A most educational meeting: VSU, Wiregrass Tech, CUEE, FVCS, et al.

Only Lemony Snicket could do justice to the peculiarity of last night’s most educational meeting at VSU’s Continuing Education building, about K-12 education even though neither school superintendent was there, most of the school board members were not present, and it was presided over by two very uneasy college presidents.

Who called it was unclear, who was invited even less, for what purpose there was no consensus, yet there was a decision by the pair of presiding college presidents. It was somehow about the general state of education in Valdosta and Lowndes County, Georgia, although the topic of consolidation was discussed only by the frequent admonitions that it was not to be discussed, and for that matter that nothing else related to educational improvements should be discussed until after the November 8th consolidation referendum. Both school system superintendents were elsewhere at a conference of school superintendents. A few Valdosta City School Board members were in attendance, although none of them said anything. I didn’t recognize any Lowndes County School Board members. There were no introductions to the group, other than self-introductions by the two college presidents. Maybe you can identify some of the attendees.

CUEE Vice-Chair Rusty Griffin near left, Chamber President Myrna Ballard far right, VBOE Member Jeana Beeland and CUEE Board Member Tom Kurrie near corner of the tables, SCLC President Rev. Floyd Rose to Kurrie’s right. FVCS President Sam Allen is near the far end of the left side of the table. CUEE Board Member Walter Hobgood is near the far end of the right side of the table.

There was no agenda. There was a document to be presented, but it was not handed out to the attendees, and the principal presider, VSU interim president Dr. Louis Levy, refused to present it. It is online if you want to see it: An Education Framework, by CUEE’s Education Planning Committee.

Dr. Levy and the other presider, Dr. Ray Perrin, president of Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, when asked several different ways by Sam Allen, whether they or their institutions had validated that document, or stood behind it, immediately said “No” each time. While both presidents disclaimed any opinion on the actual consolidation referendum, both made it pretty clear that educational improvements had nothing to do with consolidation. Dr. Levy repeatedly asked for multiple proposals, and the most he would recommend about the CUEE document (which, remember, most of the people in the room had not even seen, although Rev. Rose sat silently perusing a copy the whole time), was that it was one possible framework for discussion.

When FVCS president Sam Allen asked where the document came from, CUEE board member Walter Hobgood replied “from the educational committee”. When Sam Allen asked if that was a Chamber committee, Hobgood said no and there were many other participants, gesturing widely, taking in for example Dr. Dennis Marks. I don’t think Hobgood ever admitted it was a CUEE committee and a CUEE document, although the document itself clearly says that right on the cover, and under Hobgood’s signature inside it says “Chair, Education Planning Task Force, Community Unification for Educational Excellence.” CUEE Campaign Manager Daniel Storey finally handed copies to me and to Karen Noll towards the end of the meeting, taking them out of a box in the corner.

Dr. Levy repeatedly referred to a contrarian approach to educational discussion which he had learned about from previous VSU president Ronald M. Zaccari. That approach apparently involves getting all concerned parties to discuss together without taking sides, and to look for gray areas among their viewpoints.

Dr. Levy said that a real university interacts with its community, including students. That was perhaps in contrast to that particular meeting, at which the only likely students were two young people sitting at a side table who seemed to be there to assist, and if there was any notice of this meeting to the public I must have missed it.

The introduction by Dr. Levy lasted most of an hour. He asked Dr. Perrin to say a few words, and they were few indeed. Then the pair of presidents took questions, most of which came from Sam Allen, president of Friends of Valdosta City Schools (FVCS), although CUEE Board Member Tom Kurrie interrupted at one point until Sam Allen pointed out that he was addressing Dr. Levy and asked Mr. Attorney to do the same.

CUEE Vice-Chair Rusty Griffin, who is perhaps not coincidentally on the UGA Board of Regents, sat silently in a separate row of onlookers.

As Dr. Levy was attempting to adjourn the meeting so he could go to a scheduled walk around campus, Walter Hobgood of CUEE suggested everyone get into discussions of the CUEE document right then. Dr. Levy asked if Hobgood wanted to come along on the walk. Then the meeting adjourned.

Videos are still uploading all uploaded except one YouTube doesn’t seem to like (if somebody really wants to attract knowledge-based jobs and workers, how about get us real Internet access?), but here’s a playlist so far:

A most educational meeting
Presidents Dr. Louis Levy of VSU and Dr. Ray Perrin of Wiregrass Tech
led a rather reticent discussion about education in Valdosta and Lowndes County,
attended by CUEE, FVCS, and others.
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 20 October 2011.
Videos by John S. Quarterman for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.

I managed to catch Dr. Levy afterwards to thank him for telling VSU campus police to let students protest at Gov. Deal’s recent visit to campus. He seemed quite pleased about that.


PS: Dean Poling of the VDT stood in the back taking notes, and left at the end “like he was on fire” as one onlooker put it, so this morning’s VDT should be interesting.

1 thought on “A most educational meeting: VSU, Wiregrass Tech, CUEE, FVCS, et al.

  1. Karen Noll

    Thank you, John for that accurate description of the most bizarre meeting that I have ever attended.
    As I was not invited I remained at the door. Dean Polling came to the door 10 minutes late because he’d been roaming around Rainwater conference center with a few other folks before he found out the meeting was located here.
    This meeting was held on the date that the CUEE had given when it would unveil its education plan. So many assumed it would be at the conference center and open to the public.(LOL)
    The plan put together by the unnamed education task force a sub committee of cuee pushed Levy into having it at VSU, when VSU has clearly stated they are taking NO side!!
    So CUEE’s educational plan was presented before the vote has been taken to an invited group at a public institution that is staying out of the whole stinking affair.
    This is all to strange to not ask why and who is behind this mess?
    At the end when I told Myrna Ballard about the location confusion she said the invitation clearly stated it was here. I expressed my concern that having the meeting at this location had clearly put both Dr. Levy and Dr. Perrin in a very awkward position. Wouldn’t it have been appropriate to have this meeting at the conference center? She thanked me for coming (numerous times).
    Dennis Marks was also miffed that I would suggest that the location was very unfortunate, not to mention the timing.
    What has this done for VSU’s relationship to the community? No matter how they danced around hosting this event they did and it is very unfortunate.

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