Someone clued me in to the fact that the Tilford piece, which ran as an op-ed in the Lebanon paper, ran as a letter to the editor in the Albany paper. The same person also reminded me that the D-H has a comments section.
There was also an interesting letter to the editor by one Paul Bullock. I’m going to try and reorganize things into some coherent narratives, but since that’s not my strong suit, I make no claims about how well this will work.
First, the letter from Paul Bullock:
With such a clear declaration from the electorate, why does the board now falter? It seems clear that some school board members either still support Mr. Robinson, or are afraid of him. Whichever their motivation, this division between the board members will continue to fester as long as Mr. Robinson is present….A buy-out would spare Mr. Robinson the risk of a negative evaluation and it would spare the board and the community weeks of infighting and political melodrama. It would be money well spent, if it allows us to get back to focusing on the education of our children.
Hm. I can’t say I agree with his claim that board members are afraid of Robinson. I see no evidence for that aside from the continual claims about his abrasive personality. And while he may be abrasive to his subordinates, the school board members are his bosses, so that makes little sense. For that matter, I’m not even sure we can claim that recent events actually indicate support for him. Instead, it seems like there are two main camps: Those folks who think Robinson should go, and those folks who think the first camp are insane, not due to their goal of getting rid of Robinson, but due to the way this little power struggle is being handled. (Presumably there is a large group of folks who either don’t feel so strongly or just want sanity back, but since they’ve not really spoken up, I’m not sure what’s going there.)
That said, a buy-out is an eminently sensible suggestion, cost notwithstanding (I say that because recent events suggest that cost is not on the mind of the anti-Robinson folks).
But then there is this in the comments:
I noticed in the Leb Express archives that Paul Bullock ran for a school board position in SWEET HOME during the last elections. I called around down there and heard he was anti schools, teachers, and principals. Now he’s coming to our meetings and telling us to spend our money to buy out our superintendent. What’s his problem?
Hm. If I were any kind of cynical…wait! I am! Good. So: This sure reads like Bullock is an ally of Alexander and Wineteer (as in, they think alike even if they are not in cahoots), and that he’s smelling blood. Once Robinson goes, the LCSD board will hire a flunky, and the academy system is gone. Then, one presumes, Alexander, fresh from his victories, will go after the teachers’ union, his current alliance of convenience aside. I’d call that a worst-case scenario, and while I think it’s unlikely that it will ever happen, um, I am not so optimistic as to think it’s an impossibility. More likely is that even if the aforementioned scenario is the goal, Alexander is nowhere near skilled enough to pull it off. Part of me thinks the teacher’s union will destroy him if they ever get in a real fight, since a large portion of the public anti-Robinson folks are former teachers, and I doubt they’d turn on their own union.
Just for kicks, a best-case scenario: Some smart Lebanon folks get it together and beat Alexander, Wineteer, and Shimmin the next time they are up for election. Robinson’s contract isn’t renewed, and he eventually goes away. His replacements offers qualified support for the academies and is a helluva peacemaker. People get back down to the business at hand: Making sure that students in Lebanon get a good education.
Hey, I can dream, right?
Moving on, some contention about Mr. Bullock:
Bullock is probably another one of Rick’s “boys” that will run against Sherrie or Chris next time. Rick doesn’t want partial control. He’s taking out the ethical board members one by one. Trying to take out superintendent. He’s also a staunch republican and very anti-union. They’re next.
To Control: Mr Robinson was recently the chair of the county Republican party. The unionized teachers gave him a 90% vote of NO confidence. Robinson recently filed suit against the teachers union president. So who’s really the anti-union, staunch Republican?
Wow. I tend to agree with the comments about the nature of Alexander’s interest in the school board. I also think that the comments about Robinson can certainly be true. Both men can be staunch Republicans and even anti-union and still disagree on a ton of other stuff, like process and the academy system and who is really in charge. (Does anyone else get the sense this is at least part pissing contest on the part of some of the major players?)
