Confused Yet Confident

We-Are-Enterprise-LogoConfused

It has been 18 days since the announcement the 9th grade would be moving to the high school next year and one week since the school board meeting, and then the post-board meeting. I attended both and am still confused as to why now.

After the shock wore off from the original decision I wanted to wait to learn more of the reasons this decision was made before commenting. The shock was that I had taken Dr. Wright at her word that she was not going to come in and make changes initially until she learned more about the system. In my mind, 43 days on the job seems rather quick to making a decision of this magnitude so I was surprised. Continue reading Confused Yet Confident

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Enterprise, Alabama - City of Progress
Enterprise, Alabama – City of Progress

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Mayor’s State of the City luncheon last week. I am grateful for that opportunity to visit with friends both old and new, enjoy a good meal, and learn about the state of Enterprise, The City of Progress, through a presentation by Enterprise Mayor Kenneth Boswell.

In case you were not able to attend or did not see the reports in the Enterprise Ledger Friday and Sunday, the state of Enterprise is very good. Continue reading Partly Cloudy

Welcome Dr. Wright

We Are EnterpriseWelcome to Enterprise Dr. Wright!

I can only speak for myself but my gut feeling is the entire community welcomes you. I am confident as you begin to meet more of these citizens of Enterprise you will continue to be impressed by their love of Enterprise and Enterprise City Schools, support for the Superintendent, and their desire to see Enterprise City Schools continue to be one of the best in the state of Alabama and the reason so many families, who do have a choice, choose Enterprise for the education of their children.

I would also like to commend the Enterprise City Board of Education in making your selection. I believe it was a very good choice from an impressive group of candidates for this important position.

I was impressed by the way you handled yourself in your public interview and the experience in education and leadership you bring with you as you take over the leadership of the Enterprise City Schools. All of the candidates were asked about the role of the School Board in relation to the Superintendent and all answered similarly as you did. The board sets policy and the superintendent implements the policy in the manner they choose and believe is best. You also added the board should listen to the community. You also indicated your first goal here would be to “find out where you are.”

My second goal in writing this post was to help you achieve that first goal. My first goal in writing this post was to welcome you, in case that was not obvious. Continue reading Welcome Dr. Wright

Two Questions

We Are EnterpriseWith the interviews for the new Superintendent of Enterprise City Schools upcoming I wanted to pose two questions to the candidates. From my perspective they are important questions but will likely never be asked. It really doesn’t matter as the actions taken after being hired are the only answers that will matter in the long run.

(Q1) I am sure you are aware the reason you are being interviewed is the former superintendent was allegedly forced out, in his opinion and that of many others familiar with the situation, due to micro-management and intimidation by the current President of the School Board. If you need a refresher on this A City Divided provides a pretty good summary.

Knowing the potential for this to continue with any superintendent hired, since the President of the School Board has not changed nor indicated his behavior will change, are you committed and prepared to stand up to this when it occurs and make your decisions based on what is best for the students of Enterprise City Schools and not necessarily for the political or personal benefit of any school board member or city government official? Continue reading Two Questions

I Agree

We Are Enterprise

Have you ever had one of “those” moments…when someone else expresses the feelings or beliefs that you share but have never expressed to anyone verbally, except maybe your wife, as I have? Well, that just happened for me.

At the most recent Enterprise City School Board Meeting on September 24th, Perry Vickers spoke and expressed feelings I share and I suspect many other have had and share over the past few months since this issue became public in June. Continue reading I Agree

Trust and Assumptions

We Are EnterpriseWe were told back in June that “none of this would have happened” if we, the citizens of Enterprise had been attending the school board meetings. We were then told by the same board member that “there were some things we didn’t know” and we just need to “trust them.” That seems rather contradictory to me. On one hand we are told we should have been there to watch the meetings so that “none of this” would have happened and on the other hand we just need to “trust them.”

I used a lot of “we’s” there. We, in this case refers to non-board members.

It is now mid-September and there are still things we do not know, so we have to assume or make educated guesses based on what we do know or believe to be true, and there is still a lack of trust between the school board and the citizens of the City of Enterprise.

I have never been one to just complain to hear myself complain. Don’t get me wrong. I have and do complain and expect that will not change in the future.

However, complaints only help identify the issue or problem, which is the first step in resolving any issue. In my career and in life when I have complained I have, when possible, tried to suggest possible solutions to help resolve whatever it is I was complaining about. If I determined, based on my judgment, no changes would be forthcoming, I had to choose to stay and make the best of a bad situation or leave the situation. I have done both.

