Justice writes "
School board president Suzanne McLeod
announced her resignation on Dec. 9, to be effective in January. She
has said that she is moving out of the district, and by stepping away
she will allow the board to appoint a new member to complete her last
I don't normally have a file ready to
create a post for a departing board or council member, but I have
been working up a meta-post about the long term problems with the
school board. McLeod was the central figure in those problems, so I
am flush with stories about her time in office.
Let the flushing begin.
The Super shall rule
The late 1990's was a period of high
activity for the school board. Depending on your outlook, you might
call it “vigorous democracy”, or “school board in conflict”.
The controversy grew out of an action taken by McLeod, she had
announced at a public meeting that there had been some talk of not
renewing the contract of then superintendent Paul Kulik (the other
members disputed if there had been serious discussion of that
option). While the other board members thought that the private
executive sessions were better for these talks, McLeod created a
public sensation leading to much controversy and the creation of a
petition by Kulik supporters. The general public had no idea what
issues were being discussed in the executive sessions, but with
McLeod's help they were lead to believe the other board members were
being unfair to Kulik, creating a atmosphere of distrust and
This was the start of the philosophy
that McLeod would promote throughout her time as president on the
board. Superintendents were to be given carte blanche. The
board's mission was to
deflect all criticism of the super and discourage public input into
the operation of the school. With the election of hand picked new
members who supported McLeod's philosophy, she was set for an era of
unanimous voting and group-thinking unprecedented in the history of
promotion of HS principal Allen to the superintendent position in
2001 was done primarily by McLeod. This was an unusual promotion, he
held a principal's, but not a superintendent's, certificate. With
McLeod's pull she was able to promote Allen above other more
qualified candidates. She would become a tireless promoter and
hyper-protective of her new leader.
question my Authoritay
the board meeting of May 11, 2004, a large group of parents attended
to request that the board add an additional 2nd grade class. A
petition to represent the parents who could not attend had been
created, and it was presented in a non-confrontational way. Mrs.
McLeod was upset, and sharply criticized the parents, solely because
they dared to presented a petition before the board. McLeod had
little tolerance that night, she strained to control her anger at the
parents who were asking the board to reverse its position. Her anger
might be expected from a board president who considers all parent's
questioning as troublemaking.
in the school
SRO (cop in the school) story is a prime example of how McLeod's
board acted as a rubber stamp for the superintendent, and didn't look
for support from the community before voting. Despite a pledge the
board would hold open meetings before voting, the board voted to
approve the SRO at a 7:30 AM meeting. A survey handed out after the
vote was complete contained false information about the SRO position
and the availability of grants to supplement the cost. The board
fought hard for Allen's SRO, ignoring all parents who spoke against
it and the warnings the federal grants would be unfunded. The grants
did dry up, and the SRO was canceled.
was responsible for a classic bit of political theater during the SRO
hearings before the city council. She recruited a high school student
who had been involved in drug use to speak to the council, and he
gave a dramatic story of “out of control drug use at the school”.
It may have caused a divided council to vote for the program against
better judgment. When asked at the board meeting the following
evening if it was true there was “out of control” drug use,
suddenly the board had no evidence, and even said that drug users
might be “prone to exaggeration”. I would add that throughout the
SRO drama McLeod was also prone to exaggeration.
The stealth raise
In January of 2006 the board voted themselves a 56% raise, without
giving any notice to the public. If you take the explanation of the
board members at face value, they somehow didn't even know they voted
for it, or how this raise happened.
That's disturbing enough, but
read the responses from McLeod. She at first claimed that the raise
didn't happen, then followed with an email admitting the raise. She
claims that “sometime” in the past the board voted on the raise,
but doesn't seem to know how it happened. In fact, the raise was one
of the first issues she would have taken up as a new president, and
had to be intimately involved in the vote. You can bet that she knew
full well about the raise. This was one of the most shameful actions
taken by the board, and McLeod was at the root of the scandal.
Explaining the unanimous votes
The board under
McLeod was infamous for going for years with unanimous votes, and in
2006 McLeod responded in an article in the TWG. She
tried for five paragraphs to blow smoke, imagining a board that had
vigorous discussion, between members with differing viewpoints, but
somehow they always came to a unanimous vote.
Reality check - anyone who has attended a board meeting knows how the
voting works. An issue is brought up by the superintendent, sometimes
with various options, but it is plain which option he prefers. The
board has minor discussion, showing no deep knowledge of the subject.
The board follows the recommendation of the superintendent, with five
yes votes. This group-thinking board was the hallmark of her
The story of the artificial turf project is a continuation of McLod's
failure to allow the public a voice in school projects. The board had
an opportunity to act like the city did when it was planning the
recreational spending for the city, and ask for public discussion.
Instead, no meetings were held, the board just followed the narrow
wishes of the touchdown club in transforming this into an expensive
project with huge long-term liabilities. While a few parents tried to
dispute the claim that a big funding drive could pay for the unfunded
part of the project, and pointed out that it would hurt other school
activities, they were ignored by the board. The board pre-voted
funding for the project, killing all reasons for donations. As
predicted, the fund drive failed to pay for the new turf project, and
the school had to make up the difference.
McLead was a leader in justifying the expense by making the bizarre
claim that funds from the cell towers were not taxpayer money. Read
her laughable claims in this post.
A+ grades removal, Valedictorian
July of 2006 McLeod's board decided (with no lobby by any parent
group) to remove the A+ grade and change the Valedictorian selection
process. With this
major change in the school policy, any normal board would have taken
the time to hold meetings and work for consensus with parents.
Not McLeod's school board.
learned that the board had made these major changes after the news of
the July vote had been printed in the papers. Negative reaction was
swift, Cameron was quoted as saying “I have never had so much email
as this issue has caused”.
board was forced to schedule a special August 24th
board meeting, attended by 50 parents. Flaws in the board's plan were
pointed out, and the board was forced to revise the policy.
Highest taxes in the county
Is it any wonder that a board that
gives high raises to the administration, and has failed in
negotiations with the teacher unions, would push the Grandview
millage to the highest in the county? McLeod leaves with the economy
in the dump, and because the tax rates leave them no rational reason
to ask for increases, faces radical cuts in school programs. Maybe
McLeod is jumping ship before it hits the rocks she has spend years
steering the school into.
Good riddance, Ms. McLeod. If I had a
little more time I might put up one of those gif images showing you
ducking from the shoe I metaphorically throw at you.