Open Letter to LeRoy Tate
By Joe Webb

August 27, 2009
Mr. Tate,
I have repeatedly watched video of your embarrassingly unprofessional outburst - attacking the press and your colleagues on the Board of Education at a recent function of that board and decided that as one of your employers, you and I should have a little chat. I chose an open letter in this public venue with the publishers indulgence so that we can all be very clear and open about this.
As preface, I should say that I considered preparing an exhaustive treatment especially for you on the proper role of the press in our democracy and would have done so if I had any hope that you would read or comprehend it. It turns out that I have no basis for confidence in either proposition so it seemed best to keep it simple. 
Watching the subject video it became clear to me that you do not understand why the press attends your meetings, why they write the things they write, why your colleagues sometimes strenuously disagree with you, or what your proper role as a public servant compels you to do about either.

Lets clear that up:
As simply as I can put it, the role of the press is to inform the public. To offer up an accurate, objective  description of the doings of our servants (including you) and in so doing, hold you accountable to the public (that would be me and every other citizen) from whom all power in our democracy derives. 
It is the duty of the press to hold you accountable in every possible way, day in and day out. It is the duty of the press (including citizen journalists) to watch what you do and say, and then tell us (the public) about it. Then, it is our duty as citizens to discuss and diligently evaluate what you do and say and in turn, make informed decisions about whether we should have a little chat (like this one), or whether you should be representing us at all.

It has been thus since the founding of our nation.

Thomas Jefferson once said "The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."  One of Jefferson's contemporaries, Benjamin Franklin further explained "Printers are educated in the belief, that when men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public; and that when truth and error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter ...".

The press is indispensable to our democracy as it was conceived, and since implemented.
Now, to be fair, I can fully understand why you would resent the press noticing, let alone telling people about your some of your positions because they are generally quite bad positions. Still, you can't expect the press to forsake its duty in order to protect you from the inevitable consequence of those positions. For example: You have formally taken the position that you would rather give pay raises to employees - some of whom do not even have direct routine contact with students - than fund a building program that will replace badly dilapidated schools. You sarcastically deride the new buildings as "Taj Mahal" which is globally recognized as symbolic of luxurious opulence (a curious way to see new school buildings).
That is just an unfathomably bad, virtually indefensible position given the sheer numbers of students trying to learn in grossly inadequate, and in some cases, dangerous facilities. Your position quite honestly begs the question: Is this man so bone-jarringly stupid that he can't grasp what a bad position that is; or is he smart enough to grasp it, and just doesn't care - preferring to honor other interests besides the welfare of students and their parents he is paid to serve? 
Whichever answer is the right, the public has every right to know about your position, and the press has every right and duty to tell the public about your position, and every right to not be accosted by you in relation to the exercise of that duty on the publics behalf.

Let me pay you the great compliment of being blunt.

You have no right to accost people representing me, let alone doing so from the relative safety of the Chairman's seat. Accosting the press and your colleagues for doing their duty just makes you a petulant idiot. Doing so from the legal protection of the Chairman's seat makes you a petulant idiot and a coward.
I don't give a tinker's dam what you like or do not like. You are being paid to do a job. Part of that job is to conduct yourself professionally with due deference to your proper role - showing proper respect to the public, and those lawfully representing the publics interests.
Don't like that? Fine. Quit. You can be replaced in very short order by someone who is smart enough to understand their role, and in possession of sufficient personal integrity to honor it.
I hope this clears things up.
Joe Webb
Loudon, Tennessee