When a taxpayer peruses the Marion County Public Schools website they might choose to click on Department of Professional Leadership or Department of Teaching and Learning, but nowhere can we find the Department of Common Sense — and that is the one we really need.
Just last week, School Board members Angie Boynton, Bobby James and Nancy Stacy found themselves one community member short for the committee that oversees the distribution of the 1-mil school tax that Marion County citizens approved in August. Did they consult with the Department of Common Sense? Of course not, they appointed the disgraced ex-sheriff Chris Blair. In case you forgot, Mr. Blair was the recipient of three indictments, two for perjury and one for official misconduct. The governor removed Mr. Blair and appointed an acting sheriff. These are extremely serious charges, in fact, part of the inquiry into the official misconduct charge, resulted in four of Mr. Blair’s deputies being sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the beating of a suspect.
With a population of over 350,000 citizens, it should not be hard to find someone without that kind of legal baggage. Let’s ask the Department of Common Sense: “The Board should advertise all committee openings on their website and in the Star-Banner, and decide who best exemplifies educational commitment and moral righteousness to fill the position.”
The School Board is the highest tier in our academic structure. They devise policy and set out our strategic educational plans. The board also sets the tone for the entire organization and they set an example for our students.
However, we now have ongoing School Board Soap Opera. Superintendent Heidi Maier is often the focus of Ms. Stacy’s ire, which is surprising in that Ms. Stacy and Ms. Maier were quite tight before the last election. If they were only arguing about how to improve learning outcomes, we may even benefit from the spiteful language. But alas, Ms. Stacy has degenerated into bullying.
It seems none of the other board members know how to bring order to this disgraceful behavior.
This week Ms. Stacy once again proved she is a bully and is professionally incompetent. Her Facebook diatribe against women and her rant against another duly elected official were bizarre, even by Stacy standards.
As a nation we have watched and listened as our national conversation around governance, which used to be tasteful and elegant, has been reduced to insults, taunts, rudeness and outright abuse. We, as a community, here in Marion County, need to step up and demand a return to truthfulness, respect, professional behavior and language appropriate for academic pursuits. Do we even need to ask the Department of Common Sense? Let’s!
“This is a tough one. If Ms. Stacy were in the fourth grade we would target her behavior as a bully, an intervention would ensue. We would counsel her, perhaps suggest some therapy. Bullies are usually very angry children; we would try to determine the root of the anger. However, these bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment behaviors come from an adult, a member of the School Board. Perhaps the only recourse would be for the remaining board members to find the courage to hold an intervention. They can set parameters for acceptable language, written or oral, during meetings and on social media. As she is both an elected official, and draws a paycheck from the citizenry, she can, and must be held to a higher level as an example to our young students.”
Apparently, at the Tuesday night School Board meeting, Chairman Beth McCall did the correct thing and ended all comments from the board. Yet, after the meeting, Ms. Stacy felt the need to continue her harangue against women. Ms. Stacy certainly has a right to freedom of speech, but that does not erase the consequences she must face for such impulsive remarks. If Ms. Stacy really cared at all about Marion County and its children, she would turn her mean-spirited conduct into a teaching moment, she would apologize and resign. However, I expect that Ms. Stacy cares far more about Ms. Stacy than she does about children or the county.
Marion County citizens, whether you have children in school or not, deserve better, much better. There are many problems we can solve together, and this is one of them. Do we want respect, honesty and just plain old-fashioned manners? Call, write and vote.
— Elizabeth H. Cohen, M.Ed, is a retired, 33-year educator who was a teacher and a school technology administrator. She lives in Ocala.