We Did Not Create, But We Are Amused

June 9, 2010 at 10:22 am 28 comments

There is a video on YouTube that was recently brought to my attention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFZZ3-lH69o

It is a clip from a Sumner County School Board meeting. It is both informative and entertaining (and it looks as though little editing was done to make it entertaining). What’s particularly interesting about this video is the name of the creator, SumnerPublicEduc. Hmm… Is someone piggybacking on our incredibly successful blog? Are we being framed? They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Regardless, we wanted to put it out there so you would know that there is not a connection (although I may reach out to establish one). It looks as though the video creators and us may have similar goals but are using different avenues to achieve those goals.


Entry filed under: Benny Bills, School Board, sumner public education, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , .

A Response to Mr. Jon Duncan Our Money. Our Children. Our Decisions.

28 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Andy Gregory  |  June 10, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    This is indeed a very interesting clip. What’s sad about it is that Bills appears to be turning a school board meeting into a political rally. He is minimizing the issue of the funds and trying to score political points with his friends and supporters in the SCEA. If good government had been in play, that particular school board meeting would have ended very differently.

  • 2. Andy Gregory  |  June 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    While we are on the subject of the Sumner County School Board, I’d like to bring up an interesting experience I had this evening. I was among those in attendance at the School Board Candidate Debate Forum, held at the Hendersonville Public Library. Five candidates were represented from 2 Districts.

    District 1- John Bradley, Andy Spears, and Vanessa Silkwood The incumbent representative Mike Fussell is not seeking reelection.

    District 3- Incumbent and Board Chair Don Long who is being challenged by Dave Andrews (write-in candidate)

    The candidates were each asked many diverse questions about issues such as the search for a new director to how the Race to the Top money should be spent, outsourcing of janitorial/cafeteria/maintenance services, and ways to recruit the best teachers. And I have to say that as a citizen and a voter, I was most impressed by the performance of John Bradley. While mathe other 4 canddiates seemed to engage in finger pointing, Mr. Bradley gave clear, pragmatic, and reasoned answers to the questions asked by the moderator. His focus seems to be on improving the quality of the classroom and supporting teachers.

    But with regard to the YouTube post of Benny Bills, I have to say that his most impressive answer was to the question of ‘Should Sumner County look for it’s next director within the county/local area or should it go national’? Mr. Bradley was the only one of the 5 canddiates who argued for a national search. He rather indirectly mentioned the fact that for roughly 30 years, 2 factions (Benny Bills vs. Merrol Hyde) have been battling for control of Sumner County Schools. Except for a 5 year period in the 1990s, one of those 2 men have been serving as Director of Schools. Mr. Bradley mentioned that during those years this has led to a lot of hard feelings and desires for revenge. Some people with in the county, he argued are more concerned about “who did what to who in 1991, 1984, 2001, and 2006”. This has taken focus away from our students and has caused Sumner County to fall behind in terms of quality.

    By hiring the next director from “outside the box”, John Bradley argues that issues such as this can be alleviated. I have to say again that this came across to me as a very forward and pragmatic approach. I would encourage the citizens of the 1st District to take a look at this man and his ideas. This could very well be the change that Sumner County Schools need.

  • 3. Jim  |  June 11, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Mr. Gregory,

    I was also at the forum and went away with a totally different feeling than you. I was much more impressed by Andy Spears. He has already done much of the legwork to find out what his potential constituents are saying, and obviously wants to bring a different tone to the Board.
    I thought Mr. Bradley’s answers seemed more ‘canned’ and he came across as just another politician. That was just my take.
    Mr. Spears’ credentials are quite impressive. He strikes me as the most qualified in terms of an educational background and past experience.
    As to your reference about ‘going national’ in the search for a new director, Mr. Bradley’s answer seemed to point to only looking elsewhere. Mr. Spears, as well as most of the other candidates didn’t seem as concerned about *where* the new director comes from as much as they are about finding the best person for the job. He included a local, as well as a national search in his answer.
    Mr. Spears’ wife is a teacher in the county and has been for 10 years. He seems to have a grasp on the problems facing the school system.
    Mr. Spears appeared to have more ideas than anyone else about ways to come up with answers to our budget problems.
    I was quite impressed.
    It’s odd how we can all come away with such different impressions, but that’s what makes the world go around.
    I just want to say that I appreciate all of the candidates participating in the forum. I think it is a great way to get to know them better. I wish more parents had taken the time to come by and listen.

