From Bristow Beat
Not everyone who started watching the Prince William County School Board meeting, Wednesday night, stayed up until its 2 a.m. conclusion, Thursday.
After the contentious Prince William County School board meeting, featuring six hours of citizens time, it is to be expected that many left or turned of their TVs or monitors after the delay was announced.
However, those who did stay for the duration witnessed a shocking conclusion. While the vote on the super-controversial non-discrimination policy ultimately ended with the motion being tabled until June, school board member’s time was eye-opening.
Gainesville School Board member Alyson Satterwhite rarely gives interviews before she speaks from the dais, and often sits back looking quiet and composed. However, every now and again, when she feels passionate enough about an issue, she will speak up, and when that occurs, except a mouthful. Last night morning was one of those times.
Although Satterwhite remained cool, calm and collected, she delivered a scathing speech against Chairman Ryan Sawyers. It was certainly a “tell us how you really feel,” moment, for Ms. Satterwhite and the school board.
Satterwhite accused Sawyers of not caring about the children, but rather using his position as a political stepping stone. She blamed him for reducing the board to what has become an embarrassment throughout the Commonwealth.
Listing specific grievances, she alleged those associated with his campaign of slander, deception and intimidation of board member.
She even called Sawyers a “bully” and challenges him to either get serious about education or step down.
Here is an exact dictation of her speech.
It’s no secret that our board has struggled since January. We have gone through controversy after controversy, and we are known for that now by the Virginia Board Association because of our dysfunction where once we were considered leaders.”
Mr. Sawyers, I remember last November when we talked after the election. I told you that even though we might have had political party endorsements for our independent runs for school board, after the election is over, partisanship is over, and it is all about the kids. You may not have realized it, but I was very, very serious.”
You have made the focus more about political affiliation than about education, and you need to understand that most of us know you yell at people and threaten people over your political plans.
After Ms. Jessie questioned you in one meeting about why we were talking about baseball field use, within days she was hit by a FOIA request from a lawyer representing one of your good friends who also so happened to be a major campaign donor.
When the public questioned the Office of the AG opinion on why you couldn’t just select one of Trenum’s three choices, you verbally attacked the character of one of his nominees in a very public letter.
I first met that lady years ago when we both came to the school board meetings and stood on the other side of that podium. That lady just happens to be someone who has devoted more time and advocacy to educational issues in Prince William County School than you have since you started sitting in that chair.
When Ms. Raulston made it clear that she would be supporting one of Mr. Trenum’s proposed temporary replacements, your former campaign manager started two attack websites against Ms. Raulston; one of which is a recall petition site.
Your former campaign manager and one of your former paid staff members came into this chamber last meeting and verbally went after Ms. Raulston, during the public hearing, for the temporary replacement of the Brentsville representative, and accused her of illegal activity.
And when did those attack websites first showed up? It was the same weekend we had our August school board training session over learning how to function as a school board. That same session where most of us were participating, that same paid staff member from your campaign – we know he also posed as a reporter from a fake Prince William County news agency and sent emails to at least three of the four candidates for the temporary Brentsville replacement. He was seeking information and an interview.
Mr. Sawyers, I know you can be charming. I worked with you in Richmond as we lobbied for Prince William County Schools last winter, and I know you can be very effective in this job. The question is- do you want to [be]?
What we’ve seen so far is the antithesis of what a school board chairman should be, except for tonight. Mr. Chairman, I will applaud you for letting everyone speak tonight. It didn’t happen two weeks ago, but you did it, tonight, and I applaud you for that.
Instead of someone who is serving the people, we’ve seen you inclined to order everyone around. Quite frankly, in my opinion, you’ve been a bully. We’ve been speaking out against bullying tonight.
I believe you’ve created a culture of fear in the school system. My challenge to you tonight is – do you really want this job? Is this about serving all the people of Prince William County who elected you to lead as chairman at-large, or is this about making sensational headlines and paragraphs as you prepare to run for higher office?
Is this job truly about the kids and education for you, or not? Mr. Sawyers, I offered you my assistant when you were elected. I’ve shown you my respect, and, I’ve treated you professionally. For the most part, you’ve shown me exactly the same. I believe we can all work together on this board, and I think this board can turn around and can be successful. But, Mr. Sawyers, a lot of this is up to you. If you begin to take this position seriously, and treat it and the people around you with the respect that they deserve, [but, if you cannot] then, you know where the door is. Thank you.