COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN 

School board expresses frustration with its new president.

After a six-hour-plus meeting on January 28th that literally lasted until the next morning, the Memphis City School board is making harsh demands of its president.

"I'm not threatening you," Commissioner Hubon Sandridge told newly elected board president Carl Johnson at a February 4th meeting on board operations. "Either you work with us or we'll have to replace you. ... If you cannot work with us, I can assure you we know what to do."

Last week's board meeting was a legislative disaster. At 9 p.m., a good three hours into the meeting, the board had still not discussed any of its actual business. Voting was confusing, as Johnson called for votes on motions, amendments, and original motions one after another. At one point, the first charter school in Tennessee seemed to be approved, but Johnson called for another vote. Everyone looked confused, and Commissioner Sara Lewis piped up to say, "Wait. What did I just vote on?"

Earlier that evening, county mayor A C Wharton had been addressing the board when commissioners began to ask questions. In an attempt to regain control of the meeting, Johnson told the board they were out of order. It was unclear exactly who was out of order, but Wharton, looking frustrated, sat down and waited for the board to figure out what it was doing.

At this week's operations meeting, Lewis said she had been traumatized by the earlier meeting. Other commissioners said they were confused about what they were doing at the meeting.

"This is going to be one of the toughest years we have," said Commissioner Michael Hooks Jr. "We're going to have to communicate with other government leaders. If you can't even communicate with your colleagues, we're going to have problems."

Johnson said he had hoped to use the operations meeting to discuss "policy, practices, and procedures that are used by the board to ensure equity in our deliberations." Apparently, he intended to go through all the board policies one by one when Commissioner Lora Jobe suggested they only look at the ones he felt the board was violating. In the end, however, no specific policies were discussed, and Johnson asked that they read them individually for the next meeting.

At the end of the meeting, Johnson reviewed what had occurred and said, "We've all agreed that we're frustrated with each other, and we're especially frustrated with [me]."

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