Editor’s Note: The following are some of the thoughts which Dr. Trotter expressed the last day and one-half on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s GetSchooled blog, a link of which is provided on this page. Dr. Trotter’s provocative thoughts are always entertaining and enlightening!
by John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
The Georgia Supreme Court was absolutely right in its ruling. The county boards of education were created by the Georgia Constitution and cannot be subject to the capricious whim of the Governor or others who may use private organizations like SACS to whip up hysteria when they do not have enough votes at the polls to remove school board members at the ballot box. The way to remove school board members is at the ballot box, not by the Governor’s fiat. I remember this Warren County case well and spoke out against it then just like I spoke out against the same action in Clayton County. I said then that neither the General Assembly nor the Governor had the right to remove duly elected officials to Constitutional boards because they deem their actions wrong or stupid. This is what the voting process for. The voters remove elected officials from office. Oligarchies be damned.
I hate to always have to say that I told you so but, once again, I told you so. I said the same thing about the Statewide Charter School Commission which created charter schools without going through the local school boards. Now, however, I believe that it will be on the ballot in the Fall for a Constitutional Amendment.
By the way, in the Warren County case, I recall now that someone told me that one of the persons who was pushing for these board members to be removed by the Governor was well-connected to this office. I don’t know if this is true or not, but this is usually how things happen. When you can’t beat people at the polls, get the Governor to remove them. Ha! Hey folks, it’s all about the cheddar. Someone in Warren County was having their cheddar (money) removed, don’t you think? Ha!
This was a good and wise decision and based on the Georgia Constitution, and I am proud of the Georgia Supreme Court. I am glad that Corporate Vigilantism has been put in check.
@ Ron and Skipper: What is close to my heart is constitutional law. I can deal with the politics of the situation. The constitution cannot guarantee that the smartest or the most competent people will be elected. Heck, look at the Georgia General Assembly. Most are professional and competent but we also have some doozies over there. But, you don’t do away with constitutional principles and constitutional government because some folks are not as smart or as professional or as competent as you would like. You just go to the polls and vote for someone else or you move to another locale. You don’t do away with the elective process.
Clayton County was SACS’s first large “take-over” wherein it scared the daylights out of the residents. The residents were not against the school board members until this private, money-grabbing company, SACS, whipped the county up into a false hysteria. The SACS Report in Clayton County was a complete joke. Norreese Haynes stated it best the day that it came out: “It’s a sham and a farce.” I have stated on many, many occasions that I will debate Mark Elgart any time and any place in Georgia about SACS’s capricious and arbitrary application of its so-called “standards.” To this day, Mark Elgart has never taken me up on the offer.
Sorry about the “SAC.” It should have been “SACS.” What does this stand for? Still Advocating for Cronies and Shills…like Ericka Davis, Rod Johnson, and Eldrin Bell in the case of Clayton County? When you are losing power, you know what you do, don’t you? You call your buddy Mark Elgart at SACS. He’ll come to your rescue and have the community all up in arms over a bunch about nothing…except their fear that their babies are going to miss out of the HOPE. It’s all about the cheddar, baby, all about the cheddar. I am primarily talking about which politician or well-connected person in the community is selling all of the insurance — guaranteed life for all the employees, property (buildings, buses, tractors, etc.), etc. — to the school system. A change in the power structure on the school board could change the friendly business eco-system for certain ones in the county. Help! Quickly! Call Mark Elgart and SACS! Yes, Still Advocating for Cronies and Shills (SACS)!
@ Ron F. – I am still looking for some concrete “shenanigans” which were illegal, not some editorial opinions that the school board should have held hands and sang Kum Ba Ya. Yes, I thought it must have had something to do with the choice of superintendents, viz., the firing of Dan Colwell. I must be a sage, right? Ha! Nothing concrete…just “constant bickering” (like other elective bodies do…perhaps like the U. S. Congress — but you are not ready to do away with that, are you?) and its choice of superintendents.
I too disagreed with the school board’s choice of superintendents…from William Chavis, Barbara Pulliam (a disaster from Minnesota whom Ericka Davis led the charge for and then later led the charge against), the Thompson fellow (another disaster from Pittsburgh whom I spoke out against in this newspaper before the school board hired him), and Edmond Heatley (whom MACE picketed the board about its impending choice of this most unpopular superintendent of all time in Clayton — and I spoke out against the board’s choice of him in this newspaper and other newspapers as well as in an interview on TV). Yep, the Clayton School Board has made some terrible choices for superintendent. Ericka Davis, like I said, led the charge for Barbara Pulliam (very unpopular) and Pam Adamson and Alieka Anderson led the charge for Edmond Heatley (the most unpopular of all time, in my opinion).
