Thursday, January 13, 2011

Intercepted E-Mail RE Civitas & Forsyth Co. Schools

We've posted here before about a not so subtle move by some on the Forsyth County Board of Education to move Art Pope and the Civitas Institute into the philosophical driver's seat of the local school system.

We received the forwarded e-mail below, which sheds some more light on how the Civitas "training" session for School Board members happened and how it was marketed. The author of the e-mail, John Dornan, is both well known and well respected in NC education circles (more about his credentials below the e-mail). After all, the Civitas Institute itself sought out his participation.
To: [Forsyth County School Board members]
From: "John Dornan"
Date: 01/06/2011 02:41PM
Subject: Upcoming School Finance Training


To: The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board of Education & Superintendent
Re: Upcoming School Finance Training
From: John Dornan

I regretfully am writing to inform you that I will not be taking part in the upcoming school board training session on school finance. Over a month ago I was contacted by Kerry Crutchfield, your former business manager, and was asked if I would make a presentation on school finance at a board training session. Over the years the Public School Forum has relied on Kerry a good deal, asked him to participate in sessions with us, etc., and I immediately agreed to help.

There was no mention of the Civitas Institute being part of this session; nor was I told that the event would be marketed by Civitas to board members and others in the surrounding area.

Since the call from Crutchfield, I have not been contacted by anyone else, particularly the Civitas Institute, regarding the event and remained under the presumption that this was simply a school finance work session for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth Board.

However, in the last three weeks I have been contacted by a number of people – school officials, members of the Forum Board, and others – letting me know that in material marketing/promoting this event on behalf of the Institute, that I was featured quite prominently in Civitas material as a speaker. Those calling wanted to know if I was now promoting the Civitas view of public schools.

For your information, while I believe in a free exchange of ideas and respect the right of any would-be think tank, be it Civitas or the Public School Forum, to hold views contrary to my own, I do not agree with Civitas when it comes to their stance on public schools and would not knowingly help them advance their views. They appear to view the free market and choice/vouchers/tax credits as the answer to the challenges of education – solutions I fear would only compound the challenges we now face. As for their very recent entry into the school board training arena I can’t help but believe that it is a thinly veiled attempt to spread their ideology, not one focused on building the capacity of school board members to make decisions that will strengthen the public schools.

My views on Civitas and its philosophy aside, I again regret that I will not be part of next week’s training session. The invitation that was extended was incomplete. Had I known that I was being asked to play a role promoting an organization and a point-of-view that I do not subscribe to I would not have agreed to a part of it. If in the future the Public School Forum can support work on behalf of the young people in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth schools we will gladly respond in the affirmative, but in this case we decline to participate.

A brief bio on Mr. Dornan:
A native of Pennsylvania, Mr. Dornan taught high school English before working with education associations in six states. He was the leader of the NC Association of Educators until becoming head of the NC Public School forum in 1986. The NC Public School Forum is responsible for such programs as the NC Teaching Fellows Program, the Virtual High School Network, and the Education: Everybody’s Business Coalition. John serves on any number of boards of directors and was inducted in East Carolina University's Education Hall of Fame, among other honors and awards.
Yes! Weekly sez the Civitas Institute "training" session has been canceled.

Yes! Weekly apparently was only partially correct. The "training" has been rescheduled to Feb. 11 rather than canceled outright. An insider tells us that the School Board partisans were going to be embarrassed by low attendance this week and are trying to pump it up for later. The defection of John Dornan, apparently, was a big blow.

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