Teacher responds to criticism of county school board

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

To the Editor:

As a Southampton County Schools’ educator, I was a little shocked by the tone of the recent article entitled “A failure of leadership” (July 17).

No doubt, a JROTC program brings pride and professionalism to any school program. I agree that we should try our best to offer programs that instill pride and esteem for the men and women who risk and give their lives on the battlefield for our freedom.

However, we must also realize that we live in difficult times, which call for difficult decisions from those in leadership.

I will begin my fourth year as a teacher in Southampton County Schools this fall, and over the last three years, I have watched the leadership of Southampton County Schools work tirelessly to ensure stability in its educational system.

Each year, the jobs of teachers have been threatened in the county due to drastic budget cuts. As we all know, this is not a local problem but a chronic national problem.

While the threats of job cuts have been real, evidenced by the loss of jobs in localities near and far, the leadership of Southampton County Schools has managed to maintain employment for all staff and teachers who have a desire to continue serving the students of Southampton County.

Could this truly be termed “a failure of leadership”?

It would be hard for anyone to prove that to me, my wife and my four children. There is, of course, no absolute guarantee that I will indefinitely be able to keep my job, but the leadership of Southampton County Schools has ensured me that as I give my best effort to serve as an educator, they will give their best effort to keep me working.

Asking more from a leader in these difficult times would be selfish and presumptuous.

Let us continue to strive for better programs with more variety if possible, and we should always strive to work together, but at the same time, we should use our resources to unify rather than divide. Let us praise the achievements of our local educational systems while giving some space to leaders who have to make difficult decisions involving real lives and not just programs.

If there are leaders making decisions with the potential of harming the reputation of educators and students, as in some of the recent cheating scandals reported in Georgia, we should use all means necessary to unveil these problems and prevent them from happening again.

On the other hand, we should be careful that we are not causing division by attacking decisions we may disagree with but that otherwise bring no real harm to the students, parents, and teachers involved.

As an employee of Southampton County Schools, I believe our leadership will do whatever is in its means to provide the best possible education for its students, and will continue to add quality programs as they can be reasonably staffed and maintained.

Stephen West