I live in Alabama and I don’t have any children in Columbus public schools. Two of our sons, Michael and Adam, graduated from Hardaway High School, so there’s that. In spite of literally not having a dog in that fight, I remain intensely interested in the health and effectiveness of our Muscogee County School District, because great schools train great future employees and leaders, both being mighty important to our region’s economic development.
After putting my news nose into the wind yesterday, I had a feeling that last night’s Muscogee County School District meeting might be one for the record books, and that I probably should attend and see for myself what I have heard others say about the tone of the meetings.
Jill and I went to the meeting last night. It was my first MCSD school board meeting. I hope that many more of you, whether you have children in the public schools or not, will go and watch that process some time soon.
Jill and I each said one word several times last night on the drive back to Seale and even after we were in bed. “Wow!”
Wow, I can’t believe what I saw and heard there.
Wow, I can’t believe Frank Myers referred to Superintendent Dr. David Lewis and Chief Operations and Facilities Officer David Goldberg as “You two birds.”
How Frank Myers called David Lewis a liar. Out loud — with TV cameras rolling, in spite of the sweet presentation on RESPECT delivered by four children from a local elementary school.
How Myers finger-pointed and ranted about how he was “sick and tired” of this, that and the other and threateningly engaged other members of the board and the MCSD cabinet and then immediately began Facebook postings, writing or shuffling papers, very obviously not caring to hear what the person he was dogging had to say in reply.
A strong memory from my childhood is how I felt when I went to church as a little guy. I knew I was going to leave that church every Sunday feeling depressed. Just down. I went into each Sunday morning session knowing that I was going to be beaten down. I knew I would leave feeling smaller than I did when I walked in. It was such a bad experience that, to this day, I almost get sick to my stomach when I pass by my old church building on Hamilton Road.
That is exactly how I felt as the meeting last night opened with four precious children from Allen Elementary School talking about the efforts they make in their lives to treat others with respect. It was so cute that they held up the letters R-A-O-S (just a slight, old-school technical glitch), and talked about how they SOAR when they treat their classmates with respect. There was no more respect shown from the right side of that dais for the next more than three hours.
Here’s the other thing: Jill and I have gotten to know Karen and David Lewis. They are really fine people. We’ve had dinners with them and have found out just how much they love our community. They’re planning to retire here. The other thing I learned from them is how shocked they are that there is so much anger aimed at our local school board and administration. I really don’t think they’ve ever seen anything like what is going on here.
Beyond the friendship, David Lewis has got the passion, the knowledge and the personality to take our schools to the next level. He deserves the respect of a grateful community. He does not deserve to be called a liar in a public meeting in front of his wife, his cabinet, his board and his employees.
Frank Myers is a schoolyard bully. He’s a tall, imposing guy and his lawyer swagger just accentuates the bluster. Everyone in the room with a bully is wary of him. What is he going to say or do next? When will he point that finger at me about something else he’s “sick and tired” of?
We live in the Deep South, where people are a whole lot of different things, but what we are most is kind. We are genteel. We usually treat even our worst enemy with kindness and respect. Not so at the Muscogee County School Board. Not so when big, bad Frank is in the room.
There was joy in that room last night. People brought their families to see the votes that honored their loved ones with a promotion or a new job. That joy was short-lived as we all dived back into the sludge that was our county’s school board meeting last night.
You know the feeling when you’re walking at night along a stretch of unfamiliar road in a strange town? That feeling like something bad could happen and catch you by surprise? That is exactly what that meeting felt like last night and I am profoundly sad that it has to be that way.
From what I saw and what I have read, Frank Myers wants David Lewis to go back to Florida. My clear sense also tells me that Myers, if he’s allowed to keep his seat on the board, will think exactly the same thing about the next superintendent.
That’s exactly the way all bullies act — until they get the final, verbal ass whipping they deserve. Stirring up people’s feelings just because you like to do it is no excuse for the embarrassing show that Frank Myers put on last night. I think it is safe to say the palpable tension was unhealthy for every person who was in that room.
Hoping it will get better may be too much to ask for, unless Myers’ cavalier attitude about the rules, finds him on the wrong side of one of them and an angry citizenry decides to recall him from office. I think this is a great example of how someone’s passion about something diminishes his ability to act in a civil manner. My momma wouldn’t have put up with it. I’m thinking Frank Myers, like brilliant singer/songwriter Jason Isbell in his song If it Takes a Lifetime says, has “got too far from his raising.”