The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

MARCH  2008

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Church of the Painful Truth

by JC Bowman

"Once more unto the breach" - is from the "Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!" speech of Shakespeare's Henry V, Act III, 1599. Or if Shakespeare is not your "cup of tea" maybe you'll accept Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out . . . they pull me back in!" Yes the subject is education this month, and like every subject I believe in passionately I do not retreat and I do not surrender when I know I am right.

Neal Boortz calls himself "The high priest of the Church of the Painful Truth." Personally, I try not to offend, even when some people are wearing targets on their back and can be heard saying please verbally abuse me. The truth can be unpleasant and life is not very sensitive. Try to look at it this way: to hide from the unpleasantness of life, especially in politics, is to hide from the reality of life. This may sound very Beaveresque, but Bradley County has some of the finest people in the nation and I am proud to be a 5th Generation resident of this wonderful community.

However, we have a few elected officials around these parts moving to the left more rapidly than the city of Berkeley (a shining symbol of the darker side of 1960s liberalism). I'm not naming any names; that isn't my purpose here. Besides, there are too many names to name right now and I do like some of these people. As an equal opportunity offender, I found it amusing when an irate school board member and I had a vociferous discussion after the last school board meeting. He verbally confronted me because he did not like my last editorial. He also did not like The People News. I then told him he would like my next commentary even less (sorry to throw gas on the flames Pete). This man even gave a speech about pending character assassination and his point that the school board had not already selected the next director of schools. I called him on it. Look it is okay if you want to pre-select someone ahead of the game to "conduct" the business of the school system. I like DC. Cherry blossoms are pretty cool in the spring too. Just do not pretend that you have to go through the process so that you can claim the method was fair. If you want to take another step toward fairness include all 7 Board Members on the selection committee.

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator. Is a freelance public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN. Prior to this, he was Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University.  He served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.



There are four people I think that are qualified from within the local system to lead our schools: Joy Yates, Kim Fisher, Michael Plumley and Rick Smith. I do not expect any of them to be considered. Joy Yates may be the best administrator in the Bradley County system the last two decades. Kim Fisher is a model principal that simply accomplishes more and more every year, she needs to move up in the system. Michael Plumley and Rick Smith clearly understand the financial issues of the system and the Bradley County Commission would respect them. No matter who is selected for the position, our community needs to support the eventual nominee and at least give them the benefit of the doubt. However, I wonder why the Bradley Board of Education has a fear of going outside the system? My friends Public Education for better or worse is now big business.

The Director of Schools position should have been advertised in a few trade journals (ED Week for example), statewide newspapers and material should have been available on your website to download and apply. We should have given the process at least sixty to ninety days. If the Bradley County Board of Education intends to offer the current director a 100 day contract at the end of his retirement anyway, why the rush? As I wrote earlier, every member of the board of education should have been part of the selection committee. The chosen few were academically less qualified than the remaining board members, and inclusion of the whole board is much preferable. If it is an important enough position and it impacts our community, I believe you must be more inclusive, not less inclusive. The BCEA, the local teachers union should have also been included, at least informally. This selection impacts them, as much as it does parents and children. The public should be allowed time for input. While we are on the subject, let's move the school board meeting times back to 7:00 so more parents can attend. I think the 5:30 start time designed to accommodate principals is misguided. School boards are elected to represent parents, not principals.

And let's get this straight Mr. School Board Member; you claim to be more conservative than me and more Christian than me. I thought about that driving home from the last school board meeting, when you uttered those words to me. Look if you need validation of your conservative credentials you must be worried what others think of you, I never have to think about it. But since you brought it up, I guess you are opposed to federal dollars flowing back to the school system, or say a program like head start? You certainly would not want a federal program taking up classroom space originally designated for local students. The truth is sir, you have no idea what a conservative is, but I don't want labels to be what defines me. You can have the title if it

makes you feel good. Just back it up with actions. Just remember general conservative principle is to limit the size and authority of government with minimal taxes. This allows the people to have the power, not the government.

I also did not appreciate the lecture on Christianity. Personally, I do not try to judge people's spirituality or walk with God. But if that pre-planned ambush on Mark Grissom that you chaired back in January is any indication of your faith, please come back to Westmore Church of God, Pastor Kelvin has a word for you. People will know your faith, not by your words, but by your actions. Don't hold me or others to be the model, look to Christ. I am not defending Mark Grissom for allegations made against him, but it should have been done privately by individual board members. So perhaps besides your need for reading a copy of Robert's Rules of Order, don't you think you owe fellow Christian Mark Grissom an apology?

