Friday, December 16, 2005

School Board Nastiness Spreading?

No one called Kaye McGarry "sweetheart."
But testy tempers over school bonds, growth, and – never spoken but usually present – racial tension erupted this morning (Friday, Dec. 16) at a usually staid intergovernmental committee called the Planning Liaison Committee.
This wasn’t posturing for the press. Local TV cameras don’t cover this process stuff. It was an audience on only four: two folks from REBIC (Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition), a guy who I think was a developer, and me.
I’ll spare you most of the play-by-play. It involves nonsexy things like cost-containment and the difference between general obligation bonds and Certificates of Participation.
But county commissioner Dumont Clarke looked like he was channeling Law and Order’s Jack McCoy, or maybe a Rottweiler. Commissioner Norman Mitchell, usually congenial, got steamed, at one point telling fellow commissioner Dan Bishop, "Your point of view is not correct."
"Welcome to a school board meeting," school board member Kit Cramer quipped at one point, trying to defuse the tension.
Kaye McGarry – the at-large school board member who wants extra security because George Dunlap yelled at her last spring and called her "Sweetheart" last month – must have gotten under Clarke’s skin. It’s easy to see why.
Her continual refrain – that all of CMS’s crowding problems could be solved if only they’d build schools more cheaply and efficiently, i.e., they’re wasting money left and right – typically lacks specifics. Thank goodness today she didn’t go on and on about all the "bells and whistles" they’re building into today’s schools. (Bells? Whistles? Teachers reading this who see bells and whistles, please let me know.)
Today she parroted something she’d heard somewhere, that COPs require schools to be built for less money. That was patently inaccurate, because they’re just another way to borrow money. Clarke kept interrupting her, saying "That’s not right."
Later, Clarke demanded specifics – what percentage of the school building plans could or should be eliminated through cost-containment? "I plead, I beg you, to get away from these generalities – ‘We can do this cheaper.’ "
McGarry would only say, "We can do better." Clarke burrowed in: "You didn’t answer my question." Eventually, Bishop said: "I didn’t know it was an inquisition."
There was more – too much more. And it was not at all collegial. Example from Clarke: "People who say you’re overspending are not in touch with reality. They have another agenda."
What to make of it all? Here’s my take:
Other elected officials don’t hesitate to publicly criticize school board decisions, although they’re far more courteous with other elected bodies’ occasionally knuckle-headed decisions. "We’re the weak man down, and everyone’s taking a turn kicking," is how school board member Kit Cramer put it after Friday’s meeting.
The school board has four members (McGarry, Dunlap, Larry Gauvreau and Vilma Leake) who can’t play well with others. They are crusading, not governing.
Their spats – especially the ones with an under-the-surface racial tinge – are making their political allies mad, too. The nastiness is spreading to other elected bodies, if Friday’s Planning Liaison Committee meeting was any indicator.
That’s not a cheerful thought.


Anonymous said...

I can only speak for district 2 of the school board,but the public knew what they were getting in re-electing Mrs.Leake.
As an African-American I'm ashame of the behavior of Mrs.Leake and Mr.Dunlap,their focus should be creating the best educational opportunity for the children of their districts.
What district 2 needs is new blood on the school board and county board of comm.
Norman Mitchell brings nothing to the table either.

Jason said...

Well, good for you for covering the "process." I'm so happy your working so hard to uncover the real stories.

If you think schools in this county can't be built cheaper, you're on another planet. Listen to what the educrats Uptown are proposing now that the bonds have failed ... CHEAPER schools with LESS FRILLS!

Anonymous said...

If can McGarry carried the mantle for all causes Liberal, her accusations would be treated much differently. Just look at crooked Speaker Jim Black!!!

B. Muse said...

Gauvreau, McGarry, Leake and Dunlap do more to hinder the smooth running of our school system than any other hurdle CMS faces. Their actions are selfish and immature. Not one of the four appears to have the qualities necessary to lead. I moved my children to a state charter school. It would be over my cold dead body that my children would attend a Charlotte Mecklenburg School again. I look at the mess the board is in and I see no end in sight. I pray for all of the children who are being failed by this school system and I applaud the teachers who continue to teach, nurture and guide these children with so little support from CMS and it's governing board.

conklin said...

It is really sad that our school board system members can't get along.. how in the world do you think the kids are suppose to... I school board is here to make decisions for what is best for our children and community.. It is sad that they are acting like immaturely jackals... GROW UP AND ACT LIKE ADULTS!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

In response to Jason, no really, what "frills" do schools HAVE?

