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September 2020
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It’s great to see community involved, now keep it up

It was truly heartening to see the community participate so fully in the democratic process, expressing their views to the school board involving the transgender bathroom situation. And, while poor handling of the whole situation by the school district set off the chain of events, the school board and superintendent deserve respect for publicly owning up – in spite of death threats and raised tempers. It takes gumption to invite an angry crowd to air their grievances.

The bathroom issue was one that reached  parents at an emotional level. It is important that parents feel their children are safe both physically and emotionally at a school. And the rest of the public’s tax dollars fund the system so their policy is fair game for comment even if your oldest child graduated years ago. 

But for all those people who ONLY turned out for this one issue and will not be back to future school board or county meetings, shame on you. It’s like you came to watch the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl and then forget about the team the rest of the year.

Just imagine if the public rose up in similar fashion over the vaping issue? Vaping to date has affected more children than the bathroom issue; has already sent kids to the hospital; resulted in charges and reportedly left at least one student with lingering health effects -- prompting an investigator to predict vaping will eventually kill a kid here. Think for a second if the schools saw 800 parents or even half that amount down on D.B. Carroll Street demanding something be done right then to get vapes out of the schools? 

Or imagine, instead of complaining on the back end about the expensive video scoreboard at Dragon Stadium, people had turned out demanding a cut in spending before it was installed?

What about if parents and grandparents of elementary children marched into a school board meeting with questions and opinions on whether the board should shorten the school day for the youngest students, even if it means cutting some of the PEs and arts?

Or where were the parents asking what can be done to raise Milestone scores over the fair/okay but not that great ones reported earlier this year?

What exactly do parents feel about making the school year start later and with fewer class days? The board can only guess or speculate from a small handful of comments.

It was encouraging to see that people here still demand accountability of their elected officials and tax-funded institutions but outside of this one issue, it’s disheartening to see how few other topics raise much interest.

Former school board member Byron Long remarked at a public forum when he was still office that he had tried to engage the public, but his phone never rang nor did he log many e-mails. Even if you can’t attend a meeting, all board members can be reached by e-mail [it’s on their website but not that easy to navigate].

Any elected official in a small town will do a better job with input from their constituents, whether its parents or property owners. They will do a better job because the people will hold them accountable -- when the eyes of the people are on them. There is no money in serving on a commission, city council or school board. People don’t get into small town government for fame or fortune. They do it because they care, and they need input to know what parents and taxpayers are thinking and not just once in a blue-moon.

The Progress ran a photo (May 24, 2018) of a public hearing on the school’s FY 2019 budget at the central office. It shows two board members and Superintendent Carlton Wilson talking amongst themselves in front of an empty room of chairs. Not one member of the public attended.

The latest episode involving the bathroom and school officials reversing their decision for the time being shows what can be accomplished when the community is engaged. Don’t let it be a one-time thing