Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why Do We Care Who Is On The Standards Re-Writing Committee?

Today I received an impassioned response regarding our last post about the make-up of the Standards Re-Write Committee. If you have not read the post, you can do so here. The woman who commented on the post was a friend of Mrs. Mautra Jones, an appointee to the Committee. Here is her comment:
In response to your article regarding "Oil and Water and Who is Mautra Jones?", you are correct in stating she is a gubernatorial appointee to the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission, involved in Leadership Oklahoma, and was the Development Director for the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. I will be happy to complete her resume so you will have all the facts. Mautra was Vice President of Development for Prevent Blindness, member and past President of the Oklahoma County Bar Auxiliary, and is currently the Director of Development at White Fields Home for Boys. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha and active in her church. She has an extensive resume indeed that I doubt many of us could compare. But just because you know her resume doesn't mean you know her and obviously from the title of your article/blog, you don't. I do. I have had the privilege of working with her through White Fields and know her personally. I can fill in the lines between her resume to show her creativity, her dedication to her community and her desire and heart to serve. I can tell you she is her own person and is willing to stand up for what she believes is right and challenge the status quo. I can tell you she has a heart for the children she serves and commits wholeheartedly into any cause, board or organization she is willing and feels led to serve on. She is an articulate woman of high intelligence, deep faith, commitment and resolve. She doesn't join something just because she is asked but because she feels she can make an impact. She is nobody's "yes" girl. These things a resume can't tell you. If she were to answer the question "what is your proudest accomplishment", she would tell you her family. Her role as a wife and a mom is first and foremost to her. Therefore to minimize her position as a parent is highly unfair. For you to insinuate her appointment to this board was "the straw that broke the camel's back" and she is just an "echo-chamber nomination" based solely on her resume is unfair to her as well. I cannot speak for the other appointees but I can tell you, if I had children currently in school, with the problems facing our educational system today, I would want someone of Mautra Jones' caliber working for and with them. She may not have all the solutions to the problems we face, but she will work hard to help find and implement them. So "Who is Mautra Jones?" She's one incredible, talented, dedicated woman I am extremely proud to call my friend. You would be blessed to get to know her yourself before commenting and making insinuations about her character and motivations. Next time, please write about someone you do know.
I would most certainly would also rise up in defense of a friend I felt had been treated unfairly, so that is perfectly understandable. The part that does concern me is that she would feel we were attacking her friend personally - which we were not - because this indicates a lack of understanding in our function. Because I'm hoping this to be a 'teachable moment' of sorts, I wanted to make sure readers saw this comment and my response. Politics can stoop to the dirty business of deriding others to elevate your candidate or position. Watchdogging is NOT the same function, and while I get admittedly overzealous from time-to-time, it is out of a dedication to educating citizens to their duties and responsibilities in a Republic and the reality that government has overstepped its bounds in too many areas to count. It is my hope you will find my reply useful to a greater understanding of our purpose.
Thank you for your comment, Sady. It is certainly of interest to have you relate Mrs. Jones CV and certainly, she is a very accomplished woman.
Please note that I did not cast aspersions on Mrs. Jones character. In fact, I pointed out that I did not know anything about her other than what I could find on the internet.
Because Mrs. Jones is an appointee to a Committee that will have direct oversight over the re-writing of Oklahoma's educational standards - a statewide concern - it is completely fair, albeit necessary, to know who serves on the Committee, as they represent the public in this endeavor. I am very glad to hear your outstanding defense of Mrs. Jones, but I would also ask you to understand why we would investigate anyone on the committee and report anything we found.
  1. Common Core was adopted in a decidedly non-transparent way. In fact, Governor Henry ordered the State Board to adopt them and the legislature put them into effect via one paragraph in a 32 page bill. Where was parental involvement in such an important decision?
  2. Gubernatorial appointees serve "at the pleasure of" the governor. I have been told by several gubernatorial appointees that if the governor wants something specific to happen, she expects her appointee to comply with her wishes. That is her prerogative - she is the governor - she was elected by the people and she made that appointment. Unfortunately, we don't see the Governor as an ally in this effort. Though she signed the bill repealing Common Core, she was the president of the National Governor's Association - one of the organizations responsible for bringing us the Common Core - at that time. In addition, her office lobbied her own legislature vigorously to keep the standards in place over the time the bill was moving through the legislative process - against the wishes of 'regular' tax-paying citizens of Oklahoma.
  3. Tax-paying citizens of Oklahoma have been left out of the process of government through bureaucracy now for decades. Yes, we retain the power to vote, but the Committees, Commissions and oversight boards established by Governors all strike at the heart of 'representative government' via direct representation. These are not directly elected positions, but positions populated by those in power at the time, via people they know. This is understandable, frankly - no one wants to work with people they don't know because an appointment is a position that 'represents' the government (please note; represents the government, not the people directly). Yes, we can vote out a Governor if we do not like his/her appointments, however, there are so many appointees that many tend to stay on following elections, continuing the business of the previous administration, not the one currently in power. Hopefully, you can see how this thwarts the notion of government "by the people, for the people, of the people". We do, and consequently, we reserve the right to thoroughly vet ANY gubernatorial appointee, regardless of who or where. When I mention "echo-chamber appointments" this is the process to which I refer. Every day, tax-paying citizens who do not have the CV of your friend Mrs. Jones, are regularly ignored for government appointments, though they more thoroughly represent the pulse of the majority. If a person has not attended Leadership Oklahoma, or served in another gubernatorial position or sat on a non-profit board, they are routinely omitted from consideration for this kind of service. Catalogs of previous appointments do not indicate good citizenship or leadership - they simply indicate that the person has been involved in many of the same circles as the person in power for a given amount of time. To summarize; there are many, many good citizens/leaders moving through regular, 'ordinary' lives who are outstanding individuals, yet they are rarely, if ever sought out for this kind of service because they are not inside the sphere of influence of those in power.
I hope this post creates a greater level of understanding regarding this blog - and what we consider to be our job as citizen 'watchdogs' for education. Again, I thank you for your comment. We will look forward to working with Mrs. Jones as this process moves forward. We are certainly happy to speak with her at any time. Please remember, however, that we will continue to report only what we are able to find and on as much of this process as possible, so if you have information to share, you are certainly asked to do so to enlighten us and others.