Since joining the Board of Education in 2015, I have decided not to blog much about the school’s governing body. I’ve written (and spoken) a lot about the failures of American education as a whole, I’ve defended a controversial vote of my own, and I’ve even endorsed one slate of candidates – not counting my own election.
I once wrote a scathing critique of a local charter school “entrepreneur”, and of Adrian Mapp’s silly so-called plan for an elected board with a mayor-appointed superintendent (good luck trying to make that work, Adrian). But I have decided not to write about individual meetings, and the month-to-month operations of the Board.
There’s an exception for every rule.
This evening, I showed up for the Board of Education’s work and study meeting. Nothing particularly special about that. The meeting is held on the first Tuesday of every month, and I’ve only missed one of twenty-eight such meetings that have taken place during my tenure on the Board.
The difference tonight: no one showed up.
Five Board members were absent from a meeting that was expected to draw a large crowd of nervous staff and community members, smack in the middle of an overwhelming budget crisis. Tonight’s meeting was high profile enough to be moved to the cafeteria instead of the usual conference room.
I don’t doubt that a couple may have been sick or busy – I assume that to be the case – but five? Including Board president Emily Morgan who has yet to miss a meeting in her sixteen months on this Board? This is not coincidence. With only members Richard Wyatt, John Campbell, Dorien Hurtt, and I (David Rutherford), we were left just short of a quorum and the meeting was canceled.
If we had a policy against intoxication we would have had only three Board members. It’s common knowledge to those on and around the Board of Education that the middle member of Mapp’s Anderson-Hurtt-Pile team elected last year is a belligerent drunk during many of our meetings.
Liquor aside, there were four of us, and the reason may have to do with agenda item “XI. Transfer Agreement” which would officially remove Anna Belin-Piles as Superintendent – a position she has held for six years. She’d be restored to her previous position as Director of Student Intervention and family support services, over a year before the end of her contract as superintendent.
The buyout and other associated fees for such a move are always well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars – a big deal with an $8 million budget shortfall and recent Board proposals to lay off staff.
Maybe the missing Board members didn’t want to give an explanation of potential layoffs – which prompted a PHS walkout – in the face of taking on such a large expense. Perhaps the absent members have no solid plan to replace the outgoing Superintendent.
Whatever the reason, conspiring to cancel a meeting is unacceptable, like a lot of things in our district.
Tonight I planned to start a public discussion about food service, but I was denied that opportunity. Luckily I have my own platform.
The district’s food service is garbage right now. It wasn’t perfect under Sodexo, but no one can deny it has decreased dramatically since Adrian Mapp’s the new Board members appointed Aramark as its food service contractors. I can’t go a few days without a parent complaining to me about the food.
These complaints don’t matter to the contingent of Board members who fight tooth and nail to keep Aramark in place. Word is the mayor has political connections there. So much for standing up for young people. We can’t even serve them good food.
But, apparently, we can cut their teacher assistants and security guards. This Board of Education, and its Board President, allowed the Business Administrator to present a ridiculous budget to lay off a large portion of the security guards and all of the teacher’s assistants in kindergarten. The proposal would make all of the other TA’s part time. That’s the BOE you have, Plainfield. And yes, they showed up for that meeting.
So I’ve broken my silence on the Board of Education. I made my best efforts to try to work with Mapp’s current majority – now in place for a full year – but I can’t any more.
I’ve likely ruined any semblance of a relationship I had with some of these Board members. After their behavior over the past year, I won’t lose any sleep over it. The least I can do is bring the truth to light.
The next meeting of the Plainfield Board of Education is a budget presentation tomorrow – Wednesday, April 5th, 2017. If Mayor Mapp’s crew decide not to sabotage it again, all the business from tonight’s meeting can be handled then – 7:30pm at Emerson School.