By Harold C. Ford
[Editors’ Note: The Flint Board of Education (FBOE) meeting witnessed on July 20 was troubling to cover for Harold C. Ford, East Village Magazine’s (EVM) education reporter. For purposes of readability and thematic tidiness, EVM is dividing this month’s Education Beat report into two parts: “same old stories” and “good news stories.” Both pieces are available at the EVM website.]
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” –Earth Day poster, 1970
“This is ridiculous.” –Linda Boose, secretary, FBOE, July 20, 2022
Same Old Stories
An often-chaotic Flint education board meeting — lasting more than five hours on July 20 — was frequently disrupted by tension and yelling between and among FBOE members. It was as conflictual a meeting witnessed by this reporter in five-plus years of covering the Flint board.
The climactic moment featured a shouting match that primarily involved Joyce Ellis-McNeal, president; Carol McIntosh, vice president; and Laura MacIntyre, treasurer. During the verbal melee, McIntosh was escorted from the meeting by an officer of the Flint Police Department at the request of Ellis-McNeal.
[The aforementioned fracas — one of many — starts at about the three-hour mark of a YouTube recording of the meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnT4eVl55Uw.]
Proposals and personalities
On the surface, the agenda item that triggered the three-way row were proposals by Kevelin Jones, superintendent of Flint Community Schools (FCS) to hire two executive assistants — one to be assigned to him, and the other to be assigned to the board.
However, recent FBOE history and public comments increasingly suggest that a deeper reason for the row may be social issues within FCS governance that include a racial component.
“Mission was accomplished”
An excerpted representation of the July 20 back-and-forth follows:
- McIntosh, at her first FBOE meeting in months: “I was the one who made that motion (to appoint an executive assistant). … Nobody asked me (for clarification).”
- Jones: “The board president (McNeal) clarified it.”
- McNeal: “You (McIntosh) have not been to any meetings when we been having this conversation. … You (McIntosh) were not available. … You coming back and want us to rehearse history for you.”
- [At this point, both McIntosh and McNeal frequently interrupted and spoke over and past one another.]
- DelMorone to McNeal and Jones: “You cannot come to a decision on your own and implement it.”
- McNeal: “I did not make a decision on my own.”
- McNeal to McIntosh, whose hand was raised to be recognized: “Ms. McIntosh, you have monopolized this meeting over and over … to tie this meeting up … with he-say, she-say.”
- McIntosh: “Excuse me ma’am, this is not the place for personal attacks.”
- McIntosh, now shouting, to McNeal: “Why you couldn’t text me and ask me about this board business?!”
- McIntosh, to MacIntyre attempting to interject with a parliamentary point of order: “You (pointing at MacIntyre) told a story on me and said I threatened you and I did not! These two (referencing MacIntyre and McNeal) have been lying on me and I haven’t been coming because I don’t wanna’ get set up like Ms. Green got set up! Ms. Green can’t come to these meetings because they cooked up this shenanigans and pushed her over the edge and I didn’t want to be pushed over the edge because my criminal record is important to me!”
- McIntosh, pointing to MacIntyre and shouting over MacIntyre’s attempt to make a point of order: “You’re not chairing the meeting!”
- [At this point McNeal, MacIntyre, and McIntosh all began shouting; much of what was said is unintelligible. McNeal ineffectually banged her gavel seeking order.]
- McIntosh to MacIntyre: “You’re always attacking black women!”
- MacIntyre to McIntosh, eventually outshouting the others: “Point of order! Point of order! Point of order! Cease! Cease and desist! Right now! Point of order! You’re out of line! Point of order!”
- [At this point, McIntosh began gathering her board materials preparing to be escorted from the meeting by a Flint police officer apparently summoned by McNeal for that purpose.]
- McIntosh to McNeal: “And she (MacIntyre) don’t need to leave?!”
- McNeal: “Point of order.”
- MacIntyre: “Point of order!”
- McIntosh: “She (MacIntyre) attacked everybody!”
- McNeal: “Point of order.”
- Del Morone to MacIntyre: “Point of order. Point of order. … Address your point of order to the chair (not to McIntosh).”
- McNeal: “Point of order. Point of order.”
- MacIntyre to McIntosh: “Point of order. You need to stop talking! Point of order! Stop talking! Point of order. … Stop talking!”
- McIntosh to MacIntyre: “You racist!”
- MacIntyre and McNeal simultaneously, twice: “Point of order. Point of order.”
- McNeal, pleading: “Come on, point of order.”
- MacIntyre to McIntosh as she continued to talk while exiting the meeting: “Point of order! Point of order! Point of order!”
- McIntosh: “… Liars!”
- MacIntyre: “Point of order!”
- McIntosh to MacIntyre: “And you privileged!”
- MacIntyre: “Point of order.”
- McIntosh to MacIntyre: “You ain’t the chair.”
- MacIntyre to McIntosh: “Point of order. I’m drowning out your loud noise.”
- McNeal, as McIntosh was escorted from the meeting: “Well, I think the mission was accomplished.”
“We’ve gotta do better.”
During the meeting time reserved for comments, members of the public and board reflected on what had transpired earlier in the meeting.:
- Chloe Scott, parent and former FCS student: Scott said she’d pulled her children from Flint schools but had considered returning a daughter to FCS for her high school years. “But from what I seen tonight I don’t think that’s going to be a decision I’m gonna make. … There’s no focus on the children. … Today, I went to a Grand Blanc board meeting; 30 minutes, everything was taken care of; and then you wonder why we pull our kids (from Flint schools) … It seems like my color people can’t speak without being interrupted. I can’t even tell who’s the president on the board … We’ve gotta do better. … What I seen tonight was pure nonsense.”
