Thursday meeting a disrespectful display

Published 8:31 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

The Demopolis Board of Education let down the very people they were put in place to protect Thursday.

With more than 150 students, parents, teachers and school employees gathered in the Central Office, the board quickly worked through its brief agenda.

With item No. 4 listed as an executive session, Superintendent of Education Dr. Al Griffin couldn’t get there fast enough. And as the board steamrolled toward item No. 4, a blatant show of disrespect began to unfold.

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Most board members barely recognized a swelling audience of concerned citizens, parents, teachers and faculty. Only the hesitations of Ronnie O’Neal and Jim Stanford allowed for a brief cordial exchange between board attorney Alex Braswell and DHS senior Andrew Gwin.

That wasn’t enough. It wasn’t even close.

This group of concerned citizens only wanted the opportunity to ask questions.

Those same citizens were greeted by three police officers as they walked through the door. Having covered this board for many years I can attest, law enforcement at these meetings is wholly unnecessary.

Those citizens that were gathered en masse Thursday were students in the school system. Others were parents of students.

I believe in “school speak” these people are called stakeholders.

Thursday, those stakeholders were treated like less than they deserve; like less than concerned parents and students there only to voice their opinions.

That group, which was also made up of teachers and other faculty, was denied the opportunity to speak because it wasn’t on the agenda. It tried to get on the agenda through proper channels but was denied.

That same group was added to the Demopolis City Council agenda in a matter of 10 minutes. The council made it happen. The board of education should have.

You can’t teach students to become upstanding citizens and not treat them like one because their rising to that potential is inconvenient. That’s hypocritical.

Further, you can’t ignore the cries and concerns of parents and then turn around and ask them to buy cookie dough to offset funding shortfalls. That’s disrespectful.

Also, you can’t turn a deaf ear to the concerns of the employees of your system who attend despite the fear of professional retribution. That’s absurd.

We’re potentially headed headlong into an issue as divisive as integration was 50 years ago. Demopolis weathered that storm well and excelled despite it. The roadmap to success then was clear and concise communication and a willingness to commit to getting things done.

That old roadmap leads us to the same place today: success. But I fear it’s long been tossed from the vehicle.

What sits before the board now is a problem. The only way to resolve it will be by addressing it with those who share in it. That will require facing them and answering the difficult questions.

Jason Cannon is the publisher of the Demopolis Times