"I came to the meeting with the understanding that there would be staffers from MCS with me to answer the specific questions that you have," said Whalum. "I contacted the superintendent's office ... and he told me to tell the council that if they have specific questions they need to put them in writing."
Whalum also told committee members that the superintendent said it was the president of the board of education who told staffers not to come.
Council members were not happy with the no-shows.
"This is a perfect example where these individuals clearly don't want anyone questioning them about what's going on in the school system," said council member Wanda Halbert, a former school board commissioner.
Committee chair Janis Fullilove said she would not put questions in writing for the district. "Give him that response, please," she said.
The school system's annual budget is more than $1 billion. Last year, the city allocated more than $91 million for education and council members have toyed with the idea of cutting that funding.
"Somebody thinks this council will buckle under public pressure," Whalum said. "If you're serious about what you're saying, pull back the money, period, and let the school board sink or swim."