At City Hall last Tuesday night, a handful of Metro Council members buzzed with righteous indignation: did you hear that Pedro Garcia called council members “morons” (“Is Pedro Packing,” Dec. 15)? The local legislators were appropriately scandalized to think that the head of the city’s school system would be impolitic enough, brazen enough—and yes, stupid enough—to insult his financial overlords in public.
Recently, however, the Scene has made contact with a handful of other West Nashville types who attended the exclusive luncheon at Hillsboro High School, where one person told the Scene two weeks ago that Garcia had invoked the “morons” moniker. Though all say their recollections are hazy, they don’t believe Garcia used the word “morons” but say he may have characterized the council or their actions as “insane.”
“I don’t recall whether he used the word ‘insane,’ but it was likely he said, ‘We get these insane [council] resolutions,’ ” says Kay Simmons, co-executive director of the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, the nonprofit that organized the event. Simmons says Garcia recited a litany of actions by the mayor and council that—we’re reading between the lines here—he views as unproductive meddling by outsiders. She says his words would have been something to the effect of, “To think we can build a high school without any money is insane. To think we can pull $25 million out of our budget is insane.”
“It was referring to actions, not to people,” Simmons says. “Or referring to resolutions.” She notes that throughout the arduous and heavily politicized Metro budget process, Garcia has remained impressively diplomatic.
Others—many of whom have spoken with Simmons and each other since the Scene first reported Garcia’s minor rant—concur with her version of events. One says Garcia said “something about the council, but not that derogatory.” Another notes somewhat cryptically that it was “not my recollection” that he called them “morons,” but that “he did express some frustration with them.”
Though Morongate may seem like a tempest in a teapot, it’s serious business for a Metro Council notorious for feeling perpetually disrespected and a schools director equally notorious for his, shall we say, politically inauspicious candor. Petty political payback is the coin of the realm in Nashville’s city hall.
But surely the school system faces bigger problems than such childish name-calling or the lack thereof. After failing to win a contract extension from the Board of Education, Garcia finds himself a lame duck and is openly applying for jobs in other cities. The comment about the council’s actions seems to typify his time in Nashville: whatever material successes he had were undermined by interpersonal, political conflicts and comments about teachers in “body bags.”
As one school board member said last week, “The real issue isn’t whether or not he called them morons. It’s that everyone can believe he would.”
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