Weighing in on the Candidates

August 3, 2010 at 11:03 am 46 comments

I’m sorry we have abandoned you these past weeks. It has certainly been a terrible time for a hiatus since there has been much to address. It has not gone unnoticed the level of interest you have in the school board races. I had fully planned on addressing the candidates before early voting started. At least I can hopefully lend a little additional information to those of you who have not already voted.

I can start off by saying that the SCEA did most of my job for me. Anyone endorsed by the SCEA is the candidate you do not want to vote for. Those individuals were all recruited by Benny Bills and his followers to run in these races. They only want to serve on the school board to be the rubber stamp Bills so desperately needs. Unless you want the inept Benny Bills continuing to use his tyranny to run our schools into the ground, do not elect any of the individuals endorsed by the self-serving, moral-less SCEA. I would not put it past Bills to decide to put in another decade as our superintendent if he has the votes to do so. And it should go without saying that anyone willing to let Bills serve past THIS September does not have the best interest of our schools or our children at heart. I am hopeful that, with all the illegal activity of Bills and his administration, we will not have to put up with him for another year and our schools can finally move on and move up. Maybe you’re tired of all the “warring” on the school board, but the only way to move past it is to rid ourselves of Bills. Until he’s gone, it will not stop. He will stay and reign as long as we let him, dragging our schools down every step of the way. I do not believe that he will retire next June. Before the most recent 4-year extension of his contract, he swore he was on his last term. It is imperative that the right school board members are elected. Else we can look forward to another four years of the same, while all the other school districts in TN move ahead. 


District 1

Andy Spears is Bills’ candidate. That should be enough. But I’ll also note that Spears is in this race only because of his bigger political aspirations. He tweets and blogs as Andy2012. If you’re willing to vote for Spears, you should first ask him if he’s even planning to put in 4 years on the school board. In the last year, he has vied for and lost 2 superintendent positions (Murfreesboro City Schools Director: http://www.murfreesboropost.com/strong-field-in-mcs-director-race-cms-20329 and Cheatham County Superintendent: http://ccsbwatchdogs.blogspot.com/2009/08/tim-webb-tennessee-commissioner-of.html), which makes me wonder if running in this race is part of a plan to land himself the Sumner County Director of Schools position. I’m not clear on his motives, but it is quite clear that they are self-serving.

If you’re having difficulty deciding between John Bradley and Vanessa Silkwood, I am afraid I will not be much help to you. I cannot endorse one over the other. I’m easily persuaded by the pros of both candidates, and I can easily dismiss the cons offered by the opposition of each. Most compelling for Bradley is that he is the city attorney for both Hendersonville and Westmoreland. We have such a diverse county that it would be to the school board’s advantage to have a member who can represent two communities with such differing populations. Most compelling for Silkwood is her enthusiasm and her tenacity. As a relatively newcomer to the Sumner County political scene, she has garnered the endorsement of SURG and the SCYR. She has also attended nearly every school board meeting in the last 1-2 years. She has demonstrated that she is ready to learn and work hard. I’ve heard some compare her to Beth Cox, but I firmly believe that Ms. Silkwood has the spine and security that Ms. Cox so obviously lacks. Furthermore, I do not believe that Ms. Silkwood’s principles are for sale like those of Ms. Cox. This is the only race that I don’t see an obvious choice. And, honestly, when it comes down to the most important issues, I believe that Bradley and Silkwood would give the same vote 99% of the time. My biggest fear is that the rational vote will be split between the two and the Bills fanatics will win a victory with Spears.

District 3

Don Long would be the obvious choice in District 3 no matter who else was running. He has done a good job as Chairman of the School Board this year, and with Mike Fussell not returning, Long will have to be the unvarying force that holds the board to the right path. It is to the benefit of Sumner County Schools that he is running uncontested. As for the “write-in candidate” whom I will not even name on this blog… A person who is willing to fundraise and campaign but is not willing to fill out the necessary paperwork on time is seen by me only to be a silly man who has allowed himself to be a pawn in the game. It actually annoys me to no end that this man has been allowed to participate in the forums and has been included in the media coverage. Why have a procedure at all for local candidates to follow? We already have a superintendent with no regard for rules or laws. Do we really need a school board member with the same philosophy? I have no doubt that this man will be humiliated by the results, and I will have little sympathy for him.

District 5

I find it incredibly amusing that Shannon Dunn was endorsed by the SCEA over Bill Ward, but that alone should make it perfectly evident how Bills-centered the SCEA is. Bill Ward taught and coached in Sumner County Schools for 26 years, leaving only to serve full time as a Logistics Officer in the Tennessee Air National Guard. Ward taught and/or coached at Portland High, Hendersonville High and Hawkins Middle. It seems to me that 26 years in our school system, spent earning titles like “Outstanding Young Educator” and “Coach of the Year”, would qualify someone to serve on the School Board. The SCEA may find it interesting that in Ms. Dunn’s SURG questionnaire she stated that she would strongly favor a law that would prevent government employees from joining a union. I guess the SCEA’s affection is not returned. Dunn was recruited by friend Beth Cox to run, and I’m quite sure another Beth Cox on the School Board would not even be an improvement from Rob Wheeler.

