School board gets an opportunity

Neither of the two coalitions that have formed on the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County is happy today, which enhances the chances that the public they serve might soon have something to smile about.

But that depends on the Board of Education uniting and doing what’s right.

The six members who were willing to ignore their own policy and break the spirit — if not the letter — of the open meetings law in order to shove Thomas Graves into the superintendent’s office through the back door melted under sunlight — as well as the prospect that a lawsuit could cost them dearly in dollars, and reputation as well, if a good one were left to spoil.

The other five members of the school board failed in an effort to bring back Tommy Lowry, whose dedication to the students and the system we don’t doubt, but who was undermined from Day 1 by the ridiculous manner in which he was hired. We doubt as well that Lowry has any interest in a recall.

The reality is, neither Graves nor Lowry could have succeeded laboring for an intrusive board that cares more about winning than providing students with a good education. The entire board was never going to unite behind either, and that six board members believe that their foolhardy coup had any chance to succeed testifies toward their collective lack of intelligence and savvy.

Their plan was always going to fail.

So a new search begins, and Graves has said he will apply and we expect the six members who wanted him will try to shove him through another door. If that is their plan, it’s a bad one, because it will signal anew that some members of the board have an inability to learn from and then correct their own mistakes.

Otherwise, as we have suggested, an opportunity awaits.

This board, perhaps for the first time since the five systems were merged in the late 20th century, has an opportunity to conduct a legitimate search for a schools superintendent that ends with an offer to the best candidate. We do worry about what kind of pool of candidates will come forward, as this past week’s silliness has garnered headlines beyond The Robesonian, and we ponder who would subject his or herself to working for this collective cast of clowns.

Any educator worthy of consideration only has to Google and what will be coughed up is not only this debacle, but the one in the summer of 2015 when board members elected to publicly insult the candidate offered the job, and then when he said no thanks, elected to call an audible and hire a local person who had not applied.

What really needs to happen is for about nine or so school board members to resign. But that won’t happen, so we have another suggestion. Why doesn’t the local board outsource the hiring, and allow the North Carolina School Boards Association to do more than just assist during the search, but to actually make a recommendation?

That would be an important and long step toward recapturing a fraction of the public’s trust. It might even save a few board members on Election Day, which complicates our rooting interest.

The school board has an opportunity to demonstrate that this newspaper is wrong in its prediction of what will happen next. It can do so by conducting a wide-open search, one that is unencumbered, that doesn’t bend to political pressure, and would inevitably lead to an out-of-county hire of the best possible candidate.


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