PCE pirates strike back

It seems that Utah Gravy Train has struck a nerve at the new UAPCS/PCE brain trust.

Accidental Lobbyist/UAPCS Interim Executive Director Kim Frank sent out an uncharacteristically verbose email to the charter faithful this week, denying the voucher bodysnatcher charge and insisting that there was nothing screwy about the cancelled member vote.  She helpfully attached minutes from UAPCS board meetings between November 2009 and April 2010. Unfortunately, minutes from the May and June board meetings remain AWOL.

The newly liberated minutes cleared up at least one mystery: in his interview with Paul Rolly, UAPCS board chair Mark Cluff mentioned that the board “openings had been well known for months, but only three people applied. The two who were appointed were chosen unanimously by the existing board.”

We’d been wondering about that third person and what happened to her.  Was she eliminated in a runoff vote? Hardly.  Remember, these people have a mortal terror of losing elections (Robyn Bagley knows how it feels) so when they cannot avoid them by canceling them completely, they set them up so that they face no competition on the ballot.  They’re all about choice except when there’s a chance they won’t be chosen.  Don’t accuse Utah Gravy Train of making up a conspiracy where there is none – it’s all there in black and white in the minutes.

In November, the UAPCS board decided to expand its horizons a bit and recruit outside the traditional charter pool:

Create a hybrid board for now: constituents and non-constituents….Dec meeting: amend bylaws to phase in board expansion and mix of non-constituents – action item.

In December, the topic of new blood appears again, still without any names proposed.  Note that at this point all the references are to one vacancy on the board, not two, so the opening(s) could not have been “well known for months,” no matter what Cluff told Rolly:

Board discussed filling the board vacancy with a person from the community as a new class of director as has been discussed in the last couple of meetings.  General agreement to entertain a person from the community to fill the open spot.  Please email names of potential new board members to Mark ASAP so that the full board can meet early on Monday, January 11 to make a final decision.

No board meeting was held in January. This is revealed in the February minutes. At the February meeting where the vote was taken, the board is shown for the first time to have two vacancies rather than one. Right before the vote, Mark Cluff reveals the two stealth candidates: Jed Stevenson and Robyn Bagley.  The third candidate is immediately pooh-poohed and removed from the ballot:

There was some discussion of the person Sonia has suggested back in January: Janice Gygi.  Mark and Lincoln thought that it was too early to bring on a person from the business community.

Sorry, Janice.  Sorry, Sonia.  That stuff about looking for someone from the community – just kidding!

The April minutes reveal one other astonishing detail.  Not only was there no communication from the board to member schools about the candidates who were revealed and hastily voted on in a one-two punch at the February meeting, there was no communication with Executive Director, Steve Winitzky either.

Lincoln talked about the complaints regarding the process of bringing on the two new board members and apologized for not including Steve in the email with the names and bios of the two new board members.

What a coincidence.  The cutlasses were being sharpened early on.  The board was being lobbied for a unanimous vote on the stealth candidates, while the Executive Director, who would have immediately understood the threat posed by handing ultimate control to a voting bloc with a proven agenda, was left out of the loop.  Well, you can’t have a coup d’etat if you tell people beforehand, now can you?

With un-vetoable PCE control of the board, the hostile takeover was nearly complete.  After the non-competitive board vote, the only remaining challenge would be to ensure that members could not possibly overturn it at the annual member election in May.  Hence, the vote cancellation under cover of a mysterious bylaw problem.  Easily accomplished apparently, with a distracted, busy membership.  Any who dared raise questions could be dismissed with the accusation of being “divisive.”  Lingering dissent could be shut down with calls to “unity.”

Back to the Accidental Lobbyist’s email:

On the subject of Robyn Bagley’s poisonous baggage, Frank asks, “If an individual like Robyn Bagley comes with the connections, experience, and perspective we need at our table, should she be disqualified because she also volunteered and worked hard to pass vouchers three years ago?

Concerned Citizen is happy to answer that question, and thanks Lincoln Kim for bringing it up. The issue is not so much vouchers although clearly Concerned Citizen, like most Utahns, thinks they’re asinine.  Vouchers are just one of several means to an end.  They’re not the whole game.  PCE’s real game is the replacement of the entire public school system with a web of charter/private schools where the public subsidizes the expenses and private management companies, banks and real estate/construction contractors privatize the profits, busting the teachers’ union along the way.

PCE paid for “push polling” prior to the voucher referendum that asked the question: “If you knew that the same group that opposes vouchers, the liberal national teacher’s union, aggressively supports same-sex unions, higher taxes and more government involvement, would you be very or somewhat more or less likely to vote for or against the Utah referendum?” Bagley is PCE’s board chair.

Tactics like that tend to offend people.  So if Utah’s charter schools really want their association to be perceived as headed by a junta riddled with conflicts and someone who has proven her willingness to do whatever it takes, well hey, don’t let us stop you.  Good luck with that big fat target on your back.

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