Sunday, September 21, 2008

[LCSD] Going off the rails on a Sunday evening

From Lebanon Proof:

For years this community has been held hostage by a controlling interloper who was able to schmooze his way into the hearts and minds of some of the pivitol community leaders.

Make no mistake, Mr. Robinson is a very smart man. He probably did his homework to such an extent that he would know which church to attend, which insurance agent to choose, which clubs to attend, which stores to shop in and which neighborhood to inhabit in order to meet the people he would need to win over in order to provide a buffer for himself and his unorthodox leadership style that he had tried to implement and failed in two prior communities.

When he goes, the ripple effect and the aftershocks will be intense and painful...but the alternative is much more dangerous.

This statement is so strange I don't even know where to begin.

First of all, it's simply untrue to phrase the 'community held hostage' claim as a universal, declarative statement. That would imply that it's a fact. It's not - it's LP's opinion, and while it may be shared by others, there are also plenty of people who disagree with that characterization of things. I also see very little evidence for this claim being true: What, exactly, is Robinson using to hold the community hostage? What did he have in the beginning that the community needed that got him his contract? I can't think of anything.

Oh, right: That's because the rolling contract is common. Also, if the hostage characterization comes from the belief that since Robinson isn't leaving because the 'whole' community wants him gone he is therefore somehow holding the community hostage, maybe that's because a) the community isn't united on their opinion of Robinson and he sees that, and b) the reasons people give for opposing Robinson may not make much sense to him. I know they don't always make sense to me. Also, possible: c) that Robinson believes it would be bad for students to have Alexander and Wineteer running the district.

.... one thing that just struck me is that LP might be referring to Robinson using himself as a hostage. As was guessed last week, if the board is trying to buy Robinson out, then maybe he's demanding something in return that the blogger knows about, and that's what the blogger is referencing. Who knows?

Second, I want to address the use of the term 'interloper'. I'll be blunt and concise: To think that the Superintendent has to be from Lebanon is just stupid, and we need to get over it. This does not mean that Robinson has to be Superintendent, or that Lebanon can't produce someone who would be a good Superintendent.

Rather, it is to note that I want to unearth what I think is an assumption that is floating around Lebanon: That Lebanon and Lebanon alone is best suited to determine what needs to happen to educate students in Lebanon.

Again with the blunt: This is wrong, and dangerous. Lebanon - and by Lebanon I mean the residents of the community - should have a say in how education in Lebanon happens, but it should not be the only say. It should not even be the final say. Education professionals and experts - some of whom will come from outside - are the people who have dedicated their lives and careers to the field, and are in the best position to relate educational outcomes and educational practices. Of course, parents still have the right to determine what they want for their child's education, but that doesn't necessarily extend to dictating how the local school district works.

I don't know of any other industrialized country that grants such a level of control to something as local (or so lacking in traditionally-defined expertise) as a school board.

Bear in mind, I have said before, and still believe, that there is a role for people without advanced degrees, and people from the community. This is not a call to blindly follow anyone with a PhD. But the opportunity for expertise in the form of a Superintendent is there, and I would hate to see Lebanon move forward by hiring a Superintendent but leave all meaningful authority in the hands of a school board - any school board. Remember, a school board is there for oversight, and is, frankly, an historical anachronism, left over from a time when a local oversight board was necessary due to a lack of speedy communication.

Let me also say it another way: Even in the Age of Internet, it is nearly impossible for a small community to know what outcomes needs to be in place in the education system that will enable students to be successful in the (globalized) working world. It's very difficult to get the necessary prospective from a place like Lebanon - and I say that as someone who lived there for the first 19 years of his life. The expectation the US has developed at this point, for better or worse, is that a) students need to be prepared to work in a globalized world, and b) education experts and professionals are the best equipped to know what is required to make that happen.

Contra that, the implicit belief I've seen from a lot of the anti-Robinson folks that the school board, this school board, can do a better job running the district strikes me as misguided and dangerous. Face it: While people from Lebanon may have had a good idea what students needed to learn to be employable in Lebanon thirty, forty, or fifty years ago, times have changed. There are a lot more out-of-town or even out-of-state employers in Lebanon now, and a lot less mills.

Third - and possibly most ludicrously - who in their right mind thinks Robinson actually scoped the district and made all his decisions based on his ability to manipulate local folks into being his friend? Were I Robinson, I'd consider that one of the nastier personal attacks I'd faced here.

Consider that for a second: The blogger LP is claiming that someone actually developed a plan to subvert a whole community and was willing to subsume his entire personal life to do it. Actually doing that would take quite the evil person, and gives Robinson a lot more credibility than he deserves. I don't think Robinson is that malicious, but I do think that if we take this view as being common among anti-Robinson folks it has some explanatory power.

