Friday, January 28, 2011

The Kelley Williams-Bolar mess: A school board members take

Full disclosure: Mr. Cook is vice-president of his local school board in NJ and is in no way affiliated with the Copley School District. The opinions posted are his alone.

I have sat back and until today have not posted anything about a case in which a poor black woman Kelley Williams-Bolar was jailed for sending her kids to an out of district school.

I must first state that I do not agree with her being sent to jail for 9 days. She should have been forced to pay back the $30,000 she owed. Now truth be told the school district will never get most of that money back especially if she is as poor as I have read. In most cases districts are lucky to get half their money back if any.

Some say race may be an issue in the severity of the punishment dealt to Mrs. Bolar. I don't know if it did or not but that's not what I am going to write about. Hundreds if not thousands of bloggers will touch on that.

As a school board member I  read with great interest the many stories on this case and especially the comments section included with every story posted.

One thing I noticed from many of those who support Mrs. Bolar is that many seem to down play what she did and treat it as a victimless crime. It's being treated as a no harm no foul situation.

It is not.

One of the first questions if not the first question I was asked when I first ran for a board seat was about what I was going to do about getting rid of out of district students. This is a huge issue for many taxpayers and parents in district that neighbor failing school districts. They don't want to pay for kids that don't live in their town or district.

I don't think many that are supporting Mrs. Bolar are aware the crippling effect out of district students can have on school districts especially smaller ones in this current economy where school budgets have been slashed and districts have to work with less.

Let's use this example. If it cost $10,000 per child to educate them per year and a district has 20 out of district students that's $200,000 in taxpayer money walking out the door. In a small district $200,000 is a lot of money. And if one of those students is a special needs student that cost can got to  $100, 000 just for one child with aids, transportation, etc.

But let's stick with the $200,000 .

$200,000 could be 4 or 5 more teachers. Because that money is going somewhere it's not supposed to that could mean that a district has less teachers and class size increases from say 22 per class to 30 per class. The children in those classes are being hurt by not getting the same attention they did before.

$200,000 more dollars could mean more computers, books, enrichment programs, more clubs, more tutors, or building improvements ( windows, telephone systems, bathrooms, roofs, boilers, etc ).

Also in school districts where school budgets and voted on by the voter this is an issue that can't be ignored. Voters wont support a budget if they feel not enough is being done to keep out of district students out of the schools. If a budget is defeated it would cause districts to make cuts on top of cuts that have already been made due to state cuts in school aid. That would be devastating to the students, teachers, and parents in those districts.

I feel bad for Mrs. Bolar and don't believe she should have went to jail. But in trying to help her children she unintentionally was hurting others. That may not be a popular notion but it's one I feel all should be reminded of.
George Cook Author of the Kindle book Let's Talk Honestly: One Black Man's Thoughts $1.50


dan hop said...

George wasn't this lady afforded an opportunity to pay back the money? From what I understand, she was billed and did not pay. I have seen many angry reactions to this case. People calling the decision racist and such. "All she was doing was sending her kids to a safer school because she is poor." Well, my first reaction was, where is the father of these children? My second reaction was, if her father lives in the district of the desired school, why doesn't she get a place with him? It is easy to cheat and then cry foul when caught. But it is hard for people to work out better solutions.

Anson C. Asaka said...


You raised some interesting points. However, the education system must be reformed. No one should be forced to send their children to failing schools. Too often, residency requirements promote segregation and inequality.

Anonymous said...

[One thing I noticed from many of those who support Mrs. Bolar is that many seem to down play what she did and treat it as a victimless crime. It's being treated as a no harm no foul situation.

It is not.]

I have been careful in commenting on the social networking site I frequent when speaking about Ms. Williams-Bolar because as a whole we get overly sentimental about things like what happened to this single mother of 2.

I thought that what she did was wrong and that she could have tried to talk to like minded parents to form a sort of parental coalition and then taken that gp to a school board meeting to bring their collective concerns to the powers that be. She could have alsoo written to the local elected officials to let them know her concerns in order to get the ball rolling to improve the school not just for her kids, but all the kids.

I feel that many of us as African Americans don't know how to work the system for our benefit or either just don't care to know how. Furthermore, it was my feeling that something was missing because I have heard of people sending their kids to schools in the wrong district and once the school finds out, the parents are told to remove their kids.

