Friday, March 02, 2012

BULLETIN: Former Basketball Coach Jason Popp Suspended from Richmond Hts Schools

In a move that was both long overdue and absolutely appropriate, Jason Popp was suddenly placed on administrative leave with pay this week by the Richmond Heights School District.
The move was nonetheless startling and possibly troubling in terms of its timing.

Popp is president of the teacher’s union [the Richmond Heights Teachers Association] and teaches physical education at the high school. He was removed as head coach of the boys basketball team in February 2011 when the team threatened to boycott its season because of his repeated verbal and psychological abuse replete with racial epithets.

Timing, manner of Popp suspension
The timing of the suspension is puzzling. The school board met on Monday with the apparent intent to act on the recommendation of interim superintendent Robert Moore to fire interim high school principal Timothy Pingle. Emerging after a three-hour executive session attended by board attorney Christopher Williams of Pebble and Wagoner, the board did not vote for Pingle’s immediate termination pursuant to the simple motion attached to the agenda. 

Instead, the board voted 4-0 [Kaye was in San Francisco on business] “to consider the termination” of Pingle and, based on a lengthy bill of particulars, found that he should be immediately suspended without pay. Pingle had been on administrative leave without pay since early December. 

After the meeting, board president Linda Pliodzinskas told reporters that immediate termination was deferred because the board “wanted to make sure all its ’i’s were dotted and its ‘t’s were crossed.”

It is not altogether clear that the Board has crossed its ’i’s and dotted its ‘t’s with respect to Popp. For one, there does not appear to have been a public vote on the suspension. Nor is it clear that Popp was given due process regarding his suspension.

Counsel for the Board failed to respond to email and phone calls seeking comment.

Pressure building on the District
Popp’s removal as basketball coach brought to the surface tensions and anxieties that have long been building within the school system. Conflicts within and among virtually every group of stakeholders in the system — school board members, administrators, teachers, parents, students, and taxpayers — have long been present in the district but now appear exacerbated in the wake of the lingering Popp affair. Consultants hired by the Board last year submitted a report finding "disconnections among stakeholders". While the findings have not yet been discussed publicly by the Board, the Real Deal obtained a copy through a public records request.

Three months after Popp’s initial removal as coach, Superintendent Hardwick defied a school board majority by making the removal permanent, and essentially forced the board to hire another coach for this current season. This development punctuated what had been a behind the scenes battle, led by board president Joshua Kaye, to reinstate Popp without any disciplinary record.

At the time of the Popp affair, Kaye had already been maneuvering for more than six months to fire Hardwick herself. Although the novice superintendent had some early missteps, even a first time observer of the district could see that much of the animosity had a personal, if not a racial, aspect.

If Popp’s suspension smacks of being hurried, the Board’s haste may be related to actions by one or more of the governmental agencies that have been investigating the district over the past year. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Education have all been investigating the environment of Richmond Heights Local Schools relative to both students and employees. No findings have been released although the findings are expected to weigh heavily on certain individual board members as well as particular employees.

Mythic Creatures and Congress [with Video]

I went to a party last night and was pleasantly surprised when a strategic civic discussion was instigated by a sitting member of Congress.

I was there at the invitation of my good friend Kathryn Hall, the Diva of Diversity, who seems to have a finger in promoting so many of the positive developments that take place in our community. So when she suggested I attend I circled the date.

The event was a preview party for an fascinating new exhibit on mythic creatures at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in University Circle.

After a brief greeting and overview of museum activity from executive director/CEO Evalyn Gates, invertebrate paleontologist Michael Ryan offered the audience a short and amusing slide show presentation on the new Mythic Creatures exhibit.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur arrived shortly after the program began. Kaptur sightings are undoubtedly more frequent in Greater Cleveland since the Republican-dominated Ohio General Assembly redrew Ohio’s Congressional districts in an unconscionably partisan manner. The new District 9 combines major portions of Kaptur’s current Toledo-based current district with Dennis Kucinich’s current northwest Cuyahoga County district, along with parts of Lorain County new to both of them. Results of next Tuesday’s Democratic primary will likely signal the end of one their Congressional careers following their increasingly strident primary campaign.

