Who's To Blame?

This business of delay, putting off, avoiding the facts and ignoring the problem has now reached an absurd level. I'm talking about the school building program and particularly the new school for Greenback.

In most cases, finger pointing and trying to place blame for some bad event is just a waste of time. But in this case, it's necessary to understand why we're in the mess we're in. So who's to blame?

Past school boards carry a lot of the blame for the mess we're in today. Some decisions made by those boards have contributed greatly to the problem. Such as spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on those awful trailers parked on so many of our school campuses. Or how about spending 4 million dollars on two or three schools to make them more energy efficient. What a boat load of snake oil that was. No savings have ever been or ever will be realized for that money. How about 2.2 million dollars for a piece of land a goat wouldn't be comfortable on. Band-Aids and piece mill rather than fixing the problem and millions thrown away have contributed to the current problem. But that's all water under the bridge. Nothing we can do about it now. But what's the problem now?

The current school board with the exception of Bill Marcus and Leroy Tate have voted for a reasonable functional and fiscally feasible building plan. The commission has had the requested plan in their hands now for months but have yet to approve a single portion of the plan even though the money has been appropriated for the plan. As recently as this past Monday, 1/4/09, county commissioners had another opportunity to vote for the building program when commissioner Bob Franke made a motion seconded by Austin Shaver to fund the entire proposed building program which included a new school at Greenback. The motion failed. On the other hand commissioner Roy Bledsoe presented a motion that would have funded only a portion of the building plan. Bledsoe's motion excluded a new school for Greenback. Fortunately, Bledsoe's motion also failed.  

Director of Schools, Wayne Honeycutt, is essentially the CEO the Loudon County school system. But to now, Mr. Honeycutt has yet to strongly represent the board in it's quest to make the much needed improvements including a new school in Greenback. He has presented the building plan to commissioners but in all the subsequent meetings with commissioners, he has not once requested, or even better, demanded action of commission to get a new school for Greenback. When pressed at a recent meeting he did admit that Greenback had the greatest safety issues of any in the school system but that's been about it. Either Honeycutt doesn't believe in the proposed building plan or he doesn't understand just how important his public support for the program could be for the board.

Then finally there's our county mayor, Doyle Arp. Arp has been working hard to stop the new Greenback school. He has been more than happy to remind anyone that would listen that the folks in Greenback didn't support him in his last election. He has also stated more than once that there weren't enough votes in Greenback to worry about. While he sat silent in Monday's commission meeting with cameras rolling and citizens watching, he was more than happy to offer a second to commissioner Chris Park's motion in the budget meeting earlier in the day for the Bledsoe proposal that would have killed the new school in Greenback. Watch the Pat Hunter Video The Amazing Trio. To add insult to injury, Arp couldn't resist taking at least one last shot at the Greenback residents at Monday's meeting. At the end of the meeting in, I guess, a feeble attempt to try to gain the graces of the Greenback residents, Arp told those in attendance they had him (Arp) to thank for those new bleachers they were sitting on when they were in the Greenback gymnasium apparently insinuating he had some part in getting the new bleachers. This of course was a complete myth. I guess he thought if he reminded the Greenback folks they had some new bleachers they should be happy with their crumbs and forget about a new school.     

So, let's just lay the blame right at the feet of those responsible for the fact that we aren't already moving dirt and building buildings. Four county commissioners bear brunt. Two commissioners, Franke and Shaver, are already on record supporting the building plan that includes a new school at Greenback. So all it would take is four more. Any four. Our director of schools who has utterly failed to robustly support the the wishes of his board members. And finally, Doyle Arp who has worked hard behind the scenes to derail the Greenback portion of the building plan rather trying to get all the new construction for his area of the county.

It's sad to say but if nothing changes in the upcoming election and in four or five or six months when the next set of plans are done and we're back before the commission asking for the funds for the building program, there's no reason to believe that anything will have changed.

What was so striking to me at Monday's commission meeting, some commissioners were voting based on their own political and personal motives excluding Greenback from the building program. But of the dozen or so Greenback residents who spoke to commission asking and pleading for a new school, not one of them asked that any of the other projects in the building plan be eliminated but just to include their school to the plan. That's the difference between principle and politics.