School board shirks duty

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

During the Isle of Wight school board meeting on Sept. 30, the school board voted to give complete control to Dr. James Thornton on whether my child or any other student in the county can attend in-person instruction for the remainder of the year.

I believe that the school board has illegally turned over its responsibility to the superintendent, who we all know has been telling the board what to do since July 2015, but now he’s actually in charge by board vote. I do not agree with that decision because board members should be contacting health officials on current COVID-19 data for themselves to make the tough decisions, which they were elected to do. They are supposed to work for the citizens and not work for Dr. Thornton.

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I believe Mrs. Carr, the chair, and other members do not want to hear from parents anymore about what is best for their children because they received criticism. Mrs. Carr said Dr. Thornton will be making the decisions as she told him “that is why you make the big bucks.“

Why else would Mrs. Carr schedule a meeting at 10 a.m. to discuss the in-person continuum instead of the regular posted time of 6 p.m., when parents can attend and voice their concerns? At the Sept. 10 meeting, Dr. Thornton said if he does not receive $1.3 million from the state, “employees from administrators down are going to be furloughed,” and now I see a furlough policy for the first read on the Oct. 8 agenda.

How many teachers does he plan to furlough? Why is Dr. Thornton also hiring another coordinator to be in charge of virtual learning if we do not have the budget? How in the world can we be hiring another administrator while at the same time furloughing teachers and staff?

Why do we have board members who do not represent their citizens and are still in their seat when they choose not to attend meetings because of an agenda? Mr. Wilson missed the Sept. 30 meeting and other board members have missed various meetings with no explanation.

It is time for total transparency with decisions regarding our children, and we need a school board who makes the judgment calls they were elected to make. Dr. Thornton should not be given free rein without check or responsibility to the citizens. Although I agree we need to start in-person schooling, I disagree with the weakness and lack of accountability by this school board.

Jennifer Molesworth