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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Commentary on Local School Board Elections -- Silence DoGood

Recently, a question and answer session was engaged in between our venerable local newspaper, Hickory Daily Record and candidates for the Hickory City and Newton Conover school boards. I focused on the candidates for Hickory and found them to be intriguing, to say the least.

For those who may not read the article, responses were solicited by the HDR to three questions. “(1) Why did you file for election? (2) Area school systems saved some stimulus money for this school year, but it must be used by the end of the 2011-12 school year. With a tight State budget and no stimulus money, how will you keep teachers and technology in the schools next year? (3) Is there anything in the system that needs to be changed or improve?” Not bad as far as questions go. Basically what is it that motivated you to run. All that federal money will dry up at the end of this term, what and how are you going to try and keep things running without cuts in delivery and ability, and what do you think that needs to improve or be changed. The responses are a critical reader’s delight and hence, the impetus for this piece.

The candidate at large and the candidate in Ward 4 are running unopposed, so the seat in contention is in Ward 6 between 4 candidates. Of the 4, it seems one was not too interested in responding to the questions. So here I go, in no particular order, analyzing the candidates.

Accordingly, Brandon Lee is obviously too busy to answer or has nothing to say. Either way, I would think that if you ask someone something 7 times and that doesn’t elicit a response, and that person is a candidate for public office, I’d say they aren’t too interested in people knowing where they stand, what they think, or what they want to do if elected to that office.

Next up is Larry Herman. He seems like a very frank and forthright person. I have no clue why he’s running for the school board. The overview of what Larry said is, the system works, nothing is broke, we’ve got money, we don’t need their stimulus money, we’ll survive. Laissez-faire governance and maintenance of the status quo for the K-12 generation, that seems to be what Mr. Herman is about, reading his responses to the questions. Now, if that isn’t a fair summation, that’s fine, but it is merely reflective of what he has written and submitted.

Talking about the budget, Larry thinks the budget is “nicely managed” and the financial department “always gets an award.” That’s all fine and good, but how, precisely are you going to deal with the loss of those funds? How are you going to vote when it comes time to make tough choices on what the schools really need or what you think they need. Nah, Larry seems like an okay guy, champion of education he just doesn’t seem to be. Nor does he seem to be willing to look at new ways, concepts, or processes that can maintain, or dare I say, improve the quality of education currently being offered.

Amy Monroe is up next in examination. She should certainly have time to devote to the endeavor of serving on the school board since she has no occupation. However there is nothing wrong with being a stay at home Mom, if that were the case. But Amy chooses to engage herself via the PTA and parental activism in things education. Which makes me wonder how willing she would be to serve if she did not have a vested interest in her own children in said school system. Self-interest is not a viable reason for coming into the realm of public service. Volunteering and tutoring are laudable attributes and pursuits. However, do those things provide the requisite exposure and experience to govern as Amy claims or merely allow one to share their own knowledge with others to fill a niche or void? I’m thinking it’s the later. Amy has a very Rainbow Brite perspective of what is currently and soon will transpire within the school system. The problem is, there is no pot of gold at the end as the storm clouds thicken. The rest of her response is generalized candidate boilerplate. Waffle, dodge, hedge, and give non-specific answers.

Finally Rebecca Inglefield. It is my opinion that she is perhaps the most qualified professionally and probably has the most commitment to the office. However, I do not think that one of the biggest challenges facing the school system is bullying. It is a problem, not the problem. Insofar as the community stepping up and supporting, I think they are supporting, to the extent that they are able to support. With current economic conditions being what they are, the elastic on that strap is at the breaking point. But Rebecca knows and states that for education to succeed, there must be a solid foundational basis and that has to be provided early on. Reading is the fundamental attribute to everything else. Math, science, art, poetry, or English is absolutely worthless and meaningless without the ability to read. That foundation is the basis upon which everything else is constructed. She understands and states precisely that. Therein, in all likelihood, lies the problem with Rebecca being elected; she makes sense and knows what she’s talking about and talks about the kids, not herself or how great the board is, was, or will continue to be.

Am I seeking to use this forum to endorse or recommend one candidate over the other? No actually, I’m not. I’m merely reading critically what’s written in response to the question posed. Read the question, read the answer or response, see how well it’s being answered. See if it answers the question to an acceptable level, if the answer makes sense, and finally if the answer comports to the notion of where and how the reader thinks the schools should be going.

The reason for this is to heighten awareness to and for education. Now, there are those among us who think that education is perhaps overrated, they made their way in the world without a formal education and they got along just fine. In a less complicated, less technologically advanced existence that was probably true. You could eek out a living and if you were incredibly lucky, even enjoy a modicum of success without benefit of an extensive formal education.

But that doesn’t mean that those folks were un-educated either or stupid. In days gone by, the basics, reading, writing, arithmetic, and science were the backbone to education. The keystone to everything is, of course, reading. Today, the ability of those graduating high school and even college to read on an adequate level is dismal. We have gone from being able to entertain ourselves with our minds to mindless entertainment. We have lost our ability to imagine our world, but simply exist in a world not of our creation. Folks, there is nothing wrong with daydreaming that I have ever found. The ability to imagine and see things not as they are, but how they could be. What is wrong with exercising our minds in the same manner as our bodies?

It takes a formal and technologically structured education with a solid foundational basis in science and math, a command of the language, along with the ability to understand the words as opposed to just looking at a bunch letters strung together in a particular order to succeed, or even get a start in that direction.

This is what’s at stake with this election. Who you elect and put on the school board will have a direct effect on the future. Not just your future, the future of society and this region, since graduates don’t just stay inside Hickory municipal limits. With education all things are possible. At the moment, we are sitting in between the past and the future in what we call the present. What is to become of the future without a solid foundational basis in education and the basic building blocks?

The foundational nexus upon which all other things are built is the imperative for a viable person, region, and economy. Some would contend it’s about less or more regulation, or fewer fees and taxes, or more fees and different taxes, or a host of other things. Rational people do rational things however and while it might not take a formal education to accomplish that or realize it, it does take a formal education to make it happen.

The investment is in the kids who will be our future. You want to make that as complete and comprehensive as possible. The alternative, of course, is going backwards. Of course, no one ever said that evolving means forward progression. It simply means changing. How are we preparing to change and who will guide it to give your children the most opportunity?

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