Besides that there were some 20-40 parents with similar cases with their kids enrolled in that same school and the matter was resolved. This alone led me to believe that someone (namely Ms. Williams-Bolar) was leaving something out of this story. Now that I have read the comments to this blog, I see she was asked to pay and she didn't which is the reason her case was taken to court and the others were not.

P.S. She could always finish her degree and move away and teach somewhere else.
Perhaps if that doesn't work, she can become a nurse. Nurses make lots of money and having a conviction doesn't necessarily block one from a career in the medical field.

P.S.S. Just my 2 cents worth and for the record, I totally agree with Bro. Cook's take on the issue. It just feels great to see someone else not being so senitmental.

Jen Fad from BIA

Curmilus Dancy II The Political Agitator said...

George I feel your notion is right on point. One must look at the whole picture. I understand the issue of the out of district thing. But this is something that goes on all the time, just some get caught and some don't. Things are okay but once one get caught they must understand there are consequences.

People must understand that when you have a problem with a system, policy and etc. unless you are willing to go down for the cause then you need to not put yourself out there. Sometimes it is worth taking a risk for change but you must look at what the outcome will be especially if you are playing with dollars and cents.

I have sympathy for her but I would also have a problem with folks who intentionally do not follow policies and procedures.

RNotes said...

Why are you ignoring the fact that the grandfather paid taxes in the district? This woman did not make up an address out of thin air, she used her father's address, with whom she stayed many days to help with his care. This is a taxpayer in your district. Why is he not allowed to send his grandchildren to your school? Grandchildren who stayed with him a good amount of the time? The whole system is flawed and for you to say that she is violating the tax payers in the district is also flawed because one of those taxpayers is her father.

My mother did this for me when I was a child and we did get caught. You know what they did? They let me finish out the semester and then register at the school in my district the next semester. There was no charging of money. That notion is so ridiculous. We didn't even have any family who paid taxes in the district. But we are white, so I guess that's okay. I am interested in finding out how many of the other people who were caught sending their children to your school from out of district were African American.

It has also been stated that she had been given options before it came to felony charges. The school also had an option. Why didn't you just not allow the girls to come back to the school? It sounds as if you are saying that you asked her to withdraw her daughters but she kept sending them there. You had every right to not accept them in your classes according to your backwards, unconstitutional district laws. Why wasn't this done? Were you letting her continue to register them every semester? I would like more clarification on this part of the story.

RNotes said...

Sorry, I just noticed that you weren't on the same school board as the Copley school. I skimmed over that part. My point still stands though. Just take out all of the 'you's and replace them with 'they'.

George Cook said...

RNotes whether the children's grandfather pays taxes or not he is not their legal gaurdian. Residency is determined by the residency of the parents or legal gaurdian not granparents.

I agree with you about other options and I believe Mrs. Bolar was made an example of.

Max Kuenkel said...

My understanding is that the grandfather has not paid a dime in property taxes since 1996. I read this in several places. Let me see if I can find a credible source for that. I'll post it if I can find it.

Anonymous said...

First off: WHites have been doing the same thing for ages----When Borwn vs the Board of Education was enacted and neighborhoods were changing, many whites did the same as this woman: As for it being a crime? The CRIME is in the discreppncy in education, educational funding, access etc---If it were not for thos things, she would never have been forced to rresort to that particular tatic of trying to obtain quality education for her children- We are aware the system is unequal and operated in such a manner in order to further migranilize black people by providing a farce of an education, an illusion of eveniness and inclusion----WE ARE NOT THE FOOLS YOU THINK WE ARE BY WRITING SUCH AN ARTICLE---a onesided, rose colored glasses view mind you----

Anonymous said...

If I'm understanding this correctly, quality education in America is based on one's economic status. Dollars rule? Economically speaking, poor districts (people) are doomed to failure and the current system ensures that they stay in their places. Do policies like these make America more competitive in a global environment? The Asian model is far superior when it comes to educating its populace; as are many other countries that are leaving us in the dust when it comes to excellence and competing across global lines. If this mindset continues, then America will suffer as a whole and deservedly so. Rather than protecting their own pots of gold, great minds out there need to innovate solutions that work for the ENTIRE population irrespective of a person's net worth. Give me a break people. We can and MUST do better.