Stop the insanity

Published 10:41 am Saturday, December 3, 2016

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”

— Unknown

This famous quote, often attributed to Albert Einstein — although there is no evidence to support the fact that it originated with him — is one that most of us have either heard or used. Despite the fact that Einstein himself may never have uttered the words or that it truly is not the textbook definition of insanity, the saying is useful in its instruction; if you keep doing the same thing you will keep getting the same thing, if you want a different result you must change what you have been doing to get it.

City council would do well to take heed of such sage advice in the coming weeks.

There is a sense of urgency right now for City Council to fill the vacant school board, because legally there is certain business that cannot be conducted without one. However, regardless of how pressing the matter is, it is of greater importance that council selects a quality board rather than just seek to quickly fill empty seats. In the past, council has voted to appoint individuals to the school board not because they were qualified, but because they were the only ones in their ward to be nominated. It was a huge mistake then, and would be an even bigger one now.

Of the several potential candidates that have stepped forward for consideration, four were members of the board that was recently ousted. Our newspaper has a longstanding tradition of not endorsing candidates in local political contests or for political appointment, and I won’t break with that tradition now. I will go so far as to say that two of them clearly deserve serious consideration for reappointment, while the other two do not.

That aside, and regardless of who I think should be appointed or not, the most important thing for council to do is to carefully deliberate over the experience and ability that each candidate brings to the table. If none of the candidates for a particular ward are unworthy of the position, none should be appointed. If a ward has no candidates, its spot should remain unfilled until a completely qualified candidate presents himself or herself. Warm bodies need not apply.

The city has the unique window of opportunity right now to completely rebuild its school system, something that even a month did not seem likely. And it is a window that won’t shut if decisions aren’t made quickly. City Council has made good decisions lately with regard to the city’s schools, and I have no doubt they will continue to do so. So while it’s important that we replace the school board, it’s more important that we replace it with one that’s better than the one before. It truly would be insanity to blow the opportunity to do so because we were in too much of a hurry to make the right decision.

Tony Clark is the publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at