Reporting on the good, bad and ugly

Published 7:37pm Friday, July 5, 2013

I’d like to start off by saying I’m all for reporting “good news” to the community. If I could fill the pages of the newspaper with heart-warming stories of rescued bunnies, butterfly farmers, or 100-year-old birthday parties — trust me, I would. But then again, while those stories may be fun to read (and fun to write), I wouldn’t really be doing my job, which is to report the news — even if it’s bad news.

Unfortunately, the Selma City School System has found themselves in the middle of a state investigation regarding alleged inappropriate sexual activity between students and school employees.

Instead of taking responsibility for the predicament the system found itself it — and when I say “found itself in,” I mean “was finally uncovered” — the majority of the school board voted against a full investigation of the situation. They voted “no” to a much needed investigation, which is something that would have helped clean house of any negligence and reassure parents that the system is a place they can and should have confidence in. This is why the state board had to step in and try to clean up the mess themselves.

These are stories that have to be told. The fact that a teacher was arrested at Selma High School for inappropriate, sexual behavior and the fact that there may be other employees engaging in criminal activities at school is news — big news — and it affects hundreds of students and families across the city.

If I didn’t report that these activities were going on, I wouldn’t be doing my job. This is something I think several members of the Selma City School board may not understand.

During Tuesday’s work session, I, on behalf of The Selma Times-Journal, received more than one verbal jab for “only reporting the negative things” within the school system. The board seems to be under the impression that the investigation of a sex scandal, which has been taken over the state, is perhaps not newsworthy, and is only showcasing the “negative” aspects.

I’m truly sad to say to them that whatever positive attributes the system may have had going for it, have been overshadowed by the absolute mess the system is currently in. And I think most parents would agree.

“We’re doing a lot of positive things as a board and as a system, despite the negatism that continues to be in the media,” board member Frank Chestnut said at the work session. “If you expect the paper to put a positive spin on your system, then you’re asking for the wrong thing.”

Board member Dr. Kirit Chapatwala agreed, and said, “Rather than look at what mistakes we make, let’s look at the positive things that are happening.”

So, if you’re wanting me to look away from the giant mess unfolding in the heart of the city, and are just looking for a pat on the back about the things the school system is doing right — I’d be happy to give you one, but I’ve got to let you know, I’m still going to do my job, which will not include undeserved praise.

I’m here to report on the issues — not the fact that the board debated which contractor to accept to cut school lawns for 20 minutes or which copiers to buy — but rather to keep officials and teachers accountable for their actions, and to inform the community, especially local parents of the things that will not only affect them, but their precious children.


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