Board Meeting Notes – January 12, 2015

Attendance at board meetings has fallen again. Very few Hoover residents are paying attention to what our school board is doing.

Which is exactly what school leaders hoped would happen.

Last Monday’s meeting was one that needed 100 witnesses. The treatment of the public by the school board once again deteriorated to that seen during the initial days after the ill-fated decision to eliminate school buses.

Serious matters including the cleanliness of our schools, the ethical behavior of our school principals, and whether the concerns brought by the accreditation team last year have been addressed were brought to the attention of the school board.

And the public was nowhere to be seen.

Former Superintendent Andy Craig has started his new job at the state department, leaving Hoover City Schools in the middle of an incredible mess…a mess of his making.

  • Will rezoning happen? If it was so important to get it done, when is it going to be done?
  • What are the Department of Justice, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the federal judge going to do about the rezoning application?
  • What is the plan for future growth in our schools given the number of new houses being built?
  • Where is the plan to continue to chip away at the operating deficit approved by the Board of Education every year?
  • Will the plan to charge for buses go into effect during the 2015-2016 school year as approved by the Board of Education last April?

And the big question: who will be Hoover City Schools’ next leader?

What role will the public play in the search?

Will we be pacified and asked for input, only to have the decision rest with the five members of the board who will disregard our input as they did in 2007?

News from the January 12 Board Meeting

Here’s a look at what happened at the January 12 regular meeting, thanks to Jon Anderson at al.com.

Hoover school board silences former councilman about ethics complaint

Hoover school board to pick superintendent search firm on Friday

Hoover teachers concerned about dirty schools after contracting out custodial services, AEA rep says

Patton Chapel Road realignment, widening project set to begin this summer (discussed during the work session)

Here is Dan Fulton’s audio recording of the meeting.

During the public participation portion, Arnold Singer asked the board to please ensure that their board meetings do not conflict with the City Council meetings. Typically the Board holds their meetings on the second Monday of the month, where the Council holds their meetings on the first and third Mondays of the month. However, both the Council and the Board are scheduled to hold their separate meetings on February 2.

Trisha Crain (that’s me writing this, BTW) asked where the accreditation process stood, as AdvancED visited last February and gave us homework to do. Two improvement priorities.

The meeting where those results were to have been shared publicly with the board and the public was cancelled. It was not rescheduled.

We have heard absolutely nothing about the results of the accreditation team’s observations. Instead, we have been left to fish out those results for ourselves.

Here are the improvement priorities brought to the attention of the board. Pages 30 and 31 of this report.

Pages from report-of-the-external-review-for-hoover-city-board-of-education_Page_1 Pages from report-of-the-external-review-for-hoover-city-board-of-education_Page_2

Crain then asked about the meetings between the attorneys looking into whether Hoover City Schools is ready to proceed with asking for unitary status (meaning the desegregation order could be, in effect, lifted).

Hoover Board attorney Donald Sweeney stated that the next step is to file reports with the Court on January 30. The attorneys have discussed which data sets and information needs to be exchanged in order to determine the direction of the efforts to move toward unitary status.

AEA Representative Dana Clement spoke with the board about concerns about the quality of the contract custodial services in our elementary schools. This is at least the third time I have heard this concern brought to the attention of the board. CSFO Cathy Antee shared that the company was new when they first contracted with them (so why did we contract with them??) and that the company continues to try to resolve the problems. (It’s been 18 months. How long do we give them??)

Clement reminded us all how reluctant teachers are to step forward with the concerns they have. One has to wonder why teachers are not more comfortable sharing these types of concerns with their principals. What type of climate exists where teachers are afraid to even share concerns about cleanliness? 

This link takes you to the point in the meeting where Clement began her presentation. Listen carefully to hear how board of education member Earl Cooper addresses Clement.

Hoover parent Jody Patterson spoke…um, tried to speak….next about the exorbitant charges for all-things-graduation at Hoover High School. He reminded the board they set the policy and had the ability to influence these types of practices.

That’s when Sweeney shut him down. Sweeney claimed Patterson was there to “defame” (presumably Hoover High Principal Don Hulin, whom Patterson reported to the Ethics Commission for practices related to graduation supplies) and should not be allowed to speak. Board members Craig Kelley and Earl Cooper joined in gang-bullying of Patterson at that point. Sweeney did some extra-special lawyer speak, and Patterson stepped away from the podium.

In short, Sweeney and the Hoover Board of Education denied a citizen his constitutional right to address the board of education without due process or the opportunity to defend himself.

Perhaps Sweeney and the Hoover Board of Education should review a recent court settlement resulting in a $147,000 award to a parent who had been barred from speaking at school board meetings who was also denied due process.

Could get interesting.

This link takes you to the point in the meeting where Patterson tried to address our Board.

For those of you who think this was the first time Sweeney has tried to limit public participation, think again.

We saw Sweeney attempt to limit discussion about the buses many times.

Before the start of the July 29, 2013 board meeting, Sweeney informed the public of a “new policy” to limit time at the podium. Before the board voted on it (Open Meetings law, anyone?).

The Board then picked and chose when they would implement the two- or three-minute rule in an extremely arbitrary manner. Without warning. Sometimes there’d be a time limit. Sometimes there wouldn’t be.

On multiple occasions at multiple board meetings, Sweeney arbitrarily decided who would be allowed two minutes to speak and who would be given more time. No rhyme or reason. He stopped some folks from speaking when the time hit two minutes and didn’t interrupt others. Completely arbitrary and capricious.

When a board’s attorney (that the citizens pay for, remember) can keep a citizen from speaking to the board of education about a serious problem…the hundreds and hundreds of dollars that Hoover’s families spend on graduation supplies…all bets for meaningful participation by the citizenry are off.

The board went into executive session at that point. Folks in attendance then departed for private conversations.

A special called meeting is set for 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning to choose the search firm.

It should be noted that no other firm has approached Hoover City Schools. Sweeney said he and interim Superintendent Dr. Reese will contact other firms to determine if they have an interest in submitting a proposal. Before Friday.

Next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 2 at 5:30 p.m. No word on whether a work session will be held.

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