Our students are being cheated

I have a big mouth. Having a newspaper editor trying to put my words in context doesn’t help.

I have been reading The Robesonian about this crazy guy causing trouble with the school board. I thought to myself, “If he ever comes to the stronghold of the Saddletree community, I’m gonna get him.” By the end, I realized the articles were about me.

According to a recent editorial in The Robesonian, I called the newspaper regarding Mr. Tommy Lowry being removed as superintendent. This is not accurate.

On Jan. 10, reporter Bob Shiles called me. It was about another story involving the recent hurricane. Our conversation was cut short. I promised we would connect again later and we did.

Shiles asked my opinion regarding the removal of Superintendent Lowry. We discussed the controversy over his hiring. The former school board spent $30,000 plus expenses on the search then rejected all qualified applicants. Despite concerns over his certification, Tommy Lowry was hired even though he didn’t apply.

Sure I referred to Mr. Lowry as a loser. But here’s the context: If a coach wins 80 percent of his games, he is considered a winner. What if you lose 80 percent of the time? Lowry has been a part of the school system for 38 years and 80 percent of his schools are failing. It was a sports characterization.

Then the editor questions as to whether I believe the only way to fix our public schools is to first blow them up. How does he know what I believe? He has no experience reforming school systems.

Recall that I was an outspoken critic of the county plan to demolish at least 30 schools and then build 13. The editor, Lowry and two board members who were voted off the board favored this plan at a cost of $1.4 billion to taxpayers. The state treasurer agreed that it could bankrupt our county.

It’s true I visited the St. Pauls board meeting. But it wasn’t a “surprise” visit as J.R. Steigerwald, the town administrator, invited Thomas Graves and I to attend to say a few words. I encouraged those present to defeat Mike Smith. He works for Lumbee Bank and supported tearing down the St. Pauls elementary and middle schools. With 1,000 students, the need a resource officer at the elementary school. If your representative is not helping your school, they should be voted out.

The paper said that I’ve traveled all over the country working for schools and Robeson County has never hired me. I’ve never applied for a job in the school system as I own my business and have no desire to work for the school system.

I did say there are some dumb Indians running our school system. I never said all Indians. But it is my frustrated plainspoken view when our county consistently is at the bottom of every statistical measure of academic success.

The present board needs to take a new direction in leadership as evidenced in the 2016 ACT test results of our children. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction: science, 91.2 percent of all our students failed; math, 89.8 percent of all our students failed; and reading, 86.2 percent of all our students failed.

Teachers do not have textbooks for science, math and reading in third through 12th grades.

Students are given worksheets and cheap workbooks without direction or examples for the student and parents.

Numerous classrooms are staffed by substitute teachers for the whole year in the core subjects of science, math and reading.

Principals are rotated from one school to another each summer like musical chairs.

Principals, teachers, and staff are afraid to speak up for fear of being transferred, demoted or possibly losing their job.

How can principals, teachers and staff be held accountable when Superintendent Lowry did not provide the support services they needed in their schools?

The headlines on the front page of the Jan. 12 edition of The Robesonian said, “Chavis: I orchestrated Lowry firing.” I did not state this nonsense.

I love my Indian people and everyone else in Robeson County who are not cheating our children. Why do you think I moved back to this county?

Six school board members, several thousand Robeson County voters and I agree we need a school superintendent who can provide effective leadership for our schools. Could it be we need administrative leaders, instead of politicians that have been placed in school administrative positions?

Sure I’m outspoken. Some call it passion.

I try to give back. I host a math camp for any student here because I know they can learn if given the right opportunity.

Are my fingerprints all over this? My footprints would be all over ineffective public school administrators after kicking them to the curb for cheating our children out of an education. Isn’t it clear that when nearly 90 percent of our students are failing science, math and reading that we need another superintendent?

I’m angry at what has been done to students, teachers and the community by the former school board. They only wanted to take care of their friends when it came to jobs. I consider that dumb. They did not care about Indians, blacks, whites, Mexicans and especially our students. And there are dummies in every race. But being Indian, I simply call out my own people when they are not putting children first and we have plenty of evidence they are not putting them first.

Editor Donnie Douglas and the newspaper have been highly critical of our school board. There are points with which we can agree. It is on these points of agreement where we should build.


Ben Chavis, a Lumberton native, is an educator who is well-known for his work in improving student performance at an Oakland charter school that was heavy with minority children.

Ben Chavis, a Lumberton native, is an educator who is well-known for his work in improving student performance at an Oakland charter school that was heavy with minority children.

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