By Kevin Shannahan/Opinion
Natchitoches Parish School District superintendent Dale Skinner was joined by school board members Eugene Garner, Steven Harris, Ralph Wilson, Rhonda Guidroz, Katrina Willis, Thomas Melder and board president Mike Hilton at a presentation at Abundant Life Church concerning the upcoming bond issue for the city’s schools. The superintendent and board members were joined by Natchitoches Mayor Lee Posey and about 40 community members and school employees. Board members Metoyer, Danzy, Daniels & Graham did not attend.
Rev. Aill Harris, pastor of Abundant Life Church, began the meeting with a prayer. Several board members spoke in favor of the bond issue. Superintendent Skinner laid out a detailed and impassioned case in favor of the proposed issue. He pointed to the deplorable conditions in the city’s schools. He went through the positive milestones the school system has achieved. “It’s all about the students, their education and safety. If anyone thinks it will not affect them, I don’t understand that.”
Mayor Lee Posey also spoke in support of the bond issue. He pointed out that the quality of the schools in a community is an economic development issue, that the quality of the schools is one of the first things a business looking to move into an area considers. He also directly addressed those opposing the bond issue “ …for two people in education their whole lives who won’t support education for the youth in the community is bad. It’s embarrassing.”
Ms. Lorie Speer made the most compelling case for the bond issue. She is not a board member. Nor is she an administrator. She is a teacher at Natchitoches Junior High, one of the quiet, competent professionals that make our institutions run day in and day out. Her simple question cut to the core of what this is all about and should make it difficult indeed for anyone opposing the bond issue to look themselves in the mirror. “What message is sent to the children when people vote against it?”
In past articles in the Natchitoches Parish Journal, I have been hard on the Natchitoches School system. That has not, and will not, change. A piece I wrote on the long term substitute teacher problem garnered me an annoyed rant from the superintendent at a board meeting. I, and the NPJ, will continue to advocate, sometimes forcibly, for a better school system for our children. We do not engage in petty vendettas. We do not let our egos get in the way of fighting for what we believe to be the common good. I did not support renewing Superintendent Skinner’s contract. I thought the board should have gone to a month by month arrangement while looking for a replacement. That decision did not go my way. Am I to somehow extract revenge by voting down a bond issue? Just how am I to look my fellow citizens in the eye? Sorry, your kids will have to keep going to crappy schools. I had to show that so and so who’s boss! That is no kind of victory, not even a pyrrhic one not worth the cost. It is a tantrum and beneath an adult’s dignity. I have no children in the system. Neither my wife nor I work in the schools. I am far from wealthy, considerably less so than some of the bond issue’s main opponents. The measure, should it pass, will raise my taxes. I will vote for it. Natchitoches has enough problems. It does not need another self-inflicted one.
When you step into the voting booth ask yourself-what kind of message am I sending the children of the city?