Transparency Sought, Transparency Offered

August 16, 2010 at 9:02 pm 5 comments

I feel as though some may be misinterpreting a message of criticism for a message of hate. With school back in session and school officials markedly unhappy about this blog, I have heard many candid opinions about what has been written here. I fully expect to ruffle feathers. I fully expect differing opinions. If we all agreed on the topics I address, there would be no reason for me to address them. For me, debate is a remarkable exemplification of our freedom. I recently heard the story of a Muslim man who was raised to commit terrorist acts, which he carried out, both in Israel and in America. After many years spent in America he started to question what he was raised to believe. He returned to his homeland to find answers. He eventually left his belief system and now speaks out against such groups as Islamic Jihad. When asked about the catalyst for his conversion, the gentleman answered that simply living in America is what set the transformation into motion, because American society encourages critical thinking. There are many political disagreements on the horizon, locally and nationally, but we should all be proud that we live in land where critical thinking is not only encouraged but instilled.

I hope that you, and others, will respect that these writings are a result of critical thinking. I will not condemn you for not agreeing with me. That’s not to say that I won’t relentlessly try to change your mind. It is not my intention to personally attack anyone. Increasing the transparency of the actions of Mr. Bills and some of his staff at times feels like an uphill battle. I, as well as the other contributors to this blog, grow frustrated at times. If we, in our frustration, cross the line by engaging in personal attacks, please bring a specific matter to our attention and we will make every attempt to right any wrong. I hope you won’t simply dismiss us based on rumors or feelings of false obligation. Your only obligation is to think for yourself. Don’t label us “the enemy” until you first hear what we have to say. It has occurred to me that we seek transparency from the Bills administration, thus it is only fair to offer our readers the same. Our motives should be made clear.

I, personally, do not hate Benny Bills. I fully understand that members of his church family at Community Church feel compelled to defend him at all costs. I, too, have had the blessings of a church family bestowed to me and my loved ones. I do understand where you are coming from. Now, we may differ in opinion on whether or not Bills is a “good, Christian man,” but, honestly, that is neither here nor there. I am looking at Bills only in his capacity as the Director of Sumner County Schools. I am not looking at how he behaves as a family man, a church member, a friend, etc. This blog is only looking at Benny Bills, Superintendent. I do not think he is a good Director of Schools. And if his annual evaluations are any indication of their verdict, the members of the Sumner County School Board agree with me—even the members who continuously support him, like Beth Cox. He has failed his last 3 annual evaluations. I don’t know many people in the private sector who could keep their jobs after failing to satisfactorily carry out the duties of their position for three straight years. In addition to lacking the abilities to be a successful Director of Schools, Bills makes decisions with regard to no one else (or perhaps with regard to only a preferred few). I might be more willing to cut him some amount of slack if I thought he were trying to do right by the students and teachers while merely lacking the mental capacity to do so effectively. However, I do not believe that. On the contrary, I am convinced that he maliciously and deceitfully acts in his own best interest and uses his position to influence others to carry out such tasks.

On the matter of the SCEA… I may be fundamentally opposed to unions, but I have not researched the purpose and activities of labor unions enough to succumb to that conclusion. Thus, rest assured, my feelings on the SCEA are not spawned from some deep seated belief that unions are bad. The SCEA consistently uses unethical tactics. In every communication, they fabricate the impression of an antagonistic relationship with the school board. “They” (the school board) are the enemy. “They don’t respect us, don’t listen to us, and don’t want to work with us,” is the message the SCEA conveys to teachers. What kind of work environment does that create, to immediately be told that those who govern the system in which you work are only out to get you? And if they can’t scare teachers into joining, they result to browbeating. But I’m sure they only do so with the purist of intentions, so that they can righteously defend them against the vicious villains on the school board. The SCEA reminds me of an abusive husband constantly reminding his battered wife of how much he loves her and how she could never survive without him. Plain and simple, they are school yard bullies. They approach negotiations with the school board in the same aggressive demeanor. I cannot recall ever hearing Mary Pappas address the school board in a tone that wasn’t combative, regardless of the issue at hand. They do not even entertain the idea of cooperation, because there are no winners and losers in a consensus. It’s not who wins and who loses that is important, only that someone wins and someone loses.  If they win, it is a noble victory. If they lose, it further indoctrinates the idea of the enduring battle. They cannot exist without an “us” and a “them”. 

