Helping the wrong people do the right thing
Perry Schools Board Chairman John Combs complained at the recent monthly meeting that so much seems to find its way into the local newspaper. Of course, freedom of the press is one very basic American right we still retain. Another is the right to attend public school board meetings, confer with our representative, and be heard by that board.
At last Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting, this taxpaying grandparent, conferring with board member Jerry Stacy 15 minutes prior to the start of the meeting, was rudely ordered to a seat in the central office conference room by Chairman Combs. Upon my refusal, and his being informed that I owned an equal amount of the boardroom and for 15 minutes would sit where I pleased, the Chairman called for law enforcement.
Then, I was informed by him that I would not be allowed to address the board. So, in the remaining minutes prior to the meeting’s start time, I served every board member and Superintendent John Paul Amis with an open records request for documentation of his current pay rate along with bids received on the East Perry construction project. All board members accepted a copy. Mr. Amis threw his on the floor. I also gave each member a copy of Mr. Amis’ employment contract. I felt compelled to remind the chairman that I paid my taxes, including the three increases we’ve had in the last three years. He remained adamant that I would not speak, and need not ask to speak at the next meeting.
The above information is noteworthy because it so illustrates the delusional sense of personal ownership of the public domain that grows over time when self-serving, power-hungry individuals gain control of publicly-funded institutions. Once again, west of I-75, a concerned taxpaying citizen would be treated respectfully and welcomed to share concerns. Not here. Sporting the first (east of I-75) 2012 Superintendent of the Year, Perry School Board denies a concerned citizen-taxpayer the right to be heard in the public forum. Why? Because we have surrendered that domain to them, our only remaining contact being to send more money on command.
Chairman Combs is displeased because I want to talk about an unpleasant topic — Mr. Amis’ contract. We have a responsibility to know that our board knows how much he is being paid. Jerry Stacy admitted he had no idea, but, copy in hand, refused to raise the issue in the meeting. Do any of the others? Chairman Combs did not answer the question.
The purposes of the Chairman are obviously served by that contract. How do the other four simply vote on the extension (soon at 2016) without demanding the contract and the money figures be put on the table? We need an itemized review. Logically Mr. Amis will duck the issue because, should the current contract expire, with the current money shortages, the party is likely over. As is, by 2016, with the current built-in pay increases, he can retire to a Caribbean resort, and we will just be digging out from the aftermath of persistent low-achievement, test scandals and state takeover.
School boards are scarce or non-existent in the Muslim and far eastern world, but this is neither. We are Mr. Amis’s employers. Ideally, we elect representatives to see to the details of that mission, only in our case it’s not being done. The board meeting is the forum designed for us, the providers of the money and the children, to communicate our concerns and issues to our elected representatives.
Milton Friedman, the old Reagan-era economist, said it so well: “The right people may never be elected. The only alternative is to create conditions whereby the wrong people do the right thing.” So we will be present and we will speak at the board meetings. We will review and challenge the contract. We will bring legitimate issues to the attention of the board now and in the future. We prefer civility. So far Chairman Combs has been out of order and no board member has been manly or womanly enough to correct him. Executive sessions, like grand juries, are quite secret. Any board member who has not the courage to publicly challenge Chairman Combs, has no business in the seat, and that includes my friend Jerry Stacy.
And finally, the rude, disrespectful attitudes demonstrated by both the Chairman and Mr. Amis, coupled with their record of mismanagement, scandals, and state takeover, further illustrate the need for Perry Countians to take charge of the education of our children and the management and expenditure of our money.
Eddie N. Campbell,
Lost Creek, Ky.