Thumbs up, thumbs down: Breen exposes flawed fundraiser; Boyette takes leadership role

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


THUMBS UP to Wilson County District 7 school board candidate Rhyan Breen, who followed in the footsteps of Martin Luther by raising concerns about a misguided Fike High School fundraiser.

On his campaign Facebook page, Breen shared a snapshot of a Friends of Fike pass that states it allows the bearer to drop his or her lowest test grade. The blue cards are distributed to students who meet fundraising goals. We’d say that sounds like buying your way to a better grade, but Breen phrased it more eloquently in a Monday letter to the editor.

“...(T)he selling of academic indulgences undermines the basic tenet of public education that academic success should not be predicated on the socioeconomic status of a family,” he wrote.

Like the medieval Catholic Church’s indulgences that offered forgiveness of sins for a price, the Friends of Fike cards send a disheartening message. And while we’ve yet to hear feedback from Wilson County Schools leadership, we’re confident this questionable practice will be phased out.

Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg. Breen used social media and the local newspaper. When a critique is sound, a would-be reformer need only disseminate it to the public to effect meaningful change.

We know our public schools can use all the help they can get, and we’d never discourage boosters from thinking outside the box to raise money. But even if dropping the lowest test score is a customary classroom courtesy that has a negligible effect on final grades, the perception of schools selling “academic indulgences” undermines our teachers’ and administrators’ integrity.

THUMBS UP to District 5 school board member Beverly Boyette, who prompted a review of the board’s unpopular public comment rule that will hopefully restore full access to the people’s podium.

A policy passed in May requires people to sign up by noon on the Friday before each Monday monthly meeting in order to address the school board. Here’s a prime example of why that’s wrong: Parents who learned about the test score-dropping fundraiser incentive while reading Breen’s letter on Monday were deprived of the chance to raise the issue with their elected representatives that evening.

Wilson County residents, Breen and fellow District 7 candidates Stephanie Cyrus and Wayne Willingham and the Times editorial page have spoken out against the policy for more than four months. Boyette, who is unopposed in her re-election bid, said in her Oct. 2 response to a school board candidate survey that the registration rule should be reconsidered.

During Monday’s school board meeting, Boyette made a formal request to place the public comment policy on the Nov. 19 meeting agenda. We applaud her for taking the initiative and heeding the will of her constituents. On a board that often votes in a unanimous bloc and has seemed unresponsive to the public at times, Boyette is stepping forward as a leader.

A comment policy that allows people to address their public servants without jumping through unnecessary hoops will be a victory for the Board of Education and for open government in Wilson County.

THUMBS DOWN to Harnett County school officials for playing hide and seek with public records after removing and presumably reassigning the Harnett Central High School principal who disciplined a student for wearing a Donald Trump shirt to an Oct. 5 football game.

In the unfortunate censorship case’s aftermath, Harnett County Schools announced that Cindy Gordon was no longer the principal at Harnett Central. School officials refused to answer questions about her employment status after The Daily Record of Dunn reported that she’d likely been transferred to an administrative post in the school system’s central office.

North Carolina law requires government agencies to disclose personnel information including public employees’ current position, title, salary and the date and type of each dismissal, suspension or demotion for disciplinary reasons. Harnett County Schools owed the public an explanation, but the headline in today’s Daily Record — “Where is the principal?” — shows officials still aren’t shooting straight.

Sending a student home for constitutionally protected political speech violates the First Amendment. Harnett County Schools tried to make a quick correction but compounded its mistake by stonewalling when parents and reporters asked about Gordon’s employment.

As it works to extricate itself from a mess of its own making, the school system in Harnett County is providing its peers throughout the state with useful lessons in what not to do.