For the issue at hand here, lack of trust, I do think there are actions that can be taken to re-establish and build trust. Some who read this will agree. Some will not. However, they do represent some steps or actions that will help in most similar situations and could help here too.

Respect and Trust

Respect_and_Trust_ZZBTW

This slide appeared in my news feed in the last few days. It still amazes me how often I see something like this now and my thoughts immediately go to our current situation in Enterprise. This one seems to fit very well to me.

“~Respect and Trust~

The two easiest things in life for someone to lose and the hardest things to get back.”

Trust is very hard to regain once it has been lost. It can be done but it takes a concerted consistent effort to do so. I believe the two ingredients required are communication and time. We have had time pass, 3 months to the day, since this issue boiled over in June but not much communication or concerted effort from the school board to venture down the path to rebuild trust.

Communication, communication, communication

Anyone who has either sold real estate as a realtor or bought or sold it as a consumer has heard that the three most important factors to consider in this type of transaction is location, location, and location. Similarly, I believe the three most important actions to consider in anyone trying to build or rebuild trust are communication, communication, and communication.

Think about your relationships with friends and family. If someone breaks your trust and asks you to trust them going forward then avoids you or doesn’t make an effort to open up a dialogue and start trying to talk to you more regularly than they did when that trust was broken, where do your thoughts go? If they are like mine they would head right to assumptions such as, “There they go again. Nothing has changed. They are just doing what they want, heading down the same path again, not considering anyone else, and obviously did not mean what they said.”

On the other hand if that person were to come to you and say, “I want us to be able to trust each other again so I would like to have regular meetings and conversations so you can hold me accountable and know what my thoughts and motives are so you don’t have to assume the worst,” I would think you would be receptive to and welcome that if you wanted to rebuild that trust yourself.

You would likely be skeptical or cautious at first, and rightly so, but over time, if their actions matched their words trust would begin to grow.

Encouraged and Discouraged

I was both encouraged and discouraged last week when I attended the special school board meetings that included the budget hearings. There were handouts available for anyone who attended showing the budget information being presented. Many more than were needed were printed as the attendance at these two meetings was the lowest I have seen since June, which was a little discouraging to me. I know they were budget meetings and scheduled earlier than normal and one of them was on Wednesday night when many are at church so that made it harder for folks to get there. I just hope this is not a continuing trend.

I was encouraged because this proves that supplemental information can be provided by the board if they choose to do so.

Sharing Information

Sharing information – communicating – is critical, in my estimation if this situation is to change. The information would not have to be printed but that is one option. Another would be to use the News sections of the School Board web site and post information there or the board or individual board members could start a blog and share information that way. If I can do it anyone can.

The method is not the critical issue but sharing information is.

What could be shared?

I know there are some things that are not shareable to the public. I am not talking about that type of information. I am talking about filling in some of the gaps that do not get addressed during the board meetings or are not explained adequately. I am sure that board members have thought, “I wish I had said…” after a meeting. I know that community members have had unanswered questions after board meetings. Updates for what is going on between the board meetings and maybe even some of the whys and methodology used to arrive at the decisions being made during the meetings could be shared also.

A couple of specific examples that come to mind for me are as follows.

There were questions about the salary difference between the interim superintendent and the former superintendent that have come up a couple of times in different meetings. I have been an independent contractor and understand the difference between that and a salaried employee. Many might not understand that difference.

“According to The Wall Street Journal, ICs are usually paid 20% to 40% more per hour than employees performing the same work. Hiring firms can afford to pay ICs more because they don’t have to pay Social Security taxes or unemployment compensation taxes, provide workers’ compensation coverage, or provide employee benefits like health insurance and sick leave.”

You can read more about that here if you are interested.

Mr. Barr said he made this calculation and there was only about a $1500 difference. That was understandable and enough for me. However, to make it clear to everyone the calculations he used to arrive at the $1500 could have been provided by one of the methods mentioned above as supplemental information to the meeting. That might have prevented future questions.

Another example would be the suggestion by the interim superintendent at the last regular board meeting that the board should enforce the policies already in place regarding speakers at board meetings. This will change how they have been handled in recent meetings where they have gone from allowing people to add their name to the list at the beginning of the meeting to now requiring they call the superintendent’s office prior to the meeting. Time limits for speakers were also mentioned.

This will be perceived as a form of censorship regardless of how it is handled if changes are made. However, if the board wanted to build goodwill or show they are trying to rebuild trust with the community they would announce and explain the new process prior to enforcing it. They may be planning to do this at the next meeting and then enforcing it for subsequent meetings. That would be the best way to handle it.

