On Wednesday, Jim Tager, our school superintendent for the last three years, tweeted these few lines: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” The quote is from the final pages of “Long Walk to Freedom,” Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. Tager had always kept a Mandela quote in his office, though if you have a look at his twitter feed it’s essentially 6,700 variations on that theme. You will not see a single note of negativity.
Compare that to the stuff you found on School Board Chairman Janet McDonald’s twitter feed, where protesters are called terrorists, where one of our own congressmen, surely not ignorant of lynching’s history, calls for demonstrators to be hunted down, where Black Lives Matter is derided without a tweet of empathy, where schools brainwash, where public health officials are quacks, where liberals and the press are only good for insults, where lies about brick-throwers and George Soros are recirculated and misinformation is masked–if anything is ever masked–in the pilfered language of skepticism. A rare retweet here and there quoting the odd inspirational words aside, McDonald’s feed is a lament scroll of ideological resentments and Savage victimhood, more “American carnage” than America singing.
Two radically different perspectives from the two most powerful people in the Flagler County school district.
The strange thing is that in person McDonald is one of the most engaging, sunny personalities you’ll meet on our local political circuit. She’s gracious, she’s more publicly engaged than most, she cheerleads students and staff, she responds to press inquiries, she’s never vulgar or abrasive or personal–at least not publicly, the way some of our more incendiary politicos who shoot up the same ideological venom try to be.
But why this rancid discordance between her public self and her not-so public self? You can say all you want that McDonald’s twitter feed is her own and that she has every right to express her thoughts or retweet those of others. Of course she does. You can even say, as McDonald tried to, that some of the retweets were not hers, could not possibly have been hers, though she didn’t exactly remove them even days after she was flooded with calls or texts about them, nor, by any means, distance herself from the majority of what she acknowledged tweeting or retweeting. She said she’d take down her whole page only after a FlaglerLive story exposed them all, and after sounding incensed that it had to go so far, “as though”–to borrow the line from Edith Wharton–“words meant to be murmured to sympathetic friends were being megaphoned into the ears of a heedless universe.” But what the hell did she expect, in this day, in this time, through these belated reckonings with a climate of hate unpardonably normalized to the rhythm of tweets from the president on down? (In fact, she did not take down the page. It’s still there, locked from view except to those she admits.)
Tweets are character. You can’t hide behind the conceit of social media being a different universe, somehow segregated and unrelated to one’s public persona as an elected official. You may try. But no one’ll buy it. No one should. You are what you tweet.
In this case, the difference between Tager’s and McDonald’s twitter feed was not simply an exercise in divergent opinions. The differences in ostensibly personal social media platforms were the writing on the wall. Those differences are the reason we lost Tager. This was his last week in the district. It didn’t have to be. But McDonald set his departure in motion more than a year ago, when she stunned his colleagues and many of us with her announcement that it was time to look for a replacement. Clearly, her philosophy did not align with his. She wanted him out and she got him out.
Of course Tager was technically term-limited to three years, having to retire through the Florida Retirement System in June. But that could have been dealt with. He could have sat out six months–cleanly and inexpensively, not sneakily and exorbitantly, the way a recent county assistant administrator did–and returned for a few more years. The board could have easily made it happen. Tager certainly had a majority and the record to make it happen. He brought the district back to an A for the first time in seven years. The graduation rate surged. He kept schools safe and never lost sight of them as a sanctuary. After the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School and the murder of one of his students off campus he navigated the district through some of its most anxious times. He cultivated an excellent working relationship with the sheriff, with whom he ensured that schools would remain secure without becoming armed camps or prey to state-sanctioned vigilantism. It was another example of what he called the “human touch” in a recent video on his twitter feed. He understood the equal dignity and respect owed students, whatever their color and, more recently, their gender orientation. An unquestionably spiritual man, he was not big on public ostentation and knew his Matthew. His self-assurance never transgressed an equal ease with humility. He did not pose or pander. Or cower. Maybe that’s why McDonald wanted him out.
McDonald could have been isolated. But the board members didn’t step up. They let McDonald turn into a school board of one. And the most complete superintendent this district has had since Bill Delbrugge is gone.
This isn’t to doubt the qualities of Cathy Mittelstadt, who was clearly the most qualified of the applicants for superintendent. The board redeemed itself a good distance with that decision–which McDonald did not initially support. McDonald welcomed her in typical McDonald style, with a bunch of smiley-faced roses in one hand and a Damocles sword in the other. It’s the sort of welcome that sends a message: deal and stay. Deal not, you’re gone. McDonald can take the board’s silence on Tager’s account as precedent, an unsettling precedent, though Mittelstadt’s backbone doesn’t strike me as any less doric than Tager’s.
Still, I feel like the kids in “Dead Poets Society,” standing up on their desks and yelling “Captain my Captain” to Robin Williams’s Mr. Keating after he’s been railroaded out of Welton Academy–ironically set in Vermont, where Tager is heading. If only the four other board members had stood on their desks. He might have stayed. But he knew the score. Flagler County is more Ted Nugent than Walt Whitman these days, leaving us to hope that “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” That’s in the same Mandela paragraph from where Tager took his twitter quote, as Mandela goes on to describe the glimmers of humanity he’d occasionally see even in his prison guards. Maybe the school board can slip that thought into its next unsilent moment of silence.
Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.
The begining of the end for Flagler Schools. This Mcdonald only intends to hurt our childrens future. All while smiling threw her snake teeth. These are the type that slither by without you noticing. She is the worst kind of person , Fake Fake Fake with intentions of destruction to our children and schools
Next get rid of the union and the Flagler schools might return to teaching kids the 3 r’s and the other Jeopardy categories instead of the leftwing propaganda on the menu now. Janet is telling it like it is, not like the media conspire to twist it.
