Before I became sports editor for Pryor Times, I worked mostly as a general assignment reporter in smaller towns.
I have covered education at the small town level and observed education boards (including legitimate scandals).
I’ve witnessed mindful, and on some level mindless, diplomacy from a board’s interaction with concerned parents.
But I had yet to observe subtle tactlessness toward parents gathered out of concern for their children’s welfare until Monday night.
The location: Locust Grove Upper Elementary.
The Agenda: An executive session, including an open forum for public comment, to discuss the head football coach position.
The Basis: Hearsay
An Oct. 10 alleged incident of bullying, unexplained to parents, town citizens or inquiring minds, is as verifiable as it gets.
Such a situation is a serious matter, especially in today’s climate where teen bullying has reached epidemic proportions, or at least been more exposed.
A proactive approach by any board of education is to be applauded. Calling this meeting, even without evidence being released, can hardly be criticized.
But calling a meeting (in which calculations are not an option) where law asks for public commentary from parents only equipped with rumors as the basis for discussion…is reckless. Especially when a coach’s job hangs in the balance.
For clarity (a term this BOE should meditate on), my issue is not with whether the law forbids the discussion of specific, detailed subject matter.
It’s with the lack of sensitivity I observed, in regard to allowing public/town division per lack of information.
The BOE obviously knew their hands were tied, specifically, as far as what could and could not be mentioned. I trust they were well-informed on legal matters.
I am not a lawyer. But I also trust an intuition that says: There is no law against addressing the parents of the children you’re elected to serve with a statement as simple as, “I wish we could release the information we have.”
To do so is not an admission of guilt, nor does it evoke a negative board persona. It reflects sensitivity.
Parents debated passionately with hearsay as ammunition.
Some of their arguments, in my opinion, were absurd.
Some of their points echoed exceptional rationale, especially considering a handicapped forum/context.
Passion, compassion and honorable restraint governed this special meeting, where conditions were ideal for chaos. The peaceful outcome was self-governed.
The only thing the Locust Grove Board of Education got right Monday night was the final decision, in my opinion.
My opinion, carries with it the utmost objectivity, not because it’s striven for, but because I haven’t been in Mayes County long enough dislike any board. I have no dog in this fight.
From what I observed, the BOE needs continuing education in sensitivity and empathy.