Race card again puts Robeson schools on the defense

There was nothing unprecedented on Tuesday night when the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County grabbed the race card from the bottom of the deck as the trump in hiring a temporary principal.

Looking at skin color when making hiring decisions is standard for this school board, and boards that have preceded it for decades now that mistakenly believed that is the only way to keep everyone satisfied in a tri-racial county.

What was different on Tuesday night was when a member of the board, John Campbell, emerged from closed session and let his mouth outrun his brain by announcing what had just happened, and accusing one school member of saying behind closed doors that he would support no one for the principalship who was not white.

Talking about the black calling the kettle: Campbell, who is black, has followed the exact same template on hiring decisions, so he is being hypocritical not heroic. He was also reckless, suggesting that the denied applicant sue the school board, which would put the system in an awkward position given Campbell’s public comments.

And those of other school board members in a page 1A story in today’s The Robesonian who didn’t try to hide the fact that race has been used in hiring decisions, although they insisted that race most often is a tie-breaker when qualifications didn’t separate applicants.

We won’t get too bogged down on our somewhat Pollyannish position that in a county as diverse as is Robeson, that there are sufficient numbers of qualified people of all colors that if resumes were looked at with a colorblind eye, the diversity threshold would be achieved.

We will add this: What do our school board members believe the public is interested in mostly, a red, white and black collage or a school system that does a better job of educating our young people?

Lost in all the noise on Tuesday was a too-brief conversation about recent test scores from the local system, which once again show our students are hopelessly behind their peers across the state in almost every metric that matters.

The problem with our school board is that its members don’t understand that their job is to make policy and that it is up to the administration, which is led by Superintendent Tommy Lowry, to make hiring decisions that will put the best people in place to lift our students.

This isn’t the first time that the school board has rejected Lowry’s No. 1 choice for a key position, and it won’t be the last. The irony here is that Lowry himself was selected superintendent when race polluted the hiring process for his position in the summer of 2015.

The way it’s supposed to happen is for the superintendent to bring qualified candidates to the school board, which should — with rare exceptions — apply no more than a rubber stamp. We have full faith that Lowry, if allowed to do so, would surround himself with key administrators who are competent and of all colors.

Absent that, Lowry really can’t be given a grade on his superintendency, because the board will not have given him the ample autonomy to lead it.

Should a lawsuit be filed against the school board alleging federal laws have been violated with this hire, we doubt our school board is capable of learning its lesson. Expect nothing to change from a board that is not only obsessed by race, is public and unapologetic about that failing.

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