Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mahatma Chumney

Kevin Chumney: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win." M. Gandhi

I'm not comparing Rachel to Gandhi (though she has lost a bunch of weight during this campaign), but that quote pretty much sums up our experience with this campaign. We have had several reports of similar personal attacks that would appear to be coordinated. Rachel and her supporters have never made any kind of personal attack on her opponent and have run a positive campaign solely on issues. I think this kind of personal attack speaks for itself.
Source: Facebook.
"Never made any kind of personal attack."
"Have run a positive campaign."
As Seth and Amy might say, Really!?!

Let's have a look, shall we? After the jump.

Right there in the same Facebook group Kevin Chumney posts in (so it's hard for him to claim he didn't see any of it), the RISD trustees and administrators have been accused of not caring about dyslexia and other learning disabilities, not listening to parents, bullying and punishing parents, suppressing dissent, breaking the law, tolerating corruption, and other negative behavior. How is this in any way a positive campaign? How are these not personal attacks, not just on the incumbent trustee, but on all trustees? The fact that the attacks indict the entire school board and not trustee Lanet Greenhaw alone doesn't make them feel any less personal to the trustees, I'm sure.

It's offensive for the Chumney supporters to disparage the motives of others. The trustees and administrators have the best interest of all children at heart. Always have and always will, just as the parents who are so critical of the RISD trustees care deeply about their own children. Chumney supporters might feel it's justified to run a negative campaign, but for Kevin Chumney to pretend it isn't even happening takes willful ignorance. I respect the RISD trustees for their ability to keep a positive outlook despite the personal attacks they endure on an almost daily basis, not just during election campaigns.

Yes, educating children with learning disabilities is a challenge. There are many challenges all through the district. Yes, the RISD can do better, with or without more resources from the state, with or without more obstacles imposed by the state. Villifying the trustees is not an effective way to improve education for anyone. Not that it will negatively impact the trustees' own efforts. The trustees will continue to work through the multitude of issues facing the district, even while being attacked for supposedly caring less for some issues than others. That trustees can continue to work on behalf of all children, including those with learning disabilities, is evidence that RISD voters were right in putting their trust in these public servants in the first place. Really.


Kevin Chumney said...

Mark: thank you for your weirdly persistent attacks on my family. Having you as an enemy has definitely been a plus for Rachel’s campaign.

You’ve made a lot of statements this campaign season about what is and is not appropriate in our local political discourse. Your high-minded principles and righteous outrage seemed to have escaped you on this issue. Coordinating a whisper campaign that Rachel is a racist (of all things!) is a personal attack that is untrue, unethical and shameful in a campaign that is supposed to be about our schoolchildren. Criticizing and trying to improve RISD policies is not a personal attack and is exactly what should be discussed in a campaign for school board. Rachel is in this race for all the right reasons. At great personal cost, she is standing up for all those parents and children who for too long have not had a voice on our school board. What compelling issue or principle is driving the 15 year incumbent to want to be there for 18 years? What is so important about being elected that would cause one to make this kind of nasty and unethical attack?

Mark Steger said...

Kevin Chumney, thank you for your feedback and your opinion that somehow I am influencing the outcome of this election. You give me too much credit.

I would strongly condemn a whisper campaign that Rachel Chumney is a racist. If you can provide the details identifying exactly who is saying what, when, and where, I'd be glad to challenge the source of these rumors to either provide evidence or shut the hell up.

If Rachel Chumney and her supporters had limited themselves to how RISD can improve education for the learning disabled, I would have been more open to their campaign. But the supporters' campaign in the social media has instead focused on impugning the motives of the trustees. I stand by my characterization of that as negative campaigning, and I stand by my criticism of your comment on Facebook denying that it was negative.

Lyn said...

