Lines drawn on bus stops

Published 8:08 pm Friday, January 22, 2010

Since the middle of 2008, I have written stories on and covered the meetings of the Decatur County Board of Education.

During that time, I have seen the board deal with an excessive paddling incident by an administrator, the construction and opening of a new state-of-the-art high school, a reorganization of schools that affected roughly half the student population and faculty, a property tax increase, and a huge drop in funding by the state of Georgia.

What struck me the most during those meetings when decisions were made and consideration given to these things, in addition to the numerous more mundane decisions, was the board’s sense of cooperation with each other.

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As with any governing body, there are differences of opinion and not every vote taken has unanimous consent. I am glad to see those differences, that’s what a democracy and a public board is all about. If every vote taken were unanimous, we would have serious issues.

Have I agreed with every decision made by this board? Absolutely not. But I truly believe that this board of education is doing whatever necessary to provide the highest quality education to the school children of this county. And, I have a vested interest, I have a child in the school system now and will have another next year.

But, a board member’s actions during the monthly meeting Thursday night were inappropriate and unfortunate.

Board member Clarissa Kendrick’s decision to step away from her elected role as a board member to address the board during the public participation period was certainly atypical, if not unprecedented.

There is no doubt that Kendrick, who is a retired Decatur County teacher and has spent countless hours to better our school system, has the best interest of our school system at heart. But I believe the decision to step away from fellow board members and loft the accusation that choices are being made based on race was a poor decision.

To insinuate that the decision to reduce of number of bus stops, a reduction that has been discussed numerous times over the course of many meetings at which Kendrick was present, was made along racial lines is simply wrong.

Made at a time when diesel fuel costs were approaching $5 per gallon and state funding was being reduced at an extreme level, the reduction of bus stops has everything to do with dollars and cents and nothing to do with color of skin.

One thing to remember, limited school bus stops is not an uncommon practice.

In some states, school systems are mandated by law as to the number of stops a bus can make over a certain distance.

There is a drop out problem in Decatur County, and around the country. But to say that a kid will drop out of school because the bus does not stop at his doorstep is irresponsible and marginalizes the real issues related to kids dropping out of school.

Kendrick is a good school board member and has contributed much to Decatur County’s children’s education through the years. There is no reason to believe that she will not continue to make those needed contributions, but the board meeting last Thursday night was not her finest hour.