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.”

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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!

Shadow of Doubt

We Are Enterprise LogoBeyond the shadow of a doubt is a standard of proof that is almost impossible to reach. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard needed in most litigation. Shadow of A Doubt is also a 1943 movie by director Alfred Hitchcock. Sadly, shadow of doubt is the cloud that now covers every action of the Enterprise City School Board.

When the news of the called board meeting for Monday at 3:00 PM was posted or learned last weekend, the first thought that I had and the first comment I heard from many who mentioned the meeting was, “I wonder why they scheduled it for that time?” Then there was either a snicker or a ‘wink wink’ because everyone knew what they were thinking. Some expressed the thought verbally, or in writing on social networks, “so the crowd at the meeting would be smaller since many people working would not be able to attend.”

I am not alleging that is the reason for the time of the meeting. There could be very valid reasons for scheduling the meeting at 3:00 in the afternoon and not at the normal evening time of 6:00 when the regular monthly board meeting is held. That is not the point I am trying to communicate.

The fact that that so many had a question or doubt or suspicion about the motive behind the timing of the meeting is the point.

Scrutiny is different than suspicion

Both scrutiny and suspicion start with an ‘s’ but that is where the similarities end. Scrutiny is defined as a searching study, inquiry, or inspection, a searching look, a close watch. Suspicion is defined as the act or an instance of suspecting something wrong without proof or on slight evidence – mistrust, a state of mental uneasiness and uncertainty – doubt.

We, as citizens and parents, should scrutinize the decisions of any school board through the lens of – is this decision, whatever it is, in the best interest of the students first, then the school system. If decisions are made with those criteria as guidelines then they will also be what are good for the city.

In case anyone is unaware, the school system is what draws many to the city of Enterprise which, in turn, adds to the city’s sales tax and property tax revenues.

However, we should not need to be suspicious of any decision the board makes because there is a reasonable level of doubt, whether we can prove the suspicion or not, that every decision was not made with these criteria as the filter.

Logic behind my perspective

I don’t pretend to speak for anyone but myself but do believe that my perspective on this situation is not uncommon. My opinion is derived from what I have read, seen, and heard regarding this situation over the past few weeks. Every decision this board makes is now looked on with suspicion as to the motives behind the decision because there is a definite lack of trust between many of the parents and citizens of Enterprise and the school board.

When I do not have first-hand knowledge about any issue I look to those who do have knowledge and “skin in the game” so to speak. Regarding the school board issue, I tend to agree more with those that have worked in the school system for many years that helped to make the Enterprise City School System one of the best in the state and have spoken out on these issues.

They have been directly involved with the school system and issues in question now and have more first-hand knowledge of the people involved and the situation than me. Their history and records validate their desire for only what is in the best interest of the students and school system going forward. They really have nothing to gain by speaking out except to try to ensure the school system they love keeps moving in the right direction – forward. That seems logical to me.

We all have skin in the game

However, just for clarification, every current student, former student, teacher, administrator, support staff, parent, and anyone who cares enough to show up at these board meetings has “skin in the game” too. My hope is that we all keep showing up to show our support for our school system.

Honest disagreements with common goals and motives are good

We can and will have honest disagreements with how to achieve a goal but if our motives and goals are the same, those disagreements and discussion will be constructive and lead to the best decision instead of just a good decision. It doesn’t appear the motives and goals are in sync now between the board and the citizens so these type discussions cannot even occur.

July 8, 2013 School Board Meeting

This meeting was no more than going through the motions, literally and figuratively. There was no information shared with the public regarding how the interim superintendent and attorney were selected or about the process the board plans to follow to find a new superintendent. It seems to me that would have been reasonable information to share unless there is some reason not to share it. The school board chose not to share.

Sharing information “could” help

Information like this shared freely with the public “could” have an impact on the rumors that continue to surround the board and could, over time, build trust where none exists now. The best way to squelch rumors is to provide factual information that refutes or negates the rumors. If those facts “hurt someone’s feelings” then so be it.

Failure to share is a choice this board continues to make. Failure to share more information about these appointments, the search for a new superintendent, as well as the events that led to the need to appoint an interim superintendent and attorney just continues to perpetuate the rumors and distrust. The school board has chosen not to share.

As long as the school board continues to make the choice not to share they will continue to serve under a shadow of doubt. It puzzles me as to why they would want to serve under this cloud and choose not to be more forthcoming with information. They do have choices.

Until next time…

Originally posted on Peculiar Perspective on 7/12/2013

 

 

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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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