District 7

Since I know that former Bills student, Andy Daniels, was asked to run personally by Mr. Bills, he is naturally the candidate not to vote for. It’s only an added red flag that his Facebook page is full of misspellings like this:

“Interesting article form the Tennessean about TCAP test score expectations. Schools will be providing more information before individual scores are released in September. Good read, espically for parents…”

There’s just not enough information out there about Jim Huffman for me to feel confident saying that he is not a good candidate. I can’t even find anything about the business he owns, The Wood Shop. And in this day and age, that’s a little strange. Would anyone like to offer some insight? However, my pick for District 7 is Don Sadler. He is involved in the Gallatin community, and he ran in the last School Board election, marginally losing to Ben Harris. He is obviously committed to the fight, else why would he try again.

District 9

Will Duncan has the record to show what a miserable school board member he is. I was delighted to hear that someone was running against him. Unfortunately, I hear that Don Ludgate may not know which end is up in regards to public education issues. Much of his focus has been on rhetoric surrounding reinstating prayer in schools. Perhaps a worthy cause, it is not one that can be fought at the local school board level. Nontheless, I still concede that no one could be worse than Duncan.

District 11

David Brown is running uncontested, so I guess we can look forward to another 4 years of him. He was once a commendable board member, before Bills gave his son a job. Perhaps he will return to his convictions.


Entry filed under: Benny Bills, SCEA, School Board, sumner county education, sumner county public education, Sumner County Schools, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Our Money. Our Children. Our Decisions. Transparency Sought, Transparency Offered

46 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tinsley  |  August 3, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I find it amusing that Bill Ward would be running for School Board since he did not even let his children go to Sumner County Schools because he didn’t want them going to Hendersonville High School because he said he saw what all went on. He sent them to a private school in Davidson County. He bad-mouthed Mr. Decker who was the principal at HHS at the time, then turns around and asks him for his help during this election. How interesting. If only Mr. Decker knew. Oh and did I mention that Bill cheated on his wife many times after 20 plus years of marriage. I would NOT elect him for School Board for any county. Can’t be trusted. My vote is going for Mrs. Dunn.

  • 2. Nancy  |  August 3, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I find it amusing that Bill Ward would be running for School Board since he did not even let his children go to Sumner County Schools because he didn’t want them going to Hendersonville High School because he said he saw what all went on. He sent them to a private school in Davidson County. He bad-mouthed Mr. Decker who was the principal at HHS at the time, then turns around and asks him for his help during this election. How interesting. If only Mr. Decker knew. Oh and did I mention that Bill cheated on his wife many times after 20 plus years of marriage. I would NOT elect him for School Board for any county. Can’t be trusted. My vote is going for Mrs. Dunn.

  • 3. Nancy  |  August 3, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Didn’t mean to copy. What a disgrace.

    • 4. Shelley  |  August 4, 2010 at 4:14 am

      I was a student of Bill Ward’s at HHS. He was always considered ”one of the good guys”, someone you could come to with anything and who would listen to and support you. He has not only served this community, but his country as well. If what you say about his marital infidelity is true, that is a shame and I hate that for his family. However, after watching the unlawful things that our director of schools and others associated with him have done, I hesitate to judge Bill Ward who has done so much good and committed so much time to our schools. It is unfortunate that you obviously don’t have the pleasure to know him.

  • 5. Andy Gregory  |  August 3, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Wow, this is a very interesting analysis. I agree with the author regarding Benny Bills’ retirement status. If Thursday’s elections go as I think they will, the Board should move immediately to buy out his remaining contract. And hopefully this time they will be much better prepared than the infamous Sept 2008 “union mob rule meeting”. It is my hope that this new board will have much more spine and stand up to the collectivist union-loving bosses who run Sumner Public Ed. We cannot take a chance on Benny Bills buying another 3 (or worse more) year term in office. Sumner County has its best chance in a very long time to move forward as a superior 21st Century school system.

    This afternoon, I had a conversation with a friend who is a mutual friend of Andy Spears. He admitted that Spears “has no chance whatsoever” to win the District 1 race. This man is a very astute observer of Sumner County politics and his prediction is that John Bradley and Spears will split the “union/old Sumner” vote and Vanessa Silkwood will pull out a victory. While I have been impressed with John Bradley, I do want Andy Spears on the BOE! The reasons given by the author are enough (not to mention that Spears is a member of the facebook group “Save Benny Bills”). Ms. Silkwood would be the better board member over Spears any day.

    As far as District 5 goes (my district), I have decided to give my vote and support to Bill Ward. I have been researching Mr. Ward on the issues over the past few weeks and my feeling is that he would bring an objective and thoughtful analysis to the SC BOE. I also have many friends who are former students and colleagues of Ward. These people have nothing but praise for the man and his abilities. Mr. Ward has mailed at least 2 pieces of informative literature in the past 2 weeks. I have seen or heard nothing from Ms. Dunn. She may work in the private sector, but the endorsement of the SCEA is enough to turn me off as far as voting for her is concerned.

