If you don’t want to read all the way to the end, I’ll make the point here. If you’re an elected leader and there is a failing in the system, then yes, it is your fault.
Elected leaders love to point the blame at others regardless of whether it is true or not. We need leaders who understand that when things don’t get done, it is their fault. It’s their inability to compromise. It’s their inability to navigate obstacles. It’s their fault that they didn’t do the bare minimum in order to make sure that their citizens are taken care of.
Recently there has been an educational Accountability Highlights making the rounds on social media(1). I’m not a fan of these kinds of rankings. The first thing I noticed was that there wasn’t a reference. One would assume that the state board of education is releasing this data that the UCPS summed up in a picture, so I dug deeper. Here’s what I found.
Right off the top, looking at the meme shown by the UCPS Facebook page, 32.3% of our students are not meeting the grade level proficiency. One third of our students are not being provided the resources to ensure that they can reach the next level of their education. How is this something to brag about? Honestly, I felt shame at this number. Then I saw why they were bragging. “Among the 12 largest districts, UCPS ranked #1”. Being the shiniest turd in the bowl doesn’t mean that you don’t stink. I can’t imagine bragging about how I only fail one third of the time.
Let’s look at some other statistics put out by the North Carolina Board of Education that UCPS board members aren’t bragging about(2).
Suspensions and Expulsions (per 1000 Students)
Students w/ Disabilities: 76.90
Two or More Races: 38.72
Economically Disadvantaged: 58.01
Are you kidding me with these numbers?
So, to recap, in a county that has 39,714 students2 and is 80.2% white(3), the suspensions seem to target a lot of minority groups here.
Again, there can be a myriad of reasons for these numbers. Hell, they may even be #1 in the state for all we know, but the point that I’m making here is that we’ve spent the past year watching the school board set up their political campaigns with headline grabbing moves that did nothing to improve the education of Union County students.
Eight of the nine school board members proudly fought medical experts that were trying to keep kids safely in school. The state’s policy, to put it plainly, was if students are required to wear masks, entire classes won’t be quarantined with one COVID-19 case. The school board didn’t like the idea of taking something so simple and not politicizing it. Even Kathy Heintel broke away from Melissa Merrell and voted in favor of masks stating, if it keeps kids in school, then that’s what I want to do. Don’t worry, by the next meeting her bosses put her back in place and her vote was back to nonsensical.
It was a confusing time in Union County. Republicans were claiming to want kids to be in school while every move made by the eight Republican members on the school board were contrary to that idea. It’s a pattern they’ll never break.
So why does this matter to me if I’m running for County Commissioner?
For starters, I want an educated populace. I want to live in a county where all my neighbors, of every race, economic status, and disability are able to live up to their potential. We should all want that. Success is not cake. The person next to you living their best life doesn’t take away from your ability to succeed.
Secondly, the County Commissioners are tightly bound to the Board of Education. If you look at the actions of the past year, you’ll see an abundance of finger pointing. The school board couldn’t get anything done because of the County Commissioners, but the County Commissioners weren’t getting information from the Board of Education, and so on. The finger pointing never ends with this group…
David Williams: Blaming Board of Education Stony Rushing: Blaming “Liberals” for Poor School Board Decisions
Dennis Rape and Gary Sides: Fighting Publicly at a Commissioners Meeting
This is what I’m asking of you. Should we be trusting the future of the county and the education of our children to the hands of political hacks trying to make headlines? Let’s get some new blood in there with a clear vision of what should happen. Elect leaders who are willing to sit down and have mature discussions about how best to move forward. Elect leaders who aren’t going to vote one way or another based solely on the fact that they don’t like the person suggesting the idea.
I will not agree with every other board member, Republican or Democrat, on every issue. That’s a guarantee. But I can also promise that I will always sit down with everybody and have an open mind. I can pledge that I will treat every member with equal amounts of respect. Votes will always be what I think is best for the county, not what’s best for hurting another board member.