Monday, December 11, 2006

AFTER-ACTION REPORT: School board members sworn in, new chair elected... and Chris makes a lil' speech

Even though I didn't win a seat, I'm still going to the school board meetings. As I told someone tonight who asked about it, "I'm already in deep". Besides, I believe that the people who got elected... well, four of them anyway... deserve my full support, and I wanted to be there for them. But I also had something else in mind, even though I indicated otherwise a few days ago. But the idea to do this hit last night and it seemed like too good a thing not to do.

So I got to the Rockingham County Schools office about 5:30 this evening. Here's what the school board meeting room looks like after three weeks of renovation to accommodate five additional members:

About 6 o'clock a lot more people started showing up. Here's incoming school board member Reida Drum, looking resplendent in high attire as usual:

And here is Steve Smith, another new school board member, with his daughter:

After a brief reception, 7 o'clock hit and the meeting convened. One of the first items on the agenda was swearing in the new members. Here are Reida Drum, Lori McKinney and Dr. James Austin taking the oath:

Another shot of Dr. Austin and here's Steve Smith getting sworn in:

Ahhh yes, there he is: Ron Price. The man who broke the law by stealing campaign signs then said everything was cool because "I was elected". Here he is, swearing an oath to uphold the policies of the Rockingham County School System, the laws of the state of North Carolina and the Constitution of the United States of America:

Quite a few people noted that of all the candidates, Price is the only one who did not have a family member holding the Bible as he was sworn in. At least one person commented that his wife is perhaps too ashamed of Price for what he's done to show up in public alongside him. Who knows what the deal was - that's school board attorney Jill Wilson holding the Bible that Price is using - but it was certainly a conspicuous absence of support for Ron Price.

I think one of three things is going to happen to Price: he's going to be forced out at some point because of the board being legally obligated to vacate his seat (provided he is found guilty and state law is adhered to). Or this whole mess has emasculated him from being anywhere near an effective school board member, if he winds up staying. Or... nah, I'm not going to say aloud what the third one is. Possibility #3 would be the fun one to watch happen. I don't want to stifle that from probably occurring.

The meeting continued. This was the end of Wayne Kirkman's and Tim Scales' terms as board chair and vice-chair, respectively. Nominations were taken for those two positions and when all was said and done, Elaine McCollum was elected new board chair and Amanda Bell as vice-chair:There were no new reports to hear from, so the meeting then went into public comments. And here is where Yours Truly took part in tonight's drama, ladies and gentlemen. I was the first one to sign up to speak during this portion of the meeting. So I went to the podium and read aloud the following:

One day in Germany, Martin Luther came across a group of villagers who were raiding the town's storehouse. Luther asked them what they were doing.

"We're taking food!" they said to him.

Luther told them that they should stop.

"Why should we?" said one of the villagers, "God wants us to eat!"

"No," Martin Luther replied. "I don't know that God wants you to eat. But I do know that God wants you to be honest."

Chris gives it short and sweet

And that's everything that I said. I made sure to wink at Ron Price after I delivered this lil' history lesson. Did he "get" it? Probably not. But that wasn't going to stop me from driving home the point - in my own way - that there are more important things in this world than winning elections... like the simple matter of doing what is right.

Following my speech, Richard Moore got to the podium and essentially read out the police report from the night Price was found with the stolen signs. Board member Celeste DePriest attempted to stop him, citing that it was a "personnel matter". Moore deferred the matter to the school board attorney and Jill Wilson said that legally school board members are not school system personnel. Moore continued with his remarks.

One way or another, I don't believe Ron Price's term is going to be anywhere near smooth sailing.

The meeting continued with a few other agenda items, reports from the superintendent, etc. Then the public portion of the meeting ended and the board went into closed session. While we were leaving quite a few people told me that they "understood" the point I was making with my brief remarks. One person told me it was one of the more powerful speeches they'd heard in one of these board meetings.

And that was it. And who knows: maybe in two years that'll be me getting sworn in as a member of the school board. I'm definitely considering another run, in light of how good I did and how many people have told me in the past month that I need to run again. But that's still a ways off: Lord only knows what's going to happen between now and then.

In the meantime, the long twilight struggle goes on...