August 23, 2023
It’s definitely going to take a lot more than overturning our current school board.
We need better legislators in Richmond who care about public education as well.
That’s where the groups like Moms For Liberty, No Left Turn, and Parents Defending Education are also working: in Richmond and with candidates running for Senate and Delegate.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen people in Spotsy complain about our school board and demand better, but plan on voting for anti-public education candidates for Senate and delegate.
The legislatures that make laws that school boards need to adhere to.
An bigoted anti-public Ed trifecta in Richmond will not bode well for us, even with a pro-public ed school board in Spotsy.
I’m noticing that people are struggling to think that far ahead. That, or quality education for all really isn’t a top priority for them 🤷🏻♀️
Wonderful, thorough, and sad analysis of a dreadful state of affairs that has permeated our entire country. I will share it as widely as I can. Thank you.
It is significant for readers to understand that Madison Downs is the brother of Xavier Downs.
He's also a Virginia politician who appeared and spoke during the audience comment portion of last Monday's SCPS Board meeting, 8/14/2023.
While people outside Spotsylvania are allowed to speak at meetings, it does beg the question as to Mr. Madison Downs' 'purpose. Mr. Downs should surely understand that parents and taxpayers have the right to the expectation that their elected school board members have the responsibility and right to request information from employees, including building principals and to have the expectation of a professional and respectful response.
Please note that Ms. Cole is my school board representative and is always responsive to any questions I've asked via email or by phone. Mr. Downs' suggestion that Ms. Cole should have contacted Superintendent Mark Taylor before contacting Mr. Downs is unfortunate given what those of us know from our own attempts as community members who have tried to contact Taylor via email. We immediately get a bump back email stating, in short, that Taylor is busy, receives a plethora of emails, and does not plan to respond to ours. Likewise, the three women who make up the minority of this school board have expressed their frustration that they do not receive responses from Taylor or the board chairwoman, Lisa Phelps, which makes it next to impossible for them to properly represent their constituents. In her role as a school board member, Ms. Cole had every right to inquire about Mr. Downs' handling of a blanket email that was sent to parents so that she had the information she needed as a school board member to field community questions and concerns. None of this is a FERPA violation because at no point is there any indication that Ms. Cole asked for confidential information about a student to be released or that she released or planned to release any confidential information about the student in question or any student. If Mr. M. Downs has evidence to the contrary, as Mr. Glazer asked, he may certainly post that here.
The issue with Mr. Xavier Downs' handling of the recent student tragedy at RHS is but one example of the concerns about Principal Downs. There are serious questions and concerns about his Virginia licensure as well as his employment history that includes being denied a Virginia license at one point and facing sanctions by the Texas Board of Education for falsifying documents. In fact, according to Jon Russell, SCPS Chief of Staff, at this point, late August, Principal Downs has yet to even apply for licensure in the state of Virginia even though he was hired this past June, 2023, about two months ago. Riverbend students and their parents, as well as other stakeholders who are taxpayers and citizens in Spotsylvania, have every right to question this.
It should be noted that Nicole Cole, as an elected school board member, is in effect Xavier Downs boss, as she is Mark Taylor's boss. The level of disrespect shown to her by Principal Downs in response to her email request, from the portion released in this article, is unprofessional at best. Mr. Glazer, in his comments, asked for clarification as to anything in Ms. Cole's email or correspondence with X. Downs that would have warranted such a disrespectful response. Mr. M. Downs has, as yet, not provided that.
In closing, since Mr. M. Downs has joined this conversation in what appears to be a defense of his brother, perhaps he could clear up some questions that many of us Spotsylvania citizens and parents have regarding the relationship between Xavier Downs, Madison Downs, and Jon Russell, SCPS Chief of Staff. Is there a prior personal or professional relationship between either or both Downs' brothers and Jon Russell which could give the appearance of nepotism, favoritism, or impropriety regarding the hiring of Xavier Downs as RHS's principal?
It is odd, in fact somewhat unheard of, for the adult relative of a professional employee of a school division to come so publicly to the defense of his close relative both in a public school board meeting and in a forum on a media site. Mr. M. Downs should understand that Spotsylvania's citizens do have serious and appropriate questions regarding his brother's employment in this school division and they do not owe Mr. M. Downs' an explanation or apology for asking them. The answers should perhaps come from the school division's leaders or from Principal Xavier Downs, not from his brother.
Thank you for your analysis. I definitely agree that Mr. Downs response to Nicole Cole was very odd. You mentioned, when citing Nicole Cole, that that was how here email "began." I was just curious if there was more to her email that might shed some light on Mr. Downs response? I don't think there is anything that would excuse his lack of professionalism, but I wondered if there was anything that might explain his comments more fully.
N. Cole has attempted to usurp Downs’ authority from day one-even before he stepped foot on the campus. 1st, she tried to smooth him over with dinner and a walking Quorum (violation of policy). Then she leaked confidential information to public (violation of policy). She obviously has no concern for the family’s privacy, or rights as they have asked for this matter to remain mum. When she could not bully Downs, she requested FOYA. According to policy, Cole is forbidden from contacting Downs in an official capacity; however, she continues to badger and harass him. If she wanted information she should have followed policy rather than, yet again, violating the aforementioned policy by contacting Downs. There are no instances of Downs violating policy or acting outside of best practices. The fact that Cole’s attention seeking behavior continues to be a distraction is very troubling.
The people deserve to know the full story rather than biased versions. At the core of this issue, there is one matter that should be considered paramount; and that is, who are the actors that are attempting to violate FERPA--who is actually violating policy--who is attempting to encroach upon the privacy of the family, and who is attempting to violate parental rights in this instant case?
- HINT, It's not Downs.