Dean Hunter: We have to work together on schools

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, May 7, 2016

By Dean Hunter

Special to the Salisbury Post

Since being elected to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education in the fall of 2014, I have chosen not to publicly express my opinions outside of board meetings. I would like to first say thank you to the citizens of Rowan County for allowing me the privilege to serve you as a member of the RSS Board of Education! I would be dishonest to say that it was everything I expected it to be.

Like you, I was (and am) a concerned parent and taxpayer who felt like I had an obligation to get involved and make a difference for the sake of our children and for the betterment of our county. I ran my campaign under the banner that I was for a school system where “students are a priority and teachers are valued.”

Sixteen months later, I am still compelled to make decisions that prove to the county that students are our main priority and that our hard working and often undervalued teachers are treasures to our community. Like most who will read this letter, I truly believe that students should be our No. 1 priority and that we should do everything within our God-given ability as a county to ensure that their educational environment is safe and conducive to maximizing their educational potential. As I find myself saying quite often as a pastor; “this is easy preaching and hard living!”

What is needed in our school system today more than ever is a sense of community. By definition, “community” is a unified body of individuals; people with common interests living in a particular area. As a county, as municipalities, as a school system, we have got to realize that we are all on the same team. We will always have differences of opinions and we will never agree on every single issue, but I think we all agree that we want to do what is right for our children. Yes, there are tough decisions that will always have to be made, but tough decisions are made easier when there is community!

Let me conclude my thoughts by addressing some of the most recent topics of discussion within our community. First and foremost, something must be done to address the capital needs of our schools. With a minimum of $20 million (and as much as $100 million) in identified current, existing capital needs and an annual allotment from the county of only $2 million for capital needs — do the math, something has to be done! No matter where you stand on the issue of consolidation, we must acknowledge that we have to do something to address these needs.

Secondly, now that I have mentioned the dreaded C word, the Board of Education has made no decision on consolidation. As a matter of fact, the board itself has made no proposal to consolidate. The reality is that the board, and the public, were simply presented with a proposal for consolidation by ORED.

So, how did this issue get so out of hand and twisted? The truth is that the facts have been sorely misrepresented by mainly two different sources.

One source, which provided front page headlines titled “Shock to the system” and “Weathering the storm,” did the school system and the community no favors by totally misrepresenting what actually took place in the board room — the board room where they have a reporter every single time we have a public meeting.

The second source that has capitalized on misrepresenting the facts has done so purely for political reasons. As some may already know, certain facets within our community seem to only show up during elections. This specific element among us thrives on the misrepresentation of facts and consistently attempts to bully our elected officials, seemingly as a hobby. This dishonest, repugnant behavior is divisive and, in my opinion, a black eye to Rowan County!

If community is the answer, and I believe it is, then we have got to work on these issues together. The good news is that more public dialogue and interest have been generated on this issue than any since I’ve been on the board — and, contrary to popular belief, that is a good thing!

I sincerely believe that our current Board of Education values the opinions of the community. And, believe me, we have heard those opinions often recently! We are experiencing challenges now and there will be many more ahead. Let’s determine to work together to accomplish the one thing everyone in our community can agree    what’s best for our children!

Hunter represents the South district on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.