We were surprised by the reaction of many of our readers to our March 9 editorial - "Our View: Half-truths and denials only breed mistrust" regarding the Sumner County Board of Education's handling of recent high profile incidents at Gallatin and Station Camp High schools.
Many of you agreed the school system has a problem when it comes to transparency and that dissenting opinions are not always heard. You told us there are problems within our schools (like gang-related and hazing-like activity) that are not acknowledged publicly and are often minimized by the school system.
In an effort to further explore the issues, we reached out to all 11 elected school board members for their input and insight.
We were surprised to only hear back from the board's Chairman, Andy Daniels. Typically the chairman is designated to speak for the board, but we thought the issues were important enough to try to hear from each member individually. When we asked again for a response to our questions, three board members deferred to Daniels and the others didn't respond at all. Majority of board remains silent about gangs, hazing in schools
Quite frankly, we are appalled that elected officials would defer to a chairman on such important issues.
It is, however, par for the course with this school board.
Many times we have called school board members to comment on an issue only to either not receive a call back or be told that the board member fully supports whatever Director of Schools Del Phillips is proposing.
This wouldn't bother us so much if we didn't have students, parents and teachers complaining to us "off the record" that any dissension or questioning within the school system is immediately and swiftly quashed from within. We wouldn't be writing so many editorials if people afraid to speak up themselves weren't encouraging us to do so.
It leads us to ask this: If the chairman is going to answer for everyone, why even have a board? Why not save tax payers the cost of 10 other salaries?
As diverse as our county school system is, we expected a wide range of responses to our questions. Your questions.
We agree the board has come a long way since the days of marathon school board meetings where members would argue for hours about the most basic issues. But we believe going in a totally opposite direction of having little open dialogue about issues critical to the safety and well-being of our students does little good either.
We're not asking for a knock-down-drag-out-fight at every school board meeting, we just want someone to have an opinion other than that of the director of schools or the school board chairman.
To think that every school board member either fully agrees with Daniels or doesn't care enough to respond to valid questions impacting all school system stake holders is a slap in the face to every single voter in Sumner County.
The Main Street Media of Tennessee editorial board is comprised of Publisher Dave Gould, Editor Sherry Mitchell and reporters Tena Lee and Josh Cross.