Come to think of it, this is the second time LP has intimated that there's some sort of shadowy thing going on in Lebanon - the first time was when they suggested that CARES and the myriad of PACs is a conspiracy (rather than either innocuous or designed to increase tax write-offs).

Come on, people. First, I don't think CARES or Robinson has enough ill will or free time to create that kind of conspiracy, and second, I am reminded of something a political science prof said to my intro class back in 2001 or 2002: You don't need to resort to conspiracy to explain something when there's a group of people that all believe similar things involved. Their common actions stem from their shared beliefs, not some kind of secret master plan.

This is not designed to suggest there can't be conspiracies; clearly the two are not mutually exclusive. But Occam's Razor seems to apply here.

Bottom line on this one: I think LP is giving Robinson both far too much credit and assuming he's far more evil than he actually is.

Fourth, the last sentence that I excerpted: "When he goes, the ripple effect and the aftershocks will be intense and painful...but the alternative is much more dangerous."

I can read the first part of that sentence two ways. The first is rather benign: That whenever someone has been in a position like Robinson's for a decade, in a district that's undergone the changes Lebanon has, the person's leaving will make a noticeable difference. That difference can be good or bad, depending, but it will be there. The second way of reading the statement is not benign: That LP is (intentionally or not) lowering expectations. If Robinson leaves, and for some reason things go very poorly either in his absence or with a new Superintendent, LP's statement is the first step in claiming that it will either be Robinson's fault or the fault of Robinson's network of sleeper cells supporters. In politics, it's usually called shifting the goalposts.

The second part of that sentence is kind of frustrating, and just kind of silly. "Get rid of Robinson, or else!" claims his detractor. Or else what? Can the board not provide oversight? Can concerned citizens and parents not work with the remaining board members to provide oversight? It's not like Fisher, Shimmin or McUne is anywhere near being in Robinson's pocket.

Fifth - and finally - I have been asked plenty of times if I have any idea who the person behind Lebanon Proof is. I have avoided speculation both on this blog and in my contacts with others until this point, mostly because I had no idea. People have suggested it to me that it is either attorney Paul Meadowbrook or former LHS teacher Lyndon Brown. I had also wondered if it was former PIE Chairman Jay Jackson.

After the last few posts, I think I can narrow my guess down a bit (It could, of course, be someone who has not been so publicly active in the LCSD recently, and I don't want to rule that out): I think it's either Jay Jackson, or more likely Lyndon Brown. I think Meadowbrook would be more straightforward and less, um, venomous; he also doesn't seem to be as personally invested. The last few posts also suggest a level of anger that Brown is rumored to have attained in regards to Robinson and the LCSD.

To be clear: This is speculation. I don't know who the blogger is. And back when their posts contained interesting (if context-free) facts, like the number of administrators and non-classroom teachers in the district, I was happy to let it lie. However, the last several posts have struck me as being increasingly divorced from reality, which flies in the face of the claim made on the blog that it differentiates truth from innuendo, not when it uses words like 'tyrannical' and 'hostage'. Those are subjective judgment calls, not facts, and while it's fine to print both, it's not OK with me to fail to differentiate and present subjective opinions as facts. Hence my publicly guessing - and if I'm right, neither Jackson nor Brown has anything to lose, as one just resigned and the other is retired.

Also, this is post #900. Woo hoo!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dennis said...

Comment deleted because it was a little too ad-hominem-without-evidence for my tastes.

Anonymous said...

I believe you are correct in your assumption the blogger is Lyndon Brown. The Lebanon Proof posts sound just like her.

Anonymous said...

LP said:
...Mr. Robinson is a very smart man. ... he did his homework so he
(knew) which church to attend, which insurance agent to choose, which clubs to attend, which stores to shop in and which neighborhood to inhabit in order to meet the people he would need to win over in order to provide a buffer for himself and his unorthodox leadership style.

LP thinks Mr. Robinson is almost all-powerful. Can he walk on water too?
Even IF Mr. Robinson WAS able to somehow know just the right places to go and people to get on his "side", people have had plenty of time to decide the facts for themselves since he came to town.
LP does not give people in this town credit for being able to use their own minds and judgment on issues.
According to LP those who don't support Mr. Alexander and Mr. Wineteer are somehow under Mr. Robinson's control, not people with the ability and desire to decide for themselves what the truth is.
LP is struggling with TRUTHINESS.
Passion, emotion, and blind certainty triumph over information.

Anonymous said...

Lyndon Brown or not, at least we know who L.T. is, alias, Jennifer Walter. It's possibly the showdown of the Lebanon LHS teachers! (or at least a current one and a retired one).

Dennis said...

We 'know'?

Is this like 'knowing' Robinson has held Lebanon hostage?

Because I don't know who LT is (and I've asked Jennifer Walter outright), and as far as I know, no one else does either.

Many people - including me - have guesses, of course, but that's all they are.

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