Roy Exum: Let’s Start With Truth

Monday, October 14, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

By all accounts the public schools in Chattanooga and Hamilton County are far from what the average taxpayer would want them to be. Our schools are our number one priorities, this easily reflected by the fact they now receive over 60 percent of the total county budget -- the most money ever allocated to public education in history -- and the unbridled desire of our booming area industry is to add quite literally every qualified graduate to our economy. The Hamilton County Department of Education, however, is woefully unable to fulfill that need.

We know that over 60 percent of Hamilton County’s public education graduates must take remedial classes before they can take basic courses at Chattanooga State.

We also know that for a number of years the majority of students in the Hamilton County system cannot read at grade level. Due to “social advancement,” where a student is not stigmatized by peers for “being stupid,” the yearly failures are advanced by the public schools instead of thwarted. Since the children cannot read, it is a given that math, science and other basic skills are also red-flagged. This is why over 30 percent of school-aged children are sent to private schools, are home schooled, or sent to live with relatives elsewhere. The increasingly public sentiment is the schools perpetuate failure instead of correcting it.

Moreover, gross mismanagement by the HCDE and the elected School Board have allowed misguided politicians to let our school buildings and facilities decay to the point one recent study cites the finding that our countywide schools will now require over $1 billion (with a ‘b’) in deferred maintenance. Some buildings and grounds are considered “dangerous.” The last three school superintendents have all left prematurely and the current superintendent, who recently took $14 million from the district’s “rainy-day fund” to fund his ill-advised addition of 181 new employees, is now on questionable ground. Johnson has created a myriad of problems that beg the legitimacy of his leadership. Just the over-budget hires, a $14 million folly that will present itself annually through the HCDE payroll/benefits, and the flaky “bonuses” for teachers that called for another $14 million – to be matched next year?? – is believed to be out-and-out deception, most especially by the 3,000 teachers in the system. 

A far-different outcry by teachers more recently proved discipline is clearly out-of-control at a growing number of public schools, and a computer-cheating system that allows floundering students to rarely attend a semester’s worth of classes yet get course credit in under an hour, further indicates the school system is teetering on collapse. This week, however, the school system and its leaders will attempt to show there have never been any storms, that a doomed but costly tax increase try doesn’t sway the trust of the miffed taxpayers, and that Johnson’s “white privilege” agenda that was a highlight of the national news was just a misunderstanding.

Here's how the Hamilton County Department of Education will try to distract the community rather than teach, protect and nurture its children:

* * *

TODAY AT 4:30 the Disciplinary Committee of the Hamilton County School Board will address a huge behavior issue. The schools contend  a 40-page ‘Code of Behavior’ issued  prior to this year is the most comprehensive solution to address student behavior, but a cross-section of over 40 teachers who have written me in anonymity say its authors have no idea what takes place in the schools because, as one teacher alleged, “The central office people are scared to come here for lunch.”

School Board member Rhonda Thurman will chair the meeting and has asked school teachers for their input when any teacher knows better than to get caught in that trap. “Mrs. Thurman has no way to hear the horror stories. If a teacher tells, that teacher will be told ‘it’s your last day.’ A teacher says, "The way the ‘central office’ works is when a teacher writes up an unruly student, the teacher has to do about three hours of paper work – on their own time – and that’s just the beginning. We had one teacher who had a student who told her she needs to be f**ked. She didn’t write it because nothing would happen. What if that was your sister … she says she’s leaving at the semester. If she quits now, it will be hard for her to ever teach again."

From another teacher: “You try to teach the class. No matter what, you want to brush the trouble-maker aside and teach the really good – the great – kids in the class. A lot of times the students will actually tell some kid acting out to shut up. If the bad kid is tripping on drugs, that’s a problem but to call the office … no answer … you catch an assistant principal at lunch and he wonders why you called. “I can’t do anything about it.”

