your liberal fan club will just have to deal with it now; much as the public has put up with your minority crowd ever since the schools merged.

July 9, 2011 at 8:35 a.m.
librul said...

Well, if the scores go down - ALL of these politicos should go out.

July 9, 2011 at 9:35 a.m.
SeaMonkey said...

smith, scales, register...barney the dinosaur.....they have nothing to do with learning. there is no wizard of education. stop looking for "the person"....they don't exist.

inner city black public school students have been used as a political football for decades.

if rhonda thurman would've used frederick douglass as an example instead of the word "slaves" would that be better for you libs?

read some history.

don't blame the messenger.

July 9, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.
bret said...

Rhonda should have simply used herself as an example. If ignorant rednecks can learn to read then anybody can, right?

July 9, 2011 at 1:15 p.m.
chet123 said...

THANKS SEAMONKEY FOR TEACHING BLACKS ABOUT THEIR OWN HISTORY,,,NOW NEXT TO THE SYNAGOGUE TO LECTURE THE RABBI ON THE HOLOCAUST

THIS IS THE KIND OF ARROGANCE RHONDA THURMAN AND HER FOLLOWERS HAVE...LOL LOL LOL LOL

July 9, 2011 at 1:22 p.m.
Selah said...

Wow...the public backlash is coming. Our children deserve better than this. They deserve to see that if they work hard and obtain an education and even a higher education...they will have ATLEAST AN opportunity and/or the RIGHT to go for a JOB.

The problem here is that they have done this for centuries without much backlash so they feel very comfortable with what was done and SEE nothing WRONG b/c they have ALWAYS operated this way. As I said once before: POWER CAN BE COSTLY...

July 9, 2011 at 1:29 p.m.
chet123 said...

BRIT....SHE CANT SEE HERSELF..ITS INSULTING FOR EDUCATED PEOPLE WHO HAVE PAID THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS...SOME OVER 100,000 FOR UNDERDERGRAD TO POST GRADUATE DEGREES..TO HAVE A HAIRDRESSER LECTURE THEM...AND MAKE CRAZY STATEMENT BASED ON HER OPINION(EVERY BODY HAVE A OPINION..YOU MUST HAVE FACTS)...THIS IS THE FLIP-SIDE OF DEMOCRACY ..MOB RULES.....I REALLY BELEIVE SHE HAS NO CLUE HOW STUPID SHE SOUNDS..DO RHONDA UNDERSTAND THE SHAME SHE WILL BRING ON HER CHILDREN...AND SHE HAVE FOLLOWERS CHEERING HER ON...ALL OF THEM GOOSE STEPPING TO THE EDGE OF A CLIFF....REALLY AMAZING!

July 9, 2011 at 1:38 p.m.
chet123 said...

SELAH....what i dont understand...are these church people..are they christian....do they have a soul...do their minister tell them you dont treat your fellow-brothers in such a matter...something is missing here

July 9, 2011 at 1:42 p.m.
chet123 said...

ROSEBUD...I THINK YOU ARE REALLY SPOOKED TO WHAT IS COMING DOWN THE PIPE....SEE YOU ARE TRYNG TO CENSOR,,,SUPPRESS SPEECH...BUT YOU ARE THE FIRST TO CRY OUT FREE SPEECH....AMAZING!!

IF YOU KNOW YOU ARE RIGHT WHY ARE YOU AFRAID Hmmmmmm STAND BY YOUR CONVICTION...AND DONT WORRY ABOUT HARRY AUSTIN...NOW IF YOU KNOW YOU DID WRONG AND TOLD LIES....THAT ANOTHER STORY!

July 9, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.
fairmon said...

After blatantly voting themselves a nice pension for a part time position that was once all volunteers nothing out of this school board surprises me. The system is under funded and inefficient. Capable principles are more critical than a superintendent or the board.

July 10, 2011 at 8:05 a.m.
chet123 said...

harp3339....sound like a confession...are you saying RICK SMITH is incapable! This good ole boy systems will be challenged in court....so dont get too comfortable

July 10, 2011 at 8:21 a.m.
fairmon said...

We better fund, support and demand competent educators if we expect to ever see welfare and government dependency significantly reduced. That is not unique to any ethnic group. The number may be small but It is nearly impossible to terminate a weak teacher. Could it be that tenure and unions have had unintended consequences on the teaching profession and the large number that are outstanding educators? One flaw in the process may be the lack qualification criteria for being a candidate for the board.

July 10, 2011 at 8:32 a.m.
fairmon said...

Why on earth are lottery funds supporting college educations when the failure to be college ready is in the K through 12 category? Failure to assure good reading skills and detection of learning disabilities and barriers at the beginning ages are the root cause of drop outs and failures in subsequent years. Good reading skills and teaching kids how to study and learn at the earliest possible age is a failure in the education process. No child left behind is a good title but the process is a dismal failure. Like all other federal programs it measures the masses and the wrong things. It ignores individual progress and the needed assistance for a child to not be left behind. It is another tool of federal manipulation and competition for funding.

July 10, 2011 at 8:55 a.m.
rosebud said...

Ah, the old reliable Chattanooga Times left-wing liberal club. 70% of its readers agree with Rhonda, and yet EVERY rant, EVERY letter to the editor has the liberal, left-wing slant. Keep pushing that agenda Harry, it pays off big dividends on election day!

July 10, 2011 at 8:56 a.m.
fairmon said...

chet123

You could be 0n a poster for an education system failure. Where did I day anything about the qualification or lack thereof of Smith? You and Thurman have similar traits, mouth in motion without brain in gear.

July 10, 2011 at 9:03 a.m.
timbo said...

Where do you think the desicions were made before? In a more fancy back room at theFairyland Club by a bunch of "rich old boys" you agreed with. We won.....we are supposed to be in charge. Just like you guys did when you won elections. The difference is now the adults are in charge. Civics 101 You all are a bunch of hypocrites.

July 10, 2011 at 11:23 a.m.
chet123 said...

THERE GOES ROSEBUS TRYING TO CENSOR and suppress speech...THIS WOMAN IS SCARE STIFF LOL LOL LOL.....WHY ARE YOU SPOOKED ROSEBUD...COULD IT BE MAYBE YOU SKIPPED OVER THE SEARCH COMMITTEE....AND DICTATED AND UNDERMINDED THE PROCESS Hmmmmm would LOVE to see you in jail

July 10, 2011 at 3:23 p.m.
chet123 said...

HARP3339...you said we better demamd competent...WE..WE..WE..WHO IS WE...YOU AND THE HAIR DRESSER WHO DID NOT GO TO COLLEGE BECAUSE SHE COULDNT CUT IT LOL LOL LOL..AMAZING...AMAZING!!

July 10, 2011 at 3:29 p.m.
fairmon said...

chet123,

Read every post and tell me where I supported or criticized any superintendent or board member? You have a terrible skatoma which when combined with your poor cognitive skills and racial prejudice results in incorrect conclusions.

Have you ever heard of READ? A program for adults that can't read, you may want to consider utilizing it. I did say "we better demand competent educators". The term we means every tax paying and voting citizen in the city and county including you if eligible.

You again proved me right when I said you and Thurman had similar traits with MIMBBIG (mouth in motion before brain in gear). A college degree does not automatically equal intelligence nor does the lack of one equal a lack of intelligence.

July 10, 2011 at 5:02 p.m.
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