Dumb luck allowed the Omaha Board of Education to avoid the possibility, if not the likelihood, of major embarrassment for not authorizing a due diligence search of all the strengths and possible shortcomings which Nancy Sebring would have brought with her, in both her public and private lives, when the Omaha board hired her away from the public school superintendency in Des Moines.
The Omaha board had absolutely no hand in the accidental disclosure of the fact that Sebring was carrying on an adulterous, sex-saturated affair with a man separated from his wife as Sebring was separated from her husband.
The Des Moines Board of Education and Sebring both lied to Omaha school officials about the reason for Sebring’s abrupt retirement before the June 30th deadline. The accidental disclosure, on the Des Moines School Board’s website, of copies of e-mails from Sebring to her adulteress lover contains language so graphic and offensive that it clearly indicated that Sebring was in no way qualified to be responsible for the education of thousands of children, either in Des Moines or in Omaha.
So Sebring resigned in Des Moines and in Omaha and then, incredibly, sued to block further release copies of e-mails which she described as “purely personal.” The filing of a request to block further public access to her “purely personal” e-mails, after they had been available to the public for several weeks, cast further doubt on the quality of judgment that the “agent of change” school superintendent would have brought to Omaha.
Not the least puzzling aspect of this sordid business is the attitude of Omaha Board of Education Chairman Freddie Gray. (The headline on the Page 2 run over of Kelly’s column read: “Gray insists ‘sex story’ in e-mails didn’t matter.”)
Gray Says Misuse Of School District Property Is The Issue
Gray’s comments indicate she was only concerned with the fact that Sebring used Des Moines Board of Education e-mail internet access for her personal use, in violation of a Des Moines board policy against personal use of school district property.
Gray said that for the Omaha board, the decision to accept Sebring’s resignation was not based on the content of the e-mails or the disclosure of an adulterous affair but on “violation of the Des Moines board’s ban on personal use of the school district’s property.”
In an interview with World-Herald columnist Mike Kelly, Gray said: “I’m done with the ‘sex story.’ I know that everybody is going to ask me about the sensationalism. This is not about that.”
Gray’s further comments indicated that she believes going beyond the violation of the Des Moines ban on personal use of district equipment would constitute “privacy violation.”
“For the board, this is about policy violation,” Gray told Kelly. “It’s not about the content. These are things we tell our staff all the time not to do. It’s a big violation to use company equipment and e-mails.”
As I See It, Majority Of Omahans Disagree With Gray
If Freddie Gray truly believes that the only grounds for accepting Nancy Sebring’s resignation was that (1) the only misuse of the Des Moines district’s equipment and (2) that disclosures in the copies of the e-mails exposing Sebring’s adulterous affair and the nature of that affair (one of the e-mails made reference to a picture of Sebring’s lover’s penis) were irrelevant, I believe Freddie Gray should step down as chairman of the Omaha Board of Education.
Gray’s reaction to this sordid story is so dramatically different from the feelings of so many of the Omahans whom she and the board of education supposedly represent.
I don’t believe the great majority of Omahans want the search for a new superintendent to proceed under the direction of a board whose chairman has demonstrated no concern about the total character—the 24/7/52 character—of the superintendent of schools the board hires.
(I will try to make sure that Chairman Gray sees a copy of this column and will invite her to respond if she chooses.)
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CNN Commentators Cite ‘Exit Polls,’ Try To
Interpret Wisconsin Voting As Obama Victory
The following comments are offered in response to public demand. (Actually, one regular column reader asked me for my opinion on the Wisconsin recall election and Governor Scott Walker’s surprisingly sizeable victory over the union-led forces trying to unseat him.)
As I see it, the Wisconsin vote was clearly a setback not only for organized labor but also for Barack Obama.
I hold this opinion despite the repeated comments by CNN staff members—most of whom lean to the left—that Obama was the clear winner in Wisconsin when it came to the “exit polls” asking voters whether they preferred Obama or Mitt Romney for president.