    Have a great day!

  • 4. Blue Daze  |  June 11, 2010 at 3:03 am

    If I recall correctly, Mr. Spears’ has a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. His own life demonstrates a commitment to education. I think that is worth consideration on the board for sure. Ii’m with you, Jim.

  • 5. Jim Jenkins  |  June 11, 2010 at 3:33 am

    I have to agree in part with Andy Gregory. I too was in attendance at the forum. As far as the candidates for the District 1 school board race, Mr. Bradley was clearly head and shoulders above Spears and Silkwood.

    Mr. Bradley gave solid answers to every question. It is clear his experience as an attorney would be very beneficial. It was also clear it gave him the ability to think on his feet. Mr. Bradley obviously has the experience needed for this job and gave honest answers to the questions asked.

    Ms. Silkwood, who probably has good intentions, is too young and too inexperienced to tackle an organization as large as the Sumner County school system. She had to depend heavily on written statements and notes. I couldn’t escape a recurring question in my head of “how on earth would she ever be able to participate in a fluid debate during a school board meeting?” Seemed like a nice girl, but clearly not ready for this job.

    Mr. Spears was a pitiful example of a stereotypical politician. Every answer he gave was an attempt to placate that particular audience (teachers). You want raises? Sure. You want more benefits? No problem. You want us to spend more money on you? You got it. My impression was that if the debate had been sponsored by a group of financial conservatives he would have given exact opposite answers. His answers made me feel slimy. At no time did I hear him do anything but attack others and play up to the teacher’s labor union. He is clearly a strong, union supporting liberal. He had no answers on how to make the district better. His wife is a teacher. Sure he wants to give her more money. That means more money for him.

    The part I didn’t agree with Mr. Gregory on was his statement that the other four candidates engaged in finger pointing. The only two playing the “blame game” was Spears and Andrews. It seemed they had nothing of value to say, so all they could do was say negative things about others in a weak attempt to make themselves look better. At no time did I hear Mr. Long or Ms. Silkwood blame anyone.

    Mr. Long came across to me as someone who is very passionate about making Sumner County schools the best they can be. He has an extreme grasp of the financial challenges facing our schools. As the current Board Chairman, he has already formed a committee to look for a new director of schools in preparation of Mr. Bills retirement, and has also created a committee to develop a plan to get the school system off its dependency on PTO’s to provide basic needs to operate schools. I didn’t realize until the forum that he has served as a substitute teacher for over a year in our schools (before taking his current full time job) and has also been a professor at Volunteer State Community College since 1991. He understands the needs of the classroom and also the financial demands of a limited budget. I also learned of his experience in engineering and how it gives him insight for things like construction, maintenance, transportation and all aspects required to operate our schools. Watching Mr. Long outside of the distractions of the usual board meeting antics of Mike Fussell and Rob Wheeler made me realize what an intelligent and level headed man he really is (not an opinion I previously held).

    I left the forum feeling good about the future of our schools. Mr. Long and Mr. Bradley were the obvious choice for their respective races. I look forward to hearing reports from the other forum for the Gallatin area candidates.

  • 6. Jim  |  June 11, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Mr. Jenkins,

    “Bradley was clearly head and shoulders above Spears and Silkwood”

    If it were so clear, how do you suppose I and “Blue Daze” came out of there with a whole different impression? hmmm

    Mr. Bradley never even mentioned any ideas for solutions to the budget problem. All I was hearing was ‘lawyer speak.’ And while I won’t claim that it makes me feel “slimy” (to borrow your phrase), it’s not something that makes me feel comfortable or gives me the impression that he’s more “honest”.

