School Board is on a roll

Published 5:26 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

During the Nov. 8 school board meeting, board member Renee Dial stressed the importance of student mental health and putting the school system back on a path of normalcy. In response, board member Denis Tynes stated the board members would be attending the state school board conference and coming back with a plan.

Based on the board’s actions since the three-day state conference boondoggle, the plan seems to be 1) finding ways around the Freedom of Information Act by establishing telephones as the primary means of communication, 2) 140% raise for board members, 3) throwing “buckets of money” at salaries, 4) changing the titles of senior central office staff, and 5) keeping children and staff in masks indefinitely as long as it provides 0.1% more protection than no masks.

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No. 1 is unethical at best, illegal at worst, and deserves further exploration in a future letter. No. 2 is embarrassing and fortunately tabled for now. No. 3 is the best of the bunch, notwithstanding a troubling view of tax revenue. No. 4 is shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

However, No. 5 is the most insidious and concerning. Most of the arguments supporting masking were pure emotional fear-mongering by people who should know better.  Board member Michael Vines comparing the possibility of one child dying to a “squeaky wheel” is as stupefying as it is condescending.  Ms. Dial saying “books don’t trump my experience” is troubling on many levels. Ms. Tynes flatly admitted her decision was emotionally based. Mr. Cunningham at least acknowledged current case rates as part of the reason for his decision.

Thirty-four states do not have school mask mandates, yet no one bothered to point out anything fact-based regarding the negative consequences from those states. Parent choice on masks is not a radical, dangerous decision as portrayed by these four board members.

This board owes the children, school staff and citizens a sustainable, nonpartisan, competent plan to return to normal.


Lewis Edmonds