Must See (Public Access) TV – Will Rudy Crew Survive?

Like an island full of desperate strangers or a house full of women throwing themselves at Flava Flav, the Miami Dade School Board’s public meetings apparently have become the stuff of great reality television. In fact -- fueled by the divisive drama of a recent campaign to oust Superintendent Rudy Crew -- the board’s public access broadcasts lately have been drawing more viewers than your average Marlins game.

With a final vote on Crew’s fate looming on Monday’s agenda, this week’s meeting promised to provide the best made-for-poorly-mic’d-television drama yet. Would the meeting hold up as a South Florida “Springer”? (You know, except a little less funny, what with the fate of a troubled district serving hundreds of thousands of local students hanging in the balance).

Riptide 2.0 bravely grabbed a bag of pretzels, a jumbo bottle of water and a conveniently attention-sapping laptop to find out.

4:30 – Board Chairman Agustin Barrera opens the floor for public discussion, but the news is already grim for Crew. Before even addressing whether to fire the superintendent, the board has voted to hire a lawyer to parse any future issues related to Crew’s job status.

When your bosses agree to bring more lawyers into the picture before real the name calling even begins, it’s tough to feel great about your future.

4:40 – Let the drama begin! Barrera grants time for the first of what promises to be a long and entertaining evening of finger-pointing, umbrage-taking, show-stopping two-minute arguments from the hundreds of members of the public who showed up.

Surely the good folks at WLRN-PBS 17 have budgeted for some old school Batman graphics for the occasion – Bang! Pow! Zap!

5:15 – Unfortunately, someone forgot to invite Crew’s critics to the meeting.

Hasn’t the School Board ever watched a good episode of Top Chef? How do you create compelling story lines when everyone’s in agreement that Crew’s a swell guy doing a swell job?

Sure, there’s some good tough-talk about the school board members who dared challenge Crew’s status. Dirty words like “gutter politics,” “idiots” and “election year” keep getting tossed around. But where’s the conflict?

5:30 – Finally, some speakers bring up Crew’s shady past as an administrator in Tacoma and New York City, and his less-than-stellar handling of the Northwestern sex scandal. Zing! Whammo!

6:00 – Wait, how did the television end up on the Cubs game? Who put the laptop on Wikipedia? And who knew that the rooster was the state symbol of Walloons (French-speaking Belgium, dontchya know)?

6:30 – Berrara at last puts a merciful end to public comment time. After two interminable hours of listening to speeches, the board members are surely rearin’ for a rumble, right?

Now’s the time for PBS to crank up the ol’ Nielsen Ratings.

Board Member Martin Karp, who supports Crew, doesn’t exactly get things off to a roaring start: “Children are in class on August 18,” he says. “Let’s get ready for school.” Zap?

7:30 – Three hours in and even Maury wouldn’t be jealous of the drama the school board has brought to the loyal viewers of public access television this evening. The Bravo TV-worthy moments have been few and far between.

Board member Ana Rivas Logan did earn a rousing, daytime talk show-worthy “Ohhhhhh!” from the crowd when she mocked the School Board lawyer for a long-winded answer she didn’t like.

The Cubs are in a rain delay. Not that anyone would think to flip a few channels to ESPN at a time like this.

8:30 – Four hours and hundreds of pretzels later, Rudy Crew indeed survives. The board votes 5-4 vote against terminating his contract.

Barrera – the only remaining swing vote after Vice Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman announced that she would not back Crew – effectively spoiled any last-minute drama by promising to support Crew well before the vote.

No chairs were thrown, no profanities uttered and no board members were even cut off mid-sentence this time.

The good news, for the public access fiends of Miami-Dade County, is that School Board will be back in business again soon, beamed to a TV near you.

- Tim Elfrink

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