    I also left the forum feeling good, but your “obvious” choices were not necessarily as obvious to everyone.

  • 7. Andy Gregory  |  June 11, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Mr. Jenkins,

    As far as the credentials of Andy Spears, I had visited his campaign website and found his “on paper” resume to be quite impressive. I went into the forum thinking he was probably the best choice. But I came away from the forum with the feeling that Bradley was the better choice. I also had the impression that Mr. Spears was playing to the teacher’s union. The fact that his wife is a teacher worries me. As a citizen who believes in good ethical government, I believe that this can create too much conflict of interest. With regard to Ms. Silkwood, I too was not impressed by her having to use notes to answer the most simple of questions. She is obviously a well educated professional (nurse) and very involved with her children’s school, but I am not sure if she is ready to be a school board member.

    With regard to the 2nd District, Don Long came across to me as a leader who has been trying to get things done for the last 4 years. He has successfully proven that he can do this in terms of improving technology. Sadly he has often been held back by the Bills faction on the board (e.g. researching the possibility of outsourcing and personnel/ethics issues). Dave Andrews came across as a capable canddiate who would bring some positive things to the school board.I only wish he was running in another district, lol. My feeling is that the Board of Education can’t afford to lose Don Long.

    Overall the new Sumner County School Board needs to be made up of progressive,open-minded, hardworking, educated, and passionate representatives of good government. The current board has too much politics and personel agendas. I am very eager to attend the 2nd debate for the Gallatin area races and see who if any of those candidates fit this criteria.

  • 8. Blue Daze  |  June 12, 2010 at 5:01 am

    the fact that a candidate’s wife is a teacher should not, of itself, worry anyone. In fact, it shouldn’t worry anyone that a candidate IS a teacher. Teachers are part of our community, and teachers have, well, a teachers’ eye view of education. “Boots on the ground” so to speak. That’s a valuable perspective to bring to the table. The school board needs all the perspectives. Nothing unethical about that.

    My support for Spears, however, is not based on who he’s married to, it’s based on his understanding of the task, and his long term commitment to school improvement.

  • 9. Blue Daze  |  June 12, 2010 at 5:08 am

    Oops. Got sidetracked. Back to the video. It’s a total embarassment. And, btw, the use of “Honky” in this context appears to me to be racist in a double-backflip way. Essentially, after he damns Duncan with faint praise, Bills is accusing the African American citizens of the county of using ignorant, anti-white racist rhetoric. And what’s with the Texas Tornado diversion? The whole thing is appalling, and the sooner Benny Bills is off the stage, the better off the county will be.

  • 10. Blue Daze  |  June 13, 2010 at 7:28 am

    You have just done exactly what you said you weren’t doing by throwing the “L” word. “However, my concern with someone as incredibly liberal as Mr. Spears is fiscal responsibility., etc etc. ” This type of journalism is very disappointing. And people’s political views whether D or R should not be the focus of school board elections. I have no interest in having anyone’s politics foisted on my kids.

    And Andy Spears has had an interest in the Sumner County schools for five years that I’m aware of. As for a degree in Public Administration, that’s exactly the sort of background that would be useful. Have you studied a curriculum for such a program? It includes budgeting, program and planning and a host of other topics which school board members would be well served to have studied.

    And no, I’m not in that district, I don’t hang with Mr. Spears, and my only dog in the hunt is a wish for improved schools, so we can stop thanking the Almighty for Mississippi.

    • 11. Blue Daze  |  June 13, 2010 at 9:49 am

      The title of the degree is PhD. You can have a PhD in a particular area, and a concentration in a subspecialty of that area. You might refer to either one. Neither response would be dishonest.

    • 12. Blue Daze  |  June 13, 2010 at 4:10 pm

      When I’m voting for a dogcatcher, I don’t care about his/her politics. I care about whether he’she has what it takes to catch dogs. Likewise with the school board. I really don’t give a rat’s patoot what their politics are, or, for that matter (because it shows up in code words from time to time in people’s literature) their religion. I care that they have a demonstrated background in the administration of education, or a background which suggests that they can pick it up awfully fast. The political label business, especially in this county, is just a way of poisoning the well. The election is supposed to be nonpartisan. Let’s keep it that way.

