The Bryan County School System is the crown jewel of the Bryan County community. The parents know it; the children know it; the staff members know it; the business community surely knows it. No organization made up of 1,000 workers, 6,500 children, and their parents is perfect. However, the school system has an excellent reputation earned in part by its test score numbers and in bigger measure by the satisfaction of parents, children, and staff with the educational and extracurricular programs provided for our children. Jewels are meant to be guarded and polished, not attacked and maligned. The school system has formal and informal ways for parents and staff to participate in improving all areas of school operation and of school life for children and staff. The person who puts children first will participate in a support/advisory group or groups and will thereby contribute to improving our schools and system. The person with a personal agenda will attack and attempt to destroy rather than providing positive or critical input aimed at improvement. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live life that way - at the expense of others and for the intended destruction of others.
Serving on a board of education is a sacred trust. When the board as a whole or in part is attacked, energy which should be used to improve schools for children is rather spent in non-productive ways. A good example is the handling of personnel issues. The board must remain mute; they cannot discuss personnel issues. Staff members, however, may make unchecked attacks, knowing the board cannot answer. Repeated attacks will ensure that ethical, dedicated people will not serve on the board. Who wants to have his or her good name defiled in the media? A person who makes those kinds of contacts does so to punish rather than to enlighten.
The board is the policy-making arm of the school system. The school system must operate through the chain of command. Problems are handled at the lowest level and proceed up the chain of command if the issue is not handled at a lower level. Why wouldn’t this be the case? Government functions through a chain of command. Private business functions by a chain of command. Even civic groups and other organizations function through a chain of command. Guarding this concept is even more important in the school setting. Problems need to be managed as close to the child - that is, at the school level - as is possible. To use school issues for political gain is unacceptable. It constitutes actual evil behavior. School board elections should be nonpartisan in an effort to keep politics at bay as much as is possible within an institution serving children and involving the interactions of many groups.
The superintendent is the board’s employee. The board sets policy. The superintendent carries out policy on a day-to-day basis. Again - the chain of command is everything. If board members attempt to manage the day-to-day operations by meeting with parents or staff on day-to-day matters rather than by holding the superintendent responsible for the day-to-day operation, they do several things. They destroy the superintendent’s effectiveness. They violate their own code of ethics. They make the system subject to losing accreditation of its schools. There are ways - and there will be more ways - for parents to have opportunities to work with the board and staff to implement improvements.
Every school system has its detractors. Ours are few but determined to destroy. A difference of opinion is a healthy thing. It encourages people to look at different options and to do what research about the situation shows would be the best course of action. There is a group of people who attack every move the system makes, while enjoying its benefits through an exemplary education for their children and through economic benefits to business and community life. They have made a particular sport of personal attacks on the board and on the superintendent. When they do not get their way, they call the newspaper, or they call other media. No school system changes a position because someone called the media. The obvious attempt in such media contacts is to punish - "If I can’t have my way, I will at least have the satisfaction of doing you harm."
There is an attitude that the public always has a right to know. There are times when information cannot be released because it would betray the board’s obligation to ensure privacy for its employees. There are times when information is not offered to the media because it is not in the best interests of the school system, individuals, or the community at large. The system abides by all open records and open meetings laws. If one does not have a conscience or a set of high ethical standards, there is no basis for understanding that attacks on the school system rather than participation with school staff in improvement efforts cheats our children. Such people should be ashamed, but remember you have to have ethics and a conscience to be ashamed.
Board members are elected to make decisions on behalf of all citizens and of all children. Most board members are elected by districts (chair and vice-chair are elected at large) but they must function as if they were all elected at large unless they want to betray the best interests of our children. As we set our goals for a successful new school year, please work with me, work with the board as a whole, work with our superintendent, work with our school staff members, and join us in a positive effort to improve our schools and to guard our community’s greatest resource, its crown jewel, for our children.
Frances Meeks, Vice-Chairman of the Board