Saturday, January 26, 2008

Double Secret Proposition

Fayetteville School Board member Susan Heil nearly wet herself when Lame Duck Chancellor John White said yesterday that the University of Arkansas should consider paying a premium for the Fayetteville High School campus, if school district officials will sell it. Wink.

"This news from the university certainly provides an exciting option or options for the school district and the university," said Fayetteville Superintendent Bobby New, who first met with White about selling off the high school last August. Wink, wink. A school district-commissioned appraisal valued the campus at $61.28 million, then the School Board immediately dropped the asking price to $59 million. Not exactly what you’d call a "premium,” but what's a $2.25 million giveaway to friends like John White and Jim Lindsey.

This little scripted charade by White and New clearly makes fools of Board Member Tim Hudson and the other members of the Fayetteville High School Secret Committee that is pretending to be developing recommendations on whether to retain the current location of FHS or build a new school as demanded by the Chamber of Cowbirds. They are to give a recommendation to the school board in April, for what that's worth.

Bobby New said he didn’t think resumption of his secret negotiations to unload the present high school should concern the secret committee reviewing the campus’s location. Of course not. After all, we still remember New's poor judgment in ignoring his own advisory committee that reviewed the first round of library books challenged by Laurie Taylor and implementing his own secret plan overriding the committee’s considered decision.

I am disgusted by this whole smarmy game being played by White and New to have their way with public property, but I feel sorry for others who will suffer from these machinations, especially the future students at FHS. Board member Tim Hudson has been placed in a no-win situation, as have three outstanding teachers on the committee. This latest boxing only adds to the lack of confidence in the committee that began with appointment of a defeated school board candidate who was rejected by voters for her position on the very issue being considered and made worse by the decision to hold secret meetings.

I also feel sorry for Chancellor-elect David Gearhart, who told the Board of Trustees yesterday that his top priority would be the students at the University of Arkansas. John White's secret plan to buy the FHS campus will not be with money from the Razorback Foundation that he lavished on Houston Nutt and Frank Broyles, nor will it come from the billion dollars that Gearhart raised for the University. White plans to buy the FHS campus by raising tuition by $27 dollars per course, charging an entire generation of future students more than $1,000 extra in tuition for a degree, for the next 30 years!

White and New will soon be gone, but their actions will leave a legacy. No one will ever believe University administrators when they say the school needs more state tax dollars or continuing tuition hikes to provide an adequate education. Not when they spend state funds to hire more administrators and use student tuition money for real estate speculation. No one will ever believe that Alan Wilbourn is meeting the One Vision strategic goal #6, to "continually and effectively communicate with all stakeholders." A sad situation from a sorry deal.

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