Our heartfelt congratulations to the new leadership of the Alamance-Burlington school board: new chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves and vice chairman Patsy Simpson.
And our thanks to them and the other two board members whose votes made their elevation possible: Ryan Bowden and Donna Westbrooks.
Sometimes school systems, like battleships, take a long time to make a turn. But we’re optimistic that Monday night’s change in leadership also represents a change in direction, one that will ultimately lead to improved academic performance, greater classroom and school discipline, and more support for teachers who actually want to teach.
Quite frankly, former chairman Allison Gant – along with her sidekick and echo chamber, vice chairman Tony Rose — was little more than a puppet for the school system’s administration.
Never, as far as we can recall, in recent years has either challenged or questioned the judgment of central office educrats whose performance has been abysmal, at best.
Quite frankly, they have largely abrogated their responsibility as elected school board members, invariably deferring to what the central office recommends.
They have even repeatedly lectured their fellow board members – who take their oversight responsibilities more seriously – that they should “trust the experts,” by which they generally mean to accept and then parrot what they are told by central office bureaucrats.
Gant and Rose have frequently shown contempt for the public and the voters who put them in the seats they now occupy. And tried to browbeat, berate, or silence the heretofore minority members of the board.
We trust Ellington-Graves and Simpson will adopt a more collegial and conciliatory approach – even if the civility and courtesy is not returned.
The only surprise to us, Monday night, was that Wayne Beam, who we had generally considered to be a more independent member, went along with Gant and Rose in voting against the new leadership. We hope Beam will be able to work his way free from their vice grip.
Perhaps, it’s simply irony that the three members who opposed changing leadership in Monday’s votes are the very ones who will be on the ballot this year – if they have the temerity even to seek re-election.
In addition to the change in formal leadership, we give special kudos to Ellington-Graves who took the unprecedented step of moving to the podium to address her colleagues, and the school system as a whole, as a parent – and, in the process, lambasted the ABSS administration for secrecy and lack of communication.
Wow! You don’t usually get that kind of candor from many public officials, especially not the brand that so often has served on the school board.
Now all we need is some more reform-minded candidates to step forward and file for a school board seat in the 2022 elections.
Radio personality Chuck Marsh has already done so, and seems to have signaled an intention to be just the sort of independent voice that the new board leadership will need in the coming years.
His two priorities are the same two Ellington-Graves mentioned this week: a concentration on academics and a greater attention to safety and security on school campuses.
We also want to point out, and commend, the fact that four school board candidates from different backgrounds – and different partisan loyalties on the non-partisan board – were able to unite.
We don’t often agree with many of Simpson’s national, or partisan, causes – which she frequently broadcasts on social media – but, in our judgment, as an Alamance-Burlington school board member, there has been no one as conscientious, as committed to improving the school system, or as diligent in research and oversight, or as willing to challenge or question the stagnant status quo, as Simpson over the past decade or more that she has served.
We doubt that the four will always agree with each other, but they all did Alamance County a tremendous service this week.
Thank you, and good luck in making additional improvements in the coming months.
See story on school board election of officers:
See story on new chairman’s concerns as a parent: