Sunday, April 17, 2016

Reviewing the history of the AHS mess

Guest post by a disgusted teacher:

 I’m reflecting, five plus years later, on the Centennial  disaster that deprived 40,000 students and their teachers each year of the well-attended and respected Mining and Mineral Museum.  Our Centennial should have been a time to honor the famous 5C’s, but it turned out that we never got that accomplished.  The reason is that those  5 C’s were replaced by five different C’s that were nothing to celebrate.  Looking back, here’s what we now know happened:

1.  COVETING:   Governor Brewer and AHS clearly wanted the building, which was already dedicated as a permanent home for the Mining and Mineral Museum.  Both were involved in planning for the Centennial . At that time there were many empty state buildings nearby. They had to have the MMM building!

2.  COLLUSION:  The plan they came up with was to use the building for a Centennial Museum to honor the 5C’s. This was done secretly and the plan was never discussed with those running the very successful Mining and Mineral Museum.   Governor Brewer  wanted to give the people of AZ a ‘’birthday present” as her legacy, and the AHS director wanted a museum near the capitol. The plan was kept secret even from the AHS Board of Directors, as well as AZ citizens. In a recent hearing to reopen the MMM, a lobbyist from the AHS’s lobbyist’s group opposed the reopening and stated that it was always the plan to close the MMM, as if therefore it was OK to destroy it, (even if it was a secret plan)!

3:  CORRUPTION:  The two –party  decision was announced as the path forward by a surprise press conference at the Mining and Mineral Museum .  The Governor announced her plans for her legacy and that AHS would run the new museum and that Gallagher and Ass. would be the designer and it would be a $5million dollar museum to honor the 5C’s.  (No need to follow state hiring rules, and AHS and Gallagher were present.) The 5C’s would each contribute a million, without being asked!  No mention was made of what would happen to the MMM, and the staff was immediately  subjected to a “gag order”. A lobbyist  tried to sneak  the needed legislation  through as an amendment  on a non-related bill, but MMM supporters caught it and would have sunk the bill in committee if the offensive ploy was not retracted.  A separate bill authorizing the Centennial 5C’s Museum was then introduced and the MMM supporters  and AHS testified at the committee hearing.  The bill passed, with amendments and  both MMM and AHS personnel were present when they were drafted .  The bill that passed  kept the MMM intact, under AHS, and added a 5C’s museum in same building.  A Governor’s representative wrote the amendments and the Governor signed it.  What looked like a good solution and was accomplished by the legitimate legislative process was corrupted ten months later.

4.  CALAMITY:  On a Sat. late afternoon at the end of April, in a surprise attack, the entire staff of the MMM was fired, the doors locked, and the schools and students who were scheduled for field trips through the end of May were subjected to the chaos caused by AHS violating their statutes that  now said they were to keep the MMM ,its educational programs, and displays and equipment.  Schools, students, and teachers were shocked by this unprofessional, and illegal, treatment.  That Sat. is still remembered as the “Saturday Night Massacre”.  The chaotic ensuing days saw all of the scientific displays dismantled and removed without careful documentation .  The AHS action was hostile, unauthorized, and unnecessary as it was already known that they and the Centennial Committee had not raised enough money to start anything.  However, when asked to explain their harmful actions, the reason given was that they had to start re-modeling.  When they abandoned the 5C’s /MMM museum,  for lack of fund-raising,  AHS replaced it with a $15 million Experience Museum which , of course, never happened.  And our students remained the victims!

5.  COVER-UP:   Of  course, without funds, no remodeling was ever begun, even to add some 5C’s displays, which would have been possible.  The calls for an explanation continued, but were never really addressed until the legislature proceeded to correct the problem and the victimization of our science students.  During the hearings, specific attempts were made to get answers as to why it happened.  AHS did not explain, but rather tried to blame the recession, which started way back in 2007 and was well-known by 2010.  The recession was not the cause of their failure as the MMM was still going strong.  The fact that the recession was affecting their fundraising should have kept them from the grandiose plans that never happened.  AHS continued to testify against the reopening of the MMM, showing how little they cared about the kids they displaced for no reason.  The next excuse was that they had a geologist so the state mineral collection was safe—the position was for a curator, and there was no museum.  Then we were told that they had a gallery at the Tempe AHS museum—four years after closing the impressive MMM.  Big problem, no one goes to that museum—attendance is dismal.  This year we heard that all was well, they also had a Mining Diorama, and again, attendance still lags.  The schools and displaced science students are not going to the AHS for science field trips!  And finally we got a whole new set of reasons from the new Pres. of  AHS , Marshall Trimble:   The Department of Administration closed the building because it was unsafe—AHS had it for 10 months and DOA was never involved.  The MMM had no visitors so it was OK to get rid of it—(how about 40,000 students a year, plus another 10,000 other visitors?)  The AHS Tempe museum had 2 science displays so the problem was fixed!  It would be too expensive to reopen the MMM—in fact it had been operated with only 1 state employee and self-funded all other positions. (AHS destroyed the self-funding strategies that worked so well when they slammed the doors and moved  everything.) The MMM did not meet state education science standards –and the historian who can’t deal  in facts is well acquainted with those standards? Take your pick—their excuses fill a bucket that doesn’t hold water!  Oh, I forgot—Governor Brewer , made them do it!

We supporters of the restoration of a first class earth science and natural resource museum hope it will finally happen this year under the AZ Geological Survey at the UofA.  Keep your fingers crossed that lobbyists won’t keep this from happening again.  We need to show our students and teachers that when the legislature is on record as wanting this to happen, we can make the legislative process work.

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