Thursday, July 13, 2006

The one thing they can't take away from you ...

My old daddy, faulted as he was, surely valued education. He left JSU after doing his time in the Navy toward the end of WWII. I think he simply missed "home" but I often think what he could have done with a little more formal education. He helped make sure his four kids earned several degrees.

Three educators and one social worker, although two sisters have not worked in the last decade or two. He was a smart man that liked politics. My understanding is that he called in a connection or two to get his kids jobs or at least their foot in the door. I still think he'd be a touch outraged by what appears to be going on in our two-year system. Maybe all these family members are top drawer, highly qualified, hard working folks but then again there seems to be lots of smoke here.

The post title is built off a line he said more than once, that being, "Education is the one thing they can't take away from you boy.", figuring they meant "life" I guess. Hardly the optimist was my Dad and yet I think I know what he meant. We all know "It's not what you know but who you know." and darned if that one doesn't seem to hold as well, perhaps especially so here in Alabama.

The image here is of Dr. Renee Culverhouse, President of Gadsden State Community College and interim Chancellor of Alabama's two year college system. I posted yesterday on Roy Johnson being shown the door. The Mobile Register reports in their "Board to study nepotism policy following firing of chancellor" the following:

The interim chancellor chosen by the board, Renee Culverhouse, is not immune to the issue either. She has informed the board that her husband, daughter, brother and son-in-law are employed by the two-year college system.
Roy Johnson had five family members on the payroll so I guess four is a step in the right direction. Now I agree, up to a point at least, with something the piece referenced above contains, that being a statement attributed to Board President pro tem Sandra Ray that states,

She said it's natural that there would be more than one family member working for two-year colleges because in many families working in education it is a tradition passed down from one generation to another.
Please note that Ms. Ray has a daughter and son working in the two year system!

I'll also agree with Political Science Professor William Stewart that you don't want to "throw the baby out with the bath water" in creating a better policy. There's middle ground yet a clear policy ought to have already been nailed down. It appears that plenty of folks have some 'splaining to do.

This situation can partly be traced back to one reason George Wallace pushed so hard for JuCos and technical colleges. Networks, perhaps especially those built on nepotism up to a point, can be handly tools for getting things done in this state. Wallace valued quantity of quality,as might still be the default position here in Alabama, yet this state can hardly afford to have foolishness going on at any level of education.

I also know how hard it is to get your foot in the door at a JuCo in an academic field. I've been told you start way lower in pay at Auburn than at SUSCC plus you aren't expected to publish. Your teaching load is only barely higher. I also know they pay dreadfully low for part-time instructors. An insulting rate if you intend to do a good job with the instruction and grading and prep and ... Maybe they are using the part-time instruction as an audition. Could be they are wanting to see if you'll play nice and all that stuff.

The following is my real concern. Taxpayers are hardly going to pony up when they see, or even think, leaders like Johnson and ... are milking the system. These positions are fine jobs I'm thinking compared to how many Alabamians keep their bread buttered. I know how hard I worked in the classroom and I'm figuring most of these folks were hardly toiling as I didbut probably making just as much if not more than I was. I'm certain there's some resentment from Joe and Jill Sixpack when they see the "family business" in action. This sort of stuff goes on in K-12 settings as well yet it depends on the system I'm sure. Again, qualified people should not be disqualified simply because of family connections yet you've got to create safeguards to prevent abuse or the appearance of monkey business.

It's a damn shame when we see our Executive and Legislative branches asleep at the switch on anything yet to have this be so in education is intolerable. Peace ... or War!