    • 13. Jim  |  June 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      Blue Daze wrote:
      “The political label business, especially in this county, is just a way of poisoning the well.”

      This is becoming very apparent to me. It looks as if this labeling process starts early and is concentrated on the candidates who pose the greatest threat.

      That’s a shame.

  • 14. Blue Daze  |  June 13, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Something is wrong with your software. My comment beginning with “you have just done” was written and posted after and in response to your comment beginning “I’m not prepared” but at the moment it appears the other way around. My comment was written Sunday at approximately 12:30 p.m. Que pasa?

  • 15. A. Schrader  |  June 13, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Let me begin by saying that I’ve been keeping up with this blog since it began, but have never posted anything before. I like to think that I keep my finger tightly on the pulse of politics in our county. We all know that the school board has been a hot mess for a long time now. What is very sad is that it is our children that ultimately pay the price for poor leadership and the continued good ‘ol boys system here in Sumner County.

    I have three children in Sumner County schools and am thinking of enrolling them in a private program due to the continued mismanagement of funds and poor leadership by the School Board, Superintendent, etc. I put aside my motherly duties last Thursday night to attend the forum at the Hendersonville library. After reading the previous comments, I would like to give you a mother’s perspective of the candidates.

    In District 3, the obvious choice is Don Long. Not only do I happen to agree with the majority of his opinions, but as for Dave Andrews, I must agree with our illustrious blogger- if he can’t manage to get his paperwork turned in on time, how can he truly be serious about being a candidate. Not to mention, he seemed to have no idea about current school board events.

    The real action is in District 1. I too have done my own, independent research into all of them. Andy Spears is one of those scary progressive liberals and his ties to organizations and people in the area show that unequivocally. Even more disheartening is the fact that our blogger highlights- he has, on more than one occassion, tried to get himself elected or hired into a government position. Seems to me that he is only interested in the school board because it seems like a good starting point to his individual political career.

    John Bradley seems to know Sumner County politics inside and out. That shouldn’t be a surprise since he is apparently the city attorney for Hendersonville and Westmoreland too! Any chance he had with me was lost permanently after he went on and on and on and on about his political ties in the county in his opening statement. Isn’t the good ‘ol boy mentality of “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” what is wrong with Sumner County politics as a whole and specifically what is wrong with the school board and current administration?

    Vanessa Silkwood was obviously nervous and had definitely not had any public speaking experience. If you listened to what she had to say however, she actually had some new ideas that aim to improve schools-unlike any of the other candidates. She was the first to even mention Race to the Top at all and despite the fumbling with her notes, she had some very concrete ideas about how to improve schools by paying teachers more for better student outcomes. She also spoke about how to pay for these ideas by cutting the fat out of the central office before ever considering a tax increase. Her last statement really hit home with me, she is not a politican like the gentlemen, but she certainly is passionate and unlike her opponents, she apparently is in the schools volunteering which tells me that she is dedicated to children and not looking for a political leg up.

    I wasn’t sure where my vote would land before attending the forum- Bradley or Silkwood, but I must say that the lady has my vote. Perhaps, I will give my babies one more year in public schools, depending on the outcome of the election and where the board goes from there.

  • 16. Elizabeth  |  June 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    From what it sounds like to me, the public-private partnership idea that Mr. Spears discussed would be a great benefit to taxpayers. We know that there is a budget shortfall in our school system, so maybe it’s time that we reach out to the private sector to fill some of the gap instead of passing the bill along to already burdened taxpayers.

    Like Blue Haze, I don’t think that school board is a partisan race, which is why the political affiliations of any of the candidates do not matter to me. I want someone representing me on the school board who has an interest in making sure that our children are being educated at the best schools possible. With that said, I think that looking for new ways to reign in spending and closing the budget deficit without increasing taxes is actually a conservative idea for a school system that obviously needs more operating funds.

