The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Buckingham County: The Battle of the Boards


In my travels across the Commonwealth to visit friends and family, now and again I find myself crossing the beautiful James River at Scottsville and traveling south through the woods on the Constitution Route (U.S. Route 20) to points beyond.

This is Buckingham County, a very large and sparsely populated rural county that probably looks today a lot like it did 20 years ago, or 50 years ago. The main community within the county is the little railroad Town of Dillwyn. Dillwyn is a quaint little village with little shops and an old train station that looks like a scene from that old favorite TV series “The Walton’s.”

But time has not passed by Buckingham County nor have the problems and challenges that always confront a changing society.

In the recent months, there has been a fair amount printers ink spilt in The Farmville Herald on what appears to be a power struggle between the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors and the Buckingham County School Board over how to spend limited financial resources for public education. Both Boards are comprised of members elected by the same voters.

This is an interesting situation. The Board of Supervisors has control of the county budget and can, within certain state guidelines, control what funds are spent for education. But the School Board was elected to broadly oversee the entire county school division and how it meets the various educational mandates.

So who is in charge of education in Buckingham County? What happens if the Board of Supervisors and the School Board don’t agree on what to do? Answers to these questions are still elusive.

Presently it seems that the control of the purse strings by the Board of Supervisors may be trumping the School Board’s more direct responsibility to guide the county’s public education programs. To borrow the words used by one citizen, critically needed improvements to school facilities are being “held hostage” by the Board of Supervisors.

Apparently, things have gotten so contentious between the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors and the Buckingham County School Board that the School Board recently began exploring the possibility of hiring a professional mediator to help resolve differences between the two Boards. (see linked article above)

However, the idea of bringing in a mediator has been not been enthusiastically embraced by the Board of Supervisors- or at least some members. For example, Supervisor John Kitchen recently made it very clear that he thinks a mediator would be a waste of money and that the School Board needs to just “…do what they have been asked to do…”

Asked? Do they really have a choice?

It is important for all elected officials to remember that when the voters elect them to office, they are elected to do a job, to find answers, to find solutions and to serve the public interests. Normally, those solutions are worked out through discussion, listening to different perspectives and compromise. Mmmm...compromise... Why is this idea so difficult to understand?

While I do not want to take sides on this struggle to find common ground, I do know that public education is just too important to be “held hostage” or worse, to be sacrificed to the egos of a few elected officials who may have forgotten what they were elected to do.

Therefore, I would urge the elected officials of Buckingham County to stop taking unilateral actions. Instead, start talking. Start listening. Find common ground. Get a mediator if you have to. If a few bucks invested in a mediator allows the County to move beyond this current impasse, it will be money well spent.

Both Boards are elected by the same voters and serve the same public interests. Public education is important. So, wouldn’t it be nice if the two Boards could find a way to work together.

Readers from Buckingham County (if indeed there are any), tell me what you think....

22 Comments:

  • At 1/24/2006 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yep, here in Buckingham we have children with "learning disabilities". Unfortunately, some of them somehow got elected to office.

     
  • At 1/24/2006 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I live in Buckingham and I find this whole issue to be pathetic, and you have hit the nail on the head. we have several members of the County Board that are causing all of this trouble. The School Board offers to have a mediator come in an help to solve the problem, and the Board says "hell no". Pathetic, and thanks for bringing this issue up on your blog.

     
  • At 1/24/2006 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Check out the Heralds op/ed piece for Wednesday. Its getting right silly but it aint funny anymore. Big headed political egos! Thats the problem.

     
  • At 1/24/2006 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You are correct in your observation that little has changed in Buckingham county in the last 20 to 50 years, especially in the way the current and former boards of supervisors have treated education. Yes many of the buildings are old, outdated, and falling apart. The School Board had to fight tooth and nail to het a new middle school built that was recomended some 20 years ago. I believe the BOS thinks that if they can keep the quality of education in the county down, that people won't be smart enough to leave or even worse be smart enough to see the many short comings in how the county is governed.

     
  • At 1/24/2006 9:04 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    I pasted the editorial from the Herald in regard to the BOS vs. School Board in Buckingham below. I think the eiditor did a good job of comparing the difucntion in Buckingham to Prince Edward. I guess PE can take comfort that it's apparently not the only incompetent local government in the region! So here is is below:


    And Who Really Wins?

