Anderson: Manatee County school board lampooned on Facebook - News - Sarasota Herald-Tribune


A drawing of the Manatee County school district depicts one board member as a KKK member. Too far? One person says it’s not far enough.

A divisiveness exists within some factions of Manatee County and if it’s ever to be repaired a certain tact should be exercised to stimulate discussion. Depicting a school board member as a Klansman is probably not the best way forward.

Rodney Jones is the former NAACP president in Manatee County. He has been a boisterous opponent of the school district and its takeover of Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto. In fact, Jones was led out of one school board meeting by the police.

The charter school — and several former officials including founder Eddie Hundley — is in trouble with four federal agencies investigating allegations such as fraud and embezzlement. LMA was $1.5 million in debt, and according to one district official, as much as $4 million may be unaccounted for. New bank accounts, the official said, have recently been discovered.

Jones has stood up for Hundley and the school, which is well and good, and has railed against the district, also well and good. He has the right to do both. But his most recent act of disenchantment is counterproductive, dulls credibility and buries voices in the mix, even though he does not see it that way.

Posted recently on Jones’ Facebook page is a cartoon drawing of the Manatee County school board sitting on a dais. The caption underneath begins: “Welcome to the communities’ (sic) new reality drama series called ‘The Evil Regime.”’

Superintendent Cynthia Saunders is depicted as a snake and called “The Medusa” and “Crooked Cyndy.” Attorney Mitch Teitelbaum, dressed as the devil, is on her shoulder. Board member James Golden is called “Judas” for “selling his own people out for Judas trinkets.” Gina Messenger, another board member, is drawn as a Queen with her finger to her lips, the caption saying: “The ‘shhh’ is what she did to the Negroes when they were complaining about the health, safety and wellbeing of the students at LMA.”

The only board member to escape ridicule is Charlie “Gospel” Kennedy, who was the lone vote against a district takeover of the charter school. There is a halo above his head, an angel on his shoulder.

Scott Hopes, another board member, is shown in a KKK hood.

“It’s divisive to the community,” Hopes said. “It’s one thing making a joke but that’s not a joke. We’re not talking about a roast of a public official. That’s not what this is about.

“This is a sick mind who is harming the community that they claim to be representing and trying to help.”

Jones said he did not draw the characters. He would not say who did. But he fully supports what the drawing represents. He does not feel the drawing is taking things a little too far.

“We’re not taking it far enough,” Jones said. “This is just the beginning. We should have taken it that far and 100 miles past that a long time ago and we wouldn’t be here.

“If someone is offended so what? We’re offended by what our kids have had to endure.”

Contact columnist Chris Anderson at chris.anderson@heraldtribune.com.



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