But here was Kaptur in University Circle, which is outside even the new district that she hopes to be representing next year. Refreshingly, she was speaking not of politics but of possibility.

Kaptur urged Museum officials to look to the commercial and educational benefits of collaborating with regional cultural partners to enhance Cleveland and northeast Ohio as a destination stop. You can see video of her twelve minute talk here and here.
It was refreshing to hear an elected public official speak strategically and positively. She never mentioned her campaign or her rival, but if there were Westside Cuyahogans in the audience, she gave them a glimpse of what Congressional leadership looks like. Come to think of it, she did that for east siders as well.

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids
If you are a fan of other worlds, or if you have children or grandchildren either with imagination or whose imaginations need stirring, this is a must-see exhibit. It opens tomorrow and runs through July 1, 2012.
Museum CEO Evalyn Gates writes of the exhibit in the current issue of Tracks,  the museum’s bimonthly publication:

Mythic Creatures is definitely a science exhibit—and you will almost certainly come away having learned something new about the natural world. But it is also an exploration of the connections between science and culture—the ways in which observations of natural phenomena are integrated into the stories and legends of cultures around the world, and the insights we gain from using science to search for the origins of these stories.[Source]

Cleveland's Museum of Natural History has a track record of mounting exhibits that offer neat twists on one’s understanding of natural history. Its current exhibit, Polar Obsessions, ends its run this Sunday, so if you can make it there this weekend, you can catch both exhibits on one visit.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Nonprofit Thursday: Phillips Exeter and Piney Woods

 A few days ago, I was reintroduced to a fellow longtime Clevelander. As such folk are wont to do, he asked where I went to high school. When I said I had attended a prep school in New Hampshire, he asked which one. When I replied “Phillips Exeter”, he asked how I liked it. There is no simple answer to that question.

I told him that I had learned a lot but that the school in that era had not been ready to meet the needs of the few black students it was admitting, that the personal and psychological adjustments I was called upon to make were a hard price to pay and that my three years there exacted a rough psychosocial toll. When he next asked if there were any black boarding schools in the country, I said I thought there were about four, one of which was fabled Piney Woods Country Life School near Jackson, Mississippi.

Now I probably had not thought or heard about Piney Woods in twenty years, so you can imagine the jolt my sense of karma received when I found the following story in an email I received this morning in support of a joint fundraising appeal for the ongoing work of The National Institute For Restorative Justice and Deuteronomy 8:3 Café Books and Music.

Some quick background on the Institute and the Café:
Deuteronomy opened in Cleveland’s Hough area ten years ago on New Year’s Day, 2002.  Seven years ago, it began a series of public dialogues  that focused on issues of socio-economic and legal justice. The National Institute For Restorative Justice was established last May and incorporated as a non-profit institution as an outgrowth of those dialogues.

In conjunction with the pending celebration of the Institute's first anniversary in May, and the tenth  year of the independent bookstore’s community service,  the two organizations have launched $1, $10 & $60 Friends Campaign.  [The $60 relates to the founder Mittie Jordan’s just attained milestone age.]

Here is the story in Mittie’s email, explaining why even small contributions are important:

When we announced the campaign during a recent program, we were commended by one of our donors for creating an opportunity for every level of participation.  And if you think that a dollar can't make a difference, consider this incredibly inspiring story.

One hundred and three years ago, a young man stepped off the train in Rankin County Mississippi to set out on a daunting journey to start a school for the families of poor, Black sharecroppers.  In his possession: his newly acquired University of Iowa diploma, his Bible, a couple of clean shirts, $1.65, and a noble obligation. 

On first thought, I would say, that was all that he had.  But, knowing the fortitude with which he faced his pursuit over the next sixty-six years of his life, he was also undoubtedly armed with a deep-rooted commitment, and an abiding faith; one that pushed through every conceivable obstacle that got in his way.   A town full of "naysayers," two destructive tornados, a fire, a lynch mob, and the daily reality of lack of funds did not turn him away from his mission.  Today, the unwavering determination and legacy of Laurence Clifton Jones stands firm as The Piney Woods Country Life School. 