    In September I wrote about a dream in which the Buckingham Board of Supervisors and the School Board settle their relationship issues in a series of tag-team wrestling matches. The first draft of that editorial had directly suggested wrestling matches as the last best alternative. But then I thought, no, let's address this issue in a more serious, rational way, hence the dream reference and then dismissal of such a sad and silly alternative as gathering in opposing corners in different colored trunks and sweatshirts.

    Not to mention that wrestling headgear.

    Now I've changed my mind.
    There are definitely sadder and sillier things than wrestling matches between the Board of Supervisors and School Board.

    Let the games begin—not to settle the Gold Hill School issue. That's been settled. Renovate. Wrestle, if you won't mediate, to establish how all your future decisions will be decided.(Prince Edward County's contentiously divided Board of Supervisors may learn something through this example, as well).

    I've prepared by boning up on some wrestling terms. Buckingham residents may also find these helpful: the tie-up, when wrestlers come to grips; the leg dive, when you get your opponent on the mat by grabbing their leg; the cross-ankle pickup, also designed to land your opposition on the mat; the sit-out, a basic defensive maneuver; and the switch, when arm leverage turns a defensive position into an offensive one.

    I know that many of you are wondering what kind of example this will provide young people, settling differences through physical confrontation. I once shared those same concerns.
    Not any more.

    I thought, incorrectly it seems, that the relationship between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board would sort itself out. Though I continue to believe the Gold Hill renovation plan, favored by Supervisors and the Gold Hill community, makes financial and educational sense, I am careful not to point a finger of blame about the poor overall relationship at any one of those public bodies.

    The Gold Hill renovation plan should be undertaken. Mediation should never decide what kind of school is built; that's no way to run a County. Mediation between the Supervisors and School Board must not be about a specific issue or decision but about producing a better working relationship for future issues, discussions and decisions.

    The Board of Supervisors and the School Board have each contributed to their continued inability to function together as partners with the kind of effectiveness Buckingham County truly needs to build its brightest future.

    If talking doesn't work, wrestling matches now seem absolutely the very best way to settle the future of their relationship.
    The main event.
    Check your mouth pieces.
    Down for the count.
    Winner take all.

    The Buckingham Board of Supervisors and School Board probably won't ever see eye-to-eye unless they're face-to-face because one side is pinning the other to the mat.
    So let's ring that bell.
    Get it over with.
    (There is a subtle psychology involved here, I must admit. Perhaps the Board of Supervisors and School Board will be so angry with me for suggesting wrestling matches that they will unite in that anger toward me and patch up their own differences. Once they agree to be angry at me, they may realize how much more they can agree on. You know, family members rallying around each other when someone else sticks their nose in too close).

    To the young people of Buckingham, I say, view these matches as athletic contests, rather than violent confrontations. These won't be fights. They will be wrestling matches and wrestling is a sanctioned high school as well as intercollegiate sport. Sports, after all, teach valuable life lessons about how to compete fairly, how to win and lose with dignity. Oh, yes, and teamwork, working for the good of each other and a common goal.
    Golly, wrestling is an Olympic sport, too, and wrestling matches between the Buckingham Board of Supervisors and the School Board would surely be of Olympic proportions.
    Some holds would be barred, of course. No low blows, for example. No biting or kicking. No gouging in the eye. Oh, and, uh, no name-calling.
    This would be wrestling, not wrasslin'.
    Recent events demonstrate there apparently won't be any mediation between Buckingham Supervisors and School Board members, but some remediation in wrestling technique may be needed.
    That remedial work will certainly pay off because future decisions about school funding and school construction would be finalized depending on which side won the most wrestling matches.
    But I would further suggest that admission be charged for the wrestling matches. Gosh, what a fundraising opportunity. Hold enough fundraising wrestling matches between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board and there would be no debate about what to build and how much to spend. The wrestling matches would raise enough money for Buckingham to build anything it wants.
    Except a bridge between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board.
    That's still left for them to do on their own

     
  • At 1/24/2006 10:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A: does the editor of the Farmville Hearld have children?

    B: Where do or did they attend school?

     
  • At 1/24/2006 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You may not like this, but the state created this problem by allowing elected school boards. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

     
  • At 1/25/2006 8:26 AM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    You just might be right, instead of dealing with 5 or 7 elected officials (with all the egos and so forth) you know have mabye 10 - 14 elected offials. But, I guess the question is why is it that this story is making so many headlines? Obviously there appears to be a lot tension/hard feelings between the "dueling boards" in Buckingham. But I rarely hear of such problems in other localities (if Prince Edward can do it, anyone can do it..not to say there isn't tention between the boards in PE, BUT it - as of now - there isn't "the talk of on main street" as it is in Buckingham...people are talking about other things concerning PE on Main Street though!)