As far as individual board members go, perhaps some are criticized more harshly than others. This should honestly be taken as a compliment, at least in part. Only those who are seen as capable of making honorable decisions are criticized. I have faith in Glen Gregory’s convictions and his knowledge. He knows our school system well and he knows what’s best for our students. When his actions conflict with the man we know him to be, we will hold him accountable for his decisions. Beth Cox is an enigma to us. Her conservative ideals are not apparent through her actions. There are only two possible reasons she does what she does: she has spent a great many hours and a great deal of energy trying to fool everyone into believing she is a Conservative Republican, or she has been otherwise persuaded to act against her belief system. If the former is true, she would be so irrational that the truth would be lost on her. Which is why we cling to the possibility of the latter, in which case it is probable that she is living with quite a bit of guilt. While we criticize her bad decisions, especially those that directly conflict with conservative values, we will also offer her support and strength to stand up for herself, her values, and for the truth.   

To summarize, the future of our schools and the well-being of our students and teachers is what motivates us. What do we wish to accomplish? Transparency. Transparency followed by any number of actions would satisfy us. Parents demanding Bills be removed as Director of Schools. Making an honest, if not capable Superintendent out of Benny Bills—well, we’d settle for that as well.


Entry filed under: Benny Bills, Mary Pappas, SCEA, School Board, sumner county education, sumner county public education, sumner county public education blog, Sumner County Schools, Teachers. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Weighing in on the Candidates A Snapshot of Student Achievement and Student Growth

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Blue Daze  |  August 18, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Interesting. You don’t wish to be interpreted as hateful, but you feel the need to compare the activities at the Board of Education with Islamic extremists, and think that a personal discussion of Director Bills’ religion is appropriate here. Then for good measure, you seem to think that education is, or should be, a republican vs. democratic question. Don’t know how anyone ever could have gotten the impression that there was unnecessary vitriol her. Hmmm.

    • 2. sumnerpubliceducation  |  August 18, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      Do you actually read the posts or do you just arbitrarily string words together and call it a comment? Nothing you just said was actually part of the post–there was no comparison of the BOE to Islamic extremists, no discussion of Bills’ religion (I think my EXACT words were “that is neither here nor there”), and no analysis of Republican and Democrat views on education. Seriously, where do you get this stuff?

  • 3. Blue Daze  |  August 18, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    The only reason to mention all those things “that are neither here nor there” is to call attention to them. You began this very post with a lengthy discussion of a jihadist, followed by a discussion of Bills’ church membership, followed by discussion of whether Ms. Cox has somehow betrayed Conservative Republican values, as though good education was, or should be, a partisan issue. Other than that, I have no idea where I “get this stuff.” Sheesh.

    • 4. sumnerpubliceducation  |  August 18, 2010 at 8:19 pm

      Sorry for the miscommunication. I’ll ditch the wordiness. Ex-Muslim says America makes him think. Conclusion: debate and differing opinions are good. (Absolutely NO COMPARISON to anything having to do with Sumner County, Sumner County Schools, Sumner County Board of Education, etc.). To Bills’ church family: I empathize with your position and want you to know that I am not attacking Benny Bills as a person, only his job performance. On Beth Cox the Republican/Democrat hybrid: if Ms. Cox thinks it’s relevant to constantly tell everyone what a conservative Republican she is and how much she has done for the Republican party in Sumner County, then she opens the door for how her partisanship is relevant. Does that clear things up for you, Blue Daze?

  • 5. Blue Daze  |  August 18, 2010 at 3:30 pm



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