Monday, June 15, 2015
Anson Burlingame offers County Commissioners benefit of his wisdom
In a June 1 e-mail to Commission Darieus Adams labeled "CONFIDENTIALLY ONLY, NO FURTHER DISSEMINATION PLEASE," Anson, who in Shakespearean times might well have been called the Melancholy Pain battled his "reluctance" to join the Board of Education.
Following that e-mail, Burlingame sent another, withdrawing his candidacy, a third one offering sage advice to the commissioners, and a fourth, congratulating them on choosing Gary Nodler, Sallie Beard, and Ron Gatz.
The e-mail were obtained by the Turner Report as part of a Sunshine Law request and are printed below: In addition to Adams, Burlingame sent copies of two of his e-mails to Superintendent C. J. Huff, and R-8 board members Jeff Koch and Lynda Banwart.
The Reluctant Candidate
Never have I interacted, privately or publicly with the Jasper County Commission. You don't know me, nor I you, other than perhaps through the reading the Globe in both cases. But this is important to me, very mportant, so here we go! I send this ONLY to the CC addees to seek honest advice and counsel if they choose to do so, but only confidentially and to me only, one at a time to me or all address as well.
First, to debunk a terrible idea, that only educators know how to fix education, or even whether it needs fixing at all. I could not disagree more strongly with such a sentiment. In fact, bluntly written as I usually write, the mess we have seen for years in public education around America is that professional educators have failed miserably to fix public education. Does it need fixing? Of course, it does. And I have contributions to offer like them or not as well.
Since I left the professional race track, all associated with nuclear matters, submarines in the military and old nuclear weapons plants as a civilian, I led and taught and educated a whole range of people, from the mess cooks on a submarine to the highest executive ranks in the civilian and government nuclear organizations. And I, too, was a student of others in all those years as well. I know what worked for me and how my approach worked in term of "education' for others. Admiral Hyman Rickover trained me HARD.
But after leaving that race track as a professional, I became quickly involved, in the trenches so to speak, with public education, in two counties in Missouri, Henry and Jasper counties, for about 10 years as a substitute teacher, off and on for sure and not continuously. Since 2008, I have not been in classrooms, but have written volumes about public education. All added up, I claim 17 years of experience, as a layman, on that subject.
What I saw as a substitute, Mr. Adams, was shocking and a real debacle from the very beginning. The manner in which various schools operated in the classrooms was generally and simply terrible. Dr. Huff has heard my anecdotes for seven years in that regard and he LISTENED to them, not did he just assume I was a kook. We talked at length, and with no animosity for seven years. We did not always agree, but good or bad ideas were explored for sure as honestly as possible.
Try that with just about any professional educator and you will met the disdain seen in universities when a conservative students confronts a liberal professor. I get that all the time if I try to engage with most professional educators and certainly a lot of teachers that think they are such, which they are not. I would not let many of them set foot in any facility for which I was responsible to teach anything, from mess cooks on up, again bluntly written.
Not all of the ideas are right for sure. But many of them NEED to be injected into the governing process for lcoal education, BOEs if you will. I have done some injecting with all presidents of the BOEs and in columns in the Globe over time as well, but look at our current mess, an unneeded mess in both the schools and now the BOE sadly.
As to my views, whether or not they have any merit, I leave that the honest judgment of Dr. Huff. He knows them more than any other person in Joplin. But I would ask that he not address whether my views COULD BE implemented politically. Just ask him if they SHOULD be implemented, at least in part- I could give you a whole string of specifics but that would be far too long. You would have to read by seven-year running blog to get the gist of such, or more simply, talk to Dr. Huff.
I will offer this condensed version, a sound bite, if you will. Any BOE MUST provide a good education to every child in K-12, adding, whether those kids or their parents want it or not. I bet most thinking people would also agree with my definition of a good public education, the ability to read, write, and do arithmetic at every grade level throughout their K-12 years in education, simple and hard as that may be. Give me a kid that can honestly read, write, and do math at the 12th grade level and I can teach them to run a nuclear reactor as a real professional. But give me a "hoodlum" that could care less about their education through K-12 and I would never accept them in a program to even try to run a nuclear reactor or any other business I might run, thank you for applying but...
It is my own sense of the law that this situation will not yet come before you and your commission. But it could, in a matter of weeks. If it does, I ask your consideration for what I write further herein.
Very reluctantly, I MIGHT throw my hat into the ring to become a 10-month member of the BOE. GO scream all you like Jeff or Lynda, but I am thinking about it. I don't want to do it, nor does my wife, who currently is telling me an emphatic NO. I would not do so for the sake of my family or my own health, which is sound right now, but ....I would only do so to TRY to inject more reason and leadership to stop this political circus if I could do so. Whether I could succeed is up to anyone crazy enough to so appoint me. That is called judgment which any good elected official must exercise, popular or not. My appointment would, of course, raise unmitigated hell with the ranks of the underbelly of Joplin, which is driving the politics of this mess right now. But calling them that, I do NOT mean the poor or needy. I mean those crazy and anonymous jerks writing on social media and contributing greatly to Dr. Huff's "retirement." Fill your hands you SOBs has been by social media response to them of late. I am sick of reading it, but do so still to know my real enemies!!
