Finley Peter Dunne was right on the money.
“Sure, politics ain’t bean-bag,” the 19th century novelist famously wrote.
Seems like only yesterday that the voters of Alachua County made history: Having elected a school board majority of three Black women – who promptly set out to disrupt the Old School status quo.
They hired a “rouge” superintendent who, unlike her predecessors, eschewed insiders baseball as she began to shake up a calcified bureaucracy.
Those were the days.
But then one of the three Black women who made up the majority – Diyonne McGraw – got tossed out of office by Gov. Ron DeSantis for having made a GPS mistake in her qualifying papers. DeSantis replaced her with GOP political operative Mildred Russell.
Russell has figured out that she can do the most mischief by aligning herself with the two male caucasians on the board – old time Gainesville progressives turned aging cynics Rob Hyatt and Gunnar Paulson.
And the New White Triumvirate wasted no time kicking off a New Day in hard ball schoolyard politics.
Call it the Tuesday Night Massacre. And it all unfolded in Black and White, like an old Thomas Nast cartoon.
Everybody assumed that Tina Certain would be the new board chair because, as vice chair, she was next in line of succession. Instead, Russell up and nominated Hyatt for chair, and the New White Triumvirate prevailed. On a narrow vote – and by Hyatt’s good grace – Certain was allowed to remain vice chair as a sort of…um…remember your place gesture.
So much for the will of the voters. That went out the window when DeSantis put his personal proxy on the board.
So what happens next?
Well, Carlee Simon, the aforementioned “rogue” superintendent, has made the rounds on national television railing against DeSantis’ war on school mask mandates. DeSantis-proxy Russell certainly has little reason to want to keep her on the party payroll.
And Paulson has been so openly and savagely critical of Simon that she now refuses to meet with him in private. So there’s that.
The only uncertainty is whether Hyatt, the newly ordained chair, is prepared to cut Simon loose. If so, then the massacre will be complete and the voter-driven local school reform movement will be cold in its grave.
Politics ain’t beanbag, Alachua County. Give Ron DeSantis this victory in his nasty little war on local schools, home rule…and Critical Race Theory.
It’s all there in Black and White.