I suspect your biggest gripe is the fact that in January of 2003, this school board got rid of Dan Colwell. It should have gotten rid of Dan Colwell. I personally witnessed him be very ugly to sitting school board members. The school board was his boss. So, when the new school board members were elected, there was not much chance that Colwell was going to hold on.
So, I see that nothing concrete has been offered up. Just the same ole editorial with bland generalities. But, it is an object to show that SACS was employed in Clayton for no good reason but to try to help those who were losing power to stay in power. Also, keep in mind that Thompson and Heatley were hired after SACS got involved. With friends like Mark Elgart and Glenn Brock (who brought Heatley to the school board), school boards don’t need any enemies. After SACS invasion and occupation of Clayton County, this county has gone down precipitously, and I don’t blame you, Ron F., for getting the heck out of Clayton. I did the same thing. But, keep always in mind, that all of hoopla of SACS and accreditation and the bringing of Attorney Glenn Brock was just about the money. It’s all about the cheddar, baby, all about the money.
@ Ron F.: You make very good points. The state of affairs in the Clayton County School System is the worst that it has ever been. Student discipline is out of control, and the teachers have virtually no support from the administrators. I have a son who graduated last year from the Fayette County School System and one son who will graduate there next year. I would not dare allow them to matriculate through the Clayton County School System because the shape that it is now in. You are right. Many good teachers in Clayton County left for Fayette County and Henry County where support is stronger. My point was that when Ericka Davis and Rod Johnson called in SACS (with, I think, the help of Eldrin Bell), this was done for political reasons and not because the school board as a whole was micromanaging the system. In fact, Ericka Davis was by far the worst micromanager, and I have a copious number of her emails to prove it. Norreese Haynes documented this for SACS, and SACS just observed the “pass-over.” Same thing for Rod Johnson. The whole SACS thing was simply a hatchet job, trying to help Ericka and Rod, but they could not be helped because they were knee-deep in micromanaging. But, Mark Elgart and SACS ignored their egregious violations of SACS’s so-called standards and wrote a half-baked-full-of-errors report which ignored the worst violators of micromanaging, Ericka Davis and Rod Johnson. Davis stepped down disgracefully and Rod, after promising to step down, was removed illegally by the Governor. Even though Rod was full of micromanaging (even sitting in on the Superintendent’s cabinet meeting and personally hiring a former Jonesboro Police Officer with a checkered past to be the top security guy in the school system), it still would have been better for him to have stood before the voters at the next election. I think that he is now in Florida.
Yes, at one time Clayton County was a good school system in which to teach. There was good discipline and an orderly learning environment where teachers were supported and appreciated. Not anymore. The precipitous change for the worse took place after SACS got involved. This is one of the major points I was trying to make. I don’t think that you and I are too far apart on this issue.
It’s not the school systems’ fault per se (with the exception that the school systems pay no attention to student discipline); it’s mostly the fault of many of the students who bring little or no motivation to school to learn. If our students came to school motivated to learn (and behave, by the way) like the students of China, South Korea, or India, then they too could learn. But, unlike other cultures, we want to put the onus for learning upon the teachers, not the students and their parents (who have the real power to motivate their children).
Our school are still thinking like the Earth is flat (a trite cliché, I know). Our educracy is operating from a false theoretical base. Operating on bad theory. Bad theory produces bad results.
Let me give you a few statements which are derived from good theory:
1. The motivation to learn is a social process/cultural phenomenon. This concept came from Dr. Eugene M. Boyce of the University of Georgia. I like to give credit where credit is due.
2. Order is the first law of the Universe. Norreese Haynes at MACE loves to say this, and it is so true.
3. You can’t learn a child; you can only teach a child…just like a physician can only treat a patient and not heal the patient or a lawyer can only defend a criminally charged client and not acquit the client.
4. Focus on academic achievement without any regard for classroom discipline, and you will get very muted results. Focus first on discipline, and you will be surprised at the rise in academic achievement.
