Taking the high road is the graceful route

Published 9:46 am Thursday, June 17, 2010

There were times during Monday’s Northampton County Board of Education meeting that I felt like I had a front row seat to a one ring circus.

As a reporter, I by no means know exactly what goes on behind closed doors of the public entities I cover; I only know what people allege in public meetings or when they’re on the record during an interview.

Somehow, on Monday night, the Board of Education’s internal problems came home to roost in an open display of sheer chaos during their regular meeting.

Those who have kept up with the story know that in May, Board member Erica Smith-Ingram accused Lafayette Majette and Charles Tyner (whose last meeting was Monday, the result of him not choosing to run for his position again) of unethical conduct, cursing, verbal abuse among other transgressions.

On Monday night, the pinnacle came when Ingram presented an ethics review, suggesting the board approve a resolution that included sanctions against Majette and adopt a civility policy.

Soon after, board members began to discuss the sanctions and policy, seemingly the bottom fell out. There was talking above one another, laughing while another person was speaking and one could barely hear Chairwoman Grace Edward’s gavel knocking for order.

After a few more minutes, Ingram collected her things and “dismissed” herself from the meeting.

Needless to say, the blow up was troubling to witness and I can not imagine what it was like for citizens of the county to sit through it. Embarrassment, worry, disgust are just a few adjectives that probably rolled through their minds.

Board of Education members have a vital, complex and, at times, demanding position. There are a lot of sentiments that go into education issues and for the general populous, public education unites two aspects: children’s futures and public money, both of which are the concern of most citizens.

With that, no one can expect board members to agree on everything. The point of having board members is to hash out issues in order to make the best decision.

However, outward mistreatment of board members, if it has occurred, should not be allowed. No one should have to tell their elected officials that they are adults nor should they have to remind them that decorum can go a long way. Take the high road, it’s a little saying with a huge meaning.

“It’s for the children,” is often a motto thrown around at the Northampton County Board of Education’s meeting and, perhaps, it’s a ball for each member to keep an eye on.

When it comes to politics, discretion and diplomacy should be your best policy.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.