The story of Laurence Jones, his wife Grace Allen Jones, and the brave youth, men and women who succeeded against all odds - including threat of life and limb - is one that must be told again and again.  It is the story of a young man who recognized that the privilege of his education could not be for his sake alone.  For Jones, this realization became crystal clear during the commencement services for the University of Iowa Class of 1907, a class of which he was the only African American.  He later wrote that during the speaker's address, the significance and challenge of "Noblesse Oblige” was raised.  The notion resonated in Jones heart.

Nobility Obliges.  The French origin of the term refers to the obligation of the wealthy and privileged nobility to help those of less fortune.  A Noble Obligation.  Or, in the words of one of my favorite sermons by Reverend William B. McClain, "Much Obliged."  Our children may not hear that saying these days, but at sixty I can assure you that I heard it echoed often by the elders of my youth.  When much has been given, you "ought to be grateful," surely enough to feel obligated to give in return.  "Much Obliged."  "Noblesse Oblige."

So, with his noble obligation, his $1.65, his diploma, his Bible, and a clean white shirt, he began his school with one student; a sixteen year old boy who could neither read nor write.  For his desk, a tree stump,  his bench, a fallen log - both granted on the land of a former slave in the back woods of Mississippi.  Ed Taylor, the freed black owner of that land, would later deed Jones the first 40 acres for his school.  Log by log, brick by brick, Jones, his students - young and old - and every black man, woman and child in those back woods would build every building with their own hands.  Storms would come - literally - and tear them down.  But this mighty people, unfettered by fear or misfortune, would persevere, until Piney Woods Country Life School would come fully into being. 

Along the way, others would engage the campaign.  African-Americans from surrounding counties and beyond, Anglo Iowans who learned of their native son's efforts, even Anglo sympathizers right there in the racist deep woods delta south.  Indeed, it is told that the very mob that corralled to lynch him in 1918, freed him after hearing out his story, and subsequently contributed to his cause. 

Nearly a half-century into his journey, an incredible blessing came.  On December 15, 1954 Laurence Jones was featured on Ralph Edward's popular television show, "This Is Your Life."  After sharing Jones story, Edwards appealed to the watching audience to send at least $1.00 to the Piney Woods School.  The outpouring was so overwhelming, that the post office had to set up a sub-station to handle the mail.  Within days, Piney Woods received enough money to seed its endowment, $700,000.00.

Today, The Piney Woods School has an endowment of over $7 million, and sits on 2,000 acres, which along with its academic, communal and residential buildings includes a 500-acre Instructional Farm, five lakes, managed timberland, and Mississippi's only rock garden Amphitheater.  It is one of only four accredited African American boarding schools in the United States, and was ranked amongst the top ten boarding schools by US News & World Report.  Its enrollment comes from all over the nation and from abroad, and 98% of its graduates go on to college.

While I've had the great privilege of preaching at Piney Woods, I did not have the good fortune of ever meeting Dr. Jones.  He passed in 1975, nearly ten years before I first set foot on the Piney Woods campus.  But from that first stepping - walking the paths of his footprints, sitting in the clearing where it all began, praying by the graves of Jones and his wife, Grace - I became filled with his spirit; a spirit of resilient determination, commitment and service.  Indeed, he became one of my "Spirit Guides."   In return, I have contributed what I could, when I could, to Dr. Jones dream.  In the mid 1980's I organized and sponsored winter term projects for Oberlin College students to volunteer as interns and tutors at Piney Woods; through the 1990's I passed on "The Pine Torch," recruiting friends and associates to join me in visiting and contributing to the school; I've attended the school's "Cotton Blossom Singers" tour concerts whenever I find myself nearby.

You see, at my own graduation from high school, the words "Noblesse Oblige" rang clear in our Cleveland East High Alma Mater song.  "Noblesse Oblige, we will live long, always, always true."  I got it.  Maybe not right away, but over the years, as with Dr. Jones, the challenge became crystal clear.  While I have never been a woman of great wealth in material ways, I have been abundantly blessed with the foundation of the rich traditions of strong family and faith, an excellent education, and many talents and skills.  And like Laurence Jones, who had more profitable opportunities, I submitted early in my life to my calling and commitment to render my gifts to the needs and causes of the least of us.

