Schools boardneeds a dose ofJudge Manning

There is an online petition that has now garnered almost 600 signatures that basically asks the North Carolina School Boards Association to put on its Superman’s cape and swoop in and save our children from the dysfunctional Board of Education that directs traffic for the Public Schools of Robeson County.

Here is the bad news that we will phrase in the language that even our school board members understand: It ain’t gonna happen. We have been told by the state association that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to come in and essentially take over the system. Nor does the state Department of Public Instruction.

That doesn’t make the petition a waste of calories. We are glad to see people concerned enough over our school board’s recent hubris during the superintendent’s search to mobilize. Apathy emboldens our school board and explains why it is willing to ignore the will of the people and do as it pleases. Members believe they can haul enough no-information voters on Election Day to get re-elected while those who are complaining now don’t turn out in sufficient numbers to get change then.

But the petition might also start a conversation on the state level.

If hope is what you are longing for, look northward, to Halifax County, which since Aug. 11 has had to have all budget decisions approved by the state Board of Education. That is a result of a 2009 court order in which Superior Court Judge Howard Manning called poor end-of-grade reading-test scores in Halifax schools “academic genocide” and demanded efforts to improve student performance.

Manning recently retired by still holds the gavel in the Leandro case, a lawsuit brought by several counties, including Robeson, that challenged the way that local systems are funded. The argument was that equal educations weren’t being provided because of the disparity in resources that could be provided by rich counties when compared with poor counties.

Manning is a straight-shooter, and he doesn’t hide his contempt for local school boards. We will publish in this space for a second time what he had to say about local schools 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.”

Because Manning still oversees the Leandro case, we believe it’s safe to assume he is aware of this school board’s recent misdeeds, its ongoing fascination with race,and its disdain for process. If anyone is capable of donning that Superman’s cape, it is Manning.

We hope he is listening.

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