    A quick Google search reveals that Mr. Spears used to be the policy director for an education-focused non-profit, Stand for Children. As far as experience is concerned, I think that such a position is definitely a good sign–he’s obviously concerned about children, not his political career.

  • 17. Lisa  |  June 14, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Gosh, let’s see. How about public/rpivate partnerships like advertising on the buses. Benny was against that. They say it could bring in $ 100,000 to $ 200,000 each year. How about bringing in the private sector to save a few million dollars on custodial and transportation. Benny is against that, oh and guess who else is against it, Mr. Spears. If you want more Benny, elect Spears. It seems to me that if the private sector could save money on non-classroom expenses, that savings could be given to teachers for salaries and supplies. Any maybe I wouldn’t have to pay $ 50.00 for each of my children to attend “free education”.

  • 18. A. Schrader  |  June 14, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Elizabeth- Yes, a quick Google search does reveal much about Andy Spears! In fact, if you dig a bit deeper into what you call “an education-focused non-profit ,Stand for Children” you will soon see that it is not quite as “education focused” as they would like us to believe. They apparently worked to help defeat the English only measure in metro Nashville- not in schools, but in the city government as a whole. Their agenda is undeniably leftist and not “education-focused”. Your premise that being paid to work for Stand for Children makes Andy Spears concerned about children and not his political career is ridiculous. He was only doing what he was paid to do for a leftist organization.

  • 19. Andy Gregory  |  June 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    I watched last night’s Board meeting and here are a few thoughts on the meeting and the members of the Board in general.

    1. Mike Fussell- This poor man seems to be under constant attack from other members (e.g. the chastising he recieved from Mr. Wheeler for the bidding issue). Fussell seems to be a very buisness-minded and hands-on member. It’s a shame that he is opting not to seek reelection.

    2. Tim Brewer- A man of few words, it’s difficult to tell where he stands.

    3. Don Long- I thought Mr. Long came across as very articulate and handled the meeting very well. As I observed in his debate performance, he appears to be a very progressive, forward moving leader. I am convinced that the Board will be better served if he is re-elected to a second term in August.

    4. Beth Cox- Mrs. Cox seems to be very well-versed in her knowledge of school issues. However, I wish that she would vote less with the Bills faction and more independently.

    5. Rob Wheeler- I’m a resident of Wheeler’s district. Mr. Wheeler appears to be very intelligent and an articulate public speaker. He asks some very good questions. However, his marriage to Assistant Dir for Instruction Judy Wheeler, is rather uncomfortable for me as a citizen. This type of connection to the #2 person in Central Office and the obvious blind support of Benny Bills (e.g. at the end of the meeting wanting to put off discussion of the evaluation) is very disheartening to me as a citizen. This type of politics needs to be removed from the school board.

    6. Danny Hale- Mr. Hale appears to be one of the more articulate and well-spoken members of the SC BOE. He and Mr. Long appear to share the same approach to moving the school system forward. Yet, I do not understand why he kept insisting that items be deferred to the next meeting. It looks to me like this type of inaction causes the “workload” to pile up more.

    7. Ben Harris- Another man of few words

    8. Ted Wise- Mr. Wise made the statement that the County Commission should pass a tax increase, in order to fund schools better. Not a politically WISE thing to say. Obviously a strong supporter of the Bills machine.

    9. Will Duncan- How has this man managed to stay on the BOE for over 20 years? He seems to be rather slow and not very engaged in the critical issues (also a Bills man). He is 72 years old and it is time for him to be replaced with a new member with new and progressive ideas.

    10. Glenn Gregory- While Mr. Gregory is not the best public speaker (he seemed to stop mid-sentence and speak in slow tones), he appears to have a strong knowledge of how to improve the school system. He strongly defended keeping good pay and benefits for employees and reminded his colleagues that drives to neighboring districts for work was only a short distance. I also liked his statement about the need to hire young college graduates for teaching positions and not rely so much on system retirees.

    11. David Brown- Like Brewer and Harris, Brown appears to be a man of few words. His positions were a bit difficult to determine. He did seem to be well-spoken in what few statements he made.