You nor anyone else in Joplin, including my wife, knows exactly what I did or how I did it back then. It is ancient history, nor did I do it all right either. But I did it and I was a success, according to those actually sitting in professional judgment of my performance, people, good, and very "senior" people in and out of government, like two former Secretaries of Energy and a a few four star admirals from those old days. Even Admiral Rickover, if he was still alive, would grudgingly acknowledge that I was a good skipper on a nuclear submarine!!
I am certainly NOT a professional educator. At best, I could be considered a professional nuclear operator, but not engineer. I have "run" many nuclear facilities myself or as the guy in charge of supervising others in charge of such things instead. I have trained, educated, and cajoled others, including myself, to do so successfully. THAT leadership and experience in some really tough situations were a success in my view at least and that ability can be applied to local public education, again in my view.
The only doubt I have and many others will have for sure, is can I be a team player in doing so, work as a team and not just a tyrant in charge, so to speak. I can only say that when I was president of EG&G Rocky Flats in Colorado in 1994-1995, I was not a tyrant. But I expected people working for me to do that when needed for sure.
What will I do if appointed (I would never even try to be elected) to the current BOE is my best to inject reason and compromise in this mess. Jeff is trying but does not have the experience yet to do so. He might disagree, but the current situation is a mess under his leadership right now. He must acknowledge that, at least. Do I hold him accountable as such? Bet your ass I do. But I would also coach him as best as I can to help him improve. That I know I can do even with cray SS laws trying to get in the way. Lynda I would not try to do so for her. She already knows when to bend and when to break, in my view, in the current situation.I applaud her efforts and that is not a political statement.
Finally, Mr. Adams, I have quietly consulted with two outstanding men who have lived their lives in Joplin. This is extraordinarily private by the way, Henry Robertson and Leland Brown. Both believe I can and should step up to try to make a difference. They know full well I can be a lightning road. But in their judgment such is needed right now to try to get the current situation back on track.
Take this or leave it. Speak with Dr. Huff or the co-presidents of the BOE or the two men mentioned for further information if you like. But NO ONE else right now. As well as I am at your disposal for either a public or private interview, but publicly only if I decide to join this fray. I will expand on the above or give you more information.
Call this forming an "exploratory committee of one" if you like.
Forget about it
(Burlingame sent this e-mail to only Darieus Adams on June 8.)
After giving the matter much thought, I have decided NOT to volunteer for or put my name before the County Commissioners as a candidate to fill any seats on the Joplin BOE.
If you bothered to read my e-mails, etc. I apologize for taking up your valuable time.
Darieus, this is how you should do it
(Burlingame sent Adams this e-mail June 10, also including Huff, Koch, and Banwart in the recipients.)
Some suggestions from me in your actions to appoint three members to the BOE.
1. Most important, the political sides are very clear. Don't pick anyone associated with either side, such as Kimbrough, me, or anyone writing publicly about R-8 issues. It will just create a furor again.
2. Three people must be ready and able, from experience, to start with both feet on the ground. Thus EXPERIENCE of the finest sort in public office and/or education issues must be a first priority. Those three must be ready to immediately develop and approve an annual budget in the range of $70 million, appoint an interim superintendent and hire a new superintendent in the next 10 months. They must also be able to speak publicly with intelligence and good ideas to others will follow.
3. No one selected should be young and aggressive. Let those folks run for election. Wise and senior leadership is desperately needed on this BOE. You can appoint three people to provide just that who as well will have the time to devote considerable effort to this task of governing R-8.
4. All three appointees should have experience working with strong unions from the management side of any table in such relationships. The NEA will work hard to make its presence felt, which is expected. But that union must be met with equal "vigor" from the BOE side of the table.
Quiet wisdom in matters related to education, demonstrated leadership and a very strong "hide" ready and willing to stand before some really virulent people is required for anyone crazy enough to accept an appointment to the BOE at this point in time.
It is up to you now to pull a rabbit out of the hat and find three people in our area able who are willing to leap into this breach. You should be very private in your deliberations and surprise the living hell out of Joplin when you announce your choices. Both sides of the education politics should be asking, "Who the hell is HE or SHE!!
A job well done
(This e-mail was sent to only Darieus Adams on June 11.)
Pass to all CC members if you like.
The CC has demonstrated decisive leadership by quickly choosing three members for the BOE. Well done. I await the acknowledgment of wise leadership after I see who was selected. I hope the hell they are truly ready to hit the ground running and know something about local public education other than just the politics of such.
But again, I am impressed. You guys took the bull by the horns and made a decision without dilly dallying around, bobbing and weaving before the public, trying to gain favor with everyone which you know is impossible.
Again, well done.