Rewritten or Rigged?

Another advance is underway in the stadium push—an effort to rewrite the rules. The Building & Grounds Committee is meeting tomorrow to discuss amending a Memo of Understanding (MOU) that required Home Field Advantage have all money in the bank before stadium plans could be approved for construction. And as we know, after ten years of ardent trying, Home Field Advantage is far short of necessary funds. With less than $600,000 in the bank, they are no where close to meeting the terms required to approve a stadium.

Funding shortfalls were always expected. The school system has worked with the influential families of RJ Reynolds High and their private fundraising initiatives before. Surely the memory of being stranded mid-project holding the bill for an auditorium renovation was the motivation behind the MOU between WS/FCS and Home Field Advantage in 2018. It spelled out the rules in clear terms—actually in legalese that essentially stated Home Field Advantage would have to have all the money in the bank for all phases of the project before it could be approved for construction.

That MOU is being brought forth to committee tomorrow to discuss amending the terms. The school system wants to formally change the rules.

For those who look to me for a big reaction, there is none. Bigger, far more important rules have already been broken to advance the private stadium project thus far. I am far more concerned about WS/FCS exploitation of the Americans with Disabilities Act to justify demolition of Wiley’s gym or WS/FCS inexcusable permission of continued conflict of interest appointments and votes that allow Leah Crowley and Deanna Kaplan to turn the school board into a proxy for Home Field Advantage.

Furthermore, Andrea Braemer has rightly raised the issue of the MOU several times during discussions that would clearly violate terms set out in the agreement. In response, the district’s legal counsel has blithely explained the solution to that problem is to simply change the agreement.

The MOU has no teeth. It never did. And clearly the District will bend over backwards to deliver whatever this group wants regardless of it in whatever form.

So, while I’m surprised they’re going through public process, I find it heartening. It’s good that their actions will be on public record. We will see fairly clearly how they are changing the rules and for whose benefit. 

If there is any good to come out of this, it is the record being produced. The campaign for the R.J. Reynolds stadium is a beautifully condensed illustration of the governing mechanics of our school system. While we have hundreds of dedicated staff and educators that truly believe in the guiding ideals of delivering quality education to all families in our district and who truly intend to make real advances in equity, when it comes down to it, the school board decides.

Line 7 of the MOU between Home Field Advantage and WS/FCS states it fairly clearly: nothing happens “unless and/or until the following issues or concerns have been addressed to the satisfaction of the Board.” And our board has two determined Home Field Advantage supporters on it—Deanna Kaplan and Leah Crowley. 

Honestly though, this is not about Crowley and Kaplan. If it wasn’t them, it would be someone else like them. It is about who they represent and the fact that the board is a big wrench designed for this purpose—to keep the system rigged to deliver to one group above all others.

Influential board members and donors may no longer have the wealth they once did, nor wield as much power as their forefathers, but they still have their hand on the wrenches and that rig still works.

I applaud those of us who have battled Goliath and forced them to deploy every wrench they’ve got in the entire local ecosystem including the story makers over at the Winston Salem Journal. It’s condensed a far bigger and more epic conflict into a neat story tale version of a fight for a field. A story that expects, and by the time it’s over likely will have, a moral to be learned.

Is WS/FCS rewriting the rules? No, not really. The system was always rigged to allow this type of manipulation. But, words matter. Promises ideally should be kept. It is up to us to intervene, to demand our governments live up to their stated ideals. Let’s start by removing the wrenches here, at the local level.

Some say, “get out of the way and let them have their stadium already.” Obviously, I believe there are bigger, far more important ideals at stake on Wiley’s hill.

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