By Michael H. McLendon
Two actions of the CCSD School Board this week do not bode well for the future of our schools and the achievements of our students. The secretive process of the Board in selecting Mr. Robbie Hooker as the next schools superintendent erodes public trust and confidence in the integrity of the Board. Further, the Board's actions effectively put a cloud over Mr. Hooker with some wondering if his selection was a “sweetheart deal.” Then the Board voted to ignore state law (House Bill 1084) that prohibits teaching divisive concepts and also deprived citizens of the right to file complaints about CCSD teaching divisive concepts.
Providing a complaint process is also required by the law. Both of these actions come at a time when the Board is seeking to climb out from under the negative evaluation from the January 20202 Special Accreditation Review.
After months of no communications to the public about the search for a new superintendent, the Board suddenly announced they had selected Mr. Hooker. Last week, The Flagpole reported on the response of the CCSD Board President to criticisms about the lack of transparency regarding the superintendent search. The Board President’s response was a word salad of rambling that did nothing to dispel the criticisms of the Board’s action and actually demonstrated the process was so opaque as to be secretive.
In June, I submitted a set of questions to the Board President because like many citizens I wanted to know what was going on regarding the search for a new superintendent. On 6 July, the Board President responded, and my questions and the President’s answers appear below in full:
Q: What is the position description and qualifications that are the basis for the search?
A: Currently, a position description has not been created and posted.
Q: Who or what firm is conducting the search? What is the fee? A: This has not been
determined. At the last public discussion, the Board decided to hear from a few search firms
and then make that decision.
Q: What is the status of the search such as milestones for identifying and down selecting final
candidates for public engagement? A: The status of the search is ongoing.
Q: How will the public be engaged in the process? A: At this point, that has not been
determined yet. As relevant updates happen, the Board will discuss these at meetings or
update the public as warranted.
Q: What is the timeline for selection? A: The Board's goal is to have a permanent
superintendent placed by Summer 2023. Summer 2023 response was certainly a typo in the President’s response. Based on these answers,
the Board President would have us believe that in the span of 22 workdays from 6 July to the date of the announcement concerning Mr. Hooker that the Board:
1) developed a position description;
2) hired a search firm or the Board conducted its own search;
3) applicants applied for the position;
4) the Board did their due diligence to investigate the candidates;
5) it selected a set of candidates; and
6) then the Board made a final selection.
It is hard to believe that these actions occurred in 22 days. Obviously, the
Board President’s answers were deceptive in an effort to make the selection process appear to be
something it was not and to not expose the dysfunction of the Board.
The Board’s vote on teaching “divisive concepts” looks like a bureaucratic temper tantrum and Board members should be reminded of the words in their oath of office. The Board does not appear to be able to reason and with the temperament consistent with what should be expected of public officials.
If Board members are not going to be true to their oath of office, then they need to resign. It is interesting CCSD has a code of conduct for students, but the Board believes in ”do as I say but not as I do!,” It may be that the real message in the Boards’ vote was to confirm that CCSD does teach divisive concepts in its curriculum and parents and taxpayers have no right to complain about it.
Their vote raises the bar on the evidence that needs to be demonstrated if they assert “divisive concepts” are not being taught. These recent Board actions are just the next shoes to drop in the Boards pattern of failure.
The tumultuous events that ended the tenure of Superintendent Means in 2019 were followed by the poor decision making of the Board to close schools in their emotional panic due to COVID. The Board made this decision when there was no planning for effective remote education and schools in surrounding counties were open and thriving. It was ok for CCSD to play football, but not for students to be in school.
One can speculate that in closing the schools, the Board used the COVID excuse as a convenient
strategy to divert the public’s attention from chronically poor educational outcomes.
The December 2002 Cognia Monitoring Review on CCSD accreditation stated that while the CCSD
system has “completed much work, ... a culture built on trust and transparency is not fully established.”
What an understatement. It is apparent that the Board does not have a well-functioning governance
process that based on transparency and timely engagement with citizens. So, what should the Board do
now. Here are a few suggestions to get started.
Immediately schedule a number of public forums for the public to query board members about
the circumstances of the “search and selection process.”
Also set a series of public Q/A forums for Mr. Hooker to explain why he is the best choice for this
position and his plans to materially improve student outcomes. He also needs to explain howhe plans to ensure that the CCSD is complying with HR Bill 1084. For the NAACP to demand a private meeting with Mr. Hooker just furthers the secrecy and lack of transparency.
Engage an outside entity within 60 days to investigate and issue a public report on the Board’s action regarding the search and selection process for the superintendent.
Vote to comply with state law regarding divisive concepts to include establishing a citizen
complaint process as required by the legislation.
We all want to see the children in ACC thrive in school and life. It is time the Board begins acting in a professional manner to create trust by being transparent, accountable, and upholding their oaths of office to achieve that goal.
Michael H. McLendon is an ACC property owner paying school taxes. He completed the CCSD VILLA (Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy), a program that offers the opportunity to learn more about the roles, responsibilities, operations, and performance of the CCSD Board and administration. VILLA had originally been a program for parents only until McLendon argued that it should be open to all residents