    Looking very forward to hearing Thursday night’s results!

  • 6. Big John  |  August 4, 2010 at 4:11 am

    Tinsley, let’s stick to reasonable facts here. I think sending kids to private schools is certainly relevant but his marital woes should not be at issue here. Especially if he is still married….And especially if his wife doesnt know that….keep it respectable on here.

  • 7. Beth Wettengel  |  August 4, 2010 at 9:22 am

    In addition to the comments I made above, I believe the best choice is Vanessa Silkwood. I agree wholeheartedly with the comments in the blog regarding her character and tenacity. She will uphold conservative values and use her vote wisely. I trust her completely to make good decisions for the sake of my kids.

  • 8. Beth Wettengel  |  August 4, 2010 at 9:22 am

    During a recent SCEA school board forum, Andy Spears, candidate for District 1 said that he would like to implement a “countywide PTO”. Havng just served as a PTO president, I find this idea amusing. How exactly will that work?

    Parents that are uninvolved with their school’s PTO are not going to suddenly become active in a countywide PTO. Why start now when the parents, for whatever reason, were not helping their own child’s school directly? Futhermore, why would a thriving PTO decide to participate when our fundraising efforts will be divided by 46 schools? I can only imagine our PTO meeting when it is explained to our parents that “for every dollar we raise, we will keep approximately 2 cents for our school.” Parents would leave in mass exodus, never returning to volunteer again.

    It is my understanding that Andy is a liberal, so more “wealth sharing” is probably his idea of solving our underfunded classroom woes; however, redistribution of wealth on a volunteer basis won’t work. If a countywide PTO is his intent, I hope he likes to bake. He will be the only one participating in the countywide PTO bake sale.

    We need a representative who will place the burden of our underfunded classrooms back on the county, hold the school board fiscally responsible, and take the pressure off of parents to pay for neccesities such as playground mulch, paper, copier, and alarm systems.

    I do not mean to be harsh with my comments, but perhaps if Andy had some experience with a PTO, he might have reconsidered his plan.


  • 9. Nancy  |  August 4, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Vote for whoever you want to vote for. Why would you vote for someone that chooses to send his kids to a Davidson County private school because Hendersonville wasn’t good enough for them? He bad mouthed the principal of HHS, then years later asks for his help with this election. I have met Mr. Ward and was never really impressed. I know his student liked him, but that was years ago when he was a teacher. He was a typing teacher and an assistant football coach. What has done for the community of Hendersonville that you know of? I hear he moved out of Hendersonville to Goodlettsville to get away. Now he’s running for School Board? hello??

    • 10. Sumner Parent  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:25 am

      Decker (whom I wish would become SB Sup) did not offfer the coaching job to any of the HHS coaches when McPherson left, i.e. the bad feelings among several coaches. Bill Ward became head coach at Hawkins Middle where Shelton was Principal – and his teams dominated for several years until he went full time with the military. As for private schools, do you have a clue how many of our Sumner students are in private schools???? I would think his experience with quality Christian private schools could be a plus on the school board.

  • 11. Nancy  |  August 4, 2010 at 9:48 am

    and what has Bill Ward done for the schools besides teach “typing” and be an assistant football coach? He hasn’t even been in a school in years.

  • 12. Tinsley  |  August 4, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Big John, Bill is not married anymore, so don’t worry.

    • 13. Sumner Parent  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:19 am

      You seem to have a vested interest in slandering certain candidates. I’m undecided between Bradley and Spears; but I know of Bill Ward. Bill Ward would be a great addition to the school board.

  • 14. Tinsley  |  August 5, 2010 at 4:15 am

    Sumner Parent, You may “know of” Bill Ward, but you don’t “know” him very well do you?

  • 15. David S.  |  August 5, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Ok Tinsley we get it. Bill Ward peed in your chereos at some point and you really dont like him. You haven’t provided any good solid reasons other than the fact that he sent his kids to davidson county schools. That has been stated. I don’t even know Bill Ward nor did I care much about the race until now.However, your negative comments means that you are close to his opponent or are just out to smear him. Either way it makes me want to vote for him even more.

  • 16. Tinsley  |  August 5, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Whatever David.

  • 17. Contract Specialist  |  August 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Benny Bills and his entire corrupt “family” of staff and Board members are a plague on our school system and the tax payers of Sumner County. Anything in this election that will enable this county to immediately move forward beyond their good ole boy system of favors will be in the best interest of this county for now and for the future. This is coming from someone inside who knows the FACTS, not propoganda, of what goes on in the Central Office.

  • 18. Andy Gregory  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm


    The Tennessean just posted the early vote totals: As of 8:00 p.m., Bradley and Silkwood are beating Spears. Don Long is well ahead. That’s the good news. However Shannon Dunn and Andy Daniels led in their districts. Sadly Ludgate doesn’t have a prayer against Duncan. I’m just praying that Ward and Sadler can turn around and win their respective races in Districts 5 and 7, respectively.

