Roy Exum: Today Just Say ‘No!’

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The Hamilton County School Board, elected by the citizens, has literally no choice but to defend those same citizens this afternoon when Candice McQueen, the state’s Commissioner of Education, is scheduled to appear here and try to sugarcoat the hostile takeover of five of our low-performing public schools. Our message should be a resounding “no” to both “options” she will offer and she should be sent back to Nashville immediately.

McQueen, who is not an elected official, but is instead a decidedly unpopular appointee of Governor Bill Haslam, in reality has no offer at all and will use one repugnant option to force the other. The first is for the state’s school district, which goes by the misnomer of the Achievement School District, to completely and totally take control of five Hamilton County schools.

In truth the Achievement School District has made no significant progress in educating children in one of the “Ten Most Dangerous Cities in the United States.” To be candid, there has been no achievement except to wreck the Memphis School District and roar through the majority of a $500 million federal grant.

The second “option” is what Nashville is calling a “partnership zone.” I firmly believe a federal judge could study such a terribly unbalanced plan as McQueen proposes and charge the woman with willful fraud against the people of Hamilton County. This woman is using poverty-wracked minority students as pawns because the children have no say and no one to speak for them.

She proposes a separate and appointed school board – which surely violates the county charter – that will include more “state” appointees than “Chattanooga” appointees – weigh that in your scales of justice. It is not legal. McQueen has deviously arranged a “partnership” where she herself is the only partner with any clout. That is not ethical.

She has already arranged for “the latest and greatest” from Boston to bring their expertise to a town they know nothing about except that it is the newest cash cow in the herd. Last August a performance audit by Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson of the Achievement School District gave a scathing view of the Memphis folly and it was so bad McQueen had to return financial propriety to Nashville. (You’ll love the booze at the Christmas party finding.)

With what is laughingly/sadly called McQueen’s Over-the-Top experiment going broke – everybody knows what the true story is – the education commissioner just slashed half of the ASD administration but the word on Beale Street is those fired can still apply for their jobs. The whole thing illustrates why people distrust government.

So what I believe is the best answer to the state is to tell them to leave. We ain’t giving up our children, our buildings, our control of our most-needy schools, or the best way we feel we can educate our children. McQueen’s worst two schools in Memphis are still the worst performing in the state. Hysterically, several states want to emulate Tennessee’s revolutionary Achievement School District when it is clearly been proven as dysfunctional. It does not work.

In the year 1579, an English churchman Stephen Gosson wrote the story, ‘Ephemerides’ and in it coined the phrase, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” The idiom has been true ever since and, of course, refers to people who are engaged in a hopeless task. Anything McQueen tries without Chattanooga educators is guaranteed to fail.

I solidly believe until we can change the environment of a child in poverty – the daily horrors of being hungry, left alone, and lacking basics – we will never achieve a satisfactory solution to our inner-city woes. Never confuse racism with reality. Memphis school superintendent Dorsey Hopson, he himself a product of the Memphis inner city, just this week proposed a 12-month school year.

Realize that Hopson’s schools are out-performing the ASD schools in Memphis and, as recruiting and retaining school-age children are now huge in the war between ASD and the Shelby County Public Schools, he will “own” the inner city areas with year-long child care. Just watch, and it will further the easily-predicted demise of McQueen’s failure.

This afternoon the School Board needs to vote ‘no’ on every McQueen option, suggestion or idea. Do not argue. Do not respond to any queries. Just tell her no means no. In time the legislature will get involved. In time there will be legal opinions. But remember the federal judge who is sworn to protect the people, most particularly 2,300 who have no way of protecting themselves against Candice McQueen’s whims.

No. You get that? No.

royexum@aol.com


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