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My response to the good doctor

By Greg Solomon
Posted Wednesday, March 10, 2004

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Keith and Citizens of Chatham,

Keith , kudos to you for standing up for your spouse. It is very admirable. She has worked very hard to do a good job. It's just too bad she believes everything Larry Mabe tells her.

But if facts are what you want then I better get right to them. I had hopes of keeping this short but was unable to do so. I assume there will be other responses and hope people take the time to read everything. If you don't care about schools just scroll right on by, we do tend to ramble about the same old problems we have all heard about that goes on in our system.

First let's address the "secret meetings". Did you not find it strange that soon after that questionable gathering that three BOE members where suddenly ready to send a bond before the commissioners? When just a week earlier they approved having a study to be done by NC State to determine exactly what it is we need and where it should be placed? Done by scientific methods, not political gains. That's not strange to you? Don't you think citizens should be concerned when what the three recommended went against every bond committee's recommendations, including Deb's and Cadle's own committees? Ernest's committee never really got started. Don't you think citizens should be concerned when they find out no minutes have been kept in closed session in year's past when major decisions where made such as buying the land for schools? Isn't it strange that all of this occurred shortly after this social gathering that was not important? So no there is no proof, just doubts and questions. The fact that two board members put a halt to these shenanigans, shows that the stuff they are learning by going to conferences does pay off. By the way it was a local conference.

Second, it is not the going to the conferences that bothers us taxpayers, it is the number of them that some of them attend. Year after year. It also bothers us what they spend and how high the cost are while they are there.

For example, this trip to Orlando coming up. I was told that they are staying in $175/night hotel. Problem is, there are nice hotels right in the same area that are less than $100/night. Federal government per diem is $ 95 /night for hotels and $47/day for meals for Orlando and the surrounding areas. They are spending more than they both add together....... on just a room. And I think you better check your math or at least your source on meal per diem, in the past they were getting full reimbursement on whatever they spent. That's a big difference than $25/day as you stated. The other big problem citizens have with conference attendance is that Mr. Dark and Mr. Cooper rarely bring anything back and share. Not that I claim to know everything that goes on behind closed doors of the BOE, and with a lack of proper minutes it's hard to find out, but, I personally have never seen it. I have attended lots of BOE meetings. Probably hundreds over the last ten years. I have only seen you at one or two. I am that person you ask to be involved. When we go to conferences for work sessions we are required to come back and give presentations about what we saw and learned to everyone else. After all, not EVERYONE has the opportunity to go or as we have seen with at least to BOE members, Ziggy and Ronnie, who understand fiscal accountability and have their priorities in order, it isn't always necessary. I will have to say that it appears Deb is getting a lot from going to meetings and she does tend to bring back what she has learned and shares it with the rest of the BOE. This is great!

Third, chain of command. Works sometimes, in some places. Some schools don't have it all. What we have seen at our school is the fear of repercussion from the superintendent for any rocking of the boat or for asking for something Larry doesn't think the school needs. I saw two great principals leave because this was part of a larger major problem (which I will get too soon) that our school system has. What is upsetting is that most of the time the chain of command gets broken there is a safety or
health issue involved. There isn't time to wait, especially if you have the kids' and staff best interest at heart. So are we to let kids get hurt first? It did happened once at PHS. It won't ever again! Shall we talk about the leaking roofs at North Chatham and Perry Harrison as an example? As for the list of prioritized needs sent in by the school improvement teams at each school, hardly any of them ever get funded. I have the proof, care to see it? Last I heard they were not even going to do that process anymore as it was a waste of time for the people who did it and the BOE itself. That came directly from the mouth of a BOE member. As for paying school utilities, I called PHS and the administrator their told me she pays the ENTIRE phone bill out of general funds, not just long distance. Since she writes the
check I tend to believe her. I just now hope I didn't get her reassigned. Sorry!

