Sigh. Something has to change—I'm totally running out of variations of "The Scream". No one liked the tantrum baby - how about Mr. Bill?
Tonight's board meeting was, in a word, disturbing. I am disturbed because this board, even though the budget has been the focus of so many discussions and news reports, almost neglected to pass the "tentative, non-binding budget" due to their inability to get past random minutia that apparently, until tonight's meeting, had gone undiscussed.
The AJC reported the other day that Zepora Roberts stated, “I am on vacation. I have thought nothing about it,” said Roberts, the board’s vice chair. “I just got back from out of the country and I have no thoughts [about the budget].”
She wasn't kidding. In fact, she actually seemed as if this meeting was the first time she had looked at the budget. She even stated, "I received my budget last evening and looked it over today."
What?!! That thing has been posted on this blog since March 26th!
Zepora continued to have one hissy fit after another for the rest of the evening covering topics such as her opinion that the budget cuts are too focused on South DeKalb or the very long debate over the agenda item discussing the committee recommendation to name the Mountain Industrial Center "The DeKalb Schools Administrative and Instructional Complex". She lamented and whined about the fact that she wanted to change the name to the The DeKalb Schools Administrative and McGregor Instructional Complex (after an African-American leader in DeKalb schools).
Zepora went on to admonish the entire board and specifically the committee working on the ethics policy, led by Dr. Speaks, in her childish, tantrum-like complaint that "no one is listening to me!" She then listed her "issues" with 6 different line items on the proposed ethics policy, ranging from her desire for board members to be somehow be allowed to be involved in relatives getting "heard" by the superintendent in the event that they get in trouble. Then she demanded that the language of accepting gifts or gratuities over $50 be changed to include "knowingly", citing the example that if someone delivers flowers to her, she doesn't want to have to ask their worth. (The board actually decided to raise the amount to $100.)
And my favorite—she wanted to continue the practice she says is current board policy, of accepting up to $100 for a speaking engagement or serving on a panel in another district or city as a representative of the DeKalb school board. Paul Womack rightly pointed out that they already get $450 per month for such expenses, however, Zepora droned on about getting paid for her "service" to others. She won that one, but I kept wondering why the rest of the board continues to entertain her in discussion at all. We've all dealt with two year olds—the best way to handle a tantrum is to ignore it.
But beyond the basic premises of these ridiculous debates was the disturbance in my gut. These people argued, fussed and fumed over such deep issues as "define a reasonable person" or taking McGregor "off the shelf" or who exactly can benefit from the summer intern program (which in my opinion is a luxury giveaway program and should be cut). They had an extended debate as to the cost of a meal nowadays relative to the ethics policy discussion, culminating in Dr. Walker mocking Mr. Womack for thinking that $50 was plenty. ("Well, back in the day when you entertained for business, you could probably get a meal for $10—I'm glad you're not entertaining me!") Meow!
Worse, after initially not passing the "tentative, non-binding budget", (containing school closures and no tax increase) Ms. Tyson pointed out in no uncertain terms that the law states that they must operate under a balanced budget and that they are required to approve one by June 30 that can be operating by July 1. Further, the law states that the board must present the tentative budget at least twice for public review before final passage. This is serious. Luckily, they heard what Tyson said and changed their votes to approve the "tentative, non-binding budget".
There is a meeting scheduled this Friday to hash over the details and hopefully remove items like the one discussed on this blog and requested to be removed from the budget cuts by Paul Womack—the demand to reduce planning time for teachers on the 7 period day to only one period.
After fumbling around with her budget, obviously unprepared and uninformed, Zepora promised that she would "have it together by Friday".
Lord, I hope so.
For more: Check out the AJC's report on tonight's meeting.