A Short Trip To Grownup Land ...
By Joe Webb

Everyone has probably heard about Loudon County Schools' surprising good fortune in finding all sorts of money to fund their extravagant waste (or operating budget depending on one's point of view). According to reports, an auditor found $244,000.00, and more recently another $264,000.00 was discovered in a closer look at projected revenues.

Let that sink in a moment - half a million dollars in a school systems that while it can apparently afford to fund retreats for its board, cannot afford textbooks.

Consider that it wasn't a month ago that this school board and its enthusiastic if not especially bright band of supporters were running around the county crying about the looming fiscal disaster. This windfall amounts to a significant percentage of the school system's budget and the fact that it simply 'turned up' after commission refused to issue a blank check, and polling of public sentiment suggests that no one is too excited about tax increases should raise some very serious questions about the honesty of those telling us the sky was falling.

That question aside though, this situation provides an excellent opportunity to contrast the way this Board of Education does business, to how business is done in grownup land (where the rest of us have to earn a living).

In grownup land, the chairman of the board of directors of the enterprise that had told its customers, employees and shareholders that it was facing fiscal disaster, then reported that it really wasn't would call a meeting of the board. The board would ask the President and CEO to explain why his books were so badly out of order, or why he had lied about the fiscal condition of the enterprise.

Lacking any better answer to give the board than "we just didn't stay on top of it", the board would almost certainly fire the President immediately, and probably the vice president as well. The CFO / Controller would be taken out back and killed with a dull axe if it were legal, but since its not, he too would be fired (probably with extreme prejudice). A new management team would be hired as quickly as possible, relying on junior staff and outside help as necessary to get the new team up and running. It would be unpleasant - heads would roll - but it would happen because that is what the board exists to do: represent the interests of the shareholders.

Compare that to what happened in the Loudon County Schools enterprise:

The President and CEO who failed to keep the fiscal house in order - mostly as a result of excessive spending and generally not paying attention to value (former Director of Schools Headlee in this case) is off enjoying a nice retirement at the taxpayers expense. I think Arp even gave him a plaque and I honestly don't know if that says more about Arp than it does about Headlee. In either case, there won't be much operational difference except that now, as a retiree, Headlee is no longer burdened with the pretense of doing anything useful.

The Vice President, (Lutrell in this case) will most likely keep his cushy, well-paying job in charge of stacking bee bees or counting paper clips - or whatever the hell he does until he too can enjoy a sweet retirement.

The CFO / Controller (Sims in this case) will most likely be excused this 'oversight' and will undoubtedly keep his fairly cushy gig too - free to creatively massage the books pretty much as his bosses want and as long as a State auditor doesn't find that he failed to dot an 'i' on the right form to spend a gazillion dollars of your money on nonsense, he too can look forward to a happy and prosperous retirement.

The Board of Directors (the incumbent school board in this case) won't do anything about this incident because: a) Most of them have never spent a day of their careers in grownup land and haven't the slightest notion of what should happen in this situation; b) Most don't know who the shareholders are in this case and wouldn't care if they did; and c) Lacking any real sense of accountability to anyone, it is just not worth the extra time it would take to understand the fiscal management of the school system so its just easier to go along with whatever the 'career educators' in the administration say is best.

The Customer (children and their families in this case) get shortchanged because many of their best teachers and administrators have either left, or are looking because in their job markets, they simply don't have to put up with this kind of crap. With the pervasive demand for good teachers, they just don't have to entrust their careers to the cast of the Andy Griffith Show (not to suggest that Goober, Barney and Floyd were not nice guys).

The Shareholders (the taxpayer in this case) are not getting value for their investment of tax dollars and are left with no good recourse other than to do what the shareholders of the grownup land enterprise would do under these circumstances: vote their shares and elect a better board of directors that would represent their interests.

There isn't an adult reading this who hasn't thought "if I ran my business or my household the way the government does, I'd be broke in a month!". You're right - you would - but in this case, you have a chance to fix it. We have a new "President and CEO" (Mr. Honeycutt). Its time for a new "Board of Directors".

Consider the facts.

Do the right thing.

Vote Wendy Baustian, District 1, Seat A; Lisa Russell, District 3; Freddie Gene Walker, District 5, Seat A; Van Shaver. District 5, Seat B; and Craig Simon, District 7.