Wednesday, May 25, 2016

School Board Bully

Last night’s (May 24th) meeting of the Chesterfield County School Board did not get off to an auspicious start.  First, although documents being used during meetings (work sessions and regular meetings) are routinely made available online at, the process is not without flaws. Tuesday morning an addendum to Memo 51, “Recommended Personnel Action,” was posted to this web site but ordinary citizens were blocked from accessing that addendum.

In what would seem to be a praiseworthy action, Robert W. Thompson, School Board member from the Matoaca Magisterial District, asked this item be moved from the consent agenda to the discussion agenda. His stated reason was so the public would be allowed to comment on the additions introduced in the addendum. 

Be aware that for a member of the public to speak to an action item, citizens are generally required to sign up with the Clerk of the School Board not later than 2:00 PM on the day of the meeting. Since this item wasn’t on the action agenda until approximately 6:35 PM during the meeting, this requirement could not be met. As the clerk was calling the names of three people who had signed up to speak (they must sign up by telling the clerk that they will want to speak on every action item or else it was unofficially known to some people the agenda was going to change) I walked from my seat around the back of the public meeting room to the clerk’s end of the dais. I got her attention and indicated I would have signed by to speak before the deadline if I had known this was going to be in the action agenda. She nodded her understanding and I returned to my seat.

When the third person finished talking the clerk called my name and I went up to the speaker’s lectern to make my points. I said Mr. Thompson’s claimed interest in the public being informed and having an opportunity to make comments was useless (I do not remember my exact words but “useless” was the meaning) because the addendum was not available to the public for them to review or for them to decide whether to comment. I also pointed out that technically I should not have been allowed to comment because I hadn’t signed up before 2:00 PM, something I could not have done because I didn’t know that action item was going to exist. My intent was to highlight the problems caused by the School Board’s unnecessary requirement that people sign up before 2PM if they wish to speak that night.

Mr. Robert W. Thompson, School Board Member from Matoaca, chose to interpret my comment about what I believe is a bad School Board policy as taking a shot at the Clerk and making her look bad. He did this by charging up to me after the meeting, putting his face about 6 inches from mine and yelling at me at the top of his lungs. He would not allow me to respond, he simply repeated, all at the top of his lungs, that I had taken a shot at the Clerk, made her look bad, and would never be allowed to sign up late again (presumably even when the Board changes the agenda to add a new action item). His unprofessional behavior was witnessed by four other people. Two are school system employees and cannot be expected to say anything about what they saw and heard. Two others are regular critics of the School Board and while they can be expected to confirm what I’ve said, anything they say will likely be dismissed by the entire board.

Thompson wouldn’t listen to my response so I’ll state it here. I had no intention whatsoever of causing trouble or discomfort for the Clerk of the School Board. I have always found her to be a helpful, professional individual who does her job well.

I encountered School Board Chair, Dianne Smith in the parking lot after the meeting. If she wants to know how Thompson talked to me, she has only to recall the voice I used in talking to her. She listened patiently as I recounted Thompson’s unprofessional behavior (during which I described him as an ‘effing SOB’ but without the abbreviations). I also criticized the Board’s policy of requiring citizen speakers to sign up in advance. I told her my opinion, that the deadline for a citizen making a comment should be when she looked around the room and said, “seeing no one else, the public comment period is closed.” I also apologized for using the F-word and asked her to tell the clerk that I had no intention of making her look bad. I'll repeat that last part. I had no intention whatsoever of causing trouble, pain or embarrassment for the Clerk of the Chesterfield County School Board.

I find Robert Thompson to be a dissembling, arrogant bully who uses, or attempts to use, intimidation to silence his critics. In my opinion, he knew my intent was to criticize him and the other Board members for their bad policy and he simply twisted the facts to make it look like I was trying to injure the Clerk.

If you think I’m asking or going to ask for an apology from Thompson, you are mistaken. I do not care what he might have to say to me personally on any subject. I do care what he says and does in public or while pretending to perform his duties as a School Board member and I'll respond accordingly the next time he steps out of line with me OR with anyone else.

"fact" changed to "face" in the 5th paragraph
"This morning" changed to "Tuesday morning" in the 1st paragraph.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New Planning Commission; Same Old School Board

As 2016 gets underway I am no longer serving on the Chesterfield County Planning Commission. Michael Jackson has been appointed to represent the Dale Magisterial District. He will be known to many readers as the unsuccessful candidate for the Dale representative on the Chesterfield School Board. He would have made a great School Board member and I am equally certain that he will an able, effective member of the Planning Commission. As is Supervisor Jim Holland, who appointed him, and as I tried to be, Michael is a leader who listens to his constituents, gathers all the relevant facts, then makes the decision he believes is in the best interest of Chesterfield County and its citizens.

One of my great concerns has and continues to be the leadership of the Chesterfield County schools. Despite several changes in the makeup of the school board in the last two election cycles, there has been no meaningful increase in transparency or accountability by that board or by the senior administrators of the school system. Combined with the system’s woeful behavior in meeting the educational requirements of special needs children, mismanagement of capital projects and many other shortcomings, stonewalling of senior officials, hired and appointed, has done a great disservice to the children and citizens of Chesterfield County. 

You can expect to see more frequent commentary by me not only about Chesterfield County schools but other issues affecting the greater metropolitan area.