A fit of pique on the board

May. 23, 2014 @ 03:53 PM

As Durham Public Schools progresses in its search for a new superintendent, the school board is having a difficult time, it seems, preparing for its own transition.
It’s important to note that the superintendent will report to the board. This person, if the board sticks to its timeline for the process, will be hired before three new board members are sworn into office.
In an effort to have the incoming board members have some role in the process, the board voted 4-3 to invite them to participate in non-voting advisory roles.
Board member Frederick Davis, who was one of the dissenting votes and one of the board members who is leaving, responded petulantly to the notion of allowing the newcomers to have any role. Davis said he wouldn’t participate in the search process if the new members were allowed to act in an advisory role. We’re not sure how that serves the voters whom Davis was elected to represent.
Omega Curtis Parker, whose term is up at the end of June, also dissented. While she framed her reasoning more graciously than Davis – she indicated she would step aside if the current board thought it was important for the new members to be a part of the decision – we are again puzzled how this serves the people who elected her to serve through the end of June.
It’s also troubling the message this sends the 33,000-plus students who attend Durham Public Schools: If things don’t go your way, just refuse to participate.
Vice Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown, who also dissented, raised a fair point in asking if the election outcome had been different whether the same welcoming olive branch would have been extended. We can’t answer that question, but believe that, regardless of who was elected, extending it would have been the right thing to do.
It’s important that incoming board members have a role in the process. They will not be voting on whether to hire the person, but will at least have some knowledge of the person who will be filling the position – and that person will have a better sense of the board with which he or she will be working.
The system has struggled for years now, finally moving on from a very contentious board-superintendent relationship under former Superintendent Ann Denlinger, to the short tenure of Superintendent Carl Harris, to the missteps of Superintendent Eric Becoats. This board has done much to mend relationships and create more civil discourse with the community and the school system leaders. But we need this board to look long term at the best way to handle the next superintendent’s hiring and hope as the board prepares for Davis, Parker and Nancy Cox to leave that the time won’t be marred by pettiness and divisiveness.