School board rejects public input

Published 12:10am Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Selma City School Board decided against some forms of public involvement during their monthly work session Tuesday at the Selma High School Auditorium.

During the board’s last meeting, Selma City School Board President Henry Hicks Sr. proposed the board select community members from their district to work alongside them and give input on a corrective plan required after an investigation and findings of major problems by the State Department of Education.

The corrective plan, which the state reportedly required public input, must be approved before the plan is put into action.

After a heated argument about public involvement Tuesday, Selma City School Board members Frank Chestnut, Brenda Obomanu and Kirit Chapatwalla decided against the suggestion, thus killing any hope for a positive vote at the board’s next board meeting.

“I represent my district, no one else,” Chestnut said.

Chapatwalla said the board has the proper training to make the appropriate decisions.

“Since all of the board members have the proper training to make the proper decision, adding people with no training or a different training I don’t care for,” Chapatwalla said. “I would rather keep it simple, rather than make it complicated.”

Board member Udo Ufomadu disagreed with those opposing public input.

“The fact that I am a board member does not translate into the fact that I know it all,” Ufomadu said. “My point is we consider them active partners, or we take it out of the report, because it doesn’t look real.”

Hicks also suggested the public be able to ask questions toward the end of the work session, an idea that was dismissed by the same three board members.

“My concern is that most of the people I see have concerns … It’s good to have concerns, but their kids are outside of the city limits,” Chestnut said. “They live outside of the city limits, so I don’t know the true nature of their desire to contribute.”

Chesnut said residents wanting to address the board should instead follow procedure and submit a letter to Superintendent of Education Gerald Shirley to be able to address the board during their next work session. That letter can include any suggestions for changes to the corrective action plan.

“I used to be of the appointed board, and we have always allowed community member to ask us questions,” Ufomadu said in regards to the suggestion.

Obomanu said the board is in the position to improve the system.

“We are decent and we are in order, because we are role models for our children,” Obomanu said. “We are trying hard to get the system back on track and focus. Hopefully what we want to have to go through what we have been through these last couple months, because our focus is on our children because an education is priceless.”

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