Mark, I'd encourage you to read my most recent post on the Richardson Politics Facebook group page, where I share about my experience speaking before a large group of dyslexia parent advocates from 24 states across the country recently in New York City.
I was asked to speak by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, head of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, and one of the most recognized thought leaders in the field of learning disabilities. I was thankful to have the opportunity to share about my experiences as the mother of a dyslexic child in Texas who is not receiving appropriate services under our dyslexia laws, and after speaking I was kindly praised for my candid comments, bravery in sharing my story with a group of relative strangers and for encouraging parents to speak up on behalf of their children in order to start a national conversation about how schools can better serve and protect children with learning disabilities across the country.
Based on this, here are some questions: Why are you and others in the RISD community spending more time defending the RISD decision makers who have chosen for years to under identify and under serve this population of kids than you are defending the CHILDREN who are being under served and PRAISING the parents who are speaking up for them? Why aren't we working as a community to identify the people responsible for these well-documented occurrences, which are increasingly being reported by parents publicly in relation to the election?
Here are some questions YOU might ask: Are recent RISD administrator retirements directly related their poor handling of the failing RISD dyslexia program and ongoing terrible AYP stats for kids with special needs? How will their replacements help improve these programs? Are current RISD staff that manage the district’s dyslexia program qualified to be doing so? Are those running the Dyslexia program, a program that should be serving up to 8,000 dyslexic students (20% of the RISD student population) qualified as administrators?
My turn again: Instead of throwing parents under the bus for speaking out, is there some reason that an RISD representative cannot reach out to each and every parent who has voiced a concern or complaint in relation to this election (which you are mischaracterizing as "negative campaigning") and HELP us? I have not seen this occur, personally, and I have been working on this issue in direct collaboration with the district for many, many months.
Another point for you to consider: Parents have TRIED to collaborate with the RISD. For YEARS. We have gone up the proper chains of command. We have learned the laws. We have asked for help. We have tried to work as a team. Parents are speaking out now not because they want to be negative in relation to Rachel’s campaign, but because they feel that the RISD is FINALLY listening!
And, why stop? This response from you, those on the Richardson Politics page, via the Board’s most recent actions and budget items related to Dyslexia and Special Student Services - all show that our complaints are finally being heard – because we can finally see they are being responded to.
So, Mark, rather than viewing any of this as “negative” why not look at the positive? From now on, when RISD parents want to get the Board’s attention, we know exactly how to do it. Everything we were doing before clearly does not work. This current method, however,(the one Rachel is bravely pioneering for us) works like a charm.
The good news for you and your camp? Thanks to Rachel and her candid campaigning, I have a feeling you’ll be getting to write your sullied opinion about parents running for the RISD school board a LOT more often…

Mark Steger said...

Lyn Pollard, thanks for your feedback. To be clear, I don't deny that the RISD can improve in this area and many others. What I object to as "negative campaigning" is not the focus on areas of improvement, it's impugning the motives of RISD trustees and administrators. While you don't do so explicitly in your own comment, I do see it in many of the comments elsewhere. I stand by my statement that attacking the motives of public servants is negative campaigning. While I may understand the frustration that led to it, I cannot condone this behavior, even if you believe it's the best way to get the results you seek.

Lyn said...

Hi, Mark.

In my mind, a public servant is an elected official and therefore must be held accountable by their constituents for their actions. What better way for them to be held accountable than for their constituents to speak out openly about the problems they have with the way they have been responded to when they voice concerns?

I respect and agree with your desire to keep things clean and to avoid unnecessary or untrue criticism of public officials or anyone, for that matter, UNLESS it is both productive toward a greater good and, most importantly, warranted.

Who is to say that the claims parents are making that some RISD board members and administrators have lied to them, misdirected them, purposefully not responded to them, etc. are not completely true?

It's important to realize that most parents who are well-educated advocates for their children record most meetings with the RISD. By doing so, they are being smart in creating a record. I'd actually like to suggest that parents on these forums are actually being KIND by NOT sharing in much greater detail the indiscretions that are actually taking place within the district.

I for one, have much, much more that I could share, but I have chosen not to at this time or in this particular context. Mostly because I don't want to give folks fuel with which to criticize parental efforts to bring the truth to light, but also because of good old fashioned strategy.

Rest assured that parents who seem critical in these public conversations pertaining to the election will bring 100 times more punch to their lawsuits, IDEA grievances, TEA complaints, OCR filings and direct discussions with the U.S. Department of Education. In other words, you ain't seen nothing yet. These are the steps that parents now realize we will have to take (in addition to shaking up the School Board) to create real change.

UNLESS, what if our "negative" campaigning instead begins to be viewed as an opportunity for dialogue? What if in response to consistently speaking out, the RISD starts to listen, then respond, then collaborate, then change?

Wouldn't that be the easiest and best way to address these issues? Working together to move away from the past, forgive indiscretions, wipe the slate clean and fix our district? Now that's what I would call true public service. Meeting your constituents where they are - hurt, angry, disillusioned and all - making things right and working together to address the problems that they were brave and bold enough to help identify in the first place.

