06/19/13 — A misstep: Board member cannot be part of this discussion

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A misstep: Board member cannot be part of this discussion

Sometimes the hardest criticism to make is a comment about someone who has had a distinguished career, but who has taken a misstep.

And that is the case with Thelma Smith, who sits on the Wayne County Board of Education.

Mrs. Smith is the mother of the director of transportation for Wayne County Schools, Raymond Smith. Smith has been under fire over the state of the county bus garage after reports surfaced that the district had one of the worst scores in the state for bus safety.

Now, unfortunately, there is a problem as questions are raised and accountability is demanded from this key employee in the school district.

And that problem is Mrs. Smith.

As much as anyone would want to comment and discuss anything that involves their child, especially if they feel he or she has been treated unfairly, to do so is simply unethical -- no matter how good the intentions.

Mrs. Smith should not be involved in ANY meeting that concerns her son or his performance as a school employee.

It is particularly disturbing that Mrs. Smith has missed most of the board meetings this year due to illness, but returned when her son's situation was to be discussed.

She cannot help being ill -- and perhaps it is just a coincidence -- but it still does not look good.

It is not possible to remain unbiased in a situation like this -- and Mrs. Smith should know better.

And so, too, should the finance committee chairman Chris West and board chairman John Grantham.

If they have not already done so, they should ask Mrs. Smith to step aside as this critical matter is discussed. She should also not be in the room when any personnel discussions are held concerning her son.

Why not?

Because any other employee under fire like this would not be allowed to have an insider on the meetings discussing his performance.

It simply is not right -- and it is not fair.

Mrs. Smith has been a tireless advocate for the schools -- especially those in the inner city. She has been instrumental in the past in brokering discussions with the county commissioners about the future of the schools and been a leader in the discussions on the future of education. She deserves credit for all she has done over the years.

But this time, she is wrong -- and unfortunately, she has set the bar very high.

Published in Editorials on June 19, 2013 11:36 AM