Be careful what you say

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By Beth Braden

 You see coverage of elected and appointed officials speaking disrespectfully to one another every week. Now, there’s finally been an instance of disrespect that needs more attention because Campbell County’s residents need to know how one school board member chose to insult a principal.

At last Tuesday’s board of education workshop, principals presented findings and plans regarding the state education report card. While the report card didn’t always have the best news for Campbell County, most of the schools have made at least a marginal level of improvement.

Campbell County High School Principal Jamie Wheeler shared some of the school’s plans to improve Algebra I and Algebra II scores by offering an A/B math, allowing the course to stretch two semesters instead of one.

Board of education member Eugene Lawson seemed skeptical.

“I’ll guarantee 200 of them [teachers] can’t pass an Algebra II test, but you’re telling me you’re teaching everybody in school to do Algebra I, Algebra II and even beyond. Now I want you to tell me how you’re doing it,” he said at the meeting.

“I’ve got teachers working bell to bell, 90 minute classes,” Wheeler answered.

“They cannot master Algebra II as it was taught to me. If I come up there and ask them to handle the quadratic equation and process it all through, I’ll guarantee half your teachers can’t and I doubt if you can,” he shot back.

This exchange was appalling. It was disrespectful, condescending, unprofessional and degrading to Wheeler and other educators in the community.

Lawson insulted half of the district’s educators and the principal of the county’s largest high school.

That’s odd, considering we elect the board of education to advocate for our students and teachers. Lawson apparently doesn’t believe the educators are fit for duty, but what I saw were principals who had worked all day and then attended a long, late night meeting to share their plans with the board of education. That’s above and beyond the call of duty in my book.

The old adage says it takes a village to raise a child, and the board of education is part of that village. What kind of example does it set for the children when they have to watch the people “raising” them speak disrespectfully to one another?

How can we expect the children to believe in themselves and their teachers if we’re going to elect board members who believe it’s okay to verbally abuse school staff?

We already live in a society where the teaching profession doesn’t garner the respect it once did. Teaching has been nearly relegated to being a service.

Exchanges like this only serve to enforce that false belief.