Voting only cure for buffoonery on our school board


“I would like to remove a whole bunch of school boards — but I can’t do it — because they don’t do anything but worry about the employment opportunities for friends and not what’s happening in the classroom. Let’s get it out in the open. We know exactly who they are and where they are and they continue to exist and they don’t need to be between the teachers and the superintendent and threaten the superintendent. They don’t need to be there. They need to be gone.”

— Superior Court Judge Howard Manning

It would seem to us and most right-headed folks that a minimum requirement for winning a job is actually desiring it enough to apply.

The Board of Education for the Public Schools can be called a lot of things — and has recently, much of which can’t be published here — but members can’t be tagged as right-headed. The board’s decision last week to hire Tommy Lowry would be a head-scratcher, except that the board’s motive is clear.

We have nothing against Lowry, and look forward to working with him as he takes on the tall task of leading this county’s school system. But Lowry had many months to apply to replace his longtime friend Johnny Hunt as the schools superintendent, and didn’t bother — even though we know he was pushed hard to do so.

He expressed interest only after school board members publicly embarrassed themselves while attacking the person who had been identified as the best candidate, Rick Watkins, a longtime educator from Hamlet. Watkins responded as he should have, by telling the board to take that job and shove it.

Watkins can do better than to work for the clowns on our school board.

The head clown is John Campbell who, using misinformation, attacked Watkins’ integrity when the school board was in open session. Campbell should know what it feels like to have one’s integrity questioned as his was when he worked in the do-nothing-but-earn-a-salary position of director of the now defunct county Human Relations Commission and hung expensive portraits in his office at taxpayer expense, earning a reprimand. Later, as a school board member, he was caught taking a monetary advance to attend an out-of-county workshop but skipping out on it early.

How does that feel Mr. Campbell?

Here we defer to the above comments of Judge Howard Manning. Manning presided over the Leandro case, whose plaintiffs, including Robeson County, complained that the state’s method for funding school districts did not provide equal access, and children in poor counties were getting the crumbs. It’s doubtful that anyone knows more about the inequities in North Carolina’s schools than does Manning — and why they continue to exist. He is intimate with our school board because of that case — and likely had ours at least partially in mind when he made that remark.

Lowry was hired when Boscoe Locklear, who makes big bucks as housing director at the Lumbee Tribe, flipped his vote. We will let you connect those dots.

So this makes the second time in a row the school board has paid for assistance from the North Carolina School Boards Association in its search for a superintendent and then ignored that $20,000 advice. In 2005, there was never a genuine search, and this time the board decided to hire someone who was not even vetted by the North Carolina School Boards Association.

We will be clear what happened.

Watkins was the board’s pick over another candidate, whose name won’t be shared because he is a sitting superintendent in another county and his job should not be risked. That person is black, which unfortunately pretty much disqualifies him for leadership in this county in the minds of this school board.

Campbell then began his attack on Watkins — and some others parroted in, none more stupidly than Jo Ann Lowery, who believes Watkins’ decision to give this newspaper an interview was “illegal.”

So with Watkins no longer a candidate, the obvious next step would have been to offer the No. 2 candidate, but that wasn’t an option because he is black, and blacks don’t get leadership positions in this county. A compromise was hatched and Lowry offered a contract.

This school board is flush with people who make decisions based on nothing but race, and they come in all three shades. By definition, that’s bigotry.

People are angry, very angry, which is demonstrated through social media and comments attached to our stories at robesonian.com. But being angry doesn’t change a thing.

Voting at least has that potential.

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