Freedumb fighter says
Andy Dance Is running for county Commission. I suggest he should show leadership and make a motion to reassign the chairmanship and furthermore to formally censure Janet McDonald. Her twitter comments are unacceptable as the sitting chairman of our school district. Let’s see some action from our school board.
A rotten apple spoils the bunch
Leonel Rosario says
All this social media is driving the country to h e double hockey sticks at breakneck speed. Free speech doesn’t mean you’re consequence-free. Sad when genuinely good, caring, and productive people are driven away.
Mike Cocchiola says
Radical right-wing cultural warriors are running this county. It is profoundly disturbing why clearer and rational members of our county boards don’t speak out and fight back. But they don’t. Why are they afraid? Do they think by politely listening and quiet peacekeeping will somehow change the thought processes of the fanatical right-wing… their behavior? That never happens. Silent acquiescence just enables further abuses.
Perhaps this election will add the backbone we need to our county boards to encircle and block the worst instincts of the right-wing radicals.
Trailer Bob says
It is getting tired when anyone you disagree with is label…”Right wing” or “Liberal”.
SO because of one persons behaviors you label the rest of us in the county? Drop the party BS and evaluate the individual. Divisiveness will get us nowhere.
CB from PC says
Nelson Mandela ‘s ANC were no Saints. I guess it is acceptable to excuse and even celebrate one side’s “crimes” while vilifying another. No matter, South Africa is a shambles.. Idealism, without some practical solutions as to how to give people the education and tools that they can better themselves and their families by earning a living is just a word.
And BTW, regardless of political views, Ted Nugent is a self-made man who has earned and lost more money than most of us will have. He knew at age 8 he wanted to play guitar. At age 17 he and The Amboy Dukes scored.
No one did It for him. Everything he has, he earned. For that, I respect him, and anyone else, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or age….hope that covered everyone.
If Jim Tager finds comfort in the words of Nelson Mandela, to each their own.
Concerned Citizen says
Janet and her law suit sniffing husband need to go. They have wasted more of tax payers time and have created nothing but trouble wherever they go.
No one seems to stand up to the McDonalds in this county. Why? Are people afraid of them? If so why?Both are crooked as the day is long. Both have been found guilty of ethics violations. Blatently lying on forms was just the tip of the iceberg. Her husband still has a legally sanctioned fine he refuses to pay. No we haven’t forgotten
This two run around this county loudly claiming to be some sort of champions of honesty and integrity. How much time and money have they cost us with frivolous ethics complaints and law suits?
The McDonalds need to do us all a favor and go
Proud American says
You know what is funny, sometimes the ones with the perfect twitter feeds aren’t necessarily perfect. We find that with many of our liberal “famous” democrats. They hardly ever practice what they preach, especially when it comes to their personal life. People are allowed to have opinions, we don’t have to follow the “tolerant” left. Although some may wish to submerge truths, tell only half truths, hide peoples thoughts that are not necessarily in alignment with their own, we SEE you. Those that don’t, are living in a false reality that is kept alive with their loud thought police, but the truth is what it is, their is only one, and it always comes out.
Agreed, kids don’t know hate, they learn it. I think many are confused between hate and being afraid. I personally don’t hate anyone, blacks, whites, or any color, but I legally carry a handgun out of fear and the need to protect my family and myself. If you read the news paper, or watch the daily news, sadly, it’s mostly African American kids you see breaking the law. I think people reflect on those images and thoughts to the people they see. I don’t hate them or dislike them, but I do have a bit of fear in me when I see some of them. It’s not hate, but a slight feeling of fear
And you walk around with a gun? What a scary thought for young black men. This scared coward cant leave his house without being scared of the big black man. You are a real piece you know that? Maybe you need to look in the mirror and see the only thing to fear is your cowardness. You are the problem, the scared white man who needs a gun to protect himself from scary american men.
The Far Left and The Far Right are both cracked mirror intolerant doppelganger images of each other. Anybody who occupies the more rational and thoughtful middle is considered to be a threat–and they are pushed out. It’s that simple. This, unfortunately, has been the case in every level of our government, throughout our country and it is getting worse. We all should be alarmed by this.
Those who so glibly denigrate Nelson Mandela and say that South Africa is in shambles. . . have you ever even been to South Africa or have you completed a certified course study in its history? Please cite your credible facts for your claims.
Regarding fear and mistrust of other races. The Buddhist teach that the opposite of love is NOT hate, it is FEAR. . . and, that the majority of negative emotions are fear based. Consider the possibility that the reason that so many African Americans are incarcerated is that they DO NOT receive EQUAL treatment or justice by police officers, judges and juries. Unless and until we all have EQUALITY in fundamental requirements for an evolving civilization . . . such as justice, education and employment opportunities. . . FEAR BASED xenophobia, racial bias and discrimination will continue.
The very roots of how we think of and appreciate and respect our fellow human beings needs to change! True EQUALITY is the key!
Kim Pandich-Gridley says
What I have witnessed in recent years is that Ms. Barbosa, Conklin and McDonald tend to vote in a block more often than not. The only way to change that and limit McDonald’s power is to elect new faces to the board in the upcoming election. I will certainly be supporting Cheryl Massaro in her efforts to defeat Barbosa. The other elections will require more due diligence on my part. And although I am in full agreement with the first comment posted by “Kim,” the name is strictly a coincidence. I am glad however, that McDonald’s truly deceptive nature is finally being exposed.