Where does an elected School Board member go for help when they are prevented from performing their duties due to a culture of intimidation and the avoidance of questions? After months of receiving responses instead of direct answers, I made the difficult decision to send a letter to one of the state accreditation entities (SACS). Many have asked about my motivation and why I chose to do what I did. I hope to shed some light on those questions.
Everything I do as an elected official is done because I represent the citizens who elected me to make sound and responsible financial decisions with a HALF BILLION dollars of their tax money. The Board of Education hires the Superintendent and checks his work, I believe in the American system of checks and balances. What I mean is that our board is tasked with holding our district Administration accountable. This is not my opinion or anything having to do with politics. It is state law. Seeking answers about where the money is going (or in the case of the 2011 audit–where did it go?) is the job of the board.
There are in fact multiple questions I have asked of the Administration and of our Board Chair that went unanswered both in public meetings as well as in electronic mail. The May 2013 Board work session was the most blatant example as a room filled with citizens looked on in disbelief as our Superintendent crossed his arms and refused to answer my direct question about the Fiscal Year 2011 audit. The exchange went something like this: My question, “Sir, is that a yes or a no?” The reply was, “that is a non-answer!” Again during the June 2013 board meeting (which is available on video), I asked our Board Chair to direct the Superintendent to answer my questions. She refused and stated “I do not direct the Superintendent.”
If this elected Board of Education does not direct the Superintendent and he is not elected by the voters, to whom is he accountable? For the record, no one in the main stream press that night, bothered to cover this blatant insubordinate action.
Fear and intimidation are classic tactics used by the Administration, but they are now being exposed as causing more harm than good for our community. In my letter to SACS there is not one single expression of concern about the performance of teachers, staff or students within Cherokee County Schools, yet Principals, teachers, PTA leaders and parents have ganged up against me in what has been characterized as union mob like behavior. Who are these thugs and what are they so afraid of?
As a board, we trust our teachers to teach, the administrators to lead, the bus drivers to transport our children safely, the custodians to clean, the police to keep our children safe and so on. Everyone has a job to do and it is the job of the board to make sure we are spending our money wisely. Our school district is over 1/3 BILLION dollars in debt. That means our children will be saddled with this debt until well past 2030 if we don’t add one more penny of debt. Is it really fair to suggest that a board member who challenges this kind of spending is against children?
The financial audits show that our district has written off millions of dollars that may have been used to eliminate furlough days in past years. We will never get that instructional time back and our children have suffered for it.
According to the administration, the state said that we satisfied the requirement to conduct an audit. That does not mean all is well. The state specifically directed the Board to make sure the problems were corrected.
Part Two runs on July 31 in this space.