Thursday, February 3, 2011

An Open Letter To Karen Kasich

I was struck by this week's announcement Ohio Governor John Kasich wanted a better understanding in the case of The State of Ohio v Kelley Williams-Bolar. He says his wife "alerted" him, along with a call from Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

Mrs. Kasich, here's more information you should include in your next "alert."

Dear Karen -- can I call you Karen?

It is not surprising as a mother with daughters attending public schools that you would sympathize with the Akron school mother in the swirl of controversy over the lengths she went to bypass residency to get her children in a neighboring school district.

As a mother, your heart must go out to a woman portrayed in the national media as a victim of a system that would punish her for seeking a better education for her daughters -- regardless of the fact Williams-Bolar herself says Copley isn't a "better" education than Akron, the district where she's employed.

But as a mother, I ask you to look beyond the first heartbeat and examine the record. You will not find this a "Rosa Parks" moment in the debate over education; you will not find this a case of a parent making a mistake and seeking to correct a wrong. You will not find this an example of an adult taking responsibility for what is, in large measure, the residency Ponzi scheme this is quickly becoming.

Your family performs public service to our state and nation; you understand we are a country where laws govern all of us, and the means exist to address wrongs through debate, deliberation and action. That action does not include lying and cheating. That's not the message you would want your daughters to take from this case, despite the rhetoric from ill-informed commentators who have taken neither the time nor effort to examine the facts.

When talking to Governor John and alerting him of cases such as these, please take a moment to consider the following; I've included links if you would like to dig a little deeper:
  • This column from the Akron Beacon Journal's Bob Dyer, showing the history of Edward Williams, Kelley's father, charging people with racism (among plenty of other charges) to the point where he's banned from filing in Cleveland's U.S. District Court;
  • This blog from Jay Williams, a Washington, D.C. freelance writer who actually took the time to look into the case and weighs in on the message we send as opposed to the excuses some would make;
  • This story compiling much of the information the actual jury, which convicted on the tampering with records charges, considered when handing down the verdict;
  • This decision (it's a .pdf file; give it time to load) by Summit County Juvenile Court Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio turning aside a petition seeking to establish custody in Copley while Williams-Bolar continued to live with her daughters in Akron;
  • This .pdf file on one of the many bills sent to Williams-Bolar, frankly begging her to resolve the issue. I'm sure you know Ohio families who have loved ones serving our nation overseas; it's worthwhile noting the "deployed overseas for 18 months" is one of the many lies established in this faulty deck of cards supporters of Williams-Bolar use to excuse her actions.
I'm sure you and Governor John will be taking time to wonder why this case went to trial as a felony, and why prosecutors didn't plea bargain the charges down to a misdemeanor. Karen, remember it takes two to tango when deciding to accept a plea deal.

Talk with prosecutors and ask them how often they "deal cases down" when the offending party -- and Kelley Williams-Bolar is clearly an offender in the eyes of the same laws your husband swore to uphold -- refuses to take responsibility for their actions.

Please alert the Governor's lawyers to talk with the attorneys on both sides, and gain a better understanding of why any talk of a misdemeanor came only with a week to go before trial, and even then without a clear representation it would be acceptable to Williams-Bolar and she was prepared to admit wrongdoing and accept the consequences. Make sure they get an answer from the defendant herself, who still maintains she and her family did nothing wrong when lying to the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, Copley-Fairlawn Schools, or Summit County Juvenile Court.

Ask your daughters if they think adults who break the law should be exonerated, to use the description in a recent Akron Beacon Journal interview, even when they refuse to admit they did wrong. Ask yourself and your husband if that's the message you want the people of Ohio to hear, those who play by the rules and don't try to play the system.

Karen, I have no doubt you and your family have the best of intentions when debating and crafting public policy. Remember the dozens of families who stood up, took responsibility, and did the right thing when discovered by Copley-Fairlawn schools. Encourage the public debate on closed v open enrollment; urge your husband to truly address education reform in Ohio instead of the usual application of lipstick on a pig we've had to settle for. Craft public policy that respects the expectation society should be able to set a standard of truthfulness.

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