Letter – Schools need house cleaning

Published 10:39 am Tuesday, June 15, 2021

To The Editor:

The recent Farmville Herald articles regarding the performance of the Prince Edward County Public Schools and the Prince Edward County School Board was as enlightening as it was alarming.

Both Supervisor Jim Wilck and the Herald editor were on point with their concerns about student academic performance and school accreditation.

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For a number of years, citizens have maintained that the attraction of young professionals and high-tech industry to our region has been stymied because of the lack of excellent Prince Edward County K-12 schools.

As they noted, no one wants to send their child to a high school that ranks in the bottom 4% of the state, well below the state average math scores, reading scores, writing scores, only 11% of students enrolled in an advanced placement course, and a high school that ranks 314th out of 327 high schools in the state.

The Prince Edward County School Board website states that it is united in a mission “In Excellence” and maintains their goal number one is as follows, “The Prince Edward County School Board will strive to create an environment of academic excellence for all students while meeting and exceeding accreditation standards.”

Given the documented poor academic performance scores of the school division, even the casual reader must agree that changes need to be made if the school division is to succeed in accomplishing its primary goal of academic excellence and meeting/exceeding accreditation standards. Also, the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic problem doesn’t justify such a multi-year difference in achievement test scores.

One must remember that a school board governs and the school superintendent administers by providing leadership in the implementation of the advertised education goals and directives of the local school board and the Virginia Department of Education.

Succinctly stated, the superintendent is responsible for the management of the schools, the administration of all school board policies, and is directly accountable to the local school board.

With the movement of electing school boards by the vote of local citizens, the quality of education provided to their children falls on the shoulders of its school board members.

If the public doesn’t approve of the quality of education provided to their children, then they should replace the members of the Prince Edward School Board who, in turn, can replace the local school superintendent. This is essentially what the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors did when they did not approve of the way the county administrator was managing the county. The resulting positive changes are obvious.

Because of the difference in the quality of public education in Prince Edward County when compared to surrounding counties, it could be truthfully said that a, “Separate and Unequal Educational Opportunity” exists for our county’s children when compared to other Southside public school divisions. Parents should consider this intolerable.

To conclude and accentuate the themes of Supervisor Wilck and the Herald editor, there are, at least, $27.5 million reasons for a thorough house cleaning and new start in the administration and governing of the Prince Edward Public School Division.

A bright and successful future of our children depend on it.

Dr. Robert Banton,

Professor Emeritus and Past-President of the Virginia School Boards Association