Washington County School Board member Jack Leonard speaks Friday outside the district's central office as state Reps. Matthew Hill, Micah Van Huss and Tony Shipley listen. (Nathan Baker/Johnson City Press)
Bill Haslam is up for re-election this year, and if Tennesseans can see beyond the ends of the Obama-hating noses, they will send this anti-democratic oligarch back to the corporate offices of Pilot Oil.
His ongoing efforts to go around the public to implement CorpEd's privatization schemes now threatens to balloon into a major scandal. This is part of a pattern that has characterized the actions of the secret and ethically-challenged Haslam:
Gov. Haslam reduced disclosure requirements for senior executive branch employees, including himself.The latest from reporter, Nathan Baker, on Haslam's secret government:
Since Gov. Haslam took office, the state has spent millions of dollars to buy a building from his former business partner. He signed legislation benefiting a former business partner, and used personal funds to pay a top political advisor who is also a registered lobbyist, shielding the payments from public records.
Trust, and the lack thereof, was the topic of concern Friday afternoon among a group of teachers, legislators and a school board member gathered outside the Washington County School District central office before Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman arrived for a closed-door meeting with hand-picked school personnel.
The group, concerned that Common Core and other education reforms were being planned out without input from all stakeholders in the education system, held an outdoor press conference in the Jonesborough school administration building’s parking lot to call for openness and transparency from the officials.
“Tennessee’s teachers have trust issues when it comes to the implementation of Gov. Haslam’s and Commissioner Huffman’s initiatives,” Washington County teacher Jenee Peters said, listing the administration’s support of new accountability measures, school vouchers, charter schools and standardized testing, among others.
“He (Haslam) came here today to talk about the good things about Common Core, then he’s going to a barbecue to support a candidate who campaigned on the ills of Common Core,” Peters added, alluding to an invite-only Republican gathering at Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s farm. “I don’t know how he can rectify that in his head.”
County school board member Jack Leonard said he first heard of the governor’s impending visit earlier this week from a group of teachers. When he inquired about the meeting to Director of Schools Ron Dykes, Leonard said he was informed that the governor’s office requested only a select few teachers, principals and superintendents from the surrounding counties and cities attend the informal discussion.
“The school board members were elected by the people to represent them in matters of education actions and policies we felt were right for the district,” Leonard said. “This meeting should have been open, so that we and the people who will be affected by these policies could share their concerns and hear the responses.”
Also among the crowd standing in the July sun were state Reps. Matthew Hill, Micah Van Huss and Tony Shipley.
Hill, who has garnered support this election cycle from teachers unions for his stand in opposition to a proposed and rescinded policy to tie teachers’ licenses to a calculated performance score derived from students’ test performance, questioned the process unfolding in the administration building.
“How do we know they’re getting all the information they should be getting?” he asked. “I believe in transparency. An open process is the best way, and it’s the way we do things in the Legislature.”
On Thursday, Haslam spokesman Dave Smith said the meeting Friday was one of 12 statewide seeking input from districts on the state of education in the state.
The guest list was kept small, he said, to help manage the direction and scope of the conversation.
Haslam and Huffman were whisked into and out of a side door at the central office by security staff, not offering a word to the group at the other end of the lot.
Near the close of the meeting, superintendents and staff from Johnson City, Elizabethton, and Sullivan, Carter and Unicoi counties filed out of the meeting room.
The last person to leave the building, Director Dykes spoke briefly with reporters, but would not comment on the purpose of the group previously gathered outside.
“All of this was organized and requested by the governor’s staff,” he said, noting collaboration between Haslam’s office and the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents to set the criteria for invitations to the meetings.
“He was seeking input from those in the trenches, he wasn’t seeking a particular group’s philosophy,” Dykes added. “He wanted a candid conversation about certain reform initiatives.”
Without discussion the content, Dykes said he believed the meeting was productive and achieved the governor’s fact-finding goal.
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Read more: Core concerns: Legislators, educators gather as Haslam meets with county school staff | Johnson City Press http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/119115/core-concerns-legislators-educators-gather-as-haslam-meets-with-county-board#ixzz38fsXOrZF