More candidates should have been interviewed

Published 12:18 pm Saturday, June 23, 2012

by Don Blythe

I want to thank Bob Holt for his honest assessment of what is wrong with our schools and possible solutions that our School Board does not want to consider.

The citizens, business community, chamber leaders and our local newspaper see the sinking ship. From our recent School Board interviews, these people do not see a major problem. They think we are fine.

Most of the School Board members, especially Mr. Glenn Hopkins, (see his Internet comments on The Tidewater News website to Mr. Holt’s article) will argue that we are fine.

I see this as an issue just as big as the Navy wanting to use our airport with our children’s future as well as industry growth at stake.

Your voices loud and clear are needed here.

As Mr. Holt pointed out, just concentrating on the lower-income kids and trying to lower our standards to be eligible for sports, or to pass a test to improve their performance has been a failure.

Passing kids from grade to grade without them passing is not working.

Not holding parents accountable and not meeting the needs of our middle class-achieving students so they get sent to other schools by their parents, who pay a large share of the taxes to keep our schools open. These people get nothing from their tax dollars when they have to pay to send their kids elsewhere. This needs to change.

Not realizing this is a problem and coming up with a solution to convince parents that we can solve this problem has to stop. What is your plan?

It is past time for a solution. Why not identify these families and open a dialogue with them?

Let me tell you about my frustrations in the interview process for new School Board members.

First, I believe it should have been an open meeting. Once again, we hide behind the closed meetings so you cannot see what goes on.

Second, we are not given enough time to ask questions. I tried to find out how many meetings a current school board member has missed. I could not get a straight answer from this person.

Since we would have another meeting with this person, I petitioned the School Board for this information. I was told it would cost me $193 for eight hours to research this and $24.08 for every hour over eight hours. I was shocked.

Anyway, I went online for one hour and seven minutes and got the information for free.

I discovered this sitting School Board member missed 10 of 25 meetings in a particular year. I was shocked, but understood why they did not want to reveal this information.

They also argued that our schools are fine, and everyone questioning the status of our schools had incorrect information.

They would continue things as is. We had another School Board member who has served twice and going for a third term who did not see these pressing problems.

After two tries, I was thinking it was time for someone else to give it a shot.

We also interviewed a candidate who does not have any kids in school, and has never been to a School Board meeting. The candidate’s only qualifications seem to be that she lives next door to our mayor-to-be.

When David Benton was running for re-election, we said we wanted more qualified candidates. What has changed now?

Two other council members and I said we need more candidates, or we will get the same results from the School Board as in the past, but we were overridden by our new so-called unity council members.

Ask them why they are selling our kids’ education short.

Also, I said then and I say now, Councilman Benny Burgess should have excused himself from these discussions because of a conflict of interest with his wife working for the schools and the School Board’s involvement in hiring and firing of school personnel.

We returned two School Board members and got another one with no experience. The other two members not running for re-election supported no grades below a 60. They did not vote on this.

Our mayor-elect said one of her top priorities is our schools, but her actions indicated nothing would change.

I tried to make a difference here, but I am but one person. They even made a motion to accept all the candidates at once instead of individual votes to hide their true intentions of not addressing our school problems.

It is now up to the citizens because our unity council members, school board and superintendent cannot see the problem or have no idea what to do.

DON BLYTHE represents Ward 6 on Franklin City Council and can be reached at