School’s open for the Board

For the past weeks we’ve talked about elections in our neck o’ the woods, but most of our attention has been on those in the city limits. Now, we’d like to give a little attention to one of the parish-widers that could make a mark on each of us, from kindergartener to vegetable gardener. 

Looking at the parish school board races, seven incumbents will save a bushel on campaign signs (they’re unopposed). We don’t know exactly how that translates in political language, but it means either someone’s doing a whale of a job or folks simply don’t care enough to pay attention. 

Our mentor, a former 30-plus year Congressional chief of staff up in D.C., always said he’d bet on the latter. In his words, half the people don’t know what’s going on, half don’t care what’s going on and the last half thinks there’s nothing they can do about anything anyway. It’s a Yogi-ism that makes sense.

It’s a sorta typical school board election, with seven unopposed. In Webster Parish School Board election parlance, “unopposed” is a most frequent challenger. Check history.

Not quite so typical is District 9’s seat, where no one seemed to be interested enough to file for the seat from which Frankie Mitchell is voluntarily stepping aside. That little candidational faux pas will wind up costing the school board the price of a special election. While the tab’s not quite that of an artificial turf field, it’s still a significant piece of change. We’re told figuring the cost would be time consuming, complicated and mind numbing. What the heck. Up here, we’re accustomed to dealing with numb minds.

Four incumbents who are asking for a repeat performance are facing challengers. Terrell Mendenhall wants to unseat Debbie Thomas in District 2; Jonathan Guthrie is asking for the District 4 seat held by JJ O’Neal; Phillip Smart is seeking Glenda Broughton’s District 8 slot; and, (surprise) School Board President Fred Evans will defend his District 6 position against Jana Watson.

It’s an experience that few relish, this thing called campaigning. Especially when it’s for something like school board in Webster Parish where few controversies arise and performance is often judged by attendance and attention. But, when one considers what boards in other parts of the country are experiencing, controversy is often just around the corner. 

We’re particularly fascinated by curricula that have been drawing national attention, and by selected reading materials that go largely unnoticed by the great percentage of the great unwashed. Our school board is responsible for legislating, not administrating. That, we trust, is in the hands of professionals who know and do their jobs. Still, it is our board, empowered by our votes, that has oversight. It’s time to see and oversee.

And, there’s the question of discipline and school safety. We understand the safety issue will be addressed at a special meeting where Sheriff  Jason Parker will present proposals for consideration by board members. One thing that’s certain. Our Sheriff will make serious recommendations. Hopefully, ears will hear and comprehension will spread.

A thought for those who want to serve Webster Parish schools. There are about 6,000 students, more or less, in about 15 schools in the system. Right now, we average somewhere in the top 50 percent of public schools in the state. But, friends and neighbors, that’s top 50 in the 48th ranked state for public school performance in the U.S. Despite reported smiling reports on our school system’s performance, it ain’t good. 

School board members be aware. There are issues (including violence among students) that need to be addressed and questions that need to be asked. There are curious eyes and ears everywhere, waiting to see and hear what you have to say and what you do. If you want to serve the students and staff of this parish, ask questions and be prepared to hold yourself accountable. Like our students, your performance is tested and judged.