Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ferguson and Barnett Win FCPS Board Seats

H-L Endorsement Doesn't Sway in FCPS Board Race

Once Fayette County School Board Member Amanda Ferguson got herself "on the bad list" for asking reasonable questions about a bogus report advocating the outsourcing of legal services in the Fayette County schools, she found herself without anyone to talk to. That changed tonight with the election of Attorney Douglas Barnett to the school board. Barnett has been an outspoken critic of the district's student assignment plan.

Add to that the sudden departure of Becky Sagan, and this could become a different board. ...with new math.

Ferguson defeated Realtor Rick Queen, by 500 and change, to win another term representing District 4. Ferguson had distinguished herself as the only board member willing to ask hard questions of Silberman and that didn't go over well with the rest of the team. She has been frozen out.

Doug Barnett squeaked out a victory in District 2 besting Thomas H. Duncan Jr. by two percent. Incumbent Kirk Tinsely, whose tax problems were less of an issue for the Herald-Leader editorial board than they were the voters, finished last. Barnett wants to put Fayette school board meetings on the road and pay for school supplies for all children.

When the H-L reported their endorsements they faulted Ferguson for being an impressive and "engaged parent" volunteer who was "passionate about ensuring every child gets an excellent education" and endorsed Queen. They complained (without any supporting documentation) about some "absences, especially at a public meeting to evaluate the school superintendent." (KSN&C asked Ferguson if she'd like to comment on H-L's claims, but she passed, apparently worried that she might not get fair treatment from a guy with a Rick Queen sign in his yard.)

Then H-L delivered the punch line.

"We do appreciate her willingness to sometimes be a dissenting voice on the
board, such as opposing outsourcing legal work."

Where's the evidence for that?

I think a better argument can be made that the editorial board gets skittish whenever board members show a willingness to challenge the superintendent. They seem to prefer what some KSN&C readers have called "bobbleheads" - Show up, ask easy questions, say "Yes, Stu" a lot. I suspect that characteristic alone cost Ferguson and Barnett the paper's endorsement, but in the end, it didn't matter.

The political math keeps Board Chair John Price and Melissa Bacon aligned. But will Ferguson and Barnett form some kind of alliance? Education Commissioner Terry Holliday will complete the picture when he fills the vacant District 5 seat. Could Stu Silberman end up with a 3-2 board?

In any case, Silberman's contract is secure through 2014. One wonders whether he will be able to advance his agenda with the relative ease he has enjoyed since 2004.


Amanda Ferguson said...

Thanks, Richard, for, well, paying attention more than anything. I wasn't really worried about any unfair treatment from you. I just didn't see what I would gain by discussing the Herald-Leader's failure to endorse me on your blog. At this point however, I can say that you probably hit the nail on the head. It will certainly be an interesting fall.

Richard Day said...

Thanks Amanda, and good luck to you and Doug...and the entire board.

Wouldn't this be a great time - before the fifth Musketeer is named - for John and Melissa to reach out (for the good of the district) and try to rebuild a strong board that can withstand a few tough questions and still work together?

By the way, the application deadline for the District 5 seat is Friday. Lisa Gross tells KSN&C that interviews are usually set up within a week or two. "Once those are complete, it takes a few days for the committee to make the recommendation and the commissioner to accept or deny," Gross said. She hopes to be able to announce the new member by mid-November.

Amanda Ferguson said...

Just to be clear, John Price has never been anything but completely kind, cordial and respectful. He is an ultimate gentleman and one of the nicest men I have ever met, and I have the utmost respect for him.

Richard Day said...

I agree completely. Thanks for saying so.

Doug Barnett said...

Hi Richard,

I wanted to publicly post here and thank you for the job that you do on this blog. I frequently read your blog because the information you post here is excellent and I enjoy reading the posts made by others. I even found your critique of my performance during the public forum to be fair after I watched it for myself. In fact, my wife said the same thing you did (now, from her, that stung a little bit!). I made some adjustments to my style (i.e., I got out of lawyer-mode) after that and I think it made me a better candidate.

Thanks for your well wishes, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity and the responsibility the citizens of District 2 have entrusted to me. I hope to make everyone proud while working to improve the educational experiences of our students.