Given nearly a century of inflation, I probably had less than Laurence Jones' $1.65 when I set out to build  a bookstore and café in the heart of our deprived black community ten years ago.  It came into being only through the goodwill and confidence of family and friends.  We opened on January 1, 2002 with a mission of "doing good, while doing well."   The good, we've done.  No doubt.  The well... well, we could do better.  Nonetheless, our history reflects a decade of engaging community in critical and strategic thinking about the circumstances and challenges of our collective lives.

As we approach the first anniversary of The NIRJ as an autonomous entity, we have firmly established our mission to educate for the purpose of nurturing advocates for social, economic and legal justice.  Over the next decade, The Institute roots its focus in three campaigns:  The Municipal and Media Monitoring Movement;  Sustainable Community Controlled Development; and  The Eradication of Constitutional Clauses for Slavery and Voter Disenfranchisement.  In visiting our web site you can learn more about each of these initiatives and ways in which participate, and contribute to our cause on line and by mail.  The link follows, along with one to The Piney Woods School. 

Indeed, it is our hope that whatever your financial capability, you will feel comfortable in giving, and encouraging your family, friends and associates to give as well.  $1, $10, ten times $10.  Whatever your contribution, we are thankful.  Who knows, perhaps you will help "pour out a blessing" that is too great for our post office station to handle.  It could happen.

Until then, as always, we wish you all the peace, joy and blessings that come with God's abundant love.


Mittie Imani Jordan
Founder & Chair

Mittie, my check will be in the mail [in the words of another great Mississippian  — my favorite blues singer, Keb’ Mo’, who performed at the White House blues gala last month] “Soon As I Get Paid”.

We invite Real Deal readers to visit the cited websites and to consider contributing to either the Institute or the School, or both!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chandra the best choice for County Prosecutor

This year’s election of a new county prosecutor is almost certain to result in positive change in the office of the county’s most important law enforcement position. The challenge is to figure out which of the five candidates vying for the office is most likely to be successful in bringing about the necessary improvements in what has for generations been a troubled office.

In 2010, county voters were faced with a unique fresh choice, courtesy of the new county charter passed the year before: electing the first-ever county executive. We very early noticed a pattern as we attended many of the campaign events, including numerous debates among the eight or nine candidates. The election was being staged against a backdrop of failure: the system of county government was broken. It was corrupt, outmoded, and inefficient. Things were done in a certain way because that’s the way they had been done for decades.

Not one of the candidates disagreed with this assessment. All promised they were the best prepared to fix it. But what most of them actually focused on was “fixing the problems”. For me, one candidate stood out, Ed FitzGerald, the eventual winner. He was head and shoulders above the other candidates for several reasons: he best understood the opportunity to seize the moment to create a new culture in an affirmative fashion. He talked not just about transparency and integrity — they all did, out of necessity. FitzGerald talked about making Cuyahoga County government excellent. Fixing the problems was but a starting point. He was clearly not going to settle for making the county average, or merely functional, by solving the most dire problems, even though doing only that would have represented a huge step forward. He wanted us to be first-rate and he demonstrated the vision and the energy to take us there. And so far, so good.

That 2010 race is for me, eerily similar to this year’s campaign for prosecutor. Lots of qualified candidates with good ideas about how to “fix” the problems in the prosecutor’s office. And they pretty much agree on what those problems are: misuse of the grand jury, an ugly propensity to over-indict, an unhealthy culture of partisan politics and cronyism permeating the office, an institutional bias in hiring, promotion, and plea bargaining, gross inefficiencies in the management of professional resources.

All five candidates have ideas about fixing these problems but only one has consistently talked about a higher standard, about excellence, about giving the County as fine a system of prosecutorial justice as exists in this country. That candidate is Subodh Chandra.

What is important as his vision is that he has a track record to back it up. He has been a federal prosecutor. He has been Cleveland’s law director. He earned high marks in both those positions.

