Individual meetings with the superintendent. A resounding lack of comment in public session.
That’s how the Person County school board reached its decision to eliminate 31 jobs from the payroll effective at the beginning of the fiscal year.
School board members approved the layoff plan on May 23, with just one question from a board member. That question, from board member Freda Tillman, concerned who would be losing their job. The response she got was that such decisions hadn’t been made.
This week, school board members made those decisions without a single comment, following a 90-minute closed-door meeting.
According to school board member Margaret Bradsher and Superintendent Rodney Peterson, board members expressed their questions and concerns to Peterson over the past two weeks as they received feedback from the community.
But you wouldn’t have known that by sitting in on Thursday night’s school board meeting.
We realize this was an unpleasant situation for school board members. With a board full of educators, none of them wanted to have to eliminate the jobs of fellow educators and support staff.
But a 5 percent reduction in the workforce ought to bring with it some explanation of why these elected officials believed it was a necessary thing to do. We suppose people who want to know will have to track down a school board member and ask for an explanation themselves.
As a result of those individual meetings with board members, Peterson was able to limit the damage to the county’s physical education teachers. Only three will lose their positions, instead of the five that had originally been proposed. The other two positions will be saved because Peterson was able to identify two other positions – a school counselor and a curriculum coach – that were vacant. Those positions simply won’t be filled.
Regardless of what came out of Thursday’s meeting, we are concerned that school board members are communicating about such important issues outside the scope of public meetings.
We don’t expect them to avoid the school board office between meetings, but the public does have a right to know what school board members are thinking and why they make the decisions they do. The public got neither on Thursday night.