However, if they were to post the new process on the News page of the Board of Education web site ahead of the meeting this would indicate they are not planning to just spring it on those planning to speak at the next meeting. I suspect most will not agree with or like the new process but at least it would have been explained so those planning to speak would know the new rules and be able to prepare their comments accordingly.

Will this work in Enterprise? I don’t know. It has not been attempted so far.

If the board did start sharing more information would the people believe it?

No. I don’t think we would at first. However, over time, and I don’t know what that period of time is, if the communications and actions matched and are in sync with what is best for Enterprise City Schools I believe it would work.

Will it even be tried?

I don’t know. That is up to the Board of Education. If it isn’t then the board will be aware we will continue making assumptions based on what we believe to be true based on the information we have and will continue to have suspicions or doubts about any decisions made. The ball is in the board’s court on this.

What can we do?

If the attendance at board meetings continues to dwindle then the board will be the ones making assumptions. They will assume that everything is fine and we are satisfied with what they are doing and the issue has “blown over.” If that is not true then we cannot let that happen. The ball is in the citizens’ court here. Let’s not fumble the ball now.  It IS football season so that just rolled out.

The next regular board meeting is next Tuesday at 6:00. I hope the attendance is more similar to the June meetings than the most recent meetings in September.

Until next time…

Originally posted on Peculiar Perspective on 9/19/2013

 

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Moving On

We Are Enterprise

I saw this quote the other day on one of my information feeds and it resonated with me in regards to the ongoing relationship or lack thereof between the leadership of the Enterprise City School Board and the citizens of Enterprise.

 

The quote is, “Moving on doesn’t mean you forget about things. It just means you have to accept what happened and continue living.”

Moving On_1175006_10151876078723304_1178105272_n

Reality

Based on his inaction so far I just do not see any change forthcoming from the President of the School Board. Continue reading Moving On

Overtime!

We Are EnterpriseI did not plan for this subject to be an ongoing series but since this is now my third post on the subject I guess it now qualifies for that status. Much like Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Stinnett expressed at the most recent board meeting they did not want to be there speaking the hard truths and asking the hard questions, I did not want to write this.

However, the story continues and continues to be compelling to me and the hundreds of interested and involved citizens who care enough to continue to attend the Enterprise City School Board meetings each month to support Enterprise City Schools. Continue reading Overtime!

A City Divided

We Are Enterprise“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I have heard that quoted at least twice in the last two weeks the Enterprise City School Board meeting on June 25, 2013 and again at the Enterprise City Council meeting on July 2, 2013 regarding the divided house that is now Enterprise, Alabama, a city divided.

That is a reference to a scripture verse and a quote from a speech by Abraham Lincoln. In Mark 3:25 in the English Standard Version Jesus says, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” The speech by Abraham Lincoln was given on June 16, 1858 at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, IL upon acceptance of the Republican nomination for that state’s U.S. Senator when he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Begging is not productive

I have also heard the mayor of Enterprise begging at both meetings for the citizens of Enterprise to come together and, for some reason I am yet to understand, magically start to trust members of the school board whom many believe have not dealt honestly, fairly, or even legally with the former Superintendent of Enterprise City Schools as well as the people of Enterprise.

Rumors, Accusations

Many accusations and rumors have circulated around Enterprise regarding this situation. I know people involved on both sides of the issue, went to school with some of them, go to church with some of them. Some were my teachers or administrators when I was in school here many years ago. Those rumors and accusations will continue to circulate and grow I suspect until these issues are addressed and resolved. It would do me or anyone else no good to repeat those here so I will refrain from doing so. When I do add my comments within this section they will look like this.

I believe the facts do bring up some interesting and pretty obvious questions.  Until these questions are answered satisfactorily for the citizens of Enterprise in some of these meetings, or, if need be, in a court of law, the city will remain divided. When there is as much distrust between one group of people and those that are charged with making decisions in their best interest as there is here now a change has to occur to start down the road of rebuilding the trust that has been lost.

Facts

What I would like to provide first are the facts that are undisputed and then what I believe needs to be done for the city of Enterprise to have any chance at coming together and moving forward. You can see the minutes of these meetings at the Board of Education’s web site and videos at Southeast Sun’s YouTube channel.

May 28, 2013 School Board Meeting

In the May 28, 2013 school board meeting the results of a an evaluation by Dr. James Wright with Professional Services, LLC on the performance of Dr. Milner, the now former Superintendent of Enterprise City Schools. Dr. Wright said this was one of the strongest evaluation results he had seen. He said these strong results were an indication of Dr. Milner’s ability and efforts to work with the board.