I am looking forward to working with our Board. I am excited about the opportunity to work with Amanda, whom I greatly respect. I am so very pleased that she won re-election. I also share the praise mentioned here for Mr. Price. He has treated me with kindness and respect on the two occasions that I have run into him. He also sent me a congratulatory e-mail that I just got around to reading.

Richard, if you would be up for it, I would like to personally meet you sometime in the near-future. I think it would be good if we met and I would enjoy the company.

Thanks a bunch for the work that you do. Also, thanks a bunch for posting the pics of Herrington Lake. I grew up on a farm in Garrard County about five minutes from there.

Richard Day said...

Thanks Doug. I appreciate it.

Sorry about the critique but I'm glad your wife bailed me out. What's remarkable to me is that you heard the criticism and evaluated it for yourself. That's a positive trait.

I'd be happy to meet with you whenever our schedules can match up. My schedule gets better after EKU's NCATE visit, after advising, and after the Cassidy Celebration on the 18th.

Glad the Herrington pix bring back good memories. It's a new experience for me and I can see why folks love it.

Best wishes on the board...and remember, the the paper made a good point too. Represent the whole district.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I am pleading for Mrs. Ferguson and Mr. Barnett to consider the damage done to our school district in recent years.

We have lost our general counsel, we have a suit pending by a former guidance counselor who claims she was passed over for a promotion on the basis of gender, and we have replaced teaching with testing and test preparation.

We must feel free to scrutinize the behavior of our superintendent. The time has come for change at Central Office.

Doug Barnett said...

I agree with you that the paper did make a good point (and I also told them that in an e-mail when I sent in my response)-- and I intend to represent the whole district to the best of my ability and be as visible in as I can be in our schools. The citizens of Fayette County deserve the best public schools that we can provide. I'm going to fight for that for everyone. I am also very concerned about achievement gaps districtwide and want to work to close those.

I was amazed at the number of folks who really do care about our schools, but felt like they had little or no say in it. The idea about rotating board meetings in our schools resonated with a lot of people. I walked in as many neighborhoods as I could (out of 55precincts, I got to all but 8 of them), attended HOA meetings, and met many wonderful people. Some parents told me about the good and the bad, what their concerns were and what they want to see. A lot of those concerns were centered around our middle and high schools.

It would be an honor to meet you in person. Anytime after the 18th would work for me. My email is douglasbarnett@att.blackberry.net. My best days are Thursdays.

I'm overwhelmed that the voters had enough confidence in me to support me. I hope that not only do I keep that support, but I also earn the support from all of our citizens, parents and students. This will be the most important job I will ever have.

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased this column is read by school board members.

Please visit the the schools and ask the certified and classified staff and for an honest appraisal of what is happening under the guise of "It's about kids." You might get a mouthful!

Anonymous said...

We teachers are weary..oh, so weary...we are held accountable, but Central Office has taken away the support we need.

Study halls for students who cannot or will not do homework have disappeared at my school, and special education classes are swelling at 15 students per class in some schools.

Stu is failing to respond except with threats of mandatory "walk throughs" and "termination." One new evaluation instrument even says teachers' rooms will need to be "clean and dusted" or they will be marked down. Now teachers have become custodians, too. Thanks a lot, Stu. We look forward to the next round of walk-throughs with Jack Hayes and Mike McKenzie. Unfortunately, we don't even see what they have written about us.

I'm demoralized, beaten up, and now I'm using sick days more than usual. The job I loved is the job I loathe. My illness? It's not the "Blue Flu," it's the "Stu Flu"

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the last poster. Just last week someone commented on the huge number of teacher absences. Other than in March, when half the staff is pink slipped every year, I've never seen morale so low. That takes a toll on physical health as well as mental an emotional health. "Stu flu" Hilarious!
Mr. Barnett, is it legal to simply pink slip a non-tenured teacher with a comment at the end of the year such as "you're not a good fit" or "there were concerns" with absolutely no warning, no constructive criticism, no feedback, no assistance, nothing all year long? I've seen dozens of first year teachers destroyed by this!