The Newnan Times-Herald

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Coweta school board not immune to nationwide stress

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Sep. 01, 2021 - 2:12 PM

Across the country, school boards are facing immense pressure as they face a seemingly endless supply of no-win situations from angry residents.

Caught directly in the middle of warring factions, the pressure has become too much for some members to bear. Meetings are devolving into screaming matches, and board members are being personally targeted by unhappy parents.

As a result, many school board members are resigning. It’s not worth the effort, they say.

One Arizona school board member recently said she believes an inherent distrust for school boards is building.

“There’s some notion that we are out to indoctrinate children or to undermine parents or things like that, when we are on the same team,” she told The Associated Press.

And while the Coweta County Board of Education usually manages to escape meetings without enduring screaming vitriol, many residents are all too eager to distribute misinformation, ready to pounce on any opportunity to cause disruption and take advantage of the ensuing chaos.

In the past few years, Coweta County Board of Education members have been falsely accused of a number of things, including making Critical Race Theory part of the curriculum, committing crimes under the Georgia RICO Act and being financially irresponsible.

Board members have been called “greedy" and the board “the biggest money laundering operation” by those who don’t agree with ESPLOST, the millage rate or money spent on capital projects.

When it comes to board member Linda Menk, the board is either accused of depriving her freedom of speech or not going far enough to publicly censure her.

Now, the board is being attacked for not mandating masks for the entire system while at the same time being threatened by anti-maskers who say they’ll pull their children from Coweta schools if the board requires masks.

Unfortunately, the good news of our school board doesn’t seem to generate the same levels of hysteria and social media buzz.

For the past several years, the Coweta County Board has been recognized as a Georgia Exemplary School Board by the Georgia School Boards Association.

And despite claims to the contrary, our local board is recognized as a champion of financial management.

Teachers in Coweta indicate they’re happy. Our district touts an overall teacher retention rate of 92.1 percent, compared to the state average of 83.3 percent.

In the wake of a tornado and ongoing pandemic, the local board ensured Newnan High School students were back to in-person learning, fixed Atkinson Elementary up as good as new and still managed to continue with all the other previously scheduled construction projects, including a new middle school and a large addition at Northgate High.

A recent online poll conducted by The Newnan Times-Herald asked readers if school board elections should be partisan or nonpartisan.

An overwhelming majority – 86 percent – declared our school board should remain nonpartisan.

Maybe 86 percent of respondents are smart enough to realize politicizing our school board would be poisonous.

It’s also a lazy way of campaigning – putting a political affiliation next to your name when a demonstrable commitment to the success of Coweta County students should be your primary endorsement.

Unlike political parties and big media, school boards don’t have the luxury of picking one side and discrediting the other. They aim to represent and listen to all viewpoints, which is a seemingly impossible task these days.

Coweta’s BOE is one of the very few in Georgia where members are not financially compensated for their service.

Most of the volunteers who serve on the board have incredible track records, despite facing louder shouting every day – often about nonissues or situations that are neither the business of nor within the control of the board. Most have done an excellent job of focusing on the tasks and duties for which they were elected.

We can only hope that the ongoing, quantifiable progress of Coweta students will help persuade them to keep fighting the good fight – combating misinformation with real-life results and ensuring the health and safety of our children remain their top priority.