An Open Letter to Susan Curlee from Williamson Strong

Dear Mrs. Curlee:

As Williamson County constituents and parents, we can’t see how some of your recent actions help move WCS forward. Since parent engagement itself has apparently become an issue for you, we thought it best to clarify a few things before we move on (hopefully for good).

You have said, both in print and in person to various people, that members of Williamson Strong have engaged in “vicious slanderous attacks” and “alarming harassment” and otherwise threatened you and your family, including your children. You have also stated that Williamson Strong parents have spread lies about you and your family.

Several parents asked about these so-called attacks last night at the Let’s Talk School event at Centennial.  You repeated your general accusations.  After being repeatedly pressed, you gave the following specifics:

  • You said that at the 9/15 board meeting when you were sworn in, a county commissioner said that your family should be proud of you, and “someone” in the room said “there’s nothing to be proud about.”  That is rude; however, it is hardly a threat to you and your family.  Also—and this is no small detail—that was not us. None of the founding members of Williamson Strong has ever spoken to your family.
  • You said that during early voting you went inside the building while your child remained outside.  You were not there, but you are certain that someone from Williamson Strong said something to your child that upset her.  You won’t say who or what.  Again, none of us have ever spoken to your family.

Let us be very clear:  only one of us had even been introduced to you before last night.  We have never called you on the phone, never been to or even seen your house. We are certain that none of us ever has or ever would threaten you or your family.

Frankly you appear to be seeing evidence of Williamson Strong when we aren’t even there.  When anyone says something to you as an elected official that you do not like or with which you disagree, you say they’re “bashing”, “threatening”, “vicious”, “pro-common core”, or the new buzz word you seem to have settled on: “targeting.”

As we have said previously, if someone is threatening you, please call the police.  It should go without saying that it is wildly inappropriate (and legally actionable) for anyone, especially a local politician such as yourself, to throw around serious and false allegations.

You have also said that we have repeatedly lied about you.  When asked what exactly parents have lied about, you have referred back to generalities.  When pressed last night about what exactly Williamson Strong has lied about, you identified the following “lies” to a Williamson Strong member as the LTS event was ending:

  • The connection with Americans for Prosperity.  You said you didn’t know those glossy election mailers from AFP were coming.  As we have reported, AFP dropped a ton of money in the last days of the race.  You said that you didn’t know how they got your high-resolution photo to use for the flyer.  It was your campaign and presumably someone from AFP could fill you in.  But the fact is this:  AFP spent a lot of money to help you win.  Yes, it is “dark” money because it doesn’t have the words “vote for” on it.  So it won’t appear on your campaign finance filings as they categorized it as “educational” and not as a direct contribution to you. That’s all legal, and you rightly thanked them for their support after the election.  They have an agenda, and it is anti-Common Core and also strongly pro-vouchers (they don’t hide that at all) and broadly anti-public schools.  You may not like that we draw the connections, but we do not see an inaccuracy here.  If you show us a statement that is factually incorrect, we will gladly correct it.
  • Your support for privatization.  You raised your hand at the Clapham forum to indicate you were for vouchers. Last night you said that there would have to be certain “metrics” and you’d have to study things before you could vote for vouchers and, “Besides,” as you put it, “I’m only one vote.”  It is unclear to us what we have said that is inaccurate.  If you have changed your mind on vouchers, please let us know.  As we have said previously and publicly, we will happily publish such a change.

Previously and again last night, you argued that Williamson Strong is somehow illegitimate because we are “unregistered” (your term).  You told us that once we started talking about candidates, we were “electioneering” and that is against the law. We believe your analysis is incorrect.

Now let’s look at the present.  You WON the election and now there is no campaign and there are no candidates. You are an elected official and we are your constituents.  So what exactly do you think we should be registering for? Having an opinion?  Asking hard questions?  As an elected official, you should expect to be held accountable for what you say and do.  You have a platform and a position of authority.  If you want to clarify your position on a matter, you have every opportunity to do so.

Williamson Strong is a network of parents, much bigger than the five of us whose correspondence you have requested under the Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) for reasons you have not disclosed.  We have grown by over a thousand parents just since mid-September.  We are not a front group for a Hungarian billionaire or a janitors’ union or Pearson Publishing (new one) or Microsoft (also new).  We are not a group with a “political agenda” except the one we have stated from the beginning: we want strong and excellent public schools; we want all kids of all faiths to be welcome in those schools.  We want schools that focus on excellence and opportunity and not sideshows driven by TV personalities or national ideological campaigns.  We want appropriate investment in and strengthening of the current public school system.  We want honesty and transparency from our public officials. We want the resources of the school system to be focused on and driven by the practical considerations of what is best for the boys and girls of this county.  We believe that’s what the vast majority of Williamson County wants, too.

Sincerely,

Williamson Strong

Sarah Barnard

Jim Cheney

Susan Drury

Kim Henke

Jennifer Smith

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