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McLeod leaves town
Posted on Tuesday, December 23 @ 01:06:04 EST by Admin

News from the small schools 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 year.

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 conflict.

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 the city.

The 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.

Don't question my Authoritay

At 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.

Cops in the school

The 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.

McLeod 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 supervision.

Artificial turf

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 change

In 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.

Parents only 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”.

The 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.


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