We wondered for a time whether Chandra’s demanding professionalism would engender resistance both from within the office by assistant prosecutors and from outside the office among the ranks of Cleveland and suburban police departments. Our conclusion is that only such a demanding professionalism can force the necessary changes in the county prosecutorial culture. All of the candidates promise change. To the extent that any of them try, there will be resistance, even massive , if passive, resistance.

To us, Chandra stands out as the candidate with the vision, the commitment, the character, the will and the determination to see the necessary changes through.

Subodh Chandra should be Cuyahoga County’s next prosecutor.

Black History: Real, Personal, Necessary

Black History: Real, Personal, Necessary

My father was a minister.

He came to his chosen profession relatively late in his career, during what turned out to be the last third of his life. For most of his ministry, which lasted from his ordination and installation in 1953 until his death at 61 in 1974, he wrote his sermons out in longhand, using a fountain pen and 5” x 8” loose leaf lined paper. He stored them in a series of thick black leather binders. Later on, some of his sermons were taped using reel-to-reel technology that preceded by several iterative generations the digital world we now know.

As his preaching matured, he would on occasion depart from his printed text. This would most often occur when he knew that someone in his congregation had been touched in some deep and personal way — perhaps the death of a spouse or a child, the loss of a job, or the revelation of a deathly diagnosis. A scholar of both the Bible and of literature, he had a way of way of relating the personal to the eternal. Even though his sermons were peppered with quotes from such abstruse or mystical sources as Kierkegaard, Niebuhr, Tillich, and Thurman, he nonetheless shared their insights in a way that made sense to the hardworking middle class strivers and strainers who filled the pews every Sunday in the 1950s and ‘60s. And he did it so well that people of disparate backgrounds would come up to shake his hand or receive an embrace in the narthex after service and tell him they felt his words had been addressed specifically to them.

They might have been right, since in those days before mega churches were invented, he knew every member of his flock, had likely been in their homes, and perhaps more tellingly, had invited all of them to his home, because it was literally their home.

You see, from 1953 until 1967, the year following my mother’s death, our home was the church parsonage [google it if you are under 40]. He moved into an apartment after that; a widower with one son in the Air Force and the other mostly away at school, he didn’t want the space, the memories, or the parsonage stairs. So he bid goodbye to 9703 Parmelee Avenue in the heart of Glenville and moved into a new apartment building on the outskirts of the city limits.

But in the fifties, with a congregation growing by leaps and bounds, he started a tradition by hosting an Open House for church members and friends on New Year’s Day. Hundreds of people of all ages, sizes, and dispositions trekked to that three-bedroom colonial to eat, drink [punch], socialize, satisfy their curiosity about how their pastor lived [very modestly], and sometimes plop down to watch one of the classic bowl games [Rose, Sugar, Orange, or Cotton]. I thought those Open Houses were one of the coolest perks of being a preacher’s kid.

I didn’t know I was going to write any of this when I sat down. I just finished listening to the broadcast of today’s Civic Commons show, which ends with my trying to accelerate the pace of my mellifluous drawl in order to cram 500 words about black history into my allotted three minutes. At the conclusion of the show, one of the hosts says that you can find my just-delivered commentary in this space. And that evoked this reverie.

My dad understood that writing a message for the ear is different than writing for the eye. It was principally for this reason that he never wanted his sermons published. A second reason was that he occasionally departed from prepared text.

Many of the sermons that survived him in physical form [the notebooks and the tapes] now rest in the archives of his alma mater, the Howard University Divinity School in Washington, DC. One day I discovered a few of his written sermons in my possession. I sat down and transcribed them over a fortnight or so. As I did so, I could hear him speaking. Where the handwriting was near indecipherable [he was a converted left hander], I had the filial satisfaction of knowing that I was a sympathetic editor.

I think it is partially by virtue of the experience of having typed out those sermons that while my memory of my mother is visual and tactile, my sense of my father is aural.

