Welcome To Tecumseh, Mr. Washington, Please Pardon Our Peculiar Propensity For Pageantry

“Laocoön” by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A lot changed last week.

We’re searching for our third superintendent in two months. Good job, everyone.

We’re a laughing stock.

A media frenzy has descended upon the town — and why wouldn’t it? It’s a straightforward story. Drop in for a few hours, shoot some B-roll, get a few hard-hitting quotes, and you’re back at the station with a burger and fries by noon. Easy as apple pie. If you wanted to go the extra mile, close the 45-second segment with a few sound bites from a fiery school board meeting and you have your whipped cream and cherry, too.

But our situation is far from easy and far less tasty.

Investigations. Backstabbing. Money down the drain. We’re about as distracted and directionless as a toddler in a Toys-R-Us. More accusations are flying in town than fingers at a Five-Finger Discount Symposium hosted by the Kleptomaniac Association of America. And, just as it would be hard to finger who stole what from the electronics section of a struggling Sears, we, too, have many unanswered questions.

Last week, the board voted to hire Recon Management Group to complete an investigation into the alleged misbehavior by Supt. Ryan Rhoades in his official capacity. $2500 for 10 interviews isn’t enough, according to Board President Tim Simpson. More accusations are coming. The investigation, which could last weeks, drawing out an already unwelcomed houseguest in Tecumseh, will deliver all our answers he says. But that’s unlikely. Christmas is months away.

READ MORE: TPS Interim Supt. Rhoades Asked Police Chief To Remove School Resource Officer

READ MORE: Turmoil Ravages Tecumseh Public Schools As Principals, Teachers Fear Retaliation

We may get a peek behind the curtain, a look at the demon of chaos that’s possessing our town, but it won’t answer how we got here, who knew what when, and why things happened the way they did.

“Pay attention to the shit that you can see because you have no idea what you cannot see.” — Charlie LeDuff

Why was Rhoades, one part of a two-pronged approach to governing the district, unilaterally making staffing decisions when he was supposed to handle the business of a public school district? Why was Rhoades the board’s first choice as interim superintendent? Why wasn’t Brad Hamilton, a veteran educator and administrator, considered from the get-go? If the committees and surveys are designed to include public feedback into the education direction of Tecumseh Public Schools, why are changes already happening? Are these actions pure pomp designed to appease local opposition into thinking they have a voice? Who is the school board member allegedly targeting Rhoades?

These questions need answers.

Simpson asked Hamilton to attend last Thursday’s special board meeting, and the board wants to hire Hamilton, voting to set up a meeting between a handful of members and Hamilton himself. But Hamilton doesn’t play games, and he won’t work with a district that doesn’t want his help.

Hamilton is also right in that there’s a lack of trust in the board and administration. Hiring an unqualified superintendent with no background in public education tends to sow the public’s doubt the board doesn’t know what it’s doing. There’s no reason to trust the board. They’ve had more missteps than a 16-year-old drunkenly explaining to their parents why their breath reeks of alcohol. It’s amateur hour at TPS.

But Hamilton could be an out, an easy panacea to the drama from the last several months. He’s an outsider with experience in public education. No bullshit. No fluff. Straight shooter. If the board honestly wants to bring the community together, then dumping Rhoades for Hamilton is the right start.

Unless this is all just pageantry, then we’re screwed. And the TV news crews will keep coming.

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