Grade school is an important aspect of young peoples’ lives, so the board of education must take its job seriously. But, these days, it seems like there’s more drama in the Clarke County School District Board of Education than there is in any high school lunchroom. This point was dramatically illustrated by the revelation that newly-appointed board member Antwon Stephens misled the BOE about his education.
The constant infighting and drama in the Clarke County BOE are downright embarrassing. The members of the Board of Education need to stop getting involved in scandals and infighting and instead focus on their responsibilities to students.
Public schooling may be among the biggest influences on the development of young people because of how much time is spent at school. In addition to being a place to learn, schools offer a place to make friends and stay after school for students who may not be able to go home.
Stephens claimed that he had graduated from Cedar Shoals High School in 2014. However, as reported by the Cedar Blueprints, a Cedar Shoals student publication, Stephens only attended the school for two years. And, as The Red & Black found, Stephens was not on the Cedar Shoals High School 2014 graduation list. Stephens has now admitted that he misled the Board about his educational background.
Stephens’ case might be extreme, but it’s far from the only example of problems with the school board. Another notable example is the constant fighting between the BOE and former CCSD superintendent Demond Means during his time as superintendent. Means and his supporters often got into arguments with elected and school officials.
I won’t take either side in the debate over Means, but I will say that there should be more trust and cooperation between the people involved in schools. The lack of trust and turnover could cause Athens’ residents to lose confidence in the CCSD BOE.
Poor leadership could cause the CCSD to regress. There’s been real progress in the school district. For example, there was a large increase in graduation rates in CCSD from 2014 to 2015 although more recent changes have not been nearly as large. The fighting among school board members distracts them from doing their jobs effectively. This could put the progress made in jeopardy, hurting high schoolers.
Worse yet, the problems with the BOE have gotten so bad that the accreditation agency Cognia has decided to investigate the CCSD. Cognia listed five standards that CCSD may be violating, including three directly related to fighting between leaders. CCSD losing its accreditation would be a stain on its reputation and could compel wealthier families to move away to find a better school district, hurting the community’s tax base.
It’s important that students can receive a quality education no matter where they live. The Clarke County BOE is limiting its ability to create a good environment for students through its constant bickering and scandals. The members must put aside their differences and find ways to work together effectively.