On Monday evening, the Stafford GOP held a meeting to discuss party business. One of the topics of discussion was whether the party should endorse School Board candidates. All SB candidates run as Independents so as not to be caught up in the political games inherent in elected office. They can, however, seek endorsements from the local parties. Some believe that by acquiring these endorsements, the political machine can indeed exert it's will on the future board members therefore eliminating the benefits of running as Independents in the first place. It's a good question and definitely one worthy of debate.
While I could not attend due to a conflict, Amy Hall over at Stafford Growing Pains was in attendance. SGP reports on Supervisor Snellings' low opinion of those who serve on the SB: "Gary Snellings, the Hartwood Supervisor, expressed opposition to endorsing School Board candidates because “they go across the street and drink the Kool-aid.” He also said that they don’t share like-minded ideals and instead look to the BoS to “fund their follies.” Granted, Snellings was surely referring to the Republican ideals of fiscal conservatism in a room full of Republican voters who he hopes will support him in his quest for re-election. However, I find his words to be very disturbing due to their tone.
We all may have our opinions about how well previous SB's have functioned or how specific individuals do the job. That is always up for debate and is something we discuss on the BTW blog. But this type of language suggests a disdain and lack of respect for the School Board in general and the individuals who serve on it. Such language certainly does not do anything to bring these two very important entities towards working together for the common good of the county and it's citizens.
Unfortunately, these words show that Mr. Snellings is a part of the problem with no interest in being part of the solution. He believes, a man with no background in the field of education, that the schools are just fine because they are "fully accredited." In fact, an irritated Snellings wagged his finger at those who questioned the funding of our schools at a recent BoS meeting (see the image above.) Watch the video with his comments here.
As you can imagine, news of Snellings' words has begun to reach the ears of the current School Board members. Here is what Scott Hirons, Falmouth School Board member had to say on the subject: "(Snellings') statements both at the committee meeting and numerous times during BOS meetings go to the root of a problem we have in the county that the School Board spoke to during our recent retreat. We spoke at length about a need for the two boards to sit together and discuss our visions for SCPS. The School Board has been working strategically to install an organization of continuous improvement. I think we all agree we have a "fine" school division, and we should hold our heads high at having all of our schools accredited. However what the School Board questions, is that good enough? State accreditation is the most basic level of measurement that a school system meets the needs of students. But does that mean the school system meets the needs and desires of the community? Do we want a school division that meets the basics or do we want a school division that rises to the top and leads the commonwealth in student achievement, workplace satisfaction, parent satisfaction, academic standards and community attractiveness?...These questions need to be answered by the two boards and we need to jointly agree on the vision and future of SCPS. Otherwise there is always going to be disagreement and we will be certain to not move forward."
There is definitely a high level of mistrust between the boards that can only be fixed by more communication and transparency moving forward, not less. Mr. Snellings' comments are divisive and only manage to accomplish damaging an already strained relationship. Stafford needs individuals on both boards who are willing to work together to improve our schools. Teacher attrition due in large part to low pay (a topic covered at length on the BTW blog) is a very real problem and one that DOES affect SCPS students. The SB needs to be more communicative, the BoS needs to be more receptive and the elected officials on both boards need to approach each other with respect and a willingness to work together. If you feel your representatives can not do these very simple things, remember that there is an election in November.