Tuesday, October 12, 2010

12 OCT 10: Checker-Board

Two years ago, we conducted a year-end "pop quiz" of metro Columbus schools. We checked their websites, to see if they reflected proper spelling [29 Dec 08]. Since that time, one significant change has occurred. The Associated Press Stylebook has ruled "website" should be spelled as one word, instead of two.

Today we take the "web bee" in a new direction - and it has a connection to the upcoming Columbus election. It's inspired by a Monday e-mail titled, "Mark Cantrell - Full of Jokes":

Mr. Burkard - Take a look at the attached screen-shots from Facebook. Mark Cantrell has a public profile so you can verify this yourself. His use of grammar and typo's is laughable when considering that he's running for School Board. Can you just imagine the reaction of a parent getting a letter from Mr. Cantrell where he uses "right" instead of "write"? Or "here" instead of "hear".

Love the blog!


I chose to go directly to the School Board candidate's Facebook page Monday afternoon, and avoid those screen-shots. Photo trickery can happen in the heat of a campaign, you know - such as a Photoshopped Wayne Anthony heroically reeling in a shark from the Chattahoochee River.

Starting from the top, the "Bio" section of Mark Cantrell's Facebook page has a problem right away: "Its time for your voice to be heard on the school board." He needs an apostrophe inside the first word -- not to mention the fact that board members probably can bring digital recorders with my voice on it, to play if they wish.

The biography continues: "I have proven leaderships skills...." Well, Mark Cantrell HAS led a lot of things - from telethons to Action Buildings....

But it doesn't stop there: "My Mom and Dad is James & Jean Cantrell." Is - not are?! Does that fact that Mark Cantrell is a Columbus native have anything to do with this?

You can search through the Facebook page and probably find more writing errors. But this may explain why Mark Cantrell spent the bulk of his career in radio - and country music at that, where countless singers drop the final "g" from words.

(Cantrell might respond by explaining he's merely living up to his reputation. Why would "Johnny Outlaw" obey the laws of good grammar?)

To be fair, we checked Mark Cantrell's opponent for Muscogee County School Board. Incumbent Brenda Storey's Facebook page is visible to "friends only" - but her campaign website biography includes this: "My husband William, a native of Columbus and Jordan graduate, have been married for 30 years and have lived in the same house...." Have, not has? I don't think being married to yourself is legal -- not yet.

Brenda Storey's website also has a punctuation dilemma. She goes back and forth on whether to hyphenate "yard sign." I think the proper answer is no - like a football "yard line" has no line between the yard and the line.

(By the way, I noticed Mark Cantrell has about eight times as many Facebook friends as Brenda Storey. Might that explain why Storey made sure she had "face time" at Monday night's school board work session to discuss gangs? She told WRBL Columbus "seems to have" a crime problem - so her neighborhood must not have one of those police beats.)

Surely a long-time educator would have a proper campaign website, right? I next checked on at-large school board candidate Adele Lindsey -- but her 17 September blog entry says, "I thought we needed an experience educator from Muscogee County on the local school board." The proper word is "experienced." Unless Lindsey taught students at Clubview Elementary how to experience things....

Adele Lindsey is challenging incumbent school board Cathy Williams, whose home page admits: "This was the most difficult budget process in four years that I have served ans tough choices had to be made...." That "ans" ought to be "and." And Williams should have had an advantage, since husband Chuck works with copy editors at the Ledger-Enquirer.

The other competitive Muscogee County School Board race is in District 8, where Philip Schley is stepping down. Brinkley Pound's latest blog post talks about a veteran teacher who used to teach "whole language" reading. "She knew then, as we know now, that is would not be an effective method...." The "is" should be an "isn't" - because it isn't belonging in that sentence.

Brinkley Pound's opponent in District 8 can receive no better than an "incomplete" grade in our inspection. If Beth Harris has a website, I couldn't find it Monday night. And if I become a Facebook "friend" to unlock Harris's page, that would open the doors for accusations of biased reporting.