So that’s one major thread in the comments. What else is present?
Mr. Bullock, I appreciate the tone of your comments. The fact that you are able to convey your position in a tempered tone without insulting people merely because they do not share your views is refreshing and much needed…Lebanon school board meetings, despite the efforts of the chair, are ones that lack the sense of civility that are a necessity for people to feel safe in expressing views.
Wow. Good call. Even just based on the comments people have made about the school board meetings and the antics that occur, I wouldn’t dare go and speak against the crowd mob for fear of being shouted down and/or ostracized. Look at what happens to Chris Fisher every time he tries to apply some financial common sense.
There’s one more comment I want to address before this post gets too out of hand. It’s a long one, and it comes from someone going by “Truth Seeker.” I’ll take it piece by piece:
let’s take a look at some of the facts surrounding all of the recent blogging efforts in surrounding the paid administrative leave of Jim Robinson(Superintendent of Lebanon schools)…. 2. The increase in grades and attendance at LHS are due to the inplementation of a new attendance policy involving Saturday School and detentions that the current LHS administration was opposed to but the TEACHERS wanted. The academies did not show any marked increasesin those areas in and of themselves prior to that.
OK. I’ll take contention with the claim that grades and attendance weren’t moving before the Saturday School. I suspect grades were, if not both. And even if they weren’t, realistically, one has to allow for some lag time to see genuine results.
Furthermore, I’m not sure of the significance of having the LHS admins oppose the changes in attendance policy. So what? They are not Jim Robinson. Everything I’ve heard suggests the new policy is effective, so good for the teachers for knowing what works. But that doesn’t really have much to do with the debate over Robinson (barring, potentially, his management style, but since we don’t know if he opposed the policy change, it’s a moot point), and barely anything to do with the academy, since one presumes those changes would have had the same effect regardless of whether or not the academy system was in place.
3. Let’s look at who has been writing letters in support of Mr. Robinson… his assistant’s wife, a principal’s wife, and his facilities director among others. Mostly people who have vested interests in Mr. Robinson maintaining control over the district because they know full well that once Robinson is gone the glut of excess administrators and NON-CLASS RELATED employees will be in danger of being decreased down from the statistical significant increase it has enjoyed in Mr. Robinson’s tenure.
Hm. Could it be that people are actually afraid to speak out against the very vocal anti-Robinson folks? I think that’s entirely plausible, and even likely. It’s also possible that no one likes Robinson, but that is separate issue, and, I think, significantly less likely.
And as for the standard load regarding the bloated non-teaching employees, well, it’s certainly possible. However, since my experience has almost universally been that this sort of claim is baseless and pushed by anti-union, anti-public spending folks (like Alexander and Bullock are rumored to be), I feel pretty safe ignoring this one until I see some evidence.
Then, finally, there is this:
5. Let’s just remember a few of the highlights of Mr. Robinson’s leadership: asbestos exposure of the students and staff at LHS due to known violations of OSHA law while he was acting as facilities director, illegal bargaining practices that caused thousands of dollars in cost to the district to repay illegally laid-off custodians, alleged violations in the civil rights of Special Education students in terms of the use of state testing for placement and graduation requirements, and those are just the most blatantly questionable in terms of legality of his actions. (Let’s not ignore the punitive, top-down, apparently nepotistic nature of his leadership.)
These are all new to me, and I’m at least inclined to be open to the content of the charges, if not the delivery and vitriol. Some truth on these would certainly explain the intense dislike of Robinson. I will say, though, that the truth is rarely so clear-cut as this comment makes it sound. There are almost certainly complicating factors.
All in all, I am glad for the DH comment pages. They provide people a chance to speak up anonymously about what is going on, and anonymity helps people who are otherwise afraid to speak find their voice. I do wish the Lebanon Express had comments, though.
Sometimes I fear that this blog is turning into a one-trick pony. Then I read the paper and realize there’s a good reason for it: This is a disaster, and I’m sort of upset by how it’s playing out.