    Regardless, I'm sure blame can be placed on both boards, I'm not familiar with the inner workings of Buckingham poltics to have an opinion, but what I do know is that Buckingham has an emabarrising situation, and is in dire need for the elected officials in the County to step up and act like "big girls, and boys". How can you expect to educate kids, when the elected offials squable like a bunch of elementary school kids? Sad

     
  • At 1/28/2006 6:50 AM, Anonymous Martha said…

    Look further west at bedford County. The same struggle has been going on for almost 10 years. jefferson Forest High School has been the center of a tug of war over building new or renovating the building.
    if the Board of Supervisors rejects the lastes renovation plans JF will be passed over an other scholls' needs will be addressed first.
    All of this is due to elected school boards. What we once viewed as a smart decision has backfired!

     
  • At 1/31/2006 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Martha's characterization of the idea of elected school boards as backfiring may be a bit harsh. Yes, perhaps having an elected school board makes it more challenging for the governing body. However, for the citizen consumer, the creation of another board directly answerable to the voters results in a healthy division of power and improved opportunity for debate. From what I have seen, only those who have to share power are complaining about elected school boards.

     
  • At 2/11/2006 11:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The School Board has all the money that they need! What money that the Board of Supervisors does give them, they waste it. The Board of Supervisors gave them a directive long ago with the money to start it, but the Schho Board has yet to try to get the ball rolling on the new school construction. The School Board should have thought twice about giving certain administrators big fancy retirement packages!

     
  • At 2/12/2006 10:01 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    Oh, good so it's a poltical payback for past deeds, or the perception of the School Board's past deeds by some individuals. good, i was thinking it was over something petty...thanks for clearing this up for me....

     
  • At 2/13/2006 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's not really that, it's just that they should have saved money for times like now when their schools are drastically deterioratiing and the football feild is a mudpit. I think it's just poor managment.

     
  • At 2/13/2006 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's not really that, it's just that they should have saved money for times like now when their schools are drastically deterioratiing and the football feild is a mudpit. I think it's just poor managment.

     
  • At 2/13/2006 8:19 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    It's sounds as if your suggesting that the genesis of this problem is due to poor fical management by the school system (i.e. School Board), now this may well be ture, but has this been sited - in the local media - by the BOS for WHY they are reluctant to support investing more cash into a new school? Then again - if this is true - then who pays the price in the long run? egos, egos, egos, you have to love politicians, even ones with lots of formal education...can you dig?

     
  • At 2/14/2006 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How can the school board save significant money from year to year? Isn't the school budget approved every year by the Board of Supervisors? It would seem to me that both boards have some responsibilities here. Maybe that is why they should be working together. Just thinking.

     
  • At 2/15/2006 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree. Even though if one board is doing or has done something wrong, they need to try to work together. The best thing to do right now is to solve this problem by working together. by working together, I dont think much bad can come from that.

     
  • At 3/24/2006 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you all have been following local newspapers, it is to much satisfaction to me that the supervisors and school board members have agreed to meet in April. This is a real starting point for the resurrection of peace among the two bodies. They both agree that a joint meeting is needed even though there are still differences between them. This is a great accomplishment for both the school board and board of supervisors. I applaud them both to their efforts of peace and committment to education.

     
  • At 6/23/2006 8:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    check this out this article concerning the chairman of the buckingham board of supervisors. http://www.dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?c=MGArticle&cid=1149188579398&pagename=CDP/MGArticle/CDP_BasicArticle

     
  • At 7/14/2006 2:46 PM, Blogger V. Hall said…

    Thanks for the tip. Actually we have gotten a number of emails on this one. One of my colleagues is working on this same matter as we speak. Stay tuned.

     
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  • At 8/19/2008 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My idea for the learning disability program is not necessary. i was once there and im still having to go through it. now i understand that certain kids need special needs but i also think you should take each child and get to know them better. Most kids that are in the program doesnt even need special help. the teachers, parents etc. doesnt know everything about the child like the child knows his/her self. Maybe at the time when the child was having diffuculties they could have been having serious issues in there own house but i think that that is something for the board of education to think about.

     

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