Isle of Wight treats private schoolers as second-class citizens

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A report on the Isle of Wight County Schools’ “summer school” was given at the Sept. 11 school board meeting as to its overall success, at least for those “allowed” to attend.

The two administrators who managed summer school deserve accolades for the effective job they did. Deserving of an “F” is the Isle of Wight County Schools administration, namely Superintendent Michael W. McPherson. He failed to provide summer-school opportunities to the children of Isle of Wight taxpaying parents who choose to send their children to private school. In so doing, they literally “pay double.”

IWCS is a “public” school system (costing nearly $65 million this year), funded by all Isle of Wight citizens through their taxes. It is not “rocket science” to coordinate with private school administrators to work out the details of allowing “educationally needy” private school student sons and daughters of Isle of Wight taxpayers to attend IWCS summer school.

The law, in so many words, says a “free public education” is available to all Virginians. In this instance, to determine the subject area needing remediation, a test was given the first day of summer school to attending high school students to ascertain same. Additional input to some degree was provided by individual teachers, as deemed appropriate. Thus the material to be remediated was determined and subsequently taught.

I am told there was a time some few years ago wherein private- schoolers, and even some Surry County students, attended Isle of Wight County Schools in the summer. What’s changed so drastically?

When McPherson was questioned at the board meeting about having a dialog with the private school administrators to facilitate the few private school students of Isle of Wight taxpayers attending IWCS summer school, the superintendent finally said with disdain, “I am not going to do anything this board does not direct me to do.” A motion was then made to “direct the superintendent to enter into discussions with at least the head Isle of Wight Academy (across the road) to work out the details of any of that school’s students taking advantage of IWCS summer school offerings” next year.

Want to guess what happened? The motion received no second, not even from the board chairman, who I think has the responsibility to second motions in order to provide for more discussion and subsequently a vote — up or down. In this case, by their silence, he and the three others loudly voted a resounding “no”, denying some students a “free public education.”

Should Isle of Wight taxpayers be concerned that their tax-dollar-funded school system’s superintendent and board would deny a free public education to one of their sons or daughters? I think so. When seeking election to the school board I hardly think any candidate said, “I do not want the parents of private school students voting for me.”

Isle of Wight County School Board reps are necessarily, therefore, representatives of all Isle of Wight citizens. Maybe a few citizens need to remind my fellow board members of the scope of their job responsibilities to all Isle of Wight citizens’ children. IWCS is your school system.