  • 19. Andy Gregory  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Very unfortunate indeed. Of course this one seat was already held by a Bills man (Ben Harris). So the the good news is that Bills has not gained on the normal makeup of the BOE, at least yet. If Long can keep his seat and Ward can overtake Dunn, that will be a net gain of 1 for the anti-Bills group.

  • 20. Andy Gregory  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    The Star News facebook link is reporting that Silkwood has won District 1.

  • 21. Andy Gregory  |  August 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Not the best night. According to the News Examiner, Dunn appears to have defeated Ward. But once again, it appears that the balance of the board has not gotten any worse. And that is good. It could have been worse (Spears and Andrews winning, UGGGGH). So here is the new school board:

    1. Vanessa Silkwood
    2. Tim Brewer
    3. Don Long
    4. Beth Cox
    5. Shannon Dunn
    6. Danny Hale
    7. Andy Daniels
    8. Ted Wise
    9. Will Duncan
    10. Glenn Gregory
    11. David Brown

    Very disappointed with 5 and 7. Anyone willing to wonder how much the SCEA spent to “buy” these 2 seats?

    • 22. contract specialist  |  August 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      Another example of democracy failing. Too many uninformed people dictating to those of us who actually pay attention to what is going on. A sad indictment on our society.

    • 23. Joe T. Plunger  |  August 6, 2010 at 4:29 am

      So you are saying that more than 1,000 people in District 5 are too unknowledgeable to make the decision you wanted them to make. In politics the response to your position goes something like this “Too bad. You lost. Get over it.” Unfortunately, the focus of our county school board should not be “victory at all cost” politics. But, since that is what this blog continues to make it, here’s a real kick in the pants for you!

      I am not a union supporter, a liberal, or a pro old guard person in any way. In fact, I am just the opposite. I am a conservative, independent capitalist business owner raising my children along with my conservative wife here in Sumner County. And I consider myself pretty well informed.

      Let me tell you what I believe. I believe that the petty, personal, childish Beth Cox and Benny Bills bashing has served to galvanize thousands of voters like me who believe that this kind of hatred is exactly the opposite of what we need to advance our children’s education. Just know that the ugliness in this very blog helped to enlighten many voters in the 5th district of your intolerance. Furthermore, this kind of tyrannical spew of hatred and deceit in all likelihood helped move voters into the Dunn camp. I hope for Mr. Ward that he wasn’t the unfortunate recipient of your unwanted and damaging endorsement.

      I always look for the best in people, so thank you for the good work you are doing in promoting the counter balance to your own extreme rhetoric.

      The entire last term of the school board was shameful, focused on power and politics rather than purpose. Perhaps the new board can advance its own learning by remembering how the old board shot itself repeatedly in the collective foot with partisan, bitter behavior.

    • 24. Colleen  |  October 17, 2010 at 8:10 pm

      As an teacher, community member and SCEA member, who isn’t from this county and doesn’t know Benny Bills or anyone very well, this anti-union mentality is rather hateful. I can see being against something, but this is a “Right to Work” state, so SCEA isn’t truely a Union here.
      The Board is “UNIONized” in it’s TSBA organization, which serves an almost identical role for the board as SCEA does for the teachers. As an employer, employee input is usually desired, especially in such a front lines, critical job as education. I guess people just assume that SCEA is NEA, and that because endorsed Politicians, who rate best on Education, happen to often hold non-conservative views in other areas (not addressed by NEA if not educationally related), that SCEA is something other than it really is. NEA has protected teachers from discrimination for wanting to be pregnant and have their babies. They have Democratic and Republican Caucuses and a very straight forward goals.
      The history of things that have been expected of teachers, to the detriment of most involved, especially students, is really not something anyone should want to be repeated Unfortunately often impractical and uninformed decisions are made in the absence of teacher input into the process. In order to be informed about the public laws and local decisions affecting education, we have an organization, through which we are informed and can speak collectively–are we are sooooo evil to be active citizens in our country. Most of us thought we would be teaching, not worrying about ridiculous political measures, when we decided to earn our degrees. Those of us who have worked outside the field of education, in industry and the real workforce, know that pettiness in education, and the lack of respect is beyond understanding and perpetually moving from some agenda to the next, not comparable in the real world workforce.

      For the record, most of the people in the Board room speaking for Benny were not SCEA members, that was a community of support. Again, I don’t know him or his history in this county, but as a governmental body that serves it’s community, it may be wise to listen to the community.

  • 25. Joe T. Plunger  |  August 6, 2010 at 5:31 am

    For the past couple of years, what I have seen in the public forum of our school board has risen more than once to the level of at least “hateful” if not “hatred.”

    This blog has been a direct extension of that divisiveness.

    Nothing here touched the majority in the 5th district. At least not in the direction you hoped.