5. Our mantra at MACE since the beginning in 1995: You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.
That’s enough for now. It’s getting late. You can read more at >>>
AdvancED and SACS should be jettisoned. They do more harm than good. Both (incestuous relationship) are private, money-grabbing organizations which are not accountable to the people of Georgia. All of this “standards” talk is a bunch of hooey which is applied capriciously and arbitrarily all of the time. In my opinion, Mark Elgart is power-tripping…with a huge salary which comes from the public largess.
The answer to SACS? I have proposed this on many occasions: The General Assembly can pass enabling legislation which will create the Georgia Schools Accrediting Commission (GSAC) which will operate out of the Georgia Department of Education which is headed up by an elected State Superintendent, Dr. John Barge (or whoever is elected at the particular time). Since Dr. Barge is elected by the people, he can appointed members to the Commission. I’d prefer that it not be a “political” appointment like the appointments to the Georgia Board of Education by the Governor which have “terms” of so many years and have to be by Congressional Districts. These appointments to GSAC should simply by low-key appointments and should serve at the pleasure of the elected official, the State Superintendent of Schools. Then, these members are ultimately accountable to the People of Georgia.
This entire SACS stuff is an anachronism. It’s a throw-back to days when local grand juries appointed school board members. Yes, this actually occurred. Everyone in education knows that a SACS “review” is a rubber stamp; the review is a mile wide and an inch deep. The problems comes into play when SACS just arbitrarily goes after a school system (like Clayton and Warren and Miller) and handles with kid gloves systems whose violations of their so-called “standards” are much more egregious and flagrant (like Atlanta and DeKalb and Dougherty and probably Bibb and other systems). SACS’s modus operandus is Piccadilly-style. Hmm…I think that I’ll have friend catfish (three pieces, please), broccoli with cheese on top, sweet tea, and lemon pie today! It’s a terrible method of picking which system it will pick on.
I pity the school board that does not have the connected lawyer who seems to always pop up where SACS pops up. Ha! I pity the school system which has a highly independent school board which does not realize that certain connected individuals (perhaps the local State Senator or State Representatives) are supposed to be allowed to sell their wares (be it insurance, annuities, consulting, etc.) in the school system. I pity the school boards which actually think that they are accountable to the People! Ha! No, the Georgia good-ole-boy network has this thing called SACS which it uses to keep elected school boards in line. It’s all about the cheddar, folks, all about the cheddar.
@ Simon: There are dozens and dozens of Miller Counties throughout Georgia. The real culprits in these counties are the appointed superintendents who have a seemingly insatiable need to have their decisions rubber-stamped and their posteriors kissed. In the old days, when the voters had had enough, they just voted elected superintendents out of office, as they should have. I was involved in a couple of these campaigns, and we were successful in cleaning house. But, now in Georgia all of these superintendents are somewhat insulated from the direct anger and or angst of the People. All an appointed superintendent has to do to keep a five person school board happy is to keep three members somewhat beholden to him or her. Let’s see how easy this might be. Hmm…perhaps School Board Member One has a daughter who wants to move up the school systems. Strangely enough, she becomes an Assistant Principal at a very young age and with bare minimal qualifications. She’s on the move. School Board Member Two has an nephew who has a lighting and roofing company. Bam! He gets the year contract to do all of the new installations and repairs in this area. School Board Member Three is simply and vain, gullible, and naïve. Ah, she’s the easy one to co-opt. The superintendent just makes sure that the school system sends her to all of the State Conferences in Jekyll Island, Atlanta, and Callaway Gardens. The superintendent makes sure that she eats high on the hog and is treated like royalty! Oh, yes, don’t forget about the National School Board Conference held in San Francisco or New York City! Make sure she gets to attend this all-important conference there too! The meetings are nice…but the sexual trysts that often occur at these conferences among school board members are quite interesting. I guess this is all about getting to know school board members from other parts of the country! Ha! Exchanging ideas, heh?
Let me stop for now. Maybe I know too much! But, don’t come reading my posts unless you want to know the truth! Isn’t this why they hate me? Oh, it’s going to be another great day today! My bald head is beet red from the almost two hours in the sun at yesterday’s picket in South Fulton. Had a bunch of teachers in the MACE Office last night. If I could only let you know some of the vile curse words that the students routinely – yes, routinely – say to the teachers these days! And then the response from the principal is unconscionable! But, this is a family newspaper.