Must-miss TV

by Sam Hieb

Despite radical changes in viewing habits, people still like to talk about what they saw on TV.

How about that Heat-Pacers game?

How about “Mad Men” last night?

See “Hell’s Kitchen”?

Man, did you catch that schoolboard meeting last night?

Odds are you’ll get a blank stare on that last one. But what can I say — it’s weird I know — I tune into the Guilford County Board of Education meetings.

Look, if you don’t want to go to a meeting, that’s fine — I try to avoid them myself. But if you want to know what’s going on in the schools, it’s piped right into your living room. And if you’ve got DVR, you can pause it while you go to the kitchen or the bathroom.

Now if you’re about to tell me schoolboard meetings are too boring, I’ll say you’re right. Hence the problem — the board at its last meeting tackled a difficult issue: the gutting of Allen Middle School due to poor performance. In turn some other important issues were raised, and I was finally able to grasp upon the second — maybe third — viewing.

Problem is our school board is not made up of the most dynamic personalities here in Guilford County. Everyone talks in a slow monotone; some are almost whispering, which when combined with edu-crat jargon serves as the ultimate snoozefest.

A cynic might say both the board and GCS staff project in such a manner in order to lull everyone to sleep so then they go and do whatever they want without anyone noticing.

But I’m not a cynic. Before the board dealt with the Allen Middle School issue, it tackled a proposal to name the Northern Guilford High School football stadium after former coach Johnny Roscoe, who led the Nighthawks to three consecutive state championships.

The board debated the issue at length until it was time for board chairman Alan Duncan to speak.

I’ve watched Duncan for many years and have a great amount of respect for him. He’s a successful, hardworking man, and I trust John Edwards compensated him very well for keeping him out of jail. Duncan — himself a former college athlete — stated that he had a great amount of respect for Roscoe, but did not support naming the stadium for him due to established board policy. That’s good, but he lost me about halfway through and honestly I wasn’t absolutely sure whether he was for or against the issue until I saw his “no” vote. (The vote was 7-2 in favor, with Jeff Belton also voting no.)

And that was only the beginning. Much later into the evening the board would address the Allen Middle School transition plan. A few weeks ago Superintendent Mo Green and his staff moved forward with a “transformation plan” at Allen due to “decreases in achievement, parental concerns and results of a teacher survey.” It’s not a total housecleaning — only the principal is definitely being replaced — but every other staff member, teachers included, must reapply for her job.

It’s not a total housecleaning — only the principal is definitely being replaced — but every other staff member, teachers included, must reapply for her job.’

The board, which incredibly was just now addressing the issue, discussed Allen at length, and some important side issues arose.

Board member Darlene Garrett raised the possibility that Allen was somehow being singled out because other schools had not performed well either, only according to other benchmarks.

Board member Linda Wellborn raised the issue about teacher who would not be returning to Allen would transition to other schools. A good question, although remember that the teacher’s survey revealed poor working conditions at Allen, so it seems to me any good teacher would thrive under better working conditions.

Wellborn also addressed the issue of staff moving ahead with the transition plan without the full board being informed.

Green replied that at first he believed it was within staff’s power to move ahead with a transition plan unilaterally. Second, he expressed concern that employees would find out about the transition plan secondhand if too many people knew about it, although Vice Chairman Amos Quick — Allen’s representative — spoke up and said he was involved in discussions for about a year.

These are important issues. Is Allen an exception, or just the tip of the iceberg? Should the full board be informed of drastic plans for underperforming schools?

Problem is listening to the board discuss these important issues was like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher — whaa-whaa, whaa-whaa, whaa-whaa. But hey, this is democracy in action. Whether or not a little passion on the Guilford County Board of Education needs be legislated by the brains in Raleigh is the question. Board members would say their job is to lead, not entertain. They’re right. But if nobody’s following along — on TV or not — then whom are they leading?