  • 26. Contract Specialist  |  August 6, 2010 at 5:44 am

    I also disagree that your comments are “hatred”. There just comes a time when after the illegal actions of our “director” get swept asside and disregarded time and time again under the guise of “Oh, Benny is such a good guy”, that those of us who know what is going on get frustrated to the point that an aggressive tone is not only necessary, but understandable. Unless you truly follow what happens in our school system, or, as in my case, have the unfortunate privilege of seeing it first hand from the inside, you can’t possibly have the FACTS involved. So yes, it’s frustrating to sit and watch our system deteriorate based on good ole boy politics. If our media outlets would truly state what happens as opposed to what they are told to say, I find it hard to believe that any educated voter with any sense of integrity could cast a ballot in favor of the same old same old. As for the “warring” on the board, I agree it is non productive. At the same time though, what is the TRUE root of the war. If I were on the board, I’m sure I would also get tired of the continuous lies, deceptions, misdirections and cover-ups as well. Just sitting back and not standing up for what is right for the sake of “harmony” is ridiculous, a disservice to the taxpayers and students, and just plain wrong. Those board members who have condoned the directors actions and given him retroactive passes for his (proven, not rumored) indiscretions so many times should be embarrased to call themselves public servants and stewards of tax dollars. What’s worse is the fact that anyone who dares question this administration, is not only vilified, but will wind up being eliminated by whatever means necessary by the Bills machine. As I stated earlier, another example of democracy failing. Democracy can’t properly function without an informed society, and when pertinent information is intentionally withheld from society, well, you know the rest…

    • 27. Colleen  |  October 17, 2010 at 8:14 pm

      There were illegal issues, and pending lawsuits, against the former director that were swept aside for the good of the county. It happens in politics all the time. It is all unfortunate, but not always intentional. This county holds grudges like the devil.

  • 28. David S.  |  August 6, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Joe I think the blog writer is making the point that, the community is often mislead by what information is available to them. Unfortunately in this community the information available to them is that the board is incompetent and only interested in personal agendas. This blog serves the opposite view. That maybe just maybe Bills and the school system is the problem and not the board. I think the fact that the community voted in line with what the media and Mr Bills wanted them to serves to prove this blog is necessary. Quite frankly the beliefs of this blog are not the monority in the community because i know lots of people who read it on a regular basis and I also work in the small business community in the demographics that you are in. In a day and age where the traditional media has hidden agendas it is nice to have a media source that doesn’t feel it necessary to hide it’s personal views from intelligent readers.

    • 29. John D.  |  August 6, 2010 at 11:48 am

      “In a day in age where the traditional media has hidden agendas it is nice to have a media source that doesn’t feel it necessary to hide it’s (sic) personal views from intelligent readers.”

      I’m sure it is nice to have a “media source” that doesn’t have to worry about hiding “it’s” views, just the writer’s name, huh?

      This entire blog is mighty big talk for someone who is too afraid to be held accountable for his or her views. Wonder why?

      I wish they had the courage of their convictions.

    • 30. Joe  |  August 7, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      I think a newbie reporter could have attended any number of board meetings over the past couple of years and been correct in writing about personal agendas and perhaps even incompetence. Perhaps even partisan politics (the local version of course.)

      I don’t think that’s a stretch.

      • 31. Davud S  |  August 10, 2010 at 10:32 am


        Come on did you read the crap about Matt moynihan. An opinion piece was written then edited without discussing with the writer. Then, it is published in only 1 paper, a retraction is printed and then it is not published in the other paper. Then they wouldn’t post the article online. Doesnt that seem odd that?? What Matt Moynihan wrote about was very important information and eventually led to a report on news Channel 5. The funny thing is that the star news didnt have the guts to stand by it. They said it was the negative language in the article which was the problem. But they had the oppurtunity to edit that out before it went to print….they chose not to. Then used that same negative language in the article as a reason to retract the article and fire the writer. Your telling me the info printed in that column was good enough for news channel 5 but not for the star news???? I dont consider news channel 5 the benchmark for good news coverage, but at least they brought the issue to light outside of sumner county in a non pro bills way. In addition to your point, find me a newbie reporter that is not employed by a news organization with close ties to benny bills(star news) and I will find you someone who may have published a news worthy article about the problems on both the board and in regards to benny bills. Hell i don’t blame those people that work for the star news, after they saw what happened to Matt Moynihan, if I had a family to feed I surely wouldn’t go against the grain in that media organization or I would lose my job like Matt. How on earth after reading that story can you with a straight face, tell me our local media isn’t biased. Go Commandos Football!!!

  • 32. Joe  |  August 7, 2010 at 11:46 am

    This county has a long history of hostile politics. When the previous board chair and select other members of the board decided to try to run Mr. Bills out of his job (at the very beginning of Ms. Cox’s term) the word went out not just to teachers or union members but to parents and other citizens of this county about what was happening and hundreds of people showed up (much to the surprise of the board chairman) and spent hours praising the school system and its director and criticizing the board members for their approach in trying to railroad the process through that night.

    Best I recall, not one person got up and said that the director should be fired. Not one. No former directors. No employees. Not a single former board member. No parents. No current of former teachers or principals. No former or current commissioners. No students. Not one person. Nobody.

