Tuesday night when Lida Hayes-Calvert was appointed to the WSFC School Board it was evident to those in the room that this board is rather green and lack experience or understanding of their roles and responsibilities. It is somewhat ironic that Metcalf, the longest standing member of the board at over 20 years, stated that she felt the board capable of continuing without her experience. As for the two other members with prior experience on the board, Elisabeth Motsinger found herself at odds with parents and board members alike over her position in the Hanes/Lowrance matter, and Vic Johnson, who often sleeps in the few board meetings he attends, has done little to assist the board in their transition to the role of policy makers and continues to make ridiculous statements like he voted for candidate Jay Davenport because he is a man.
The board came in and barely had their feet wet when the Hanes/Lowrance issue came up. while that issue was being “solved” there was the issue of the bond to address, having been impacted by the move of students from Hanes/Lowrance. Then, while the details of the bond were still being worked out, there was having to start the school year not knowing if they would have the funding from Raleigh to pay for the staff they hired. And then back again to the bond, all while trying to figure out how to work in the primary of functions of the board.
The speed with which the Board chose to designate an appointee has caused concern for many, including Superintendent Emory, who expressed in a previous meeting, “Please don’t rush, this is really important.” Whether or not the board members would have benefitted from time to consider the answers from the interview portion of the process will never be known. However, their contention that the board member needed to be chosen prior to their vote on a bond proposal cannot be said to be reasonable. There is little belief that one week, even if dedicated to the process, is enough time to become adequately exposed to all of the hundreds of pages of data as well as the nuanced public perception and social implications that need to be navigated in the presentation of this bond. The current board members have been addressing the budgets, growth projections, current capacity and condition of buildings, and the political realities of their proposal for months.
The board is made up of two kinds of people: advocates who have the interest of students at heart, but don’t have the slightest clue how to help from a policy perspective – just a desire to create programs or talk about problems; or career politicians using the school board position as a stepping stone into the arena of elected office and higher positions. Lida Calvert-Hayes may be a little of both, with her obvious desire to “make a difference” but lack of understanding on how to do that other than being active in her party, donating to campaigns, and running for some office.
Whether or not this board will have the strength of character and work ethic to steel themselves against the attacks on education coming from Jones Street politicians and actually “make a difference” in our own school system remains to be seen. Their choice of an appointee who makes them feel better about their perceived task at hand and speaks the party language, over candidates who were willing to ask hard questions and speak for the public, says a lot about where they are both emotionally and philosophically.
The board is addressing the needs of our children, and to do that, they must act like adults. While the responsibility of our community’s education does not rest solely on their, or even our teachers and administrators’ shoulders, they have been chosen to make the hard decisions and fight for our education system and the people impacted by it.
Whether or not we agree with the board’s decision this week, as a community we must continue to participate in both the political process and the overall education of our children. We can start by paying attention to what is before our elected officials: know the issues, tell them how you feel about them, and hold them accountable. The political process doesn’t end when your ballot is counted – that’s when it starts.
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