When The Robesonian attempted to contact all 11 members of the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County with what we thought was a fairly simple question, we discovered it must have been a riddle for this bunch.
We wondered, as does the public, why the school board ignored a survey they asked for and paid for — oops, sorry, the taxpayers paid for the survey — and then ignored what is likely to have been its most compelling finding: Almost 90 percent of the respondents who commented on the issue said they wanted the next schools superintendent to come from outside of the Public Schools of Robeson County.
The school board, as you know, after running off the person initially offered the job and refusing to go to candidate No. 2 because that person is black, then hired Tommy Lowry, who not only came from within the system, but has been a part of it for almost four decades.
Let us pause to clear up some confusion: We don’t blame white board members for the board’s refusal to hire a black, nor do we blame American Indian board members for the board’s overt bigotry. We blame all of the above.
To his credit, board member Gary Strickland did speak with a reporter and tried to explain his position. He said that he supported hiring Lowry because the start of the school year was near, and that reopening the search would take time and cause chaos.
That doesn’t explain why the board didn’t just extend Lowry’s interim status, or why it opted for a three-year contract instead of a one-year deal.
We forgot to remind readers that Lowry never applied for the job.
As for the remaining board members, those we spoke with just ducked the question. Dwayne Smith, Randy Lawson, Peggy Wilkins-Chavis and Steve Martin voted to re-open the search, so they don’t really have any explaining to do.
The newspaper couldn’t reach Bosco Locklear, Wilkin-Chavis or the normally loquacious John Campbell, and we didn’t try to call Jo Ann Lowery, because she has repeatedly told us not to bother.
But the most interesting response was from Loistine Defreece, who hung up when asked the question about ignoring the survey’s results. Defreece thinks she hung up on a reporter, but she actually hung up on you — and her actions are indicative of this school board.
By not speaking and doing so rudely, Defreece speaks clearly and loudly for the board. These school board members can’t defend the indefensible, just as our county commissioners in three years have never been able to explain why it’s OK that they are the best paid and benefited commissioners in North Carolina, despite Robeson’s status as perhaps the poorest county in the state.
So add pompous to the lengthening list of pejoratives that can be used to describe our school board.
Since school board members won’t speak for themselves, we will do so joyfully. The school board acted as it did because they worry that hiring from out of county could crumble the good-old-boy foundation of our local school system that gives them access at the expense of the children, and members are also convinced there will be no backlash on Election Day.
They are certainly correct on the first point; we will have to wait on No. 2.