Enough is enough: A special appeal for our children
By Joe Webb

As prologue, let me say that I adore children. I’m not sure why God gave me that gift (or burden depending on one’s point of view) – but I have it. All that is good about human beings is expressed flawlessly in them. For this reason, I can no longer sit on the sideline writing the occasional scathing editorial.

It is time for direct action.

Recent events and revelations have made it clear that if someone doesn’t do something, a Loudon County child is going to be seriously harmed or worse and I just can’t let that pass. I can’t take the risk that our luck will hold out. None of us can.

The staggering incompetence of Loudon County Schools’ senior leadership and a majority of its board is literally placing the lives of children in danger and we can no longer afford the luxury of extending them the benefit of the doubt.

I know that you would never leave your beloved child in the care of a person or institution that you didn’t feel you could trust. I am here tonight to tell you that you cannot trust the leadership and board of Loudon County Schools to educate, or even to safeguard the lives of your children.

It has recently come to light that the senior leadership of Loudon County Schools had credible evidence that a bus driver was having such trouble with substance abuse that emergency services had been called to her residence on more than one occasion because of over-doses.

In spite of that advanced warning, the driver in question was not immediately relieved of duty driving children pending an investigation to assess her fitness for that duty. The driver continued to transport children until she had a drug-induced breakdown with a full load of children on board.

But for the grace of a loving God, our community might be attending the funerals of babies right now and so far, no one has accepted responsibility for this failure of leadership. The emphasis at this point seems to be on managing exposure to civil liability and this is made worse by evidence that a senior member of the school district’s management team has a conflicted relationship with at least one bus contractor.

We have also learned recently that in spite of a decade-long life-safety compliance problem, Loudon County Schools’ Director has recommended, and its board has approved diverting thousands of dollars from the school district’s maintenance budget where they might be used to repair serious life-safety issues to fund a junket for the board of education to the Opryland resort to attend “seminar”.

Please note that these are only the most recent incidents where the disregard, if not active contempt for children and their safety has been manifest by this board of education. I won’t recite them here because of the practical limit of time and space and most of you will be aware of them anyway.

I am writing to you tonight to declare ENOUGH!

This has gone on long enough. We cannot wait for the next time. We cannot extend this group the benefit of the doubt. They no longer deserve our confidence or our trust. They surrendered that trust – perhaps without even knowing it – the moment they cast the vote to expend money promised to life-safety / maintenance on a discretionary trip.

The verdict of experience is in: This board and management team are willing to risk injury or death of a child in order to preserve the status quo, or to advance their own agendas. Common sense, like Elvis, has “left the building”. Your children are not safe in the care of these people.

For these reasons, I am taking the extraordinary step of asking you to contact me at 323-5829, or joe@jrwebb.net to express your willingness to attend an organizing meeting on a date to be announced – sometime in the next two weeks. The date, place and time will be announced via phone and email to attendees once we know how many are interested in attending.

The purpose of this meeting will be: 1) To assess the risks. We will be discussing the risks of continuing to do nothing, versus what can actually be accomplished through direct grassroots action. We will have legal counsel available at the meeting to help explore options and answer questions; and 2) To organize the effort – agreeing to goals, strategies and to assess options and resources.

I know that this is extraordinary and painful. No one wants to believe that their child’s school is failing them. Everyone hopes that the schools are doing the best that they can. Regrettably, the evidence argues against that generous assumption in Loudon County and this has gone on long enough.

Many had hoped that this past school board election and the retirement of Mr. Headlee would offer some relief and movement in a new direction. Sadly, they have not.

Van Shaver and Lisa Russell (aided recently by Harrelson) are trying, but they are out-numbered; and Mr. Honeycutt is by all evidence so far at least as bad as Headlee, and arguably worse (it is hard to imagine that even Headlee would have ignored the report of a driver repeatedly overdosing).

Sadly, we can’t count on the Board of Education to fix this. We can’t count on the District Attorney to prosecute, or even investigate the depraved recklessness that allowed this seriously ill woman to be at the wheel of a bus load of kids.

If this is going to be fixed (and I am convinced that it can be fixed), then it will be up to us.

Please call or write to let me know that you will be attending this meeting. I’ll buy the coffee.