School board can lead by getting out of way


The surprise would have been had the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County and the county Board of Commissioners on Thursday put on their thinking caps — not their dunce caps — and done the right thing.

We would have had more hope if it had been a coin flip.

Instead, they asked Eric Hall, the superintendent of the Innovative School District who was there to educate, for just a little bit more time to straighten out the mess at Southside-Ashpole Elementary School. Pretty please, with sugar on top?

Seems reasonable.

The members have well over 100 years of experience on the school board, so why should we not trust them with our children’s futures? How much longer do they need? How many more generations of children must be denied an education, tossed out onto the street ill-prepared for the rest of their lives and destined to became a societal parasite instead of a contributor?

Southside-Ashpole has not only been identified as essentially the worst out of more than 2,600 public schools across the state, it has 26 sister schools in this county that are also low-performing. Our public school system is perhaps the worst in North Carolina, so why would we not trust the school board who took us there to extricate us?

Our school board members, in addition to being intentionally antagonistic and juvenile, spent too much time Thursday demanding from Hall what all of them in all their years have been unable to provide, a viable path forward toward better student performance. Hall patiently explained that before a plan is hatched, the impediments to student success must be identified so a strategy can be developed to shed them.

This is where we were always bound, because of all that afflicts our public schools, perhaps nothing is as debilitating as the type of territorialism now on display, a head-in-the-sand mentality that we don’t need any help. Our board members don’t even grasp the truth that except for the state and the Innovative School District, those children would continually and blissfully attend school at Southside-Ashpole and with no hope for anything changing.

Does anyone truly believe this school board can provide the leadership that is necessary? If so, why has that not happened?

Mercifully, the school board and the commissioners are powerless to stop this train because if they try, Southside-Ashpole will be closed, and its 270 students, overwhelming poor and minority, will be dumped in other neighborhood schools, and school board members and commissioners might be a tad bit nervous on Election Day.

That will not happen.

Our read is that the Rowland community’s opposition is softening as they learn more, and the idea of better teachers, flexibility in the school calendar and hours in a day as well as the ability to move around resources might be a better way. We hope as well that the Rowland community understands and appreciates that all of the future of the ISD depends on success there, and that those students will have Hall and his staff’s full attention. The five-year commitment provides time for change, not gimmicks.

The resolution of opposition that was adopted read in part: “We are concerned for the success of our students. We believe that academic excellence is possible for all students.”

Although adopted in defiance, the point is strong. It is also exactly the point Hall has been trying to make. These children can learn. They have to be given the best chance to do so — even if that includes the school board removing itself as an impediment.

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