FIGHTS AT LUNCH – “It is amusing in a way … the bad kids are all about disrespect. They don’t think about cursing a teacher, staying on their phone all during class, or sleeping the whole time. But if they think some other guy is not respectful, there is a fight in front of people. The fights get stopped pretty easily by the faculty – maybe ‘cause it hurts to fight – but then everybody acts like nothing happened. That’s another thing: These kids are smart. They know nothing will happen, so why not?”

WHERE ARE THE ‘SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS’: From a Brainerd teacher – “I can’t answer that.”

AT CENTRAL HIGH – A kid comes out after school is over and boards the wrong bus. Driver tells him to get off. Kid says no. School officials come out. Kids says no again (vile language). Cops come. Forcefully remove kid. Arrest him for ‘disturbing peace’ or something. Take kid to jail. Next day kid is back at school. Under ‘the most comprehensive code of behavior’ ever, kid is back at school. Under code guidelines, school officials cannot retaliate in any way. Kid acts out again within a week. School does nothing.

AT HOWARD: Kid is released from jail and is sent back into the system at Howard. He goes berserk, yelling, screaming, throwing objects. He is taken to the principal’s office. She is not there. Kid goes in her office and absolutely trashes the place, this despite principal being a finalist for Best in Tennessee. Police are called, arrest the kid, take him to jail and everybody left standing as the kid is driven to jail knows nothing will happen. This is due to the code guidelines. No faculty member wants to endure the central office paperwork hassle. Kid will be back tomorrow, the HCDE will repair the principal’s office, and the kid will be right back. Howard’s faculty can do nothing …. but, wait, call from jail says cocaine was found in toughie’s backpack. Howard can still do nothing but the police can. Kid won’t be back for a long while.

HOW DOES THIS STUFF ESCAPE THE PUBLIC EYE? They are juveniles, the records guarded by federal and state laws. Schools say calling parents is nigh-impossible. If parents are summoned, it is always the teacher’s fault and every teacher has learned the HCDE sides with the parent every single time. Imagine that.

JACK NICHOLSON’S CLASSIC MOVIE LINE: “You want the truth! You can’t handle the truth!”

* * *

ON WEDNESDAY the Hamilton County Commission is expected to “tuck tail,” as they say in the north end of the county, and spend needless taxpayer dollars by allowing a very pointed liberal ruse to take place.  David Sharpe, a Commissioner whose ties to the group UnifiEd are quite open and whose voting stand is worrisome to the majority of conservatives in Hamilton County, knows better than anyone the idea of a $60-per-car wheel tax for Hamilton County is absolutely ridiculous. No one, other than the ever-whining snowflakes and their short-sighted followers will ever vote to tax themselves in Hamilton County.

He, in quite a non-convincing way, says he wants to put such an idea on the March 2020 ballot so his “constituents” can voice their beliefs “how we support and compensate our educators.” I can absolutely guarantee that placing it on a referendum will be landslide failure, that all it will accomplish is cause some stupid people to spend far-more-valuable money in futility (as if the HCDE has never done that) and further broaden a growing rift between the taxpayers and the out-of-reality thinkers who cannot, as of yet, show any factual improvement where we most need it.

David wants a vote from the County Commission this Wednesday, right now. Hurry! Now! But, whoa, calmer minds like Chester, Sabrina, Randy, Tim, Chip and Greg are wising up to the way you shuffle the deck and deal. We all know that David and Katherlyn Geter fly the UnifiEd flag, where some say the referendum foil was just hatched, but Dr. Mackey is the best educator of the bunch and, while a Democrat, he’ll warn about stature you lose every time you get pounded in the dirt. This is a ‘no win’.

To say it’s for teacher raises enters the 16th straight month the citizens of Hamilton County have lived that lie. It’s deader than telling people to get a flu shot. You saw what happened in the budget … the five percent for the teachers was there. Then the teacher’s union … wanting to represent everybody because their membership is lower than Chickamauga Lake in the winter … got on some ‘collective phone conference’ and it got pasted down to 2.5 percent to the bewilderment of every last commissioner.

