Saturday, March 18, 2017

Scott Yost on Say Yes to Education; "You Should Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth"

Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten coronets close at hand.
They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuosos,
the dream of ev'ry famous band.

Professor" Harold Hill
The Music Man

"The Guilford County Board of Commissioners would never say "I told you so" when it comes to the striking and upsetting new revelations from the Say Yes program - namely, that many kids who were counting on Say Yes to help fund their college education will never see those funds...

The News and Record's Susan Ladd, Greensboro's City Council,
Guilford County Schools etc... lied to our community's children and their parents

[on] Monday afternoon, August 31, 2015, the commissioners came under fierce criticism merely for trying to get some answers about the program.

At that time, the ubiquitous impression of community leaders and school officials was that the county commissioners should just be quiet and thankful and not ask questions since Say Yes was, out of its immense generosity and the goodness of its heart, bestowing upon Guilford County a transformative program that would help county kids who wanted to go to college.

Greensboro's mayor Nancy Vaughan should be held to account
for misleading Guilford County's residents on the sustainability of Say Yes, 
helping install the Director, Mary Vigue, who was charged with due diligence over the program,
and providing free space in Greensboro's public library for the program
which didn't have any chance of paying out what was promised

After that meeting - at which the commissioners just wanted some answers, some hard numbers and a few details - News & Record columnist Susan Ladd began her column condemning the commissioners by writing, "They didn't just look a gift horse in the mouth.  They kicked it in the teeth."

Susan Ladd should be held to account, as her child was lined up to get funding
from Say Yes for her college tuition.

However, as citizens of ancient Troy will tell you, sometimes it's not a bad idea to look inside a gift horse.

In summer 2015, when school officials brought Say Yes to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners so the county could vote to approve it, it was a jam-packed meeting held in the Blue Room in the Old Guilford County Court House.  That day, the room was packed with school officials, business leaders, press and Say Yes representatives.

Say Yes was deciding whether to "choose" Guilford County and there was a great deal of pressure on the Guilford County commissioners to vote to support the organization.  And most of the community leaders, school officials and others in the room were worried the Board of Commissioners would ask hard questions rather than give an easy stamp of approval.  They didn't want the commissioners to mess up this fantastic blessing, this gift horse filled with gold.

The City of Greensboro didn't do any due diligence, 
as the appointed representative, Mary Vigue, set herself up for the Director's job, 
as she served on the committee to pick the Director for the program, 
and she helped pick herself, at the expense of the truth
and the best interests of our community

...some school officials and community leaders were actually cringing as the commissioners asked their questions, one after another - because you're never supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The commissioners were just trying to make sure it actually was a gift and not something else.

But the commissioners got rolled, just like the rest

Mo Green, who at the time was superintendent of schools, other school officials and community leaders looked horrified at times as the commissioners threw out questions rather than rolling out the red carpet.

Mo Green betrayed our community
by not knowing what he should have, just like Greensboro's mayor
and the rest of City Council

...the amount of money needed to establish an endowment for the Say Yes program - was off by nearly a half billion dollars.)

And nobody in charge bothered to figure it out, 
especially Greensboro's manager, Jim Westmoreland
and Guilford County's Marty Lawing

...During the August 2015 meeting, Green and other school officials all jumped in from time to time like a tag team to make points in favor of Say Yes.  They said that what the program needed now was simply a resolution from the commissioners showing the county's support - and the details, they said, could all be worked out later.

Our leadership were played for fools. 2017, there may be zero dollars going to charter school students and also zero dollars going to a vast swath of Guilford County school system students who'll be left off because their family lives above the poverty line.

How many kids in more expensive schools, 
will now be stuck with massive debts if they stay, 
or starting new if they leave?

Henning wasn't alone at that time - it was all the commissioners.  Many said they'd never been asked to make such a big decision with so little information.  Commissioner Kay Cashion, for instance, said at that meeting that this was all brand new to her.

Yet the program was approved by said commissioners

"I have quite a few questions because I haven't heard a conversation about this," Cashion said.  "I really question if the communication level has been what it should have been."

And then she voted for it

Commissioner Alan Branson said the county's school officials had obviously done a good job promoting the Say Yes program to the business community, but he added that the communication to the commissioners had been "very poor."

And then Branson voted for it

Commissioner Jeff Phillips, who's now chairman of the Board of Commissioners, and Commissioner Alan Perdue, had plenty of questions as well - as did Justin Conrad, who said, "There's clearly a disconnect."

And then Phillips voted for it

Commissioners Carolyn Coleman, Ray Trapp, and Carlvena Foster - also with a lot of questions - actually voted against the resolution of support for Say Yes in the end.

"I don't want to vote yes on something that isn't necessarily in the spirit of collaboration," Trapp said at that time.

Like the commissioners, I'd never seen a giant request with such a lack of numbers, details and previous information meetings.  After the meeting ended and the Blue Room had cleared out, I was hanging around with a few of the commissioners and they asked me what I thought about it.

And then Scott Yost didn't investigate Say Yes

I thought a minute about what we had just all seen and I said, "It kind of reminds me of The Music Man.  And they nodded and they were all like, "Yeah, that's exactly what it feels like: Too good to be true.

Yet Scott Yost didn't investigate the program

One of the things Susan Ladd wrote in her column blistering the commissioners was, "Many of the questions commissioners asked Monday could have been answered by spending an hour on the Guilford Say Yes website or reading through the press kit."

Susan Ladd appears to have personally profited from Say Yes
after lying to her readers

So the Board of Commissioners was right to ask a lot of questions in 2015 and, though they didn't get answers to their questions, they were told they would be revealed in the future.

Which the Rhino and the News and Record never investigated

Now, a year and nine months later, those answers are all still forthcoming.

Because of negligence by our news industry and our elected leadership
As I left the gym, Ragsdale student Dominique Parker and his friends
 paused on their way to PE.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Parker asked. “Did we win something?”

“Yes,” I said. “You just won a free college education. All of you.”

Without mentioning her kid stood to reap the same benefits

After a second of silence, they all started asking questions at once.

“For real?”

“Not just community college?”

“If you graduate and get accepted to college, 
your tuition will be paid to the last dollar,” I said.

Without saying she would be off the hook for her personal bills as a result

“That is dope,” another student said, shaking his head.

Indeed it is.

The dreams of all students are now within reach.

Not 'all', but hers, and maybe some more in the next few years
before the program runs out of money like the other closed Say Yes chapters 

Starting with the Class of 2016, graduates of Guilford County Schools 
will have the opportunity to go to college and graduate
without taking on crushing debt.

Including their parents

Guilford County, with about 73,000 students, 
is the largest school system that Say Yes has taken on. 

That number exceeds the total students in Say Yes programs
in Buffalo, N.Y., and Syracuse, N.Y., combined.

Susan Ladd
"Let's make the most of Say Yes"
Greensboro News and Record