Well, I have now subjected the more loyal or physically fit of my readers to a preamble to a commentary on black history that is longer than the commentary itself. If you are still with me, you can read the commentary below, or listen to it at the end of this podcast [the discussion about sustainability that precedes my commentary is pretty good, too!].

I’ll be back later today [I promise!] with my thoughts about who should be the next prosecutor in Cuyahoga County.

• • •

Remarks prepared for airing at 12:30PM February 28, 2012 on the Civic Commons Radio, WJCU 88.7 FM. [podcast on iTunes]

Warning!! Dangerous Curves Ahead! We are about to discuss Black History. Don’t worry: there won’t be a lot of dates to learn. This is more a discussion about your attitude towards black history.

From one perspective, these are the best of times. To begin with, there is that brilliant, handsome, Christian, family-centered, hard-working, compassionate, high achieving black man in the White House. His very presence there connotes the progress  now possible for the descendants of the captured peoples brought chained together through the terrible Middle Passage to an unimaginably bleak future, their histories, identities and lives stolen and tossed overboard. 

By some cultural alchemy President Obama has internalized and represents that history even though his hereditary tree is not the typical African American one.

Through perseverance and scholarship, a good portion of black and African history continues to be recovered, even as black history continues to be made. New achievements abound for Africans in America on almost every civic, cultural, commercial and social front. New identities have also been established, tied to the old in ways we don’t always comprehend. 

We especially don’t understand them when we consider that these are also the worst of times, with so many fellow citizens chained to plantations where the new slave quarters are poisonous schools that multiply ignorance, ghettos whose zip codes are predictors of ill health and quickened existence, and where too many pathways are pipelines to despair and incarceration.

This new Jim Crow is also part of our American history. 

When our great grandchildren study our era, they will learn that underneath an America of wealth and privilege and unprecedented possibility for some, there existed another, mostly darker, America with virtually no access to those prizes at any point from birth to death.

They will learn these things only if their history books are more inclusive than the ones I saw in the nation’s best schools. In those books notions of Manifest Destiny basically kicked to the gutter anything that didn’t support the United States as the home of the free and the land of the brave.

It was that narrow chauvinism, admittedly present in just about every society, that led Frederick Douglass in 1851 to ask, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”, to say on that Independence Day in Rochester, New York: “Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them.”

A similarly informed understanding led W. E. B. DuBois in 1903 to write in The Souls of Black Folk of the “double consciousness” of black people, and prompted Carter G. Woodson in 1926 to establish the Negro History Week that has now become Black History Month which may one day be known as African American Heritage Month.

Until all Americans consider this month’s focus to be a part of their history, this annual period of celebration and study will be needed.
• • •

Monday, February 27, 2012

Richmond Heights board may dangle Pingle tonight Also: FitzGerald Town Hall meeting tomorrow; African American Museum talent show audtions; Civic Commons Commentary; County Prosecutor endorsement alert

Richmond Heights board may dangle Pingle tonight
Also: FitzGerald Town Hall meeting tomorrow; African American Museum talent show audtions; Civic Commons Commentary; County Prosecutor endorsement alert.

Tonight’s special Richmond Heights school board special meeting to decide the fate of suspended high school principal Timothy Pingle will take place without one of the key protagonists — board member Josh Kaye.

Four days after voting not to renew the contract of suspended Richmond Heights Schools Superintendent Linda T. Hardwick when it expires on July 31, the district’s school board meets tonight in special session, this time to consider firing Dr. Pingle.

Pingle was suspended December 12 after interim superintendent Robert Moore accused Pingle of unprofessional conduct. The charge appears to have been made after Dr. Moore obtained a copy of a December 3 email from Pingle to Josh Kaye in which Pingle questioned Moore’s qualifications to be superintendent. 

Following his suspension, Pingle claimed to have been set up by Kaye, used as a pawn in an attempt to undermine Hardwick, and falsely accused of manifesting racist attitudes. Pingle claims to have questioned Moore’s appointment only in response to Kaye’s alleged confidential disclosure that Moore was being selected for racially motivated political reasons.

Kaye and Pingle are white, Moore and Hardwick are black. Pingle has claimed that Kaye told him that Moore was being hired as interim superintendent so that he Kaye, would have a defense to being accused of racism.