    And I think all of those categories were represented by Sumner County citizens who spoke favorably of Mr. Bills that night.

    I was one of the parents in the audience. The father of one of my son’s friends was there with me. We were astonished at the obsession of the chairman and actually appreciated the fact that so many people would show up to stop this action. Granted the chairman and other board members had the right to try what they tried, but it might have demonstrated better judgement to allow new board members to work with the director for a few weeks at least before asking them to terminate him based on other’s opinions and heated rhetoric. I think that at least one new board member realized that night that the partisan vibe they had been hearing from a few board members might not be reflective of the broader community’s opinion about our school system or its director.

    I think it’s funny that you present Mr. Bills as having some uber control over the news media to only run favorable stories, control over the people who decide to run for office to be his puppets, control over the voters in those districts who elect the puppets for his bidding, and even power over board members WHO HAVE THE POWER TO NOT KEEP HIM IF THEY SO CHOOSE!!!.

    Not to mention the power he demonstrated to fill the board room to capacity AND the gymnasium with hundreds of people willing to come out and wait in line just to speak good things about him.

    WOW. Do you know how ridiculous it sounds to state that he has some manipulative control over all of that.

    If he is that good a manager, then he would certainly thrive in the corporate sector too and be just the kind of director corporate right wing types might be looking for.

    Maybe, just maybe his ability to survive in this political county for so long has more to do with the fact that a lot of people really like him.

    I have great respect for our principal at my children’s high school. He is a pro. He has the respect of his students. He speaks openly and candidly with parents. He has a good working relationship and high marks for Mr. Bills. He had the same with the former director.

    Mr. Bills has been in Sumner County’s education system for a very long time. Long enough that if he was as bad as you say, surely ONE person would have been there to speak against him that night. More like a whole gymnasium full given the way you blast him.

    Didn’t happen that way though.

    I would like to think that at the end of my career I would have a gymnasium full of people who would come and speak about my high level of integrity, my positive impact on the lives of others, or to just stand up in public and call me a good person and a friend.

    The board chairman made what sounded like a dismissive remark that night about “how nice” it was to see all of those people out in support of Mr. Bills, but I am here to tell you. . .it was NICE. Sweet. Powerful. Meaningful. And reflective of a career well spent.

    Just my opinion.

    Oh, and by the way, I think anonymity is healthy on a blog. This is supposed to be thought provoking forum, so it’s the thought that counts.

    Thanks for posting my entries.

    • 33. Jan  |  August 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      The chairman and other board members had the right to question the director about spending almost a million dollars to pave parking lots; so everyone wouldn’t think the schools were not “ghetto”(sic). The board has the responsibility to make decisions about termination based on job performance. I think the children would have benefited more from $1 million dollars worth of textbooks that would have allowed opportunities to graduate, despite the pitiful parking lots.

      Mr. Bills did not contact all of the citizens of Sumner County, only those who support him as a result of hearing other’s opinions and heated rhetoric. The vibe we are hearing from a few board members might not be reflective of the broader community’s opinion about our school system or the responsibilities of a director.

      Our children deserve top priority which would include communication efforts between adults who perform services for the school system that we all contribute to with our tax dollars. What does anyone gain with being right all of the time if our children are failing?

    • 34. Contract Specialist  |  August 8, 2010 at 3:08 am

      My goodness Joe, keep drinking the kool-aid. Its the BLIND support of folks like you that allow him to do what he does. If you honestly think there couldn’t be a gymnasium and board room filled with people to speak opposing Mr. Bills, then you need to reevaluate. The fact (I know that’s not a word you Bills supporters like) is, the board, who was trying to hold the director accountable for his actions, didn’t feel the need to employ those side-show tactics, because, again, the FACTS were what they were. The ONLY reason all those people were there was to create a diversion from the facts that were being discussed. A diversion inspired by Bills and the teachers union he caters to so, because he knew what he had done was wrong, illegal, and unethical. Thats his M.O. since you apparantly haven’t noticed. He does what he wants, when he wants, without any regard for procedure or law. Then, when the attempt is made to hold him accountable, he relies on his supporters to bail him out. Can’t blame the guy I don’t guess, because it keeps working. But for you to imply that all those folks just magically showed up because they love him so is ridiculous. The union put the call out and that was the end of it. By the way, as someone who was also in attendance that night, I can tell you that at least 95% of those people were teachers, and they were told to be there. There were a few strategically placed other people who were not teachers, but the overwhelming majority were. If you are naive or foolish enough to believe that wasn’t a political ploy then I truly feel sorry for you. Everyone will soon know the truth. I just wonder how many people are still going to try to justify his actions once all the information is out there. Gosh Joe, what do you think?

      • 35. Joe  |  August 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm

        I have consumed no Kool Aid. Nor have I been willing to swallow the bitter, poison pill you keep pushing.

        So teachers are supportive of a school director. How terrible. You know they despised the director in Metro Davidson County and that really worked out well to advance the system.

