Roy Exum: A School Board Divided

Thursday, May 17, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It has been a wild-and-wooly week since the lid was blown off Chattanooga’s murky non-profit UnifiEd. In what was believed to have been an education foundation in Hamilton County, UnifiEd has just been outed instead as a left-wing political group intent on organizing high school children to promote its liberal agenda.

Today the non-profit is being so publicly castigated it is leaking like the Titanic, and, when County Commissioner Tim Boyd called the group out for giving his shameful opponent $14,700 at Wednesday’s County Commission meeting, it became crystal clear next week’s School Board meeting will be a dilly.

UnifiEd, which is propped up by Chattanooga’s “liberal elites,” also played a key role in the defeat of another County Commissioner, Greg Beck, in the primary earlier this month, and two years ago provided funds for three incumbents on the School Board to be beaten. So the School Board will never look the same with the cancerous UnifiEd dollars dividing the elected body.

At last month’s meeting the School Board was presented the results of UnifiEd’s “Apex Project” (‘Action Plan for Educational Excellence’) and yesterday Commissioner Boyd called it “the most far left, liberal document I have ever read. It does not represent the values of Hamilton County and I am insulted and disrespected by it."

By late last week the two most respected school board members, Rhonda Thurman and Joe Smith, came out against the APEX Project, calling its 54 ultimatums ridiculous. Thurman and Smith were instantly labeled as “dangerous” and “racist” by UnifiEd and its followers. Yesterday Boyd called slurs against Thurman and Smith inexcusable. “I am offended (by the APEX report.) I don’t endorse it, and I don’t think the people of Chattanooga endorse it.”

Commissioner Boyd said, "This is not an organization pushing for better education in Hamilton County. It is pushing to change our way of life and the way we continue to do good things in this community." 

It is abundantly clear UnifiEd will be the elephant in the room tonight but before the School Board bans the group from the premises, you need to check everybody’s ‘hold cards.’ Those known to have accepted UnifiEd’s donations are Joe Wingate, Tiffanie Robinson, Karitsa Mosley Jones and Kathy Lennon. Lennon aligned with UnifiEd in opposing Signal Mountain’s efforts to establish their own school district in such a way the town mayor and others will not speak to her.

UnifiEd backed Thurman’s opponent in the election two years ago “and I’ll have nothing to do with them. I have told them not to send me their hogwash, not to call me … the people in my district have nothing in common with people like that.”

So in the opposite corner stand Rhonda, Smith (who has quite famously championed minority kids in his Y-cap program for years), and the sage David Testerman. Board Chairman Steve Highlander is a minister and so is Joe Galloway, who is not running for re-election. Coach Galloway is well known to be above reproach.

Challengers Tucker McClendon, Jenny Hill, Anne Pierre, Michael Henry and D’Andre Anderson say they have not been approached, but Anderson admitted he has worked for UnifiEd while in high school. Said McClendon: “I’m afraid they wouldn’t like me … I’m a conservative and as Republican as you can get!”

UnifiEd has to release its PAC numbers but has refused to reveal its budget. That said, in FY 2016 UnifiEd was $162.800 over its budget of $486,331.38.

A copy of the “Budget vs. Actuals” FY 2016 reveals that very little of the monies UnifiEd received through donations and grants reached the schools that year. From donations and grants, little money is actually spent on education.

Total General Salaries were $289,045 and hourly salaries/contract labor was another $46,352. Combine health insurance ($14,008) and that took 77 1/2 percent of the total $450,991 that they received from grants and donations.  Also, worth noting is $4,078 in campaign expenses (!)  This was prior to establishing the PAC that was put in place earlier this year.

I wouldn’t suggest buying any stock in UnifiEd, and anybody who is part of this ruse should certainly not buy any bananas.

royexum@aol.com


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