Huntsville City Schools 2011 Debacle, Part 7: Bad Advice at Any Price

I expect Mayor Battle had the best intentions when he hired Education Planners’ Steve Salmon to conduct a demographic study for the Huntsville City Schools, paying the company, owned by James Wilson, $70,000.

What I do know is that when the School Board voted on June 16 during a meeting which allowed no comments from the public (see point 6 of its By-Laws),  to approve “a $500-per-day contract for James Wilson of Education Planners LLC” covering “six dates…five for the hearings and the sixth for the June 2 board meeting,” it showed abysmal judgment.

Wilson offered no explanations of his methodology in the first four meetings, in spite of repeated questions. You might think that after getting the $3000 contract, $2500 of which covered these meetings, he would have had something to contribute at the fifth and final one, last night, June 21, 2011.

Again, his methodology was questioned (and not just by me: I’m far from his only critic). Again he had no answers. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised that Wilson didn’t even attempt to defend his company’s report.  I have read the thing, and it is indefensible. And why should he bother? He’s been paid or will be paid.

No, what scares me is that when the Board voted to give Wilson $3000, it was saying, in effect, that it considered Salmon’s Facility Utilization Study to be an A+++++ report, when it deserves a big fat F.

Now, dear School Board members — Laurie McCaulley, Topper Birney, Alta Morrison, Jennie Robinson, David Blair — (and I know at least one of you has been reading my posts and wondering about me: that’s what the comments area is for, if you’d like to make contact), I know that it is hard when you’ve paid for something not to make use of it.

But think about it this way. You bought a non-returnable swimsuit mail-order, sight unseen, and you take it out of the package and discover a nasty looking stain on the crotch area. Are you still going to wear it to the country club pool? Or say you buy a pecan log on your travels and when you get home and open it up you discover several dead roaches in the box. Are you going to eat it anyway? You paid good money for it, after all, and you can’t get your money back. Best go ahead and eat it, right?

Hell no.

You’d trash that trash.

And that is what you need to do with the Facility Utilization Study. Cut your losses. Don’t make a bad situation worse. The $73,000 is gone, but there’s more at stake here.

Put on your thinking caps, folks. Stop trying to find someone else to do your thinking, your reading, your research for you.

Convince me that it wouldn’t be a good thing for the HCS to be taken over by the state. Convince me that the Board doesn’t deserve such an embarrassment.

So far, all the Board has expressed since receipt of the Salmon/Wilson report is its approval of a study CEO Wilson can’t or won’t defend himself.

Does this approval mean you will blindly and dumbly follow the report’s recommendations? Will you be addressing any of the unanswered questions listed here?

How very quiet you five are.


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