I pay pretty close attention to the political news, and I have yet to read a detailed explanation of who conducts the exit polls, how the questions are wroded, whether sufficient weight is given to the intensity of the feelings of some exiting voters as compared to others, and what the vote would have been from those exiting voters who are simply irritated and brush off the exit pollers.
In any case, the test will come in November when “exit polls” come up against the actual votes cast in polling places.
I’ll go along with David Gergen, something of a token conservative in the CNN stable of commentators, who said he thinks the decisive results of the recall election may well put Wisconsin—which usually goes Democratic in presidential elections—“in play” in the November Obama/Romney faceoff.
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Oglala Sioux Tribe Ducks Its Responsibility
To Try On-Reservation Drinking Control
Shame on the Oglala Sioux Tribe leaders for not facing up to their responsibilities for taking on-reservation action against the serious problem of excessive drinking by some tribal members.
Instead of doing what a number of other tribes have done on their reservations in South Dakota—that is, attempting to combat excessive drinking by offering beer sales on the reservation where the tribe can exert a measure of control to combat excessive drinking and drunkenness—the Oglala tribe has been losing a moral and legal battle for years.
The tribe is ducking its own responsibility and trying to focus the blame for drunkenness on beer sold in the village of Whiteclay, Nebraska, just across the state line from the South Dakota and the Oglala Sioux reservation.
The Oglala tribe now is taking the ridiculous position filing a $500 million lawsuit against the nation’s largest brewers and the four beer distributors in Whiteclay.
The lawsuit asks that brewers, retailers and distributors pay damages for healthcare and law enforcement costs, developmental problems in children and other alcohol-related problems in the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The brewers and distributors have, quite understandably, asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
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No Case For Closing ‘Big Mac’ Beaches;
People Were There Before The Birds
On occasion I’ve been on the side of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in one or another of their conservation efforts.
But I think the conservationists have gone a big step too far in raising an alarm about the threat to two wildlife species—the interior least tern and the piping plover—from boaters and campers using the sandy beaches along the shores of Lake McConaughy in western Nebraska.
In most cases, endangered or threatened species are given government protection from encroachment on their longtime traditional nesting places. In other words, the birds were there before the threat of potential encroachment by developers more recently arrived on the scene.
But in the case of Lake McConaughy, the developers of those sandy beaches were there first, as a result of the buildup of the massive lake behind the dam built near Ogallala, Nebraska during the 1930s.
Birds Have Many Nesting Sites Elsewhere
A recent news story said, “The sands of Big Mac have set the stage for heightened conflict between people and birds—a conflict that could end with closing large sections of the land to public use.”
I suggest that a very strong case can be made against closing the beaches.
Consider that the interior least tern—a threatened species which has not yet made the list of endangered species, which demand a higher level of protection—has breeding grounds in areas along the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Red and Rio Grande river systems.
The piping plover carries the higher level of protection, being labeled an endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Fish and Wildlife Service reports that there are three areas where piping plovers nest in North America: the shorelines of the Great Lakes, the shores of rivers and lakes in the Northern Great Plains and along the Atlantic coast.
As in the case of the interior least tern, hardly a case for allowing piping plovers to take over new nesting sites like the beaches of Lake McConaughy.
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Hope You Enjoy Marian’s And My Column
Am I overdoing the end-of-the-column emphasis on Marian and, very frequently, the world’s two most lovable cocker spaniels, Claire and Charlotte?
I ask this because Marian came home from her hairdresser’s salon the other day and reported that woman told her “how much I enjoy your column.”
Marian told me—and I just have to take her word for this—that she told the woman something like, “You’re nice to say that, but it’s not my column.” But the woman told Marian again “how much she enjoys ‘your your column’.”
I do consistently receive more favorable comment on these column-ending items than one the more serious subjects which precede them. This raises a question in my mind: “Do they read the last of the column first, then the rest of the column? Or simply read the last item, then turn to the pages of my favorite daily newspaper?”
I don’t mean to be possessive or egotistical about this, so I asked Marian about sharing credit for the column with me. She said she would be pleased to be considered a co-owner—another partnership sign of a happy 60-year marriage.
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