Friday, April 13, 2012

Board members: Vote-swap story is false

If you've been reading comments on recent posts,  you've seen Keith Hurley's theory about a deal among school board members to name Heath Morrison as superintendent in exchange for a vote to launch some type of busing for integration next year.

Hogwash,  the board members say.  Hurley seems to be the only one putting his name to the rumor,  but I've heard it from others so it's probably worth addressing.

Richard McElrath,  the member who is allegedly throwing his support to Morrison in exchange for his busing plan,  says there's no such plan and he hasn't made a choice for superintendent,  let alone brokered a deal with other members.

"I would never vote for busing,"  McElrath added.  "Busing was the worst thing we ever did."

Tim Morgan,  Rhonda Lennon and Amelia Stinson-Wesley,  whom Hurley casts as seeking McElrath's support for Reno, Nev., superintendent Morrison,  say the tale is completely fabricated. (I haven't reached Eric Davis, who's also on Hurley's list.)

"That moves beyond ridiculous to the sublime. I haven't been part of a conspiracy like that. That's just crazy,"  said Stinson-Wesley, the board's newest member.  She has never run a political campaign  (she was appointed to fill Morgan's seat when he was elected at large)  and seemed shocked to be the target of such a rumor.

Morgan and Lennon seemed less surprised that Hurley,  who was defeated in the 2011 at-large election,  would circulate the story,  but found it particularly unbelievable.  Both said they've had no vote-swapping conversations with McElrath.

"That is the kookiest stuff I've ever heard," Lennon said.

"There has been no discussion about trading votes for policy decisions,"  said Morgan.

Hurley said today he got the story from a board member who isn't part of the deal.  "The ones that are involved aren't going to tell you,"  he said.

I'm not naive enough to think there are no behind-the-scenes deals hidden from reporters.  But this one doesn't ring true.  McElrath makes no secret of his concern about racially and economically segregated schools,  but he has consistently said the solution is to change housing patterns, not to bus kids.  I don't know much about Stinson-Wesley's philosophy,  but I have a hard time imagining Lennon, Morgan and Davis entering into any deal that would involve a shift from neighborhood schools to busing.

And changing student assignment is an extraordinarily complex effort.  Even shifting a boundary takes months and involves public hearings.  The idea that members could cut a quickie deal to reshape the entire philosophy and put a new plan in place for next year ... well,  I'm going to have to quote former board member Larry Gauvreau: It blinks reality.

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