With our school system, perception is becoming reality

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, October 19, 2013

In May, just days after a majority of the Selma City School Board voted against a motion by board president Henry Hicks Sr. to have an independent investigation look into a number of serious allegations, we were tremendously critical of those who voted against the measure or abstained.

Shortly after that ill-fated decision, the State Department of Education did what the school board should have done and ordered its own investigation.

This week, we learned the results of that investigation were far worse than just one isolated problem, or one well-publicized sex scandal. The investigation was scathing and pointed a number of problems in the Selma City School System.

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If we had known in May just how much would be uncovered in an investigation, we would have been much stronger in our criticism.

More than ever, those members of the Selma City School Board who voted against the independent investigation — Brenda Obomanu, Dr. Kirit Chapatwala and Frank Chestnut Jr. — should answer for why they voted they way they did. What were they trying to cover up? Who were they protecting?

As we said in May, the main problem now is not the allegations of wrong doing, failed policies and inadequate leadership, but rather the main problem facing the Selma City School System remains perception.

How can we tout our city’s public school system as an economic asset when this kind of report is announced? How can we use our city’s public school system in recruiting residents and businesses when this kind of report is unveiled?

If the details of this report are accurate — and we have no reason to think otherwise — then there needs to be some tough questions asked of our school leaders from the top, to the bottom.

Unlike those residents who have taken to protesting in front of the school board’s central office because of this report, we are not yet ready to call for resignation of board members and replacement of other school leaders

But, we are demanding answers and an open response to the allegations made in the report.

The only way to battle the perception that our city’s school system is a failed system is to be transparent about the problems and the solutions offered to fix those problems.

That transparency must begin with the response to the state’s report.