Wanted: School board talent

Published 7:14 am Saturday, July 18, 2009

When contacted of late by a current member of the Franklin School Board in what I assumed was a “private” conversation and asked to speak on behalf of David Benton during “Citizens’ Time” at Monday night’s City Council meeting, I respectfully declined.

I did so not because David Benton isn’t imminently qualified, which he is, but because I am in that camp that believes he should have recused himself for a three-year term before throwing his name into the school board arena once again. His incendiary comments during the last public interview process unfortunately inflamed the racial divide within Franklin.

He chose to do otherwise, which is his right and because the apparently imprecise bylaws of the Franklin School Board allow him to do so.

The bigger picture, though, is the focus on five — I repeat, five — open positions, which, because of woeful school board record-keeping, City Council members are legally having to fill at one time. This imbalance occurring at any one time is a disservice to our children and reeks of discontinuity and instability, until the logical 2-2-3 cycle can be restored. It is an unfair burden that was thrust on our City Council by our School Board.

The extent that the City Council has tried in the face of this almost insurmountable obstacle to reach consensus on the nominees is admirable. The government-mandated ward system makes it ever so easy to vote along race lines for candidates. That a majority of council members were able to rise above this inclination took great courage, and for that they should be recognized.

Are there other individuals, black or white, who are qualified to meet the immense responsibility of steering the educational process of Franklin’s youth? The answer is yes. The real question is whether they will respond to the courage displayed by council members and rise to the occasion.

Will in fact they contact members of the City Council and respond to this higher calling?

Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president, said it best in his address on citizenship in Paris: “Credit goes to the man who is actually in the arena.”