We've said this before. We have no problem saying it again.
It's no accident the Bryan County school system is considered to be among the best in the state. It's taken a lot of hard work from a lot of people, including School Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer, BoE members past and present, teachers, administrators and, yes, parents who take the time and make the effort to be involved in the education of their children.
Yet there seems to be an awful lot of disconnect between those who run the school system and those who don't.
The most recent example of that failure to communicate is last week's decision – apparently made by Brewer – that Jack Barfield IV won't be allowed to speak to teens on campus about the dangers of reckless driving. It's a decision that has drawn some ire from parents who believe having him speak is a good idea and might save lives. It's also been harshly criticized from those most directly involved in this tragic situation, Barfield's family and at least one relative of the late Ginger and Garrett Reagin.
Well, we're not going to criticize anyone. For one thing, we don't know why the decision was made. Of course, the reason we don't know why it was made because no one who knows will tell us.
That's their right, of course. No one is obligated to speak to the media. But by not telling us why, those responsible for the decision to ban Barfield from speaking on campus to his peers are in effect telling the public that whatever prompted the decision is none of their business.
That's unfortunate, on a number of levels.
Because when school systems depend on the public for volunteers, or when school systems need every ounce of parental involvement they can get to help students succeed – and that includes parents who make sure their kids do their homework, are well fed and well rested and able to function in a classroom – it seems the least the school system can do is provide a rationale for a decision when members of that same public ask for one. And if that's not enough reason for someone to at least outline the reason for the decision in Barfield's case, then how about this.
Our public schools are funded through tax dollars, which in turn come from taxpayers. Classrooms are built with tax dollars. Books are bought with tax dollars. Salaries are funded through tax dollars.
In short, Bryan County's school system is not and never has been a private enterprise. Yes, those who run the system are responsible for educating our children. Nobody argues that isn't so. But they, and that includes Brewer, are accountable to the public when it comes to how they go about that task.
One more thing. We have respect for school leadership that doesn't look to see which way the wind is blowing and always tells the public what it wants to hear, namely, leadership that has the courage of conviction. Brewer, we believe, has those qualities in abundance.
But it's our opinion that being a leader is a two-way street. Not only do you have to be able to lead, but you have to be able to convince people to follow. And sometimes that means explaining why certain actions are taken.
Bryan County News
April 18, 2007