The point of our test is that while Mark Cantrell's Facebook biography certainly has some flaws, ALL the candidates for Muscogee County School Board have some online. Should we disqualify them all from the election in three weeks? Or should the Literacy Alliance do for the winners what it does for third-graders - and reward them with new dictionaries?

And yes, even this blog has language lapses from time to time. It took more than half of Monday until I realized I'd written about Dale Peterson and "HER rifle." Peterson should never be confused with the late Dale Evans.

-> Sunday night brought a thrilling moment in one form of online poker. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus Day was no holiday for the Phenix City School Board. After an executive session, Superintendent Larry DiChiara read a response to last week's airing of grievances by City Councilor Jimmy Wetzel. Oh dear -- I wrote "airing of grievances." My apologies for rushing the Festivus season.

But anyway: the Superintendent started by telling reporters the Phenix City School District is prepared to pay the city a use fee for home football games at Garrett-Harrison Stadium. Larry DiChiara said a usage agreement was waived by the last city council. But Jimmy Wetzel would tell you the voters wanted change in 2008 - and more than $100,000 per year can be a lot of pocket change.

Larry DiChiara made it sound like Phenix City officials made a long list of rules for Central High football games - and if the rules weren't followed, the games would be canceled. So a military flyover last week would have been followed by a "game over."

The Superintendent then denied his wife is gaining kickbacks from sales of furniture to the Phenix City School District. Larry DiChiara said furniture is purchased from a state "bid list," and his wife only receives a base salary of $24,000 from an office supply store. She has about as much "commission" as the City Council does, from not calling itself a commission.

Larry DiChiara noted the Phenix City School District is the city's largest employer - so it "stands to reason" that relatives of school board members might take school jobs. Thankfully, Columbus doesn't have that sort of problem. It's big enough to have Hugleys in three separate arms of government.

The Phenix City Superintendent said the school board has responded "swiftly and severely" to confirmed charges of inappropriate relationships. In fact, some criminal cases already were public knowledge. But the supposed "superintendent-administration" relationship remains an open question. Did Larry DiChiara help a female principal load her car with health textbooks?

Larry DiChiara confirmed part of what I suspected last week about his car - that Phenix City Central students gave it a paint job last school year. But the Superintendent said the work took eight months, and he had to pay more than $2,000 for the class project. So there - any kickbacks to his wife would have been passed directly on to students.

Larry DiChiara added Phenix City Schools currently have two million dollars in reserve. He said that shows the reserves are not "down to zero." But he admitted that amount covers only a half-month of operating expenses -- which may mean we should pray for not one big snowstorm this winter, but several.

The Phenix City Superintendent says any further discussion of these matters should be done in a joint session, with the school board and city council. With that, WTVM indicated the current spat was over. Uhhhh - really?! With no change in the school board president? I'll believe it's over when Larry DiChiara and Jimmy Wetzel sign a peace treaty at the amphitheatre.

Let's see what else spiced up a quiet Monday holiday....

+ Columbus mayoral candidate Zeph Baker showed WLTZ a slashed poster on the outside of his campaign headquarters. Baker says his office has received several threatening phone calls in recent days. Hmmmm - has the website name "The Truth About Zeph" been taken yet?

+ WTVM's 5:30 newscast included one commercial break with THREE campaign ads about Mike Keown. The first one supported his campaign for Congress. The last two opposed him. All three included Keown's line about "doing some crazy things." If he loses to Sanford Bishop, he should start selling Crazy Bread for Little Caesar's Pizza.

+ San Francisco edged Atlanta 3-2, to win its baseball playoff series and end the managing career of Bobby Cox. The end was disappointing in several ways - as Cox didn't get himself ejected by an umpire one final time.

(The loss also means Atlanta relief pitcher Billy Wagner will retire. Bobby Cox was forced to remove him from the roster during the series due to a "strained left oblique." I admittedly don't watch much baseball these days - so an oblique injury might as well be an obscure injury.)

+ ABC's "Nightline" showed an outbreak of Pentecostal revival at the Mobile Convention Center. Big crowds are gathering, and people supposedly are receiving miracles. I hope there are enough seats there for the Spencer High School football team.

Today's main topic was inspired by a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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