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Wednesday, 08 March 2017 20:10

Perhaps school board has learned a lesson

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Since it is, after all, the Haywood County School Board, I can only hope they’ve learned a lesson.

Last week it was announced that a settlement has been agreed upon in the lawsuit filed by Waynesville attorney Mark Melrose against the school board for the way it closed Central Elementary School. The settlement mandated that neither party discuss the particulars, but here’s part of the 57-word statement that was released:

The school board “does not admit it violated the law or its own policies, but agrees it would have been preferable if circumstances had permitted to have provided more advanced public notice of its intention to vote on January 11, 2016, to study the possible closure of Central Elementary School.”

Remember, the board informed citizens of its intent to close the school in January and then voted on it in February. That vote to close came after a “public input” session in late January 2016 that was almost insulting since the closing decision had already been made. In other words, the decision to close the school had been made without the input of one single citizen or parent.

The point to remember here is that the public schools do not belong to the administrators in the central office or the members of the school board. They belong to us — citizens and parents — and so we should play a part in making these important decisions. Yes, school board members are our elected representatives, but they let Haywood’s citizens down in the way they handled this one. 

This is one of these cases where there should have been a plan to involve citizens, where they should have been provided the information regarding financial issues and enrollment challenges, where outside ideas should have been gathered — and then a decision made.

I’m not arguing that Central should have been kept open. But the school board and the administration botched the process. And there’s ample evidence from work session tapes that the public was misled. 

This is a case study in how not to close a beloved community school and how to ignore one’s constituents. And who knows, had a better process been followed, we may have had a different outcome.

 

HB2 and the state brand

I had planned to write about the recalcitrance and stubbornness that has rooted itself in the General Assembly and prevented a resolution to the HB2 mess that has cost the state millions of dollars.

Instead, I’m going to point out how another writer already did that job for me.

Former Raleigh News and Observer columnist Rob Christensen is among the most astute observers of Tar Heel politics.

Christensen recently wrote a column where he argued that the state’s brand is taking a beating even in the conservative South, not just from Democrats or liberal business leaders. 

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently gave his state of the commonwealth speech and had this to say: “As we begin our work together this session, our neighbor North Carolina remains mired in a divisive and counterproductive battler over laws its legislature passed that target the rights of the LGBT citizens. As we have seen in that state and others, attacks on equality and women’s health care rights don’t just embarrass the states that engage in them, they kill jobs.”

McAuliffe is a Democrat, so some HB2 supporters might not consider his words important. But nearby GOP leaders have also distanced themselves from HB2-like bills, recognizing that they are akin to economic suicide pills.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia last year vetoed a bill to curtail the rights of LGBT community: “I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part.”

Here’s former GOP Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina: “I don’t believe (a bathroom bill) is necessary. There’s not one instance that I’m aware of. When we look at our situation, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re again not hearing of any citizens that are being violated in terms of freedom. Like it or not, South Carolina is doing really well when it comes to respect and when it comes to kindness and when it comes to acceptance. For people to imply it’s not, I beg to differ.”

Christensen points to process as part of the problem. HB2 — which says everyone must use the bathroom of their birth gender and prevents localities from passing laws outlawing discrimination against LGBTs — was passed in one day by the General Assembly and signed by the governor that same night. No committee hearings, no public input, no debate.

“Acting out of hubris, the legislature did not want a proper airing,” Christensen writes.

A proper vetting might have revealed that nearly 200 cities and community across the U.S. have passed bills similar to the Charlotte ordinance that was the supposed catalyst for the legislature’s hasty actions, might have revealed that passing such a law would be a disaster for the state’s economy and reputation.

As I’ve written before, history will prove that North Carolina is on the wrong side of this issue. No matter what else happens in this state, HB2 is now the state’s brand and will be until the jackasses in the General Assembly learn that the art of compromise — not stubborness — is the lifeblood of democracy.

(Scott McLeod at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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