BOE stops to listen, look for alternatives

Published 1:25 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2001

By Staff
A 50/50 split.
That's what Americans are facing in the U.S. Senate.
It will be interesting to see if President Bush can break the gridlock and get some things accomplished with this set of circumstances.
Time will tell.
Fortunately, there is one elected official who is already making things happen.
Superintendent Jim Paul of the Escambia County, (Fla.) board of education has set on a course to improve the financial situation of county schools.
Given the need to eliminate $2 million a year from the county's budget, Paul and the other board members have moved swiftly and developed a plan to accomplish the needed cuts.
The proposed cuts are deep.
They strike to the heart of many in our community.
Last Thursday night our community raised its voice and shared with Paul and others on the school board just how deep these cuts go.
The overwhelming sentiment from those in attendance was the board is moving too quickly to close and consolidate some local schools. One person said "Let's trim all the fat we can before we decide to close our schools. We are moving too fast."
Sixty people addressed the board last Thursday at Northview High School. Almost all made a plea, offered another course of action or shared how Bratt Elementary and the other schools proposed for consolidation are a part of the fiber that holds the wholesome community together.
To Paul's credit, he listened.
The voices of those who don't want the schools closed were heard.
In a statement released Monday Paul said, "Public servants are just that n servants of those we represent. We must stop talking long enough to listen, and stop debating among ourselves long enough to hear the voices of those whose lives we affect."
Paul stopped talking Monday.
Today he's listening and looking for alternatives.
Some have said he is buying time to let the controversy die down.
We hope that's not the case. We have no reason not to take Paul at his word.
You hear every day what is wrong with our public education system.
Over crowded classrooms, under paid teachers, parent apathy, low test scores…
The schools located in the north end of Escambia County seem to be an exception to this rule. Students are challenged to learn in an environment where they feel safe. Parents are not only involved but play an integral part in the learning process. They make these schools better and stronger.
Schools seem to be doing something right in the "north end."
Our dilemma now is to find a way to save what these schools have accomplished.
When we find we're doing something right, we should protect it, fight for it and preserve it. Our priority should be to hang on to what is right and good at all costs.
We applaud Paul's efforts to seek other answers.
Although we understand there are fiscal realities that must be addressed, our prayer is that he and the board will leave no stone unturned until they find what we need to fix the current situation.
We salute the north end community for standing up for what they believe in.
For not being afraid to take a stand and to keep standing against adversity.
We now feel that parents, teachers, students, board members and Superintendent Paul are all standing together with one common goal.
That is to take the time to listen and to look for alternatives.
We hope you find them.

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