Re: Vilma Leake, two of my siblings have had her as a teacher and have indicated to me that she rarely even makes sense. I'm worried when electing people like this to the council. Also sounds like council members simply aren't doing their homework and coming to meetings with a plan, but are simply coming to argue generalities. That's getting them nowhere, apparently.

Anonymous said...

Wow your blog is a piece of crap! Here's an idea: Allocate funds based on student volume, rather than trying to give every school in the Meck the exact same budget in a misquided attempt to be 'fair?' Quit dumbing down testing and grading standards, it's not doing the kids any favors. Enforce the law and don't let the rights of unruly jerks, who aren't even there to learn, supercede those of students who want to learn and teachers who make daily sacrifices to teach our children. Many of them work hard to make a difference and deserve our respect. Those who don't, end up on the School Board apparently.

Anonymous said...

What, and "Coach" knows how to play nice? Or how to lead? I don't think so. What about Norman Mitchell? Heh. Simple fact is that very little of the school board is accountable because of the size of the system. And the panel solution of putting them less in touch with their constituents sure isn't an answer.

The best solution, of course, is to split CMS into several smaller districts. Smaller = closer to the parents/voters = more accountable. Never happen because certain elements (tachers' unions, for example) don't want more accountability from our system.

Richard said...

Just the fact that there are representatives from REBIC at a "intergovernmental committee" meeting speaks volumes about what's wrong in this county. Business and government have always been too close in Mecklenburg County and unmanaged growth is anomg the worst and most visible results.

Anonymous said...

Why is it the so-called conservatives said... don't vote for bonds and are now crying cause they can't get COPs...stupid is what stupid does. As for build 'cheaper schools'....
guess what got us here.

Anonymous said...

I have some ideas for cheaper schools.

Drop the stadiums ($4 million)

Sports should not be an expense of the school system. It should be after school and private. European schools do not fund sports. They are all clubs.

pringle said...

I don't have children and I'm not planning on having them anytime soon. But if I were a parent, planning to relocate to this area and I read all of the nonsense that takes place between these so-called ADULTS on this school board, I'd move my kids elsewhere before subjecting them to a school district that's represented by this group! This school board is of no value to children and parents alike!

Anonymous said...

Layer after layer of Administration costs CMS not frills at schools or classrooms. Mr. Clarke, can't find wasted CMS funds, look at Bovis' Construction Managment for CMS to find millions of admin costs adding nothing to the end product or result.

Special K said...

Welcome to the blogsphere, Mary. Looks like you need to turn on "Moderate Comments" to keep the "nasties" out. If you have, you get credit for posting the good and the bad.

I remember back in the '80s down east there was a dysfunctional school board. I think it was Colombus County, but I'm not certain. They were constantly bickering and fussing. One night they actually came to blows. The next election the voters cleaned house. I'll bet we are headed down the same path.

Anonymous said...

The Voters of Mecklenburg County had an opportunity to clean house at the School Board.
But when less then 20% of the people show any interst in the election,then you reap what you sow.
Donna Dawson was an excellent candidate for the District 2 School Board seat.
But pressure from others in the African-American Community forced her to drop out of the race.
Maybe she will consider running against some other deadwood in district 2 (Norman Mitchell).

Christine said...

You must have gotten the memo from the editorial board to destroy Kaye McGarry.

Kaye got the most votes in the general election and people listened to her and voted down the bonds. People respect her and believe her, not Kit Cramer.

You are helping to destroy your newspaper's credibility.

Anonymous said...

Kay McGarry ran as a moderate who waited until the voters elected her to reveal herself as a Gauvreau clone. Her most recent antics pretending to be "firghtened for her safety" because an Aferican-American man allegedly called her "sweetheart" show her to be nothing more than a latent racist who is willing to do whatever to advance the far rights' agenda. As shown by the meeting detailed above she has nothing constructive to add to the debate but merely seeks to grandstand by throwing around empty phrases with no backup. The voters have spoken with a NO on borrowing money for school construction so the Republican right should live with what they requested and quit trying to end run the public for COPS funding. This situation reminds me of the old saying, be careful what you ask for you just might get it! Unfortunately it the children in the system who will suffer. Since Ms. McGarry is worried about attending school board meetings she should resign so someone who is willing and able can do the job.

Anonymous said...

"Sports should not be an expense of the school system. It should be after school and private. European schools do not fund sports. They are all clubs."

I TOTALLY agree with you there. It'd be easier with smaller community groups (like the Y) to sponsor sports, clubs, afterschool enrichment, etc., than placing that burden on the schools.

Only thing is, can you do that and still allow lower-income kids who can't afford sign-up fees, uniforms, etc., to play? Because honestly, sports is very important to some of those kids' self-esteem, in my opinion.

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