Some on the Williamson County School Board, along with several constituents, want a controversial member to resign.
Board members Ken Peterson and Bobby Hullett have publicly asked District 12 board member Susan Curlee to step down as one of her district constituent parents circulates a petition for the same purpose.
Those board members and petitioners claim that since Curlee was elected to the board on Aug. 7, 2014, she has failed to represent her constituency and more recently has created a hostile work environment for the school superintendent.
That petition drive comes as Metro Nashville Public Schools hunts for a new superintendent and this week announced WCS Superintendent Mike Looney as a finalist. He interviewed Thursday in Nashville with Metro district officials.
In early June, Looney had not submitted his resume for the job and told the Home Pages he “had no reason to” and was content with his position in WCS.
In late June, Curlee told a talk radio show host she was “prepared” to ask for Looney’s termination when the board meets on July 20. At this meeting, the board is also due to vote on a restructuring and extension of Looney’s contract, which currently expires Jan. 31, 2018.
Looney submitted his resume to MNPS on July 2, though he declined to say if it was specifically because of Curlee’s comments.
Curlee’s complaints about Looney precede last summer’s election. She objects to the school leader using his professional, public email address for correspondence about the election, namely with parents who founded Williamson Strong. That is a group Curlee and the State Registry of Election Finance believe to be a political action committee, a ruling Williamson Strong has appealed.
Curlee has also accused Looney of overstepping political bounds by coercing parents and teachers to attend meetings. These allegations are currently a piece of an investigation now expected to conclude Friday.
In addition, Curlee has said district staff’s proposed budget for the 2015-2016 school year is wasteful and includes inflated administrative salaries.
She has primarily relied on a conservative Nashville talk radio host — Michael DelGiorno — to air her criticisms, though the board has discouraged it.
Curlee is not without supporters; some citizens have voiced encouragement on social media and agreed with her criticisms of Looney.
Curlee said she “politely” declined discussing the controversies with the Home Pages.
However, on Monday, July 6, she told board members in a public email she gets the impression WCS is “plan B” for Looney if he does not get the Metro position — an act that elicited Hullett’s Thursday call for her resignation. Hullett condemned Curlee for acting “as if she had absolutely nothing to do with the derailment and potential devastation we are now facing in Williamson County.”
Peterson confirmed he also plans to ask Curlee at the board’s Thursday, July 16, work session to step aside.
“I don’t believe a censure really does anything,” he said in reference to a resolution presented last spring by Hullett to censure Curlee. Hullett withdrew the resolution because it was chastised by board members who found it disruptive.
“My expectation is to formally request her resignation. Ultimately, we have to do something about this.”
For months, some constituents have vocalized via social media a desire to see Curlee go. But under state law, the school board member’s actions do not warrant ouster from office or a recall.
On Wednesday, Curlee’s District 12 constituent Courtenay Rogers began to circulate a petition for Curlee’s resignation, and it has amassed more than 800 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
Rogers described herself as a business owner, homeowner and mother of a rising second grader in Franklin Special School District who will attend WCS.
“It’s very apparent that Susan Curlee is not representing Williamson County, and definitely not her constituents in District 12,” Rogers said.
“I have attempted over the past year many times, in many fashions, from emails to Facebook messages on her open profile, to Twitter, to have conversations with her. None of those have been successful.”
Rogers said because she has deep roots in Williamson County and plans to “stick around” to raise her daughter here, she wants to make sure there is a healthy board leading the district.
“I am a true believer that a few can make a huge difference,” she said.
“I’m not willing to have one person try to destroy what has taken years to get, which is an amazing school system. I think some are starting to realize this is not just about kids in school, though it is a huge part of it, but if you own property here, our school system has a huge economic impact. People move here because of the schools. Companies like Nissan bring headquarters here because their employees want their kids in WCS. Susan Curlee is messing with that for her own political agenda.”
Rogers said Thursday she measures the success of her petition based on whether it generates interest and awareness.
“This is an easily trackable platform,” she said. “I work with data for a living, so it’s important to me that we can take this to the board and say X amount of people signed in this amount of time, and here are the signatures and the comments.”
In last August’s election, Curlee received 1,180 votes compared to incumbent Vicki Vogt’s 968. Rogers said she would be happy to gather 1,181 signatures to prove her theory that voter awareness was lacking last year.
Rogers said she might present the numbers to the board during the citizens communication portion of the July 20 meeting.
Jessica Pace covers Williamson County, Williamson County Schools and the Town of Nolensville for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Jess_NHP.