2001-10-20 / Columnists

From the G-Man

By Gary G. Toms

Hey people! As noted in one of this week’s editorials, we have not been publishing photos or stories from many of the area schools because of an alleged mandate that has been issued by the District 27 Superintendent, Matt Bromme. The schools and administrators have reportedly been told not to communicate with The Wave in any way, and those that did would suffer the consequences.

Now, I’m not sure if this is being fueled by the fact that Howie Schwach, a recently retired 30 year employee for the Board of Education, and vocal critic of the system, is the Managing Editor, or if they are still harboring a grudge against The G-man for writing about a case of alleged abuse by a teacher at P.S. 104. Whatever the case, I think it is absolutely asinine if such sanctions have been imposed.

If the intent is to hurt Howie or me, it didn’t work. If the intent is to hurt the paper’s reputation for giving positive exposure to students and their accomplishments, it didn’t work. If the intent is to truly piss me off, congratulations! It worked.

I am particularly irate over this situation because I have personally met with Bromme in the past, in an effort to try and bridge the gap between The Wave and the district office. I also submitted several proposals to him that I thought might help to curtail the violence problem in many area schools, which I had hoped would find its way to Chancellor Levy’s desk. I guess I should have known better.

It’s no secret that the Community School District has no particular love for this publication, which again may be attributed to Howie or me, but when I met with Bromme, I sincerely wanted to come to an understanding that The Wave was not trying to torpedo the credibility of the office or its administrators. Moreover, after the meeting, I came away with the impression that we would indeed be working together for the benefit of the district. Again, I guess I should have known better.

I have placed numerous calls to Bromme to try and communicate with him. If I receive disturbing reports about a school in the district, I want to be fair and give him a chance to comment, but I never get to speak to him directly. I get shuffled around the system like a two-dollar hooker! In other words, nobody wants to deal with me. I would approach him when he conducts town hall meetings to address education issues, but he never stays long enough to be approached. This recent situation involving "the mandate" only makes matters worse.

Something has got to give. I want to know if this decree has truly been issued or if it’s just a stupid rumor running rampant throughout the district. Matt, this is not a slam on you. I don’t think you were being phony with me at the meeting, and I think you understand what I’m all about. I’m asking you to reach out to me and let me know what the story is. I’m having a very hard time believing that you, and the district facilitators, would use the children as pawns in a political chess game with The Wave. The children have done nothing to warrant censorship from this publication, and I cannot fathom why we have not been bombarded with photos and stories like we have in previous years. Something just isn’t right.

With your powerful position, you are the only one that can set things right about "the mandate", and I respectfully request that you do so, if it exists at all.

In the event that it comes down to a decision from "the higher ups", and they are the ones responsible for issuing such orders, then the following message is for the School Chancellor, Harold Levy. Sir, The G-man’s asking you to reconsider this action. When these kids see their picture in the newspaper, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and greater self-esteem. The smiles on their faces, along with the letters of appreciation we receive, are priceless. Not having their submissions in the paper hurts them, their parents and the community-at-large. This, sir, is unacceptable.

I hope the District 27 school officials, and the Chancellor, do not misinterpret this plea. I’m not trying to show anybody up either. I simply want some answers, and unfortunately, the only way I may be able to get them is to call people out. I can understand you folks having a problem with Howie or me, as media representatives, but the kids and schools should not become the sacrificial lambs in this silly rivalry.

Bromme, Levy, the ball’s in your court guys. The G-man wants to play on your team, so what’s it going to be? The clock is ticking and the children are waiting. If it will make you happy, we don’t have to put Howie in the starting line-up. He can ride the bench or pass out towels, okay?

See you next week!

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