Mark Steger said...

Lyn Pollard, in my opinion, threatening lawsuits is not a productive way to bring about the dialog and collaboration you claim to want. I am not a lawyer, but I imagine the legal advice to anyone threatened with a lawsuit would be to *cease* dialog and collaboration. Don't expect my support if you decide to go down the path of making threats to trustees and administrators.

Lyn said...


To clarify, no one is "threatening" lawsuits - certainly not me. I am simply listing the state- and federally-provided options that parents have when their children are not being provided FAPE under federal law and appropriate services under Texas law.

My husband is an attorney. We have no attorney fees to pay, no overhead, we could file a suit at any time. Yet we have not. Even while our small daughter suffers daily on her school campus. That says something about our consideration of legal action as a last resort. Most parents I have talked to feel the same way.

I guess I'm not being clear enough, so I'll say it again. Parents want to work WITH the RISD to fix these problems. We are not just throwing the term "collaboration" out there for fun - we actually want to collaborate with the RISD to help serve our children. Is it so unheard of and outside the norm for school districts to work WITH parents to create change that this is impossible to believe? I'm beginning to think that it is.

Mark Steger said...

Lyn Pollard, thanks for clarifying. As I said, I am not a lawyer, so if there is some legal definition of "threaten" that I am not aware of, I apologize for my uninformed use of a legal term.

Legalese aside, I'm not sure your clarification changes how I felt when I read your earlier comment. I still think it is not a productive way to bring about the dialog and collaboration you claim to want.

Kevin Chumney said...

Mark: thank you for being so brave in standing up for these poor, defenseless politicians. How dare these parents and kids fight for their legal rights and question their elected officials. It's downright un-American! I have always chalked up your nonsense to the fact that your not very bright, but you've now crossed over to full-fledged, boot-licking, lackeydom.

Unknown said...

There is a lot more to being on the school board than advocating for special needs children.
I think if Mrs. Chumney spent an election cycle attending board meetings and learning about other issues, she would have a really good chance of being elected.
Just my 2 cents.

Chris Simonds said...

Mark, I think you are confusing testimony with accusation and attacks. There are many frustrated and angry parents and they are venting at the issue and the system -not at Lanet Greenhaw.

There is clearly a very big problem in RISD which can be seen here: http://www.risd.org/group/aboutrisd/Board_Of_Trustees/052013-Agenda-Packet.html
Because this is one of the biggest changes to RISD policy and budget at the moment, this has naturally become the main talking point of the election. Of course there are many other issues that need to be addressed -and they will be. But if you read through what changes are being proposed and implemented, you will see that the teaching methods that they are proposing may benefit all students in RISD. For example, many teachers will be getting additional training in the multisensory teaching approach which will help everyone.

Mark, your recent comments have been purely polemic. I have yet to see a direct disparaging comment towards Lanet Greenhaw but have seen and heard several regarding Rachel Chumney. The recent postings are what I would call in internet parlance: trolling and flame-baiting.

I would please ask that we raise the level of discourse to a more positive one and focus on what each candidate is bringing to the table, their agendas and their accomplishments.

I would also challenge you to review my comments on Facebook specifically and see that I have in no way challenged the motives of the trustees. I have mostly shared my experience both good and bad on the hot topic dyslexia issue. In fact, I have spent quite a bit of time reviewing both candidates and they both have very positive yet different strengths. I have met with both candidates and spoken with them regarding the dyslexia issue -they were both supportive of changes.

I have also met Mr Chumney. I have not met Mr Greenhaw but I would imagine if you had said similar things regarding his wife -he would not have kind words for you either.

Regardless of which candidate you select or who wins, the changes in the link (in particular the May 20 budget update) I provided are the real issues that will impact the school district.

Let's all try to do better -our kids deserve it!

Mark Steger said...

Chris Simonds (JPOPUSA), thanks for the feedback. I did not mean to imply that all policy criticism was negative campaigning. I was addressing the claims of lying, bullying, retaliation, etc. on the part of trustees and administrators. That's not policy criticism. That's personal. I also didn't mean to imply that all commenters were guilty of that. Some were. Others were not. I apologize to those who were not who inferred I was criticizing them. I did not intend that.