Theres a mini-series coming up on CBS, and it sheds an unflattering light on a former politician who served two terms after winning electoral landslides.
Whats more, this politician is now in ill health, and hardly in a position to fight back against an attack coming as television stations seek a ratings boost for the fall sweeps period.
So, are we talking about the upcoming movie about Ronald Reagan?
Nope. Were talking about a WRDW-TV 12 news expose on former Georgia School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, a Columbia County resident who just wants to disappear into obscurity.
Schrenko has been out of office since January. Shes plagued by disabling spinal problems and suffers financial trouble. Shes also endured what one of her friends calls a political lynching from the Georgia Ethics Commission, which hit her with a belated $5,000 fine in August for sloppy record-keeping in her gubernatorial campaign.
Now, Augustas CBS affiliate and anchor Laurie Ott are planning to yank the noose with a series questioning Schrenkos handling of several grants totaling more than $600,000 that Schrenko released late in her final term without specific state Board of Education approval.
The state attorney generals office and the state auditor are supposed to be examining those grants, but neither have shown any signs of even mild aggression in arbitrating yesterdays policy dispute between a long-gone public official and a partisan, antagonistic school board.
Schrenko had a tough time when she first arrived in Atlanta in 1994, getting no respect as the first Republican woman elected to a statewide post. The next eight years were a constant struggle against a Good Ol Boy system skewed toward protecting the power of Democrats and the education establishment.
Then-Gov. Zell Miller got tired of the squabbles between Schrenko and the appointed Board of Education, and asked all its members to get out of the way. Miller then appointed a friendlier board headed by Republican Johnny Isakson.
For the next two years, peace and harmony reigned. Then Miller retired, and Roy Barnes became governor. A vicious partisan, Barnes swept Millers cooperative board aside and loaded it with obstructionist cronies, including Kathy Henson.
Henson has been an eager source whenever the media wanted to attack Schrenko. Thus, Henson will be featured prominently next week in WRDWs series, Super Spending Spree.
Schrenko wont be. With the exception of one quick interview granted to Ott - which Schrenko feels was warped to make her appear clueless - Schrenko isnt talking to WRDW, though in private she gives substantive answers to the questions theyd likely ask.
Its unfortunate that the episode has been kept alive, and that it continues to provide a bad postscript to Schrenkos service. What we dont hear is that during Schrenkos time in office, Georgia actually started to show gains in its education system. President Bush even adopted her reading program and made it part of his nationwide school reforms.
The longer this investigation drags out, the more likely the hint of scandal will crowd out the memory of Schrenkos against-all-odds success.
Sounds like the CBS Reagan miniseries, eh?
It would, except there at least are those defending President Reagan, who can hardly defend himself as Alzheimers steals his noble life. Locally, the Rev. Bill Harrell at Abilene Baptist Church is asking friends to consider writing WRDW to express their feelings about the upcoming CBS miniseries that besmirches the name and character of Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.
While theyre at it, perhaps those writers would consider putting in a good word for Linda Schrenko, too. Shes had enough bad ones already.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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