06/26/11 — The greater good: Schoolchildren deserve a united front -- dedicated to purpose, without bickering

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The greater good: Schoolchildren deserve a united front -- dedicated to purpose, without bickering

It is funny how history repeats itself.

Just a few years ago, we were criticizing the county and the school board for not getting along.

We chided both groups and advised them to put aside their differences and their mistrust and to get back to the business of educating the county's children.

We reminded the commissioners that they are not running the school district and asked the school board to remember there was not an unlimited fountain of money.

And things got better for a while.

And then it happened again -- another zinger, more insinuations and bad feelings all around.

We could go over the gory details, but you already know them -- and probably have a pretty good idea who is responsible for the latest explosion.

So, instead, let's think about the bigger picture.

And in this case, that means the children of Wayne County.

Although listening to public bodies bicker is sometimes entertaining, it is really counter-productive.

If Wayne County really wants to have the best schools, hire and retain the best teachers and administrators and create programs that improve test scores and attract interest from potential employers and residents, it needs to have a united front, a commission and a school board determined to achieve that goal.

And the way to make that happen is not to speak without the facts or to blast the people you are supposed to be working with.

School board chairwoman Thelma Smith, speaking on behalf of her board, said that while she was stunned by the comments, she was willing to overlook this week's transgression and to move on.

And that was pretty classy.

The school district and its superintendent had a right to react sharply to the criticisms levied at them. And it was done with firmness, but with a call to get back to work, which was appropriate and mature.

Let's hope that the feelings are the same on the other side.

Wayne County has dedicated teachers and administrators who pour their hearts into educating the county's children. They invest their own money and lots of time and energy into their jobs. And they are dedicated and determined to make their county schools succeed.

And just like the county's administrative team, it is unfair to assume that anyone who works in the Central Office or in a school's main office, a. does not care, b. has not earned his or her job or c. is simply sitting around tossing taxpayer dollars around like they grow on trees.

There are people who blast the county administrative staff, too, unfairly. They say they are overpaid and lazy and that they do not deserve the salaries they receive.

If it is not acceptable when it is done to the county staff, and the commission stands by its employees, why in the world wouldn't it expect the school board to do exactly the same thing.

On the other hand, if there are concerns, factors that need to be examined and questions about how money is being handled, there is nothing wrong with a commissioner or Joe Taxpayer asking those questions and expressing an opinion, as long as it is an informed one. If we do not talk about challenges, problems or concerns, we cannot go forward.

The goal here is to make the schools better -- and there are challenges for all those who are involved in the process. Money is tight, mandates are abundant and there are children, still, who are not being reached.

There has been progress and there have been setbacks. That is how this process works.

But if we want to see more improvements and more successes, it is really well past time to set aside the petty name-calling and get back to work. No organization -- or county -- moves forward with bad feelings, bickering and name-calling.

There simply is not time for anything else and the stakes are much too high.

So how about a truce -- and a promise -- total transparency.

Share questions and answers with the public and keep all meetings open -- unless they are related to personnel issues or other legal matters.

Encourage the community to weigh in and address concerns as they come up -- and sanction board members who sneak around passing out information and do not openly discuss concerns in front of the board on which they sit.

No more back doors. No more good old boy, back-scratching politics. No more what the public wants to hear instead of what it needs to hear. Just two boards united to achieve what rarely happens these days -- a consensus on doing what is right for the greater good.

That is what this county's priority needs to be to do what is right -- providing a bright future for the children of Wayne County.

Published in Editorials on June 26, 2011 12:10 AM