GOLDMAN: School Board elects to punt in doctorate controversy
Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.
by Paul Goldman
RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – In football, a good punter when used correctly can be a very effective weapon.
Last week, WTVR’s Catie Beck made an unannounced call on School Board Member Shonda Harris-Muhammed, aka the body’s Undocumented Doctor. Shonda claims to have a doctorate degree from Walden University, which I believe is now technically owned by a Wall Street Hedge Fund through a buyout of the parent company.
Walden is in the category of schools – for-profit universities (unlike non-profit schools like VCU and other traditional colleges) – which the NAACP says is destroying African-American neighborhoods, “debt mills” according to leading educators in Virginia and elsewhere who point to statistics showing their students compromise 10 percent of all students but 50 percent of delinquent loans.
Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb said they were ripping off veterans, the list is endless, I figure by now you get the drift.
Is Walden one of these bad actors? I don’t recall it being part of the many exposes and outrageous stories.
But the hedge funded owned schools tend to be the worst in the industry.
The situation in this growing part of education, preying on minorities, is growing and the Richmond School Board has done nothing to help students avoid these traps from what I know.
But that is for another day. Today we concentrate on the story unearthed by ace WTVR sleuth Catie Beck.
When she confronted the Undocumented Doctor, she got what they call a “non-denial denial” in the political business. You deny everything except the specific question asked. That one you fudge.
When Beck made a call on other School Board Members, they too refused to take a stand on whether it was right for an Undocumented Doctor to be treated like a Doctor by the School System at the School Board meetings.
Last night was the first official meeting of the School Board since the story became the talk of the town.
The School Board had three choices last night. One was to call Ms. Harris-Muhammed out for misleading them and the public for all these months, then taking corrective action in a forceful way. The Third was to back her against Beck, saying the WTVR reporter had it wrong.
Instead, the School Board took the middle position: It punted the ball over to Ms. Harris-Muhammed. They gave her a week to prove Beck wrong: or they would take action to show they would not tolerate such misrepresentation.
So I ask: What about this strategy of punting the ball?
Clearly, the Board had no stomach for throwing their colleague “under the school bus” as the saying goes. They wanted to give her a week to “negotiate her own pain” so to speak.
Chairman Jeff Bourne won his post in a 5-4 vote, with the Undocumented Doctor giving him the fifth vote. It is not an ideal situation for sure.
I will give his punt play the benefit of the doubt. It pins Ms. Harris-Muhammed near her own end zone. There is always a risk to waiting, other stuff could come out and the Board will look weak.
It clearly is a compromise play. But again, a good punt can prove very strategic.
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.