I must commend the four Bryan County School Board Representatives who voted last month to table the issue of school uniforms. Those representatives – Eddie Warren, Joe Pecenka, Jeff Morton and Billy Mock – should be commended for remembering whom they work for – the voters of Bryan County – and not those appointed to serve as administrators in our school system.
Now I see that these same administrators who were unhappy with tabling the motion have again scheduled a vote to implement a uniform policy.
I again urge our representatives to vote no. And I also urge those in opposition to uniforms to voice their opinions at the next school board meeting at Carver Elementary School in Richmond Hill on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Superintendent Sallie Brewer is following the same pattern of minimizing public input by scheduling a vote with a short notice. It is much easier to implement a controversial policy while parents and students are away enjoying summer break. She took the same approach when she invited the public to comment on the same issue. Then parents could register their opposition during a brief one-week period during spring break. Even with that short comment period, one school board member noted that out of 260 emails received more than two-thirds were in opposition. At that time the board wisely voted to table this issue.
Dr. Brewer initially stated that parents were the ones who requested the uniform policy. An un-scientific survey was conducted last year and uniforms ranked near the bottom of a top-10 list of priorities. The survey did not include topics about the traffic congestion caused by her grouping our schools so close to each other or allowing out-of-state travel for our students or even extending the summer break.
When asked if Dr. Brewer could even share the actual number of votes in support for uniforms we were told all materials destroyed. While I don’t know if this is a violation of Open Records Laws in the State of Georgia I certainly feel this action was reckless and irresponsible, especially considering how controversial this issue has become in Bryan County.
It does make me question her competence in leading our school system.
Could it be that these records did not show overwhelming support for uniforms? Possibly. But we won’t ever know. Her new goal is to make the issue policy without doing a detailed, third-party survey. Such a survey might explain to parents that they must purchase about $100 in additional clothing for each child to attend public school.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a rather extraordinary meeting of the Bryan County Parents Action Coalition. With only a few days’ notice, more than 30 parents gathered at the Richmond Hill Library to voice their concerns about the upcoming vote.
One parent who attended was also a teacher in Liberty County. And while supportive of uniforms as a policy, he was in opposition to the way it was being handled by our elected representatives. He suggested that the time had come when we need to replace the superintendent. A majority of the parents at that meeting shared his opinion.
He listed all of the different groups that have had problems with Dr. Brewer and her policies over the last few years: band boosters, Odyssey of the Mind parents, athletic groups, Christian groups, area developers, city and county leaders, etc. He suggested that these groups need to work together and look at the cause of their problems. And not the symptoms we individually face.
That root cause was our superintendent.
Over 12 years ago my family moved from Hinesville to Richmond Hill. One of the reasons we moved had to do with the quality of education provided. It was a good move. But over the past five years, my wife and I have seen many new problems develop while the same administrators stay in place.
These problems have only continued to get worse.
Instead of working with the community to find solutions, we see inflexible administrators who want to force policy despite public and/or governmental objections. Instead of fixing traffic problems, we see inflexible administrators making it worse by constructing even more schools at the same location. Instead of finding a way to allow high school band students play for the first lady, we see inflexible administrators state there is nothing they can do (even though schools in Savannah and other communities across Georgia allow out-of-state and even international travel).
Maybe the time has come for new administrative leadership. Maybe Dr. Brewer’s usefulness – not to mention her effectiveness – has expired.
Our community is quite a bit different than it was just a few years ago. And I expect our community will change even more over the next several years. It is time for our school board to look for a superintendent who will work with the community and be a positive agent for change and not the source of so many problems.