An open letter from Hood Richardson to the School Board
Issue a simple order
|Hood Richardson, County Commissioner|
December 15, 2009By Hood Richardson, Beaufort County Commissioner
The Beaufort County School Board and the County Commissioners have battled for years. The fracas has gone thru the County jail, the State Supreme Court, various school construction sites, illegals in the school system, Chicken Gate, partial truths, half truths and no truths, secret funds, overbuilt schools, phony budgets and the SBI.
The latest incident involves the presentation of information about various grants at the December 8th Commissioners meeting, and specifically about a quarter million dollar grant they have to teach our teachers how to teach U. S. History.
End of Course test scores have shown for the last several years that our students do poorly in U. S. History. In 2008 only a little more than half (57%) passed the state test. At best, 1 out of 3 of our students fails U. S. History year in and year out. Several students have reported that they were not well prepared in history when they got to college.
|Interim Superintendent John Conway|
My concern, and that of other commissioners, is not only whether our students are learning U. S. History but whether they are learning the right things in U. S. History. So that is why I asked for a report from the School Board. We still don't know the answer to those two questions.
Once again we were flooded with paper that meant very little. But one thing it did say was this quarter million dollar grant was not teaching our teachers how to teach the most important part of our nation's history...the founding of our Republic. (1750-1790). This is the period that led up to our independence and includes the development of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We can't afford for that period to be left out. There are too many parallels between those days and what we are experiencing right now to not understand that period.
A few days before the Commissioners meeting there was information from the school system that no one was going to make a presentation. Documents would be given to the Commissioners and someone would possibly answer questions we were informed. This is code for "We are going to give you more pages of boiler plate stuff than you will ever be able to read and understand," a sure fire signal that the game of smoke and mirrors was continuing. There was some complaining about the lack of a personal presentation. It ultimately appeared that Mr. John Conway, Acting Superintendent, was going to make the presentation. When he started speaking I realized that he was reading from the same printed material that had already been given to the Commissioners. So I asked some questions.
That is when I realized we had another School Board shell game. Mr. Conway became uneasy as if someone had limited his speech. Chairman Belcher proved what I suspected when he rose from his seat and came to the podium to interrupt (protect?) Mr. Conway. Belcher said to me, "I was just going to tell him (Mr. Conway) not to answer your questions. We don't intend to answer your questions because you are a county commissioner and you are trying to micromanage the schools..." Belcher would never have felt the need to protect Mr. Conway had he not have given instructions beforehand limiting what could be said; once again proving my point that the School System is determined to not be transparent. I guess I pushed too hard because Chairman Langley began restoring order. I apologize to Mr. Conway for my part in putting him in this no win situation.
|Robert Belcher, left & John Conway, right; during heated exchanged with Hood Richardson|
But I do not apologize for wanting to know if our students are being taught what they need to be taught and whether they are learning it. No taxpayer of North Carolina or Beaufort County should ever be told "we don't intend to answer your questions" when the questions are about what our students are learning.
The entire Beaufort County School Board has a wonderful opportunity to clear the air, build respect between the County Commissioners and the School Board and give Beaufort County a wonderful gift---transparency. The Shell Game should stop. The School Board should order the new Superintendent along with all staff to simply TELL THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.
This School Board should adopt a formal policy that mandates every board member and staff person being transparent. If they want to improve the relationship with the County Commission they should answer every question and they should tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
No Mr. Belcher, that is not "micromanagment." Micromanagment is when the school board chairman tells the staff what to say and what not to say.
And I might add, LEADERSHIP is developing trust and confidence that we can count of getting the information we and the public need and getting it honestly and without a hassle. The TRUTH is not too much to ask for and expect.
When the School Board spends $250,000 of the taxpayer's money it is not "micromanagement" to ask: What is it doing for our students? Do our students know what they need to know about the history of our country? And we still don't know.