Schools owe more info on new post

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

I have generally been impressed with Dr. James Thornton’s tenure as superintendent of Isle of Wight County Schools. Especially with his handling of COVID-19 and efforts to make our schools safe for the eventual return of full-time, in-person learning.

Therefore, I was caught off guard by his dismissive quote in the Jan. 20 paper (“IW schools add equity coordinator”) regarding potential questioning of the new position of equity and inclusion coordinator. I find his preemptive response — “I imagine many of those people who feel that way don’t find themselves identifying with any marginalized groups” — to be at best a lazy dodge of a potentially controversial topic or at worst an assumption that anyone who questions the need for the new role doesn’t really have standing to comment.

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What are the examples of inequity within the county school system that brought to light the need for this position? What was previously tried to resolve these inequities and why did those efforts fail? If we can’t be forthright in calling these issues out, I don’t see how we get to the point of having courageous conversations about solving them.

The information provided so far speaks in broad clichés but is short on providing details regarding the tools at Ms. Jones’ disposal to improve our school system. What role does the equity and inclusion coordinator hold regarding curriculum changes, special education compliance, hiring decisions, budget priorities and grievance resolution against school employees?

Growth in the Central Office ultimately comes at the budgetary expense of educator resources in the classroom, therefore it is incumbent on the school system to explain this and any other new administrative position. I am not saying there isn’t a need for the position; I am only pointing out the superintendent has not provided enough information for anyone to make an objective decision.

I am hopeful the school system will provide more information prior to or as part of the Equity Phase 1 presentation at the Feb. 11 school board meeting.


Lewis Edmonds