Monday, May 22, 2006

Each and Every Day Has Been a Chance for Kay

Well, the dust-up over blogger and home-school mom Kay Brooks's appointment to the school board by some very questionable tactics on the part of Metro Council member Michael Craddock seems to be settling as many of her supporters are calling for dissatisfied voters and parents to "give her chance."

The problem with that cliché is that she has been and continues to be given chances to prove to voters that she can do the job. In fact, the chances have never stopped. Let's set aside Kay's well-publicized refusal to attend the candidates forum before the vote; that was an obvious mistake on her part for which she has not been accountable (on the contrary, the time she addressed it, she minimized her mistake by saying, "I know that not attending that hearing is going down very hard. I can't do much about that now. I can only move on with the job at hand and hope that ... you all will realize that that was a small incident in a record of otherwise good service"). But I don't believe that she will ever be accountable for it, so let's focus on how she is handling honest questions on what she intends to do during her short term and if she is legitimately elected in August.

She has volunteered very little policy-wise in any of her public announcements, press releases, or on her blog. She generally criticizes graduation rates and resorts to couching her approach in the rhetoric of "doing it for the children" (a phrase that at least one Brooks supporter lampooned when he heard it from progressives, but now he accepts it on unquestioned faith from Kay). She is generally vague about policy measures she thinks would address problems. For example, a participant on the East Nashville listserv posted the following to Brooks:
What are your goals for our public school system? What do you think we can do to change the current graduation rate for Stratford and Maplewood? Please be specific. What do you think is in place so that the "same voices" have impeded the system. Again, I ask you to be specific.
I can't think of a better chance for Kay Brooks to be specific than when someone asks her to be specific, but what did she do? She again criticized the graduation rate and the need for corrections, but she never got down to the brass tacks of talking about specific corrections. She also resorted to high-sounding platitudes about looking at public schools with a "different set of eyes." It all sounded noble, but again what would Kay Brooks do?

In a listserv that she started for her district, she hasn't been exactly forthcoming. She cut and pasted a March 2006 comment from her blog that cobbled together some vague, general ideas about motivating parents and keeping underachieving students in core subjects with a teacher pay recommendation made in the Tennessean by Nashville-Davidson County Republican Party Chairman Jon Crisp. However, she also lacked diplomacy toward one parent who works for the state by accusing her no more than a day after she started the listserv of acting as a government eavesdropper in "shades of NSA."

On her blog, Brooks divulges very few if any concrete ideas for governance of the public school system. She has posted 2 pictures (a package and a box of notebooks) that both convey that she has a large volume of paperwork to go over in order to get up to speed. But they just seem to reinforce the perception that she created that she is "overwhelmed" at the prospect of dealing with public school policy. These blog entries do not serve her well, in my opinion. Endless reading to stay up to speed is one of the thankless expectations of public service. Posting and depicting how overwhelming your "homework" is comes across to me as fishing for sympathy rather than proving to voters that one is up to the task.

That voters tend to be impatient with public servants who appear to be bemoaning their service came across to me in a comment to Brooks posted tonight on her "box-of-notebooks" blog entry. "Tom" the commenter writes:
Great. Tinkering with the website on Day Four of the job. One hopes this is not that refreshing point of view the Republicans have been talking about.

Speaking for that community that is new to you--parents in the system--we'd appreciate some engagement on issues, like the resegregation of our schools, the substitution of standardized testing for genuine teaching and learning, and the continuing fecklessness of the administration in destroying the Encore program.

When you finish updating the web site, I mean.
The comment sounds harsh, I know. But even this critic is giving Kay Brooks one more chance to tell voters how she will specifically lead on real issues to make public schools better. We'll see whether she handles this chance. Tomorrow's another day with even more chances.


  1. Any chance you will be at the school board meeting this evening? I'll be there.

  2. I would like to. A couple of other situations have to converge to free me up, but if I am free I intend to attend.