Thursday, July 8, 2010

Open Letter to Roy Barnes

I decided to post the entire letter on here, but you can see it from the Baxley News Banner. Just click on the link above.

By Mary Ann Ellis

Dear Mr. Barnes;

When your emails starting arriving in my school email, I was taken aback. Are you bombarding all teachers, soliciting votes from the very population that worked so hard to defeat you in 2002? And via the schools’ communication system?

Shocked, I listened to you talk of having changed your approach and your promise to run a very different campaign than the one you ran in 2002. You say you intend to listen to people more.

“Listening is something I didn’t do enough of when I was governor,” you said. “I tried to do too much, too fast. My heart was in the right place, but I was impatient and didn’t consult enough different people outside the Capitol.”

As you speak, humility cakes your face like too much makeup on a strumpet. Your audacity astounds me and leaves my mouth hanging open. A mere eight years after your defeat, you apparently think we’ve forgotten your behavior in the governor’s office. Not so, I assure you. We remember quite well.

For example, I remember the exuberance in our school that morning after the election. The official announcement had been made during the wee hours of the morning as we slept. I listened to the news as I drove to school.

“Georgia’s teachers apparently stuck together to oust Roy Barnes,” the radio announcer said. “They showed him their displeasure with his stance on accountability and tenure. An awful lot of people opposed him too because of the flag.”

At my school teachers were celebrating in the halls as we waited for the morning bell to signal the start of classes.

Like most of the politicians I know, you did what you chose in spite of what the people thought about it. We spoke to you about the flag. You had it your way. We spoke to you of accountability and tenure. You plowed ahead, ignoring us, and again you had it your way. What indications do we have that you’ve changed?

Let me clarify my position on those two issues. I agree that teachers must be accountable for our students’ education. When our students fail, we teachers fail. The tenure situation is a bit different though. Consider the economic crisis we’re in right now. Everyone knows school boards can hire young inexperienced teachers cheaper than they can keep us older experienced ones around. Experience is worth the money. I realize that tenure sometimes keeps teachers in classrooms when they shouldn’t be there, but if our system of accountability worked efficiently, those people would never have gotten tenure in the first place.

I read in the papers that you are surrounding yourself with many of the same people who served you as governor and who worked for you in your last campaign. Are you expecting the same outcome from the same behavior?

Years ago I’d visit my father to find him watching Shane, his favorite western.

“Daddy, haven’t you seen this before,” I’d ask.

“Yes,” he’d laugh, “but every time I watch it I hope that it’ll turn out different.”

It never did, Mr. Barnes. It never did.

You found out that teachers in Georgia are a key Democratic constituency. In spite of your brave efforts at reconciliation and your pacifying tone, we haven’t forgotten.

Back in the 30’s, my grandmother was sitting on the ground weeding her flower bed when a local politician drove up to solicit her vote.

Looking him square in the eye, she said emphatically, “Why, no, Mr. Jones. I couldn’t vote for you. I certainly will not.”

So in the words of Grandma Eunice, “Why, no, Mr. Barnes, I won’t vote for you. Not now, not ever!”

Please stop jamming my email with your entreaties. I’m wearing out my delete button on school property. That computer is for educational purposes, not futile campaigns.

It appears that Miss Ellis has not been persuaded by the apologies from Barnes in his bid to become governor again. If she feels this way, then you have to suspect that there are many other teachers in the state that feel th exact same way.

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