The MNPS School Board: The House Is Burning but “This Is Fine”

I messed up at work this week.

It wasn’t a huge mistake. On a scale of 1-10, it was probably a 1.5. But nonetheless, a simple oversight on my part resulted in a mistake.

When my boss found out about it, he came to my office, not to scold me, but to offer me a suggestion on how to do things better so that mistake wouldn’t happen again. In his wisdom he offered a practical solution on how I could improve on something.

When it comes to life, learning from our mistakes is a part of growth and maturity. However, if we’re afraid to admit we make mistakes or afraid to admit we need improvement, we’ll fail to grow.

With this idea in mind, I found myself floored this week when I read the evaluations of MNPS Director Shawn Joseph that were completed and compiled by the MNPS Board Members. For anyone who works in MNPS or has been connected with the school system, it should be no surprise that Dr. Joseph has made his fair share of mistakes and has had many shortcomings. I won’t rehash it all here, but if you’re interested in reading my assessment, you can find it on my Facebook page.

MNPS is in the worst shape it’s been in in many years. Teachers aren’t getting their promised raises. Insurance premiums are rising. Projections from the MNPS Central Office have been way off. The district can’t get the funding it needs for next year. The district has to keep asking the Metro Council for additional money this year. Teacher retention and morale are sinking like the Titanic. Things are not good.

And yet if you read the evaluations of Dr. Joseph, you’ll find that everything seems just fine and dandy. The MNPS School Board had to rate Joseph on over 100 categories with their choices being Unsatisfactory, Needs Improvement, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations, and Exceptional.

I was quite confident Joseph would score on the low end of things, but wow, was I wrong! If my research and eyes are correct, 3 of the 9 board members (Anna Shepherd, Tyese Hunter, and Dr. Jo Ann Brannon) did not give Dr. Joseph a single score lower than “Meets Expectations” out of the 100+ categories. A fourth board member, Christiane Buggs, only marked “Needs Improvement” on one item and everything else was “Meets Expectations” or above.

What world are we living in? Anyone connected with MNPS knows that Shawn Joseph has A LOT to improve on, yet almost half of our board members don’t believe that? Are they lying to themselves or just turning a blind eye to what’s going on? If you asked teachers in the district to evaluate Joseph, you’d see a much different result. You’d likely hear about him using a personal chauffeur despite MNPS hurting for funding. You’d hear about him refusing to answer important questions from board members. You’d hear about him exceeding spending levels for unauthorized spending. You’d hear about him hiring his personal friends and paying them $20,000 ABOVE the pay scale.  You’d hear how he’s ignoring the crisis of lead in the water in our schools. So for a solid faction of our board members to say everything “meets expectations” or is even better is a slap in the face to teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, and students.

How will things ever improve if we won’t even admit there’s a problem? The MNPS ship has hit the iceberg, and yet those in charge keep saying, “This is fine.”

Not only does it seem like they’re turning a blind eye, but at the last school board meeting, Christiane Buggs seemed to lecture those school board members who were actually doing their jobs and asking the hard questions and providing truthful evaluations. Her implications seemed to slam those who actually see the problems and want to do something about it. The hypocrisy is astounding. Buggs was the same person who got on Twitter last year and referred to Donald Trump as Satan, Hitler, Stalin, a Nazi, and a Fascist. Whether or not you support Donald Trump is beside the point. Buggs seems to have the ability to point out failed leadership at the highest level, but can’t do it when it’s one of the responsibilities of her job.

There are a million more things I could say, but frankly, I’m not sure it’s worth my time or frustration. If you want to read more and get into the specifics, I’d highly recommend you read TC Weber’s blog “Dad Gone Wild.” He does a tremendous job of breaking down all of this. By the way, TC is running for school board in District 2. We DESPERATELY need him on the school board. If you live in District 2 or know people who do, get his name out there and give him a vote.

What this all comes down to is failed leadership, and it starts at the very top with Dr. Joseph. Unfortunately, several of our board members have become enablers to the process, which means there is no accountability. No accountability leads to leadership problems, ethical problems, moral problems, and more. And who do those problems affect the most? Our teachers and students.

Our school board needs to step up and face reality. They are helping absolutely no one by ignoring the truth and overlooking the facts. Shawn Joseph works for the MNPS School Board. The MNPS School Board does not work for Shawn Joseph.

Until they realize that and have the best interests of our teachers and students in mind, the house will continue to burn, and they’ll continue to tell us, “This is fine.”