Fourth, the conduct at BOE meetings. Yeah, it has gotten out of hand. Funny enough though that's when something is typically addressed. It's sad that something has to be taken to an extreme to be addressed. I have to say Deb has really tried and believe it or not, it is better than in the past. At
least you get a chance to say what you need to, although it rarely gets heard if you know what I mean. I also have to say it was a fine example or superintendent displayed Monday night, no wonder the public acts like they do. As for Bond Committee chairs never saw an atrocious behavior. I did see
lot of hard work due to the lack of or poor information that was provided to them. As for getting up and leaving during the progress report I have to say the last thing I needed was to sit through and have someone read to me what I already knew. Ms. Cheek does a fine job as does Ms. Batchelor. I have
been following our schools' progress for ten years. The good thing is we are slowly improving test score wise, the bad thing is Larry generally takes the credit. And why did it have to take two investigations by the Federal Office of Civil Rights before we could start to close the gap? So why did I leave that night when I normally stay to the end of EVERY meeting? My day started about 5 a.m., Ms. Cheek did not start her presentation till well after 9 p.m. I did stay for Ms. Mertz presentation but its just to hard to follow stuff especially when they do not give you copies of what it is they are talking about or by providing microphones for the speakers. Don't get me wrong, Ms. Mertz is one of the best in the central office, its just common practice for them to not give out to the public information packets at BOE meetings. Why? We have asked repeatedly for them to do that on a regular basis as well as provide a PA system so people can hear discussions and so they can tape BOE sessions. Then there is no doubts about what was discussed and who said it.

Fifth, the reason I do what I do. It's not to feel important and to be honest I have a lot other things to do with my time. I spend hundreds of hours working for and in the schools each and every year. Not just the ones my kids go to but any which will accept help. I have started two science clubs at different schools and hope to start others. Anyone interested just let me know how I can help. I have acted as school carnival chair or co-chair every year for the last eigth years except this year. We finally got some new "blood" involved this year, yeah! I also coach Chatham rec league softball and donate hundreds of hours doing so each year not to mention the thousands of dollars I have spent. I have ran for school board as well as worked on others campaigns, all to make a difference, its time for change. So with me it's about the kids. It's about giving back to society. It's about giving kids the best chance in life. ALL kids.

Finally and most importantly, let's talk about Larry Mabe. You are being kind calling him a bureaucrat. I have lots of other words; bully is the one that comes to mind first, a diplomat he is not! What we need is a business man/woman with experience in education. He has told EVERYONE that there would be changes in our schools. As you say, there has been none. Seen it for myself, obviously you have too. The problem is things are getting worse and he is the person most responsible. Yes, his job is to put forth the policies of the board but what bothers us is his interpretation of those policies. He also hides behind that very fact any time his action is brought into question. We have all heard the standard response. " It is not my job to set policy, I act for the board, they set the policy". "I just do what they instruct" What a crock! You know, I know, everybody knows, Larry runs the show. Deb.'s now just one of his "entertainer's". What's really sad is what he says about her behind her back. I would not repeat it in public but perhaps we should talk some time. It's common practice with him. If you talk with him he does nothing wrong, only acts on the boards wishes. Its not his fault we have not planned for the future and now have to come up with $50-$60 million to build new schools. He was just saying yesterday how it was the commissioner's fault. Its not his fault employee moral is at an all time low. It's not his fault they did not keep minutes of closed session even though he is the board secretary. Go figure? This is a problem. Larry is the problem. A good example of how he runs the show is that he knows he is going to retire. His contract is up in about a year and he is building a retirement home near the coast. So why has he not come forward and announced his retirement. Because, as he told another parent yesterday, its his call. It's not up to anybody else and he is going to do it on his own terms. Well,
I beg to differ, he is paid with our tax dollars and answers to the BOE, not the other way around. And to be honest, if he has the kids, schools, and staff best interest at heart, shouldn't he give us the most amount of time to find the best candidate. Do superintendents grow on trees or something? Not good ones! So no I don't blame the BOE for everything; I just hold them accountable. As I will if they do not step forward and give ample time to hire our next superintendent. Somebody has to and the taxpaying citizen's are lucky that they have a few people who have made the effort to make things right.

So yeah, I am sorry if anyone has hurt Deb personally. As you should have noticed I have never done it. She has worked hard. Although I do not always show it, I have a lot of respect for her and her position. I just wish she would go back to how she was when she first started, crawling under floors and gathering information for herself. Not relying on sources which are questionable. As for liable, it's hard to fight truth, better look for another attorney that offers better advice!

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