The immaculate presidency

Published January 31, 2015 by justicewg

Brannanweb2The presidency of the school board unexpectedly changed in the January meeting, from Douglass to Brannan. Normally there is some public hint that change is on the way. Even if the standard “need to spend more time with my family” is used by the departing president, it give us some reason for the change. There has not been a word from Douglass, before or after the vote.

As the Vice-president, Debbie Brannan was the logical person to take the position of board president. Read below for her amusing take on why the board needed to change. Unfortunately her first official actions as a president show that she is just as firmly in favor of the Policy Governance mode for running the board as Douglass was. It’s not unexpected, but it is disappointing.

No politics going on in a political office

There was nothing written in any of the official school PR material, or newspaper stories, about why Douglass was out and Brannan is in the new board president. I tried asking a few members and didn’t get anything that made sense. Brannan herself had something to say about how she got voted into her new position:

“… My interests and strength have always been with the academic / curriculum side of things, so the transition was natural. No politics. No lobbying. No hidden agenda.” – Debbie Brannan

This statement provokes so many questions.

If Brannan was into the academic side of the board’s duties, isn’t that the opposite of the qualities needed for the board president, which are focused on Public Relations, mediating the relationship between board and Superintendent, and dealing with the politics of the board and the community?

There was no politics going on, in the decisions about board member votes for a political office? Did the heavens open up and a loud voice shout down “DEBBIE BRANNAN! THOU SHALT TAKE THE PRESIDENCY!”

When a politician says the words “no hidden agenda”, you can bet there is a hidden agenda.

Don’t get me wrong, in my opinion, Brannan is 100% better than Douglass as a board president. She is reading my emails and I assume she reads my blog. She answers questions! I know that is a pathetic thing to take as a good quality from a public official, but the school board has had so many poor office holders who refused to answer questions, it is refreshing to find one who takes the office seriously enough to do the job they were elected to do.

Jesse Truett is the VICE-president

I don’t know what happened in the back room dealings that resulted in the change at the top of the board, but I would bet money that the price of Truett’s vote for a new presidency was the position of Vice-president. Nothing so shocking there, that is the way it works for politicians.

There is an implied statement on the election of the V.P. , that the person who holds it is ready to move up into the position of president. Would Grandview Heights want a person who lost their teacher’s license because of an affair with a student be the president of the school board? A guy who has a day job working with charter schools, trying to undercut public schools in this state? I never understood why Truett has enough popularity to get elected to the school board, and again I’m aghast that anyone would want him in a leadership position.

I sent a couple of emails to Truett asking him why he was in a leadership position on the board, and I finally did get him to respond to an email. What he said could be shortened to “I don’t have to answer you, because Ms. Brannan can do that”. If that is what he has to say to any parent who sends him an email, you might as well stop wasting the electrons, he is a firm believer in the Policy Governance mode of school board operation and will not be tricked into stating an opinion all of his own.

He wrote something unique in his email, something I have never seen in an email from any other public official. At the bottom, he added a line:

This message and any response to it may constitute a  public  record, and therefore may be available upon request in accordance with Ohio  public  records  law. (ORC 149.43)

I hope that everyone keeps in mind that all the emails that you send to public officials are included in the public records which can be requested by anyone with a FOIA request. Confidential material about minor students could be exempt, but if you send a profanity laced rant to your local official, it will be held in the official records for all time.

The fact that Truett has to include this warning prominently at the bottom of his emails makes me think there are some people who don’t like him, and say it in some colorful ways in their emails. I wonder what I would find if I requested those emails?

Reading some tea leaves

Nobody will talk on the school board about the reason for the change in the presidency. I don’t see any advantage to a board member going public with that info, so it will probably remain in the dark for a long time.

My best guess is this – Douglass and O’Reilly had some bad blood between them, and I’m guessing that it was Douglass that drove O’Reilly out of his job, with no replacement position lined up (O’Reilly applied for at least one local superintendent job but didn’t get it, and ended up in a much lower paid consultant gig). The highest rule of Policy Governance is “thou shalt not jerk the super around”. Douglass violated this rule, and the political powers of the city united to take his post away from him.

If O’Reilly really was treated unfairly then it was a good thing Douglass got knocked from his post. The problem is that like so much of what goes on in the political machinery of the city, this coup d’état happened in the dark. Instead of a public presentation of the issues that Douglass screwed up, and an open explanation of why he was removed from his post, we got nothing but a ridiculous denial that backroom politics happened in a political board. That’s an insult to the intelligence of everyone in the city. It’s an affirmation to the Policy Governance mode, where the public is not part of the real decision making.

I have to admit though, although I hope Douglass was denied the presidency because people were sick of his arrogant ways, it is just as possible that he was removed because he had a personal fight with someone else in the city, someone outside the board, and this person had the political pull to get revenge. Or maybe Douglass had some sort of personal scandal that didn’t make the papers, but caused his downfall. We don’t know. We are not allowed to know.


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