When the dust settled, the 34-cent tax hike never had a chance and Superintendent Slick had hired 181 people in another ‘sleight of hand,’ right?  So, the ‘Super’ put his hires in the budget, took the teacher’s pittance out, and raided the ‘rainy day’ fund for $14 million to cover what was his best-to-date major hoo-hah. The ‘rainy day’ money now used, ‘Super Slick’ has sweaty palms because come the next budget he’s got to cover the $14 million again for the new hires’ second-year salaries and benefits, plus the $14-plus million for the teachers’ raises he’s been sluffing since he got here.

So, let’s be big about this. Hold up on the Wednesday pressure. Smart people hurry nothing. Instead, I suggest that all nine of our commissioners pick a high-volume spot in each of their districts and hang a sign around their necks that says, ‘The Children Need You.’ Forget the teachers … go for the jugular of fund-raising. Place each beside the main door with this easy-to-read prompt on the back of the picture they’ll hold up of some dirty 10-year-old whose all-grin after he just hit a home run. Forget the referendum – this is cheaper and far more effective … and it's dead-in-the eye to the people. Here’s the patter:

* * *

“Good morning, I’m David Sharpe, your county commissioner ….

“Err … David. Sharpe. S-H-A-R-P-E … yes, thanks for voting for me as county commissioner…. what’s that … no, no ma’am, I took Joe Graham’s place … no, ma’am, he’s not sick … most of the voters out here liked me this time instead of him … yes ma’am, if I see him I’ll tell him you want him to come back … but … please, excuse me, …. just settle down …I need to ask you a question.

“What would you think, in an effort to support our school teachers here in Lookout Valley, if we placed a $60 tax on every car to raise our teacher’s salary? They need our suppo …. wait … whoa … don’t swing that paint can at me. The top may come off… Please, I am trying to do what’s right and good … yes, ma’am, it would be on every car and truck every year. … that’s why we want it on the next ballot and I’m taking a straw poll. ….no, ma’am, we didn’t do this for Mrs. Clinton … what’s that? That doesn’t make any difference right now ... this is about schools … the people can really help if they’ll support a wheel tax. … yeah, go ahead, call Coppinger all you want but he has no say …

“A wheel tax would be a way we could all support this schools … oh, yes, it would renew every year … What? Your husband owns an independent company that hauls cattle … whew, 26 trucks is a good-sized outfit … well, I guess once you add in his GMC, your Cadillac, and Sonny’s Jeep and … hey … your husband’s been awfully blessed … do you realize a wheel tax would give him the opportunity to give our teachers almost … what? … almost $1,750 a year.”

“Don’t you hit me with that purse again …. oh, hi … it’s nice to meet the husband of such an active woman. She’s sure got an opinion, this one does … oh, yes sir, I was just fixing to leave … I just can’t understand why good people don’t support teachers … you’re right, I'm still mystified why people didn’t go for Hillary like I thought they would…. No need to curse … I want to be civil … no sir, nothing to do with the Civil War … I’m not a Yankee…”

(Well, by the time ole Squire Sharpe gets his door unlocked, somebody would have jerked off his sign, clobbered him twice in the back with a gallon of eggshell white, and no telling what would have ever become of his left shoe.)

* * *

I’m telling you want I am telling you.

There is a most-unfortunate misconception that a “professional poll” determined 61 percent of Hamilton County voters approved a recent tax increase. This is strongly alleged to be false. The poll was “planted” as false news in the Times Free Press and in the third paragraph of the story on the day it appeared, it was discredited by the newspaper. The newspaper stated it had no idea where the poll originated, who commissioned it, yet it made page-one news. On Sunday, the newspaper reiterated the poll as fact, when at the same time an open poll in found 70 percent of those responding disapproved the tax increase. Suffice it to say the readers know the truth.

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