On May 18, Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools issued a news release saying the Johnston County schools had agreed to release public records the citizens’ group had sought for more than a year. In response to the news release, the schools issued a statement that says much about Johnston school leaders, not much of it good.
The statement begins this way: “The Johnston County Board of Education has resolved the baseless public records lawsuit brought by the Concerned Citizens’ group and the UNC Center for Civil Rights.” The statement goes on to say the school board agreed to settle the matter “to avoid further waste of school district resources.”
It gets better: “The request for public records made by the Center for Civil Rights in May 2015 was vague, broad and poorly worded.” And “the board agreed to this limited release of information to avoid further disruption of our system’s mission – educating all students.”
Allow us to put the board’s statement in context for you. No one likes to hear they’re doing a bad job, which is essentially what Concerned Citizens is saying about the school system when it comes to the academic performance of Smithfield and Selma students. The tendency then is to dismiss one’s critics as ignorant gadflies, so that Concerned Citizens files a “baseless public records lawsuit” prepared by amateurs. Never mind that the schools agreed to release the records and that the Center for Civil Rights staff is made up entirely of attorneys led by Ted Shaw, who also teaches advanced constitutional law and the 14th Amendment in the UNC School of Law.
More broadly, the school system’s statement suggests that the schools know best how to educate children and that input from parents, business leaders and community leaders is a waste of educator time. To use the school system’s words, the Smithfield-Selma community’s quest for better schools is a “waste of school district resources” and impedes the omnipotent school system from its mission of “educating all students.” Never mind that the people who responded to the CCSS complaint and compiled the records don’t teach children – ever. They’re central office bureaucrats whose jobs are distant relatives of “educating all students.”
When we received the school system’s statement, it didn’t come with attribution. So when we asked, school system spokeswoman Tracey Peedin Jones told us to attribute the statement to the Johnston County Board of Education.
But it’s hard to imagine a school board member penning a statement that is so clearly dismissive of Smithfield-Selma parents and the certainly competent folks at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. Perhaps the statement came from the law firm that represented the schools in the public-records dispute, though the statement’s contempt for school critics sounds like something an education bureaucrat would say.
But whoever wrote the statement, we have to assume the school board and its superintendent signed off on it. And that’s disappointing, because it suggests the board and superintendent share both the author’s arrogance and his or her contempt for people – parents and business leaders – who want nothing more than to make Smithfield-Selma schools better.