June 18, 2013

Dr. Milner resigned as Superintendent of Enterprise City Schools and gave a 30 day notice in an email to the school board.

June 19, 2013 Special Called Board Meeting

School Board Vice President Joe Paul Stewart and School Board attorney J. P. Sawyer resigned. Ross Cotter was elected President of the School Board and Gloria Jones vice president by acclamation as no second to the nominations were given.

June 25, 2013 School Board Meeting

I attended this meeting along with several hundred other local citizens and news media. What I learned at this meeting from at least two of the existing board members if we, the citizens, had been at prior meetings then we would not have the situation we have now.

What this says to me is they believe they need to be watched and monitored so they do not make unwise or even illegal decisions. I can remember a time when the people chosen to serve in the capacity of school board member were expected to be of good character and to make wise decisions whether anyone was there to watch them or not.

Several former school teachers, administrators and citizens spoke at the meeting and members Cotter, Jones and Brown were asked to resign, which did receive much applause unlike when the mayor spoke and there was silence.

What I also noticed at this meeting is the board members were asked specific and direct questions and chose to not answer many of them. This would have been an opportunity for them to respond and try to set the record straight from their perspective but choosing not to do so says something altogether different. 

July 2, 2013 City Council Meeting

I also attended this meeting, which was standing room only, but the room is much smaller than the one used for the school board meetings. Local news media was in attendance at this meeting as well. The mayor covered the agreement made between the city and the school board that is one of the areas of concern for the citizens and school system. The agreement was made and approved by both the city council and school board so it does exist. The disposition of that agreement and what will happen when the $550,000 payments are supposed to start in 2016 does appear to be in the hands of the city. They do claim they will review the agreement and economic condition of the city and the school system at that time and determine if the payments will be required or not.

There were also statements made by the city attorney, Rainer Cotter, who is the son of the current President of the School Board, Ross Cotter, Joe Paul Stewart, former School Board Vice-President, Perry Vickers, former principal of Dauphin Junior High, and Dr. Jim Reese, former Superintendent of Schools.

My Questions

The summary above is just that, a summary, and is not intended to be all-inclusive. I do believe there is enough information provided for anyone to be read-in on the situation and able to form their own opinions on these events. Here are some questions that seem rather obvious to me and remain unanswered.

1) What happened to cause the Superintendent of Schools, who was well respected in Enterprise and just rated one of the best in the state of Alabama, the School Board Vice President and the School Board attorney to all resign within 16 hours? Did they all just decide it was time for a change  coincidentally at the same time or was something else going on to cause these mass resignations?

2) Since it is the belief of many in Enterprise the three members of the school board asked to resign in the June 25th meeting were planning to vote to fire the superintendent and not accept his resignation, how can this same group of people be expected to select a qualified candidate as the new superintendent? How can anyone they select not be seen as just a figurehead? I don’t believe they can. Why would anyone want to be hired into this situation?

3) Could there be a conflict of interest in any discussions between the school board and city council regarding the disposition of $32,000,000 since the school board members are appointed by the city council?

4) Would it be better for all concerned if the school board members were elected?

 My Suggestions

My suggestion as to what has to be done for any healing, coming together or moving forward to occur in Enterprise is for Mr. Cotter to resign his position as school board member. It would be better if we started with a clean slate of board members and members Brown and Jones were to resign as well. If they do really want to do what is best for the Enterprise City School System and the city of Enterprise that is what they would do.

As I mentioned earlier, the begging for us to come together and move forward and repeating the “house divided” quote without any changes is not working and will not work. There need to be changes made to show the citizens of Enterprise there is a reason for us to believe we can come together and move forward. There is no trust to build on now between the citizens of Enterprise and the School Board.

This would allow new members to be appointed (still not the best way to do this in my opinion – see question 4 above) to join the two members recently added and then some level of trust can be restored and the city can begin to heal, come together and move forward. If they choose not to do this and believe they can serve with any support from the citizens of Enterprise I believe this is a gross miscalculation on their part and just shows their resolve to hold on to their position or power and will confirm the accusations many have made. They would not have to admit they have done anything wrong, which they may not have, and just state they are doing this for the good of the school system and the city of Enterprise. This, however, would be doing something right.

With the current system of school board members being appointed by the City Council there does need to be some way the citizens can have input as to who these appointees are. If not, we could be back in the same situation again.

What are your thoughts? Please click the ‘Leave a reply’ link under the title of the post above.

Until next time…

Originally posted on Peculiar Perspective on 7/05/2013

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