Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dr. Jerry suddenly discovers racial problems

Oh, what an election can do to change a public official!

Superintendent Jerry Weast didn't care much for dealing with things like racial tensions, school security and other minority concerns, and enjoyed the support of the all-white majority on the board of education and a tight relationship with County Executive Doug Duncan.

Now, with his political power base completely gutted since the November elections, Weast is suddenly pandering to new political leaders.

New County Executive Ike Leggett has cast a skeptical eye on Weast's secretive school budget machinations, and didn't take kindly to Weast's hostility toward a county Inspector General probe of the superintendent's ill-fated Kendale scandal.

Weast hatchet-man Michael Subin was the only local incumbent Democrat whom Montgomery County residents kicked out of office; Weast nemesis Valerie Ervin replaced Subin on the County Council Education Committee.

Ervin's only ally on the school board who had challenged Weast, Nancy Navarro, is the new school board president. And two new African-American board members are also on the board - no thanks to Weast, who had unofficially favored only white candidates last year.

So it's no accident that he would highlight racial issues in pandering to the board to renew his $359,000-a-year contract.

According to the Gazette, Weast sent the board an official letter last week, seeking his contract renewal: "The letter . . . outlines several successes during his seven-year tenure, which includes raising test scores in elementary schools and narrowing the achievement gap for some black and Hispanic students.

"If his contract is renewed, Weast intends to focus on increasing school safety and addressing racial tension in schools."

Weast is walking quite a tightrope: He's still sphinxlike about the racist behavior of his diehard school board ally Steve Abrams.