  • 20. Blue Daze  |  June 16, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Thank you, Andy for taking the time to prepare these observations. Could I ask what was on the agenda last night?

  • 21. Andy Gregory  |  June 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    You’re welcome Blue Daze. Here is the link on the district website with a detailed agenda.


  • 22. Lisa  |  June 17, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Observations from Last 3 years

    Mike Fussell Wife employee of district numerous policies promoted
    Tim Brewer No known confilcts a few policies promoted
    Don Long No known confilcts numerous policies promoted
    Beth Cox No known confilcts a few policies promoted
    Rob Wheeler Wife is assistant director -0- policies promoted
    Danny Hale no known conflicts numerous policies promoted
    Ben Harris no known conflicts a student of Bills -0- policies promoted
    Ted Wise son is teacher at White House Middle -0- policies promoted
    Will Duncan wife is retired central office employee -0- policies promoted
    Glen Gregory close relative is central office employee -0- policies promoted
    David Brown son is central office employee -0- policies promoted

    A quick observation shows:
    Most members who have conflicts are supportive of Bills and do not advocate change
    Most members who do not have a conflict promote more policies, more change and think a little more independently

  • 23. Lisa  |  June 17, 2010 at 6:24 am

    After review of my comments, it just occured to me that the members that promote the new policies are the same ones that ususally receive most of the criticism. Mr. Wheeler who has the strongest conflict (he negotiated Bills contract extension while Bills was negotiating Mrs. Wheelers contract extension) appears to be the most critical of new ideas and policies.

    • 24. Blue Daze  |  June 19, 2010 at 3:21 am


      How do you define “conflict?” It appears that you limit the analysis to whether the board member has a family member employed by the district. There are plenty of other opportunities for conflict. For example, when the board selects a location for a new school, does anyone have business ties who would profit, directly or indirectly, from where the school is located? Does anyone have ties to potential vendors? Does anyone have axes to grind?

      And the family member’s employment may be a conflict in some issues but not in others. Should someone vote on his/her spouse’s salary? Of course not. But a vote on other issues may present no conflict at all. It’s an issue by issue thing. And marriage to a retired employee is no conflict at all, unless there’s a vote on benefits for current retirees.

  • 25. Andy Gregory  |  June 17, 2010 at 6:47 am

    At least Mr. Wheeler will be gone in August. Does anyone know the views and or policies of the 2 candidates vying to succeed him: Shannon Lowe and Bill Ward? As I stated in an earlier post, I live in that district and will vote for whoever is the “new ideas and policies” candidate.

    • 26. Roger B.  |  June 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

      I remember Coach Ward from his days at Hendersonville High School and Hawkins Middle School. He was a great and caring man back then and I am sure his character is still rock solid. My kids had him in school before he retired. Last I heard he is now a Colonel in the Air National Guard over logistics.

      I remember him as a man of high morals and integrity. My observations are that he would be an independent thinker, take a very logical approach to solving issues (after all he is in charge of logistics!), would never allow himself to be used as a political pawn, would be a great idea man, and be able to remain extremely focused on the task at hand. He will definitely bring a fresh approach to helping our schools. I don’t live in his district but my brother and his family do. He ran into Colonel Ward (hard for me not to still call him Coach!) the other day and called to tell me how impressed he was and that he fully intends to vote for Ward.

      I have never heard of the other person.

  • 27. Andy Gregory  |  July 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    The second SB candidate debate is tomorrow night at Merrol Hyde Magnet School. It is my understanding that all of the candidates in each district (including Dunn and Ward) will be attending.

  • 28. Andy Gregory  |  August 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Election Day is less than 72 hours away. Please everyone make sure you vote (if you did not take advantage of early voting). This is a very important election that will shape the future of Sumner County students.

    After having watched the debates and following the campaigns of the candidates, I’m just curious as to what anyone’s thoughts are about who they are/are not supporting. Also what are your predictions about the outcome(s) on Thursday night?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

%d bloggers like this: