My Turn: Schools' performance is the real issue here

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 15, 2012

By Ken E. Austin
Having never written to the Salisbury Post for any reason whatsoever, I now feel compelled to weigh in on the issue of a new central office for the Rowan-Salisbury School System. Is there anyone out there who actually believes that a new central office, wherever it may go, is going to have an impact on a school system that is consistently ranked near the bottom (112 out of 115 as recently stated in the Post) of all school systems within the state?
I ask, when are the residents of Rowan County and the parents of our School children going to stand up and recognize the 500-pound gorilla in the room? The problem is not whether we do or do not have a new central office and where it will be located, but the low performance of our schools. I also challenge the School Board to address this issue, and recognize that the problem is not at the bottom where our teachers work long hours for low pay, but at the top where our superintendent and her staff of 160 (as stated in the Post) who will occupy the new building, work fewer hours for higher pay. Every time there is a budget crunch, it is almost always said, from the governor’s office all the way to the superintendent level, that they are trying to preserve the teaching positions without ever doing a job analysis or evaluation study of the administration level positions. There are too many department divisions with too much overlapping responsibility with the department heads losing sight of the real issue of student performance.
The School Board has completely dropped the ball on this one and consumed their entire time pursuing a central office and arguing where it might go, and acting like spoiled rotten brats when they don’t get their way as opposed to dealing with the most important issue at hand. I dare say there are a lot of us out there who don’t get everything we want, but yet we continue to work for the common good of the people, or children in this case. We elected you folks to make our schools better, not put us in debt to the tune of $9 million. Do your job and hold our school leaders in the central office accountable, as we are going to do you at election time, no matter what building they are located in.
If the school system were a business, the CEO would have been let go a long time ago without compensation, or if this were a professional sports team, the coach would have been fired many seasons ago. The key here, folks, is results warrant compensation, which is not the case here. OK, School Board, the ball is in your court. Stand up and make the tough decisions about leadership and the cronyism within the administration. To want a new $9 million building may be your desire, but in reality, the decision of how it will be financed was up to the commissioners we elected to determine where and how our money is best spent. After all, you voted for these commissioners, just as we did, and now you want to ridicule them for doing their elected job, regardless as to what you perceive your job to be.
This school system needs young blood and new ideas, not old antiquated ideas that haven’t worked, and the people with these ideas need to be gone. If the status quo was working, there would not be so many parents sending their kids to private schools or charter schools or home schooled for that matter, to obtain results. If your heads continue to remain where I think they are, in the sand, the next thing I expect to hear from you is that the name of the new central office will be the Grissom Education Center. In essence, “All I ask you to do is think.”
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Ken E. Austin lives in Salisbury.
“My Turn” columns should be between 500 and 700 words. E-mail submissions are preferred. Send to with “My Turn” in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.