Friday, August 7, 2009

Machiavelli, meet the Rutherford County School Board

Today, the Daily News Journal has a story about the admissions policy being proposed for the new Central Academic Magnet School. The policy, supported by most, if not all, members of the Rutherford County School Board, is a monumentally flawed document that favors certain students (specifically, children who currently attend the county magnet school, McFadden) above others. The policy is not based upon admission by merit; but rather, a favored-sons status. You see, the chairman of the RCSB, Mark Byrnes, has a child at McFadden. As did two-thirds of the people who drafted the admissions policy, including the new school's principal, John Ash, who drafted the original proposal for admission. Where are your ethics in this process? Where are your morals?

Schools Superintendent Harry Gill sees nothing wrong with the policy. Today, he's decided to make a good-will gesture to members of the community by asking the board to cut a provision that would provide favored status to siblings of CAMS students, a policy even more discriminatory than the basic admissions policy, again excluding children based upon merit. Mr. Gill, your good-will gesture remains a sham. The core of this proposal still smacks of favoritism, elitism, discrimination and entitlement. It is wholly unfair, and is essentially design to ensure that many of the best and brightest children of the county will, indeed, be on the outside looking in when this new school opens. Unless, of course, one of their parents sits on the School Board or was drafted by the board to write the admissions policy.

The only fair admissions policy is one that provides each and every child living in Rutherford County equal consideration for admission. It's a policy that requires each and every child to take the same test, and meet the same standards for qualification. It's a policy that ensures no child will be admitted ahead of another child simply because of where he or she attended elementary school, or who his or her father happens to be. Those who have drafted this policy, and those who support it, appear to disciples of Machiavelli. Simply put, their ethics state they will do whatever it takes, regardless of the harm it causes, to maintain the status quo. In this instance, the status quo means their children gain favored status over others, regardless of qualification.

Perhaps before these school board members take a vote, they should look at what happens to board members who ignore what's right for their personal gain. Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, all of whom are being asked to resign in a report drafted by a state-appointed panel that found every single member of the board violated state ethics laws in how its policies admitted students. An excerpted summary states: "The Illinois report, prepared by an Admissions Review Commission appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn, says that since 2005, about 800 applicants with ties to trustees, politicians, and donors received preferential consideration for admission. The applicants' names were flagged on an internal list known as "Category 1," or the "clout list," and were funneled through a pipeline supported by their well-connected sponsors." The parallels between what these trustees did and what the Rutherford County School will do if it passes this policy are stunning.

Gentlemen of the school board, and I say gentlemen because our school board is comprised entirely of white males and contains absolutely no diversity (much like CAMS will be if this admissions policy is enforced -- check the TDOE report card if you would like to compare McFadden's diversity [90.7 percent white; the second-whitest elementary school after Lascassas Elementary in Rutherford County, including Murfreesboro City Schools] to other schools in the county and city), if you pass this policy as written, you will violate the very trust the citizens placed in you when you were elected to your current positions. We elected you with the expectation you would protect our children, treat them fairly, and provide each and every one of them with the opportunity to obtain the best possible education. This admissions policy is a blatant violation of that trust. It's time for you to reject this policy that smacks of back-room political deals and Washington politics, and for you to do the job you were elected to do: educate our children fairly.

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