Kaye’s absence from tonight’s meeting — he is out of state on business — suggests that the Board is unlikely to terminate Pingle this evening. The underlying charge against him appears flimsy to begin with and points to the deeper issues confronting how the district’s schools have been run for years, with board members routinely exchanging private emails with school administrators and having clandestine phone calls that have nothing to do with educational policies.

The whole situation is rife with hypocrisy on many levels. Under the Kaye regime — which ended when a new president was elected at last month’s organizational meeting following the November election — several board members routinely interacted inappropriately with various central office personnel and others, most often to undermine Superintendent Hardwick and to advance other agendas unrelated to the education of the district’s children.

In the midst of ongoing controversies — the Popp incident, ongoing federal and state investigations, to name only two— Hardwick’s alleged handover of these inappropriate emails to investigators led to both her and clerk-typist Peggy Parker being accused of theft.

The result has been a district accelerating into chaos, with only the district’s attorneys benefiting to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Irrespective of the results of the findings from the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, and possibly the Ohio Department of Education, the district is likely to face litigation from Hardwick, Parker, Pingle and others over numerous personnel decisions during the Kaye administration.

The challenge before the board, and by that I mean principally its new majority of president Linda Pliodzinskas, vice president Bobby Jordan, and newly-elected Frank Barber, is to find a way to end years of destructive official behavior, repair relations with a  teachers union that is both hostile to the district and intimidated by its own leadership, and then regain the confidence of the district’s voters.

Race has of course been a volatile factor in the Richmond Heights school district for some time. Charges of racism have sometimes swirled about irresponsibly, even as on other occasions clear evidence of racist behaviors have been overlooked or worse, defended as appropriate. But we must comment on the irony of the interim superintendent taking offense at an underling’s questioning of his qualifications and attributing the challenge to a racist attitude. It was, after all, Dr. Moore, who shuffled his feet and looked the other way when first students and then parents implored him to assist them in addressing the clearly hostile racial environment created by then-boys basketball coach Jason Popp during the 2010-11 season. Astonishingly, Moore earlier this month recommended that Popp be given a contract to coach the boys' track team. [Moore has reportedly applied to be superintendent in the neighboring South Euclid-Lyndhurst School District.]

• • •

County Executive Ed FitzGerald will host another in his series of district Town Hall meetings tomorrow night in Cleveland Heights. The meeting begins at 7PM at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, One Monticello Blvd at the corner of Mayfield Rd.

The meeting is free and open to all. Near public transportation. Handicap accessible. FitzGerald will make a presentation to the residents and then engage in a question and answer session.

Cleveland Heights is in District 10, along with East Cleveland, and Cleveland wards 10 and 11. Julian Rogers is the county councilman.

• • •
Calling budding or accomplished talent
Final auditions  will be this Wednesday, February 29 for the African American Museum’s March 10 talent show. The show will have three contest categories: 11 years and under, 17 years and under, and 18 years and older. Singers, dancers, musicians, lip sync-ers, and those with any special talent are invited to audition for the chance to win prizes that include studio time, a cash award of $250, a laptop computer, and three chances to win an iPad or Kindle.
There is a $10.00 nonrefundable entry fee.

• • •

Green Behavior and Black History on tap
Just a reminder to tune into the Civic Commons tomorrow [12:30 pm on 88.7 FM WJCU and 7:30 pm 88.5 FM WYSU] to catch your humble scribe talking about Black History Month. My commentary comes after some especially trenchant criticism from Cleveland city councilman Brian Cummins and others regarding Mayor Frank Jackson’s vaunted sustainability initiatives.

Or, listen on your own time via these links: iTunes    RSS   Stitcher]

• • •

Endorsement for County Prosecutor
The Real Deal has been tracking the county prosecutor’s race for some time. Our early observation about the history of this office — namely, that this is the voters’ first open choice in more than half a century — has been repeated by almost every candidate and countless others. Come on back tomorrow and learn why we think *** is just who the office needs to clean up an office that everyone agrees is in need of major reform.