        Are you saying we need a director who is disliked by the teachers?

        If you have all the answers, why don’t you submit your resume to be the next director. Perhaps you could be the person the teachers dislike.

        Just to clarify, I did not say there could not be a gymnasium filled with people against Mr. Bills. I am simply saying there was not one.



        The fact about the parking lots that got paved. . .they really needed to be paved. You could lose an automobile in one of them. i know that first hand. I seem to recall that the way the parking lot paving was done and the way budgets had been approved had long standing history that included the board chairman. Whether it was the best way to do it or not was certainly up for discussion. But as for illegality, it appeared that night that only THE BOARD CHAIRMAN AND MAYBE TWO OTHER BOARD MEMBERS SAW IT THAT WAY. Legal Counsel advising the board that night did not concur. And he is actually an attorney. So call me naive. But he is their LEGAL COUNSEL. You know, the one advising them on legal matters.

        Plus, I never said the rally to keep MR. BILLS from being fired that night was not political. In fact I think I have said that almost everything about the past few years relating to our board has been political. This blog is political in its nature.

        The point I am making is that You and those with your same mind set have not convinced a majority of the board or the public that you are right. You have convinced me that you think Mr. Bills is the bane of your existence. But not much else.

        So I look forward to the new board taking office. I look forward to coming school year, where I anticipate my children will do well in what I believe to be a good school, with some great teachers and a strong principal at the helm.

        I am by the way teaching them about the political nature of the world through the actions of this board and through sites like this blog.

        It is a good learning ground.

      • 36. Contract Specialist  |  August 9, 2010 at 9:39 am

        The same legal counsel who advised the retirement benefits Bills arbitrarily handed out were illegal? Oh thats right, we can pick and choose when to actually listen to legal counsel depending on whether or not it’s pro Benny.

        I agree this is a good learning ground and I very much appreciate the forum. A person seldom learns anything if they constantly interact with like-minded people. I respect your opinion, but I do disagree. The bottom line is we are looking at the same issue and basing our opinions on different interpretations of the facts.

        Joe, I think you are missing and proving my point at the same time. I think its wonderful our teachers respect the director. The question comes in when you ask “why” do they respect him. I’m sure we could both ramble on about that, so I’ll let that go and agree to disagree. As far as them showing up in mass that evening, there is no disputing it was a planned, staged event. You have conceded that point I think, but you still talk about its a fact they were there. If Mr bills and the union weren’t responsible for that and didn’t know it was going to happen, then why was the closed circuit TV conveniently set up in the gym that night? Oh well.

        As for the paving, If you want to know facts about all that, well, the buck stops here. I was the person who oversaw those paving projects at BHS and GHS from start to finish, and I KNOW all the dirty little details behind them. So, take caution in what you believe to be the truth in regards to the paving. You are correct that purchases had been made in the past by other people using the executive emergency approval route, however, not to the tune of 3/4 million dollars. Especially not when other options were available. Did the paving need to be done? Of course. But it was hardly an “emergency”, and there were much less expensive alternatives that could have been exercised at the time, until the projects could have been completed through the appropriate channels.

        Well, thanks for the debate. I’ll conclude my input on this for now by saying, you’re right. The folks who share my mind set have done a poor job of apparantly convincing anyone of anything. Thats why “we” are so frustrated. As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. Well, “you can bring the facts to the board, but you can’t make the board act on the facts”!

        By the way, Mr. Bills is hardly the bane of my existence. I am, however, very passionate in my belief that he is not good for our schools. He is far too focused on taking really good care of “his people” when he should be focused on taking good care of everything equally, with politics set aside.

  • 37. Blue Daze  |  August 8, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Nobody will be happier to see Bills gone than me, but did you really say that prayer in the schools was “Perhaps a worthy cause” I’m a great believer in prayer myself, and was a Sunday School teacher for many years. I attended religious schools myself. But no way, no how do I want prayer in the public schools, and there are more opporotunities for religious education and participation in Sumner County, outside of the public schools, than I have ever seen anywhere else. So please, God, no.

    • 38. Blue Daze  |  August 8, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      Well it is not a worthy cause, and should not even be on the table. But if it were on the table, it would be a pressing issue in the interest of every child in the county whose beliefs might not be in lockstep with the religious flavor of the month. And it would be unconstitutional. I agree that there are many more pressing issues. But if this shows up in the agenda, it’s pressing. And I’m pressing against it.

  • 39. Informed Voter  |  August 8, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Wow. I can only laugh as I read this post and many of the comments. As someone who actually met and held a conversation with the candidates in District 1, I know that your assessment is.. a little lacking.

    What I don’t understand is the anonymity of your posts.. It should surprise no one that you are Eric Jackson.

    Thank goodness the apathetic voters of Hendersonville don’t read this blog.

    • 40. Eric Jackson  |  August 9, 2010 at 4:00 am

      I love your ironic name… “Informed Voter.” I suppose you think you’re a real genius because you were able to look up “sumnerpubliceducation.com” and find out that my name is associated with ownership of this domain.

