School board members failed at their job in abstaining

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, December 19, 2013

The word “abstain” is a word most of us are familiar. The dictionary lists “abstain” as a verb, with two meanings; the first being to “restraint oneself from doing or enjoying something,” the second being to “refrain from, desist from, hold back from, forbear.”

It is the second definition that is the focus of our opinion.

Last week, the Selma City School Board surprisingly held a vote that could have led to the firing of superintendent of education Gerald Shirley.

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In the surprise vote, two members voted for the measure to remove Shirley while three others abstained from voting.

For the life of us, we do not understand their decision.

Why, in the face of such a decision, would an elected representative decide to not take part, not take a stand, not have an opinion?

If those who decided to abstain felt like supporting Shirley would they not have voted against the measure? Wouldn’t they have wanted to show Shirley they were behind him.

Instead, by deciding to abstain, they simply showed they didn’t feel one way or the other, they were indifferent.

It is that indifference, that apparent lack of care, that disappoints us the most.

At this point, regardless of whether it was a good idea to remove Shirley or not, we applaud the fact board president Henry Hicks Sr. and Dr. Udo Ufomadu at least voted, at least went on the record with their opinion. The other three — Brenda Obomanu, Frank Chestnut Jr. and Dr. Kirit Chapatwala — felt the matter didn’t even warrant their time, their thoughts or their opinion.

If we’re out of line in our opinion, we would welcome either of the three board members who failed to take a position to tell us, but their actions — or rather lack of action — have led us to this point.

We do not elect individuals to public office just because we like them, we elect them to their office to get something done. They are in their positions because of us and because we want them to represent us.

There are times when abstaining is called for, primarily when conflicts of interest are obvious. In this case, no such conflict existed.

Two of these three board members voted to hire Shirley to his post and were well within their rights to cast a vote in favor of or against his continuing.

The decisions these three board members have made in recent months have caused plenty of eyebrows to be raised simply because they do not make sense and because they fail to explain themselves. From voting to not supporting an independent investigation of the school system to refusing public input on a corrective action plan, they have been on the wrong side of what many would say were no-brainer decisions.

Maybe this time, by not casting a vote, they felt they could escape scrutiny.

In this instance, these three school board members failed to do their job, failed to represent us and should answer for their lack of performance.