- Arthur Woodson, resident, activist: Woodson said he would initiate a recall campaign targeting two unnamed FBOE members: “You and her made the former superintendent (Anita Steward) quit. The hostility made the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) quit. The hostility made the HR (Human Relations) person quit. That same individual is being sued … for being racist … this individual, the treasurer (MacIntyre) can sit back and call people ignorant and clowns … She said, ‘I know how to use my white privilege.’”
- Allen Gilbert, FBOE trustee: “What I saw here today was very disturbing. … Some of us don’t have the rights as others do on this board. … You (McNeal) removed one of our trustees (McIntosh) but didn’t remove the other (MacIntyre). And in my mind, that’s blatant discrimination. … If you (McNeal) cannot chair the meeting and be fair with all of us, perhaps you should step down. … All of us deserve the same amount of respect. … What I saw here tonight was … partial to Trustee MacIntyre over the rest of us.”
- Chris Del Morone, FBOE assistant secretary/treasurer: “What I saw was a board member (MacIntyre) continually saying, ‘Point of order.’ Points of order should be directed to the chair, not to another board member. … I hope we can all work together, leave our differences at the door.”
“Tired of being accused”
“I’m tired of being accused of being the one who’s making problems,” MacIntyre said. “I’m not the one who’s causing all of the problems and the dissent. “
MacIntyre said Green is not currently prevented from attending FBOE meetings as a result of the PPO she filed with Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah. Rather, it is a condition of bail set by 67th District Court Judge Herman Marable that currently bars Green from meetings at which MacIntyre is present.
“Sometimes I make missteps,” MacIntyre admitted. “I’m human, I make errors.”
“I have never called anyone a clown,” MacIntyre said. “I have never said that anyone is stupid. I have said that some decisions have been ignorant.”
“It’s not comfortable talking about mental illness or a different ability,” MacIntyre continued. “I have both. … I’m also open about my gender and my sexuality and all those things have been used against me. I’ve been mocked, I’ve been ridiculed. The harassment and the hostile work environment — I’m the one being subjected to it.”
MacIntyre said that all three of her children had attended Flint’s public schools in the past but none of them are FCS-enrolled at present. She pulled them from FCS when a dual enrollment partnership with the University of Michigan-Flint ended.
MacIntyre said her ability to speak freely was currently limited by pending litigation. “The truth will prevail,” she predicted.
Robert’s Rules and disorder
The intricacies of the labyrinthine Robert’s Rules of Order can be daunting. Nonetheless, a basic understanding of those rules can aid the orderly deliberations of a public panel.
In fact, FBOE policies mandate that meetings be governed, in part, by Robert’s Rules; a copy of those rules is inserted in the board binder of every FBOE member.
Simple explanations of Robert’s Rules can easily be found. One source is at an online website titled “Roberts Rules of Order (Simplified).”
Overuse of Robert’s Rules during meetings may indicate orderliness or the lack thereof. The overuse of “points of order” may, in fact, indicate a lack of order. Points of order were invoked at least 131 times by FBOE members during the July 20 meeting.
A proper point of order permits a member to draw the chair’s attention to a perceived procedural error or lack of decorum. It is not debatable or amendable, does not require a seconding motion, and is decided by the meeting’s chairperson.
“Point of information” was uttered 72 times at the July 20 FBOE meeting for a total of, at least, 203 parliamentary points of interjection.
A point of information — “a request for information”, as explained by “Robert’s Rules of Order Made Simple” — is frequently misused by FBOE members. “A point of information does not give the speaker the privilege to provide information,” according to the aforementioned document. “If you have information for the body, raise your hand to be put on the speaker’s list.”
Generally, points of parliamentary procedure at FBOE meetings often seem misused, intended to quiet another member. The tone(s) of voice used by some FBOE members is often derisive, angst-filled, and impatient.
It is common for the presiding officer of the public panel to expeditiously dispatch parliamentary points and then move back to the business of the meeting/the orders of the day. The current FBOE president, McNeal, often seems lost in the parliamentary weeds as indicated by the volume of parliamentary interjections and the following:
- “You know where we are?”
- “I’m trying to get clarity.”
- “I can’t remember.”
- “You guys are getting a little confused here.”
- “Point of order … We can’t use point of information just to go back and forth; it confuses the audience and even confuses me.”
- On several occasions, other FBOE members and the FCS superintendent helped the president and the board return to the proper place on the agenda.
- Several vote counts were either unstated or misstated by the president.
Nearly in tears, McNeal explained that she experiences hearing and speech difficulties resulting from a vehicular accident. “It takes me time to hear; it takes me time to speak. … I’m sitting here doing the best I can.”
It is not uncommon for a public panel to appoint an experienced parliamentarian to assist with the conduct of a meeting. The parliamentarian can be another voting member of that body, or not.
* * * * *
The next meeting of the FBOE is a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on Aug. 10, 2022, starting at 6:30 p.m., at Accelerated Learning Academy, 1602 S. Averill Ave., Flint, MI 48503. Meetings can be attended virtually; check the FCS website to register. Recordings of FBOE meetings are available at YouTube.
EVM Education Beat reporter Harold C. Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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