Thursday, July 24, 2008
Fayetteville Superintendent Bobby New is a lame duck, but he is still strutting. Tonight's School Board agenda is all about him and his rather transparent ambitions, with little that addresses assuring or improving the quality of education for our students. Tune in to the Educational Channel 14 at 5:00 for a big helping of comedy and tragedy.
Withdrawn from the agenda late yesterday was the bizzare $60 million option offer for the high school from Campus Building Group LLC, the mysterious and anonymous Gang of Four that would not reveal its principals. New pulled that surprise offer out of his hat during last month's board meeting and thrust it onto the agenda in mid-meeting with no advance notice to the public. Turns out that he had been keeping this secret even from some of the School Board members after six weeks of informal discussions.
Some think it was only Bobbynu's idea of a bluff to get the University of Arkansas to raise its previous offer of $50 million. If so, it didn't work, and he has folded. Not so, New said. “The people who would conceive a conspiracy or a manipulation of the university’s offer give me far more credit for being divisive than I deserve.” That would be difficult to do.
Still to be considered and certain to pass is Bobbynu's proposal to buy an additional 9.6 acres of land adjoining his beloved site on Deane Solomon Road, roundly rejected by almost everyone else as a suitable location for a new mega-high school. He wants to spend $600,000 of our school tax revenues for the unimproved property owned by distressed developer Brandon Barber to expand the even larger parcel unloaded on the school district several years ago by TIF developer Tracy Hoskins.
There is no immediate need to purchase the additional land out in sprawlville beyond I-540, but New prefers to spend the district's reserves for that purpose instead of things like expanding the band and performing arts facilities at the high school. It now appears to rank above increased student access to educational technology and raising teachers' salaries, the pressing needs he identified and requested during the disastrous campaign for a school millage increase that was defeated in 2005.
Also on the agenda is a proposal to hire a headhunter firm to find someone to replace Bobbynu when he retires next June. Board President Steve Percival personally conducted an earlier unsuccessful search, even going to a convention of educational bureaucrats in Florida, that drew only a dozen applicants and none who would agree to work for a year under New before taking the helm. So, we start again and pay someone else to look this time.
That's about it. Nothing about quality education.