Roy Exum: Just Say 'No'

Monday, July 10, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
I believe the most blatant act of tomfoolery (with apologies to any politically-correct soul named Tom) to take place in Chattanooga’s most-recent history will begin to unfold today when “the state” begins in earnest to disrupt five of our most-needy public schools. Yes, and this is because of a distinct educational failure – some people were never taught how to say “No!”
Candace McQueen, the state’s Commissioner of Education, haughtily says “No is not an option” after a three-year crusade where she has “taken” nearly 40 of the lowest achieving schools in the state away from local school districts in what has become an unparalleled boondoggle.
Seriously, if called by a Federal judge, and given three members of the Supreme Court as her counsel, this woman can show virtually no improvement after five years in Memphis, this based on a Vanderbilt study.
Absolutely no person in Hamilton County wants this to happen. At the same time, absolutely no person in Hamilton County has the gumption to look McQueen in the eye and growl “No!”
Because nobody will question this one woman’s authority, flimsy at best, McQueen will continue unhampered and unchallenged in her folly to spend millions more in taxpayer waste. She is under the bizarre illusion her cast of out-of-town clowns can do better than our experienced educators can at Brainerd High, Dalewood Middle, Woodmore Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle and Orchard Knob Elementary.
This is blatantly ridiculous and what is more appalling is that over 350,000 will swear upon the Holy Bible they know it is wrong on every level. So why will not one make a stand?
Her initial salvo was last fall when she held an “educational summit” for the politicians at the VW plant. She did the talking within a tight 90-minute window and, believe this, nobody saw any summit because of the fog. Grown men literally asked one another, “What was that all about?” Surprisingly, not one among them had the guts to tell her “No!”
As her Shelby County catastrophe predictably began to implode, she edged her “Achievement School District” (ASC) into Nashville. A scathing audit by the state Comptroller last August should have cost McQueen her job – hundreds of thousands could not be accounted for. But, oh no, she fired about 20 or 30 others in what was called streamlining the staff. Do you wonder why Memphis now has about 50 charter schools and the Shelby County School district is today a wreck?
In April she met with the embattled Hamilton County board with the most preposterous “partnership plan” ever presented, offering it as an “olive branch” instead of totally consuming the five schools, firing the teachers and creating total chaos. And when she said, “No is not an option,” not one elected official sworn to serve the school children in the county challenged her on it. Not one.
Losing five schools will cost the Hamilton County Department of Education millions. Yet why didn’t one school board member have the courage to confront the consequences? I am baffled. The state will not pay rent, make repairs on the schools it takes, or allow input from anyone in the HCDE district. Not one person in Chattanooga or Hamilton County will have any control nor any say in what happens to 2,600 of our children. Who among us can possibly approve that? It is barbaric. But not one solitary soul has said “No!”
What, pray tell, can this woman do? She hasn’t the power to call out the state militia. She can’t cut off taxpayer funds. She can’t fine anybody. She can arrest no one. What can she do if just one person will stand up and say “No!” Whine to Governor Haslam? Call Corker? And why?
We need to wake up. She has no reason for one elected official in town to buy what she’s selling – please. Since she weaseled into office there is no success with inner-city children that can be shown by her Achievement School District anywhere in the entire state.  Governor Haslam knows this. Every state legislator knows this. County Mayor Coppinger, every one of the County Commissioners, the entire School Board is sure of it but not a one has the fortitude or the honesty to tell her “No!”
Try this: In the last six years, the state has netted an increase of only four-tenths of a percentage point for its statewide average composite score on ACT tests. Hello? McQueen’s solution: Let every rising senior retake the test in October, only this time the taxpayers will foot the entire bill. Is this a great state or what?
Talk about a folly! I want Governor Haslam to explain to the taxpayers how, if it can be clearly demonstrated and easily shown the ACT results have risen four-tenths of a percentage point in the last six years, what does he honestly believe that the very best magicians in the world will predict what will happen on “Re-Take” Day this October? Please – there is no one to say ‘No!’ yet you wonder why politicians grow up to be stupid with other people’s money?
Because County Mayor Jim Coppinger would not say “No!” and is going along with the ruse, some “invitation only – no media” dummies will be welcomed at the Courthouse today for community meetings with the time-wasting woman and her traveling party. This is because the “invitation onlys” are falling into her spider web and wasting their time instead of saying ‘No!’ Honestly, where is the civic return for any sucker’s time and effort?
I’m thinking the “no media” sign is up because somebody may reveal the names of the Chattanooga people who are also unable to say “No!” Can you actually imagine going willingly to such a charade when you can actually do some good on jury duty? Sweet mother of pearl!
I know foreign countries that would send huge delegations of scientists and experts to Chattanooga so that they, as a society, can learn how idiotic it is to talk for 18 months and then boost the public education budget by 1.9 percent. Hundreds of cities across America must wonder we can get by for 12 years with no tax increase (Don’t tell we have $240 million in deferred school maintenance, that our schools average over 40 years in age, and the only thing coming out of the ground is weeds.)
So, if nine county commissioners can vote 8-1 on a ridiculous budget, why can’t one glare down and yell “No!” to what we all believe will be virtually-guaranteed failure? McQueen says she’ll bring in $1 million of state money (from the taxpayers) to help plan all year and then throw another half-million into her scheme in 2019. Yet we don’t have one school board member or one county commissioner who is willing to connect-the-dots for the next 3 ½ years on this Titanic of a voyage. Where will the money come from to continue? McQueen’s term will be up in a year – what does she care?
You are already looking at $1 ½ million in frivolous state money and not one legislator we elected has stepped forward to protect its waste with a “No!” Are you kidding me? McQueen is even betting on Todd Gardenhire and Bo Watson to rewrite state law next year because what she is proposing is actually against state law but neither Todd nor Bo can say ‘No!”
Because not one person either directly or indirectly involved can say “No!” the most unnecessary circus in the history of civilized education in Hamilton County is about to commence. The Cherokee wouldn’t have put up with such a sham.
McQueen’s “Director of Strategic Communications and Media” (no, I am not making this up) has informed us that media availability will be held at 1 p.m. today on the second floor of the courthouse rotunda. “We will hold a short gaggle (!) followed by 1:1 interviews.”
Permit me to be the first to say “No!”
Candice McQueen
Candice McQueen


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