Some of you have asked me why the FBISD school board feels compelled to travel in lock step with each other and take it as an insult when one of their members breaks from the mold.
What? Do you think I know everything? Okay, you do think I know everything and okay, I do pretty much know everything as I’ve been around for (mumble) years and do know where some of the bodies are buried.
The present situation vis-a-vis the school board staying in lock step comes from the history of the district when Lisa Rickert, Stan Magee, Ken Bryant, and Laurie Caldwell (why is she still here?) fired superintendent Betty Baitland. They didn’t just fire her. The night they were sworn in they tried to humiliate her by banishing her to the end of the board table right in the middle of the meeting.
Board President Lisa Rickert not only had no manners, she didn’t even have any class, and obviously a tin political ear as she was never able to get any of her buddies elected to the board after that.
One place my intelligence failed was in finding out just what Lisa Rickert had against Baitland, but I knew why the others voted as they did. Stan Magee’s best friend was encouraged to retire by Ms. Baitland and Stan wasn’t welcomed back after his retirement either. The others, Caldwell and Bryant, were simply sycophants.
Although Baitland offered to stay on until a superintendent could be hired, they wanted her gone, gone, gone. So they immediately promoted the HR head who wasn’t even an excellent HR head, but who had a doctor’s degree, to head the district while they conducted a superintendent search. She also had another attribute much preferred by Ms. Rickert. She obeyed orders.
In the meantime, the caliber of applicants who wanted to head a large, troublesome district were questionable. They eventually settled on Dr. Timothy Jenney who was not currently superintending, but who had previously headed a large district in Virginia Beach. Although Jenney was currently working in fund-raising for Jerry FaLwell’s Regents University, he had enjoyed some success with the Virginia Beach district in spite of his checkered interpersonal relationships. Google “Dr. Timothy Jenney” and make up your own mind, remaining cognizant that everybody has detractors and the internet is a gossip maw.
So with Dr. Jenney successfully hired and a mostly new board eventually elected, this new board decided that since FBISD had lost about three years of progress during the previous dark years, it was time to straighten up and fly right before the populace started coming at them with pitchforks. They decided to play nice and get along--no matter what.
This started when Steve Smelley was president and has continued during the leadership of Sonal Bhuchar. And it is commendable.
Until it isn’t.
Dr. Jenney’s generous contract was based on, among other things, FBISD’s ratings with the TAK tests.
Then up jumped the spider. It was revealed in a series of hearings and newspaper stories last summer that the TAK tests were bogus and much of the scoring was based not only on how the students did, but how they were PROJECTED to do. So some of Dr. Jenney’s much ballyhooed academic performance bonus was indeed a bonus that coincided with the TEA’s inability to come up with a true test of a school district’s ability to educate its students. The TAS tests which morphed to the TAK tests will soon be something else entirely.
At the same time, a group has organized in Fort Bend called ISupportFBISD.org and they are on to the fact that the so-called TAK tests are untrustworthy measures of student growth and have asked for a wealth of information about student progress in FBISD. I have serious doubts whether the group, which has even hired an educational consultant, will receive the information requested seeing as how I have trouble even getting a copy of the superintendent’s contract.
And on that subject: I have more than once pointed out that Katy ISD posts their superintendent’s contract on their web site. This has fallen on deaf ears so when I get the newest contract, I will post it on the "Star’s" web site. Problem solved, mushroom growers.
Meanwhile, I hear rumors, and they are not backed up by independent research on my part because I simply do not have the time, but Dr. Jenney is supposedly hiring all his buddies from Virginia Beach and creating jobs for them, most of which involve sitting around and spying on all the old FBISD employees. I’m not sure I believe that but obviously the old FBISD employees do.
Add to this mix, the state of Texas, facing a huge budget shortfall, will try to balance the budget on the backs of the school children, old people, the poor, and the lame. Actually, they have never been really very receptive to those population groups so it will not be too much OF a crisis of conscience.
The Republican-controlled state legislature is in such a state of budget emergency that it is taking up bills about sanctuary cities, voter ID, and no abortion without a sonogram before they will consider anything else. Every day the governor adds another emergency to the list of Texas problems to be considered before the budget.
But the largest budget balancing act will be state education funding and I’m frankly at a loss about what will happen next.
However, I did get an unsolicited letter to the editor this week from FBISD board president Sonal Bhuchar entitled “Knowledge is Power.” Will ironies never cease? If it weren’t so sad, it would be a “roll on the floor laughing” moment.
This is a board that will most likely deny any information to the group ISupportFBISD.org. This is the board that waited until all were gone to vote on the Superintendent’s salary REDUCTION. (Looks like they would want all to be there to witness that!)
This is the board that demands all its members walk in lock step and shuns any member who does not.
I hope my little treatise has gone a long way toward explaining to you why the board is currently behaving as it is. I think I have filled in some of the gaps for you.
Or another explanation of why they act as they do is because they can. They feel they are the professionals and they know much more than you, so go home and let them run things. This is the response for the past 100 years of education and will most likely be the response for the next 100 years.
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