      Unfortunately for you, what you don’t realize is that my name is also connected with approximately 600 other domain names. I’m in the IT consulting and website development business. So it sure is damning that my name is associated with this local blog (and about half the websites in Sumner County).

      I hope you’re better at your job than you are at playing grade-school detective, “Informed Voter.”

  • 41. Colleen  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    This is the most unprofessional, condescending and embarrassing blog I have encountered. The secrecy and anonymity does speak volumes about this blog. The writers are hiding, not courageous enough to sign their names to their words. What does truth have to be afraid of? If people believe this, they haven’t been paying attention or are just uneducated and being led to slaughter.

    I am ashamed to even read this type of slanderous propaganda. In an attempt to look up real facts on Sumner County Education, I come across this smear campaign.

    • 42. sumnerpubliceducation  |  August 11, 2010 at 9:46 pm

      Colleen, what is it exactly that has offended you so badly?

      • 43. Appalled mom  |  August 12, 2010 at 6:39 am

        Colleen, in too many cases, I feel it is our children being led to slaughter. If you want to look up truly unprofessional, condescending and embarrassing facts, please do a search for “restraints and seclusion” + Sumner County Education.

        “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. “-Thomas Jefferson

  • 44. Mary  |  August 14, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Contract Specialist, I have been reading your posts on this forum as well as the article that was published in the examiner about your complaint. I am very sorry that you had to experience the good ole boy politics with regard to your job.

    Regarding the Sept 2008 board meeting, I can vouch for you when you state that the teachers were told to be there. At the time, I was a Sumner County employee (retired May 2010). A blast or spam e-mail was sent to many Sumner County employees by a Mr. Michael Hurdle (it’s my understanding that he is not a Sumner County employee and several of us had recieved e-mails from him, previously, regarding board meetings). Hurdle was claiming that there was a plan to fire Benny Bills or buy out his contract (which was roughly 500,000). Hurdle didn’t appear to be much of a Bills supporter, but he was stating that the action was wrong because it was wasting taxpayer dollars that could be spent on books, technology, etc. This e-mail was sent on the day before the meeting and the teacher’s union went into action. The administrators at my school told all of us that we HAD to be there and that we HAD TO WEAR RED in support of Bills. An assistant principal told me and I quote: ” Ahh ahm ‘ supportin Mister Beeels” and that basically if we knew what was good for us that we would as well. Rumors were also spread that “they’re gonna get Hyde back in there” and life for teachers would be miserable as a result. Well I had the privilege of knowing and working for Merrol Hyde, during both his stewardships as Schools Director. And there was NEVER a finer or more professional superintendent in Sumner County. Frankly, I am thankful that I am now retired and not part of this ongoing playhouse.

    I hope this post helps to shed light on how the politics operate in theis district. It’s a shame because this is a great community and we can do better. And again CS, I’m very sorry for what happened to you and best of luck to you as you move forward.

  • 45. Sean  |  August 17, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Wow. What an eventful board meeting tonight! I was so pleased to see Mr. Harris politely tell Mr. Fussell that he does not respect him, and Mr. Harris’ comments reflected many other residents of Sumner County. I am so sad to see Rob Wheeler go because of his knowledge and expertise of education law, but I am confident in his replacement, Shannon Dunn. She is an independent voice who will represent the interests of the students of Sumner County, rather than the personal/political agendas of Don Long and Danny Hale.

    I was also happy with Mr. Wheeler’s remarks about this website. I couldn’t have said it better myself. The comments made here about Mrs. Cox and Mr. Gregory simply cross the line. Yes, they are elected officials and are subject to criticism, which is healthy. However, there is a difference between criticism of their actions and attacking their character with pure libel.

    I was excited to see all three of the incoming board members in attendance tonight, which shows their enthusiasm for their new role. I know that Andy Daniels and Shannon Dunn will make great board members. I am still uncertain about Vanessa Silkwood but I am hoping that she will be an independent member rather than falling into the control of Don Long and Danny Hale.

    I can’t wait for the selection of a new Chairman/Chairwoman of the board. Personally, I think Mr. Wise or Mrs. Cox would be great choices for the position.

    • 46. sumnerpubliceducation  |  August 18, 2010 at 9:23 am

      You are the same commenter who wrote, “It should surprise no one that you are Eric Jackson.” May I make an inference or two? You take things on the surface to be true without doing any due diligence to confirm whether or not they are true. You looked up the owner of this domain name and assumed that person was responsible for the blog. Ten extra minutes of research would have shown you that Eric Jackson, co-owner of an IT/Web Development Firm, owns more than 600 domains, including the one belonging to the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce, the City of Hendersonville, and numerous businesses in Sumner County and beyond. In addition to your error in judgment in regards to doing further research, you arrogantly posted the information on the blog, which tells me you have a false confidence in your level of intelligence. It’s likely these characteristics are a result of your youth and inexperience. Regardless, you have proven yourself to be a less than reliable source of information and judgment. Would you consider this to be libel as well?


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