There are many reasons for voters to give a thumb down on the school’s issue #6, but the one I have heard the most is “I don’t trust the school board”. Let’s look at all the ways the board has failed the community, and lost the trust that is needed for a functional school board.
The big lie about the Finance committee
The school board used deception and back-room dealing throughout the entire facility review process, but one lie topped them all – the claim that everything about the process would be open and transparent. This video (recorded by the school) captured the moment that superintendent Culp told the community that the Finance committee would be open, that minutes would be taken.
A community member asked superintendent Culp about the Finance committee, asked if there will be notice of meetings, public participation, minutes online. Culp said “I fully commit to that, I don’t think you can do it any other way.” The board later made the committee closed, with hand picked supporters, no meeting notes were allowed out of the room.
Andy Culp knew that the Facility Task Force had already been created as a closed, no visitor, no meeting notes allowed committee by the school board. He should have known that the board would do the same thing with the Finance committee. I think it’s likely he knew he was lying to the parents at this meetings. But if we take him at his word, and accept that he was “fully committed” to an open Finance committee, what does that say about the relationship with the school board? They knew that he had staked his integrity on the stand he took for an open Finance committee – and they destroyed it.
Should we trust a school board that can so casually (and for so little gain) trash the integrity of the superintendent?
The secrecy of the Finance committee was a big deal
Was the promise by Culp really that important? Watch the video of the report to the community from the Finance committee. On eight separate occasions, community members ask why the Finance meetings were closed, why there are no meeting notes available. The G4G group complained about the secrecy of the closed committees on their website (website is under revision currently) and attracted 368 community members to sign their petition to the school board.
For the people who spent hours going to the open facility meetings, attending 7 of them, the major revisions to the school facility plans, made by a closed committee, was a big deal. The fact that the board has refused to answer questions about why the Finance committee was closed is a big deal. It’s a major reason to vote no on the levy.
Do you trust Jessie Truett with $55 million?
You can tell much about a group because to the person that they choose to be their leader. Board president Jessie Truett had some questionable actions in the past, and the fact that the board wanted him to be their leader, when they had much better options, makes us question the decision making of the board, and their ability to do a major construction project.
Watch the video of Truett in a board meeting
The board meeting of 10/18/16 was one of the most important in the process of the facility evaluation at the school. The board had hired Harrison Planning Group, a top facility planning firm with a high reputation. At this meeting, Jessie Truett gave his version of why HPG told the board he couldn’t work with the school any more. Pay attention to the pauses in Truett’s testimony (3:57).
Do you believe Truett’s version of events? Did a highly rated contractor “respond in an unprofessional manner, take it personally, and attacked members of the task force and the board”? We have never heard HPG’s version of the event, so we just have Truett’s words – do you believe him? Or is this a board member who was so obnoxious he drove a highly competent contractor away?
At that same meeting, a parent asked questions about the “Transparency”of the board, and the problems of them hiding actions in 8:15 AM meetings, which normal have no attendance by the public (12:32).
Once again, listen for the long pause from Truett – it’s a “tell” that something controversial is about to come out of his mouth. And this one is huge, he says that any criticism of the board is bad decorum, and that parents who want to complain can do it “offline”, where the complaint will disappear forever.
If the board has to be in charge of a unprecedented $55 million project, that will affect the schools for the next 50 years, is Jessie Truett the man for the job? Is he going to be able to work with contractors? Is he going to be able to listen to complaints, and change course when the inevitable problems come up? Or are they just going to be “bad decorum” in Truett’s mind, to be quickly dismissed.
As you watch the video of the board meeting, also pay attention to school board member Melissa Palmisciano. She is knowledgeable and smart, and welcomes comments from the parents at the meeting. She was available to be voted into the presidency position, but the board, for whatever political reasons, elected Truett. It also tells you much about the board to know who they didn’t want in a leadership position.
Issues with the facility process
In a board meeting back in May of 2015, the board was already working hard on preparations for building new school facilities. They said in their meeting notes, in an emotional shout,“it’s our turn now’. The said they had a “Feeling of MORAL IMPERATIVE “ to build (capitalization from the meeting notes). They were already making field visits to other schools, in preparation for creating building plans for new schools.
The board knew they would need support from the community to get enough votes for a major new building construction project, but the evidence shows that much of that facility process was a sham, a show put on to make us feel like we had a voice. The plan to build new had already been set in stone.
I posted about the unreliability of the online surveys used by the school during the facility process. These were highly slanted push polls, giving the users of these surveys very limited choices. Because of the small size of the total users, it would have been simple for any individual to place fake votes on these polls, hacking the outcome. Why would anyone trust the school board using those online polls, when they could have done paper votes with the people who showed up for the meetings? According to the G4G group members who attended all of the meetings, they were highly skeptical that the surveys showed the truth of the feelings of the facility process participants.
Read my post on the mindset of the school board. Their over-optimistic thinking made them immune from warnings from the public (like the G4G group). The board went with a high ball bid, ever more than the cost of construction that the superintendent wanted. Only an isolated school board , deep in the groupthink bunker,would have taken that action.
More to come
More reasons to vote no will be posted soon. A preview – the school board says it will be making a deal with NRI to increase tax money from the Yard, up to 50% of the amount they are asking for in the levy. There is talk about the school cutting taxes – but nothing is sure – except that the bond we are voting for will allow irrevocable authority to tax for the full amount for 38 years after passage.
Welcome new viewers!
I guess this post caused some interest in my blog, over 250 hits by 1 PM (365 hits before midnight!). If you are looking for a place to have a discussion about issue #6, or the school board, or anything else in Grandview politics, you are welcome to comment. But …
Please read my post on What makes a good blog comment. You will need to step up a bit from the Facebook level of blather. Provide quotes, link to statements from Grandview officials, link to videos. Unless you are a board member, or a council person, I’m not so interested in your unsupported opinion. And if you are here to troll, try real hard! I like to read long profanity laced comments – before hitting the plonk button.
(Later) Someone made a comment about tax abatement, although it is an interesting topic that should be talked about more because of the increases in payments made by those who don’t get an abatement – it is totally off topic for this post.