So I offended you because I implied that the board probably already knew whom they would like to be the next Director of Schools. That was not my intent, but you said that implication was false. I will accept your word on the matter. However, excuse me for being suspicious, but according to the Chinese Zodiac in 2008 we ushered in the Year of the Rat. But do you not agree it is highly inappropriate for candidates to be out soliciting votes for the position of Director of Schools anyway, outside of the process? You did not like that I suggested you were a rubber stamp. All I believe is that people should vote their conscience. If I served on the Board of Education, I have no doubt that I would agree with the Director most of the time. But I believe in debate and discussion, especially in matters of public policy. The people need to see the issues deliberated upon by elected officials in a civil manner. You know that is how Ladies and Gentlemen present themselves in elected office.

I am going to try to explain this dropout rate thing one more time. It is claimed by Bradley County that they have a dropout rate of around 10%. Keep in mind that nationally the dropout rate is roughly 30%. My position is, IF we were doing that well we need to get Harvard on the phone immediately and send in researchers to evaluate so that we can duplicate this accomplishment across the nation. Let's look at it this way. I can believe that 90% of the students enrolled in the fall of 2007 in the class of 2008 will graduate on time with their class at Bradley High School and Walker Valley High School. Thus we have a dropout rate of 10%. What I cannot believe is that 90% of the students who enrolled in 2004 in Bradley County Schools graduate on time with their class. Do you believe that 90% of the students enrolled in 2004 are graduating in 2008? Throw in middle school and you begin to get the picture. Then where did these students go? I believe the number of dropouts is much higher than reported, and has been much higher the last decade. This is not reflective of the current director of schools who I believe has done a good job academically with students, due in large part to the high quality of excellent teachers. It is a systemic problem. School districts report whatever numbers they like, however they want to report them, and there's nobody outside checking to see if these are true or accurate. Sooner or later someone needs to look at: Who is graduating with their class? How do they capture transfers in or out? As a result, we may be ignoring students who drop out before the senior year when they calculate high school completion rates, resulting in inflated graduation rates.

In defense of David Kelley, there have been communitywide rumors that he has a conflict of interest due to his job with Head Start and his role on the Bradley County School Board. I do not see this as a conflict necessarily, unless he exercises control over Bradley County Schools and uses those resources and classrooms that would go to Bradley County students in favor of Head Start. Which would mean taxpayers would have to pay to add additional classrooms. The other rumor that he may be in violation of the Hatch Act is probably not accurate either, unless he is conducting school board business on Head Start time or place of business. The Hatch Act Unit is located in the Office of Special Counsel, 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218, Washington, DC 20036-4505. The website is If I believed for one minute Kelley was in violation of the Hatch Act, rest assured I would personally file a request to have him investigated. I have not done that, nor has anyone to the best of my knowledge. I know that he does need to be careful to separate time and space, his activity under the Head Start Grant and his activity on the Bradley County School Board.

Finally, I want to touch on arrogance and respect. I think it is critical that we respect the positions that we have established to govern us, but for you fortunate few who hold these elected offices keep in mind you are elected to serve us. You are not lord and master over taxpaying citizens. We are not going to change deep-seated patterns overnight. Change is going to require a lot of citizen oversight and a lot of aggressive action. For example, changing school leadership is the best means we have of changing the culture in our schools. A new director needs a fresh start without the shadow of his predecessor hanging over him. I encourage the school board to give the next director the freedom to implement his agenda and not continue by extending the old regime. But hold this next director accountable. Honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct are fatal to incompetence and corruption; absolutely and without exception.

Serving on the school board would be an honor, but again it is not an imperial dictatorship allowed to flaunt arrogance. The school board in the past has exercised clinical manipulation of power communitywide, all the while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant strategy. Fortunately, the Bradley County Commission is also very clever and they insist on truthiness. You know truth that comes from the gut, not self-generated reports and information, or comparison studies from the People's Republic of Massachusetts. Using the system resources for political purposes is flat out wrong and needs to end.

So my guess Mr. Kelley is you will like this new commentary even less than the previous piece of writing. An unsolicited piece of advice: if you are going to get upset about words on a page, try adding a little fiber to your diet. Don't get upset, do the right thing. More importantly, don't forget to breathe in, breathe out, repeating as necessary. Welcome to the Church of the Painful Truth Mr. Kelley.

--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN..
He can be reached by email at:

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