January 1st, 2013

Roldo Bartimole writes (Note, Roldo sent me this piece on 18 December. I delayed publishing until today because of my most recent retreat.):

Geez, those Plain Dealer comments can really be tough.

They zeroed in on poor Brent Larkin for his praise of former school superintendent Barbara Byrd Bennett. Oh, I almost forgot. She wasn’t superintendent. She was the CEO here. Such pretension.

She’s now boss (CEO? Superintendent?) of the Chicago schools.

Larkin traveled there to add to her glory.

Larkin does treat her with the velvet gloves he reserves for fakes and phonies. He drags out BBB’s former assistant here and his former editorial page employee who typically backed BBB to praise her anew. No critics are heard, of course.

Critics? What critics? There are no critics.

He makes it seem as though Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel really had to coax BBB to take the job.

When Emanuel offered, writes Larkin, “She didn’t exactly jump at the chance.”

He quotes BBB: “The mayor and I had a direct and honest conversation about me needing to think on this.”

Larkin continues: “After all, taking on what is right now probably the most daunting public education job in the country hardly adds up to a cushy pre-retirement gig for a 62-year old who has trouble going 10 minutes without mentioning her grandchildren.”

What a dream grandma!

Some of the comments about Larkin’s article were less than kind. Rather amusing, however.

What a sham article. Brent Larkin must think Barbara Byrd Bennett is the savior of schools. While she was here she did absolutely nothing. And the PD wasted how much money on sending senior citizen Larkin to Chicago?????? What a waste; Larkin should center his attention on articles pertaining to knitting and sewing.


And this one:

The outlook for those kids in the CMS has really improved dramatically since BBB was hired by Michael White in the 90s…. what a comical piece by Brent Larkin…”

“This piece by Larkin is a good example of why the Plain Dealer has a declining readership and is headed for the morgue.

“How could anyone try to restore this women’s failure.


And that Teddy Diadium (sic) guy will be here tomorrow making all sorts of excuses for Brent Larkin who appears to have a case of amnesia when it comes to BBB. And PD wonders why they have to go to three days…


Does anyone really believe Larkin’s rhetoric?

There’s more, of course, and you can read it all here.

But BBB didn’t exactly do “nothing,” as one of the comments says.

Back in 2002 during the vote to give control of the schools to Mayor Michael White, BBB threatened to quit if voters didn’t give up their vote for an elected school board.

At the time, the Cleveland Establishment used its tricky nastiness to help create a situation for a totally dysfunctional board of education. It’s not hard to manipulate people, as you should know. They had Gerald Henley as a convenient prop. The Establishment knows how to manipulate. I wrote that if they didn’t have Henley, “they would have had to invent him.”

Here’s what I wrote at the time about mayoral control:

Having failed with an attempt to “reform” the board by electing the “Four L’s,” (remember them?) Mayor White’s handpicked team, the elites who need control panicked. So the usual was done: A governance panel, headed by foundation heads Steven Minter and David Bergholz, formed to conjure a foregone conclusion – mayoral control. And a dysfunctional school board had served its purpose. It wasn’t hard to destroy public confidence in a school board that had often disappointed the public.

How did they accomplish this? Simply by not forwarding any candidates that would be reasonable members of a school board.

One doesn’t have to believe in conspiracy to understand that certain interests in town worked together to pave the way for mayoral control and taking the school board out of the control of the electorate.

That led to the following paragraph on BBB:

Now the arrogance has grown so strong that we have a superintendent of schools – oops, a CEO – Barbara Byrd Bennett, who announces that if citizens have the gall to vote for an elected school board member, she’s out. Such an unappetizing display of imperial manners.

One hopes Chicago enjoys her highness.

I added this paragraph, details of which Larkin mostly ignored:

This is the same Byrd Bennett who is paid $278,000 annual salary. With a possible bonus, she could make more than $300,000. The same Byrd Bennett who enjoys a $127,000 tax-abated home in Cleveland – meaning she doesn’t have to contribute her share of property taxes, 60 percent of which goes to the Cleveland schools and helps pay her salary. And it’s the same Byrd Bennett whose lawyer daughter followed her here to a position at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, Cleveland’s elite bond counsel law firm.” And I could have added writers of the state tax abatement law.”

(You may remember BBB got a sweet sinecure at Cleveland State University. All comes to those who cooperate.)

I mentioned BBB’s loyalty to her mayor:

She has, I wrote,

continued to show loyalty to the former mayor (Jane Campbell had succeeded White.). She hired and praised two key executives of White’s, Nick Jackson (brother of Council President Frank Jackson) and Alfred Miller. These two guys showed utter disdain for City Council as White loyalists. Now they are in key school positions regarding the spending of more than $1 billion in school construction jobs.

Oh, the goodies of cooperation.

You have, I’m sure, noticed the great school system CEO BBB left Cleveland. Larkin sees it.

It’s always good to remember history. Even if you’re determined to repeat it.

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