Former DeKalb County Superintendent, Dr. Crawford Lewis, was indicted by the DeKalb County Grand Jury for racketeering violations. The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office asserted that Dr. Lewis was running a “criminal enterprise” within the school system. Lewis is being defended of the racketeering charges by the law firm of Alston & Bird.
By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
I am still surprised that DeKalb and Atlanta and Clayton did not and do not break down the doors to beseech Dr. Sam King to come and help. He may well have put out the word that he was not interested. I don’t know. It appeared that Cobb County was locked in on him recently, but contract negotiations apparently fell through. Dr. King seems an exception to the rule that appointed superintendents of large school systems have to be arrogant, insensitive, and rather brutish in their dealings with subordinates. I realize that Rockdale County is not the same size as DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, Clayton, or Atlanta City — or Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, and Chicago for that matter — but Rockdale is not small either. It is a highly congested county in the Metro Atlanta area with Interstate 20 dissecting the county. It is growing, but it will not be able to grow too much more because it is geographically one of the smallest counties in Georgia. This year Dr. King‘s superintendent-colleagues named him the Georgia Superintendent of the Year. His career has essentially been unblemished, and those who have worked for Dr. King in Rockdale and Clayton Counties have high praise for him. Someone might wonder why I have Alvin Wilbanks in my heading above? Why not? His hubris is the main factor. His arrogant manner of dealing with State mandates is, quite frankly, amazing…whether it is the mandate about reporting serious disciplinary infractions (I suppose that he “forgot” to report the 45,000 incidents for one year a few years back) or the Georgia Statute governing grievances filed by certificated employees. Also, do you reckon Alvin Wilbanks can get a hold on the millions of dollars that the Gwinnett County School Board appears to be paying for property to build schools? Mr. Wilbanks and the school board should be custodians of the Gwinnett County taxpayers’ money.
Dr. Sam King‘s reputation is a far cry from the reputations of the above-named superintendents, and the apparent relative contentment in Rockdale County is a far cry from the rancor and rumblings from the those associated with Clayton County, Atlanta City, DeKalb County, Dallas Independent (Texas), Gwinnett County, or Hall County under the dubious, obstinate, truculent, and recalcitrant leadership of Edmond Heatley, Beverly Hall, Crawford Lewis, Michael Hinojosa, Alvin Wilbanks, and Will Schofield. Someone may be wondering, “Why are you beating up on Michael Hinojosa before he gets on the job in Cobb County?” Well, what is research for? Aren’t we looking into someone’s past to see if there might be a pattern? Might this pattern portend of things to come? A superintendent’s action in the past more than likely will be a harbinger of things to come. Do you think that the Atlanta Board of Education (I know many or maybe all of the current members were not on the school board when Beverly Hall was appointed superintendent in 1999) wishes that it had paid more attention to the shambles in which Hall apparently left the Newark, New Jersey schools? What about the Clayton County Board of Education and Edmond Heatley‘s performance in Chino Valley, California?
So many of the large school system superintendents are cut from the same cloth. I have written about these gypsy superintendents on a number of occasions in the MACE website at http://www.theteachersadvocate.com. They are ego- and money-driven…and are willing uproot themselves from family, friends, community, and church or synagogue to traverse the country to secure more money and power. They usually bring with them (or hire almost immediately) members of their Cult Family. And, usually, they usher in a Horror Show. Working in a school system run by these people with insufficient egos (which have to be constantly massaged) is a harrowing experience, one that cannot be explained unless you have actually experienced it yourself. Can we say, “Dante’s Inferno“? Ha! This type of action from appointed superintendents are not confined just to large school systems. It can happen — and does happen often but not as much — in small school systems. For example, even recently, I hear rumbling all the way up near Lake Hartwell. There appears to be rumblings in the Hart County School System under newly appointed superintendent Jerry Bell. He was appointed superintendent on a 3-1-1 vote, with Chairperson Brenda Jordan voting against Bell being appointed superintendent.
These appointed superintendents in general remind me of King Henry II of England and his wailing words which were interpreted by his Knights that he wanted his erstwhile friend, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be assassinated. Becket was assassinated in the Canterbury Cathedral. I presume that Henry II initially demurred being responsible, though he later engaged in public penance. Or what about King Henry VIII having his erstwhile and trusted Chancellor, Sir Thomas More (later Saint Thomas More), decapitated essentially because he quietly demurred about Henry VIII‘s determination to tossed his wife, Catherine of Aragon, to the proverbial curb in favor of marrying his mistress, Anne Boleyn, ostensibly because he wanted a male heir? Oh, charges of treason were trumped up against the conscientious and honorable Sir Thomas More — just like they are against the same type of honest folks in a school system by a self-willed superintendent’s sycophantic staffers. History is replete with strong-willed people wanting to have their way come hell or high water. Likewise, these egomaniacal superintendents have absolutely ruined public education and many good public school educators in the process. The appointed superintendents act like mercurial kings, intent on having all to genuflect before them and to kiss the Royal Ring.
Truly, the office of superintendent of schools should be elected by the people. If “appointed” superintendents are so good, then while not “appoint” the U. S. Senators like we did up into the Twentieth Century? Taking politics out of schools? Ha! I’d rather have superintendents who have to put their work before the people. Do you think Beverly Hall or Crawford Lewis or Edmond Heatley could have gotten or could get 20% of the voters to approve of them? I doubt it. I prefer true and open politics in the school systems over closed dictatorial systems. From what I have observed for decades, I conclude that the appointed superintendency is a flawed model. Heck, don’t we still elect the State Superintendent here in Georgia? I don’t see a lot of people complaining about Dr. John Barge. Don’t we elect all Governors and all Presidents? If it is good for these offices, then why not for those people who have inordinate power over the lives of up to 10,000 to 12,000 employees and budgets in the billions of dollars? It makes no sense to appointed these leaders. Like Mayors and other representatives of the people, the school superintendents ought to be elected again.
In Georgia before the Constitutional Amendment was passed in the early 1990s, I had witnessed school systems which had grand jury appointed school boards and appointed superintendents (like Muscogee County), elected school boards and appointed superintendents (like DeKalb County, Green County, Dalton City and a host of other counties), appointed school boards and elected superintendents (like Washington County), and elected school boards and elected superintendents (like Clayton County and many other counties). Personally, I think that the elected school board and the elected superintendent model works best. Now don’t start coming at me with correlations about school systems with such and such models have higher test scores. Correlations prove nothing. If Iowa has the elected school board and the appointed superintendent model and the children in Iowa do well on standardized tests, this means nothing. These kids would do well in any model. The model does not cause the higher test score no more than it causes the snow in Iowa. Correlations of this nature does not hold water — uh, or snow in this example!
The elected school board and elected superintendent puts politics above board. This is quite refreshing. There’s nothing wrong with politics, as long as it is up front. A wrong-headed, stubborn, and arrogant superintendent who treats employees and parents brusquely would not survive an election. Thus, the electoral process rids the county or city of a bad superintendent. If a superintendent only promotes kiss-ups and sycophants or sorority sisters and fraternity brothers, then superintendent would not survive the next election. Furthermore, if the superintendent completely ignored disciplinary problems, swept them under the rug, and punished each employee who openly talked about the lack of discipline in the schools, then this superintendent would be kicked to the curb during the next election. (c) GTSO, June 26, 2011.