Council has duty to ask questions
I'm writing in an attempt to set the record straight regarding the recent criticism leveled at the city council and myself, personally. I decided to run for city council because the citizens of the city were unhappy with their current leadership. In fact, they (we) appear to be seeking positive, responsible change and leadership since we tend to elect new officials every four years. This would lead one to believe that our city is expecting their new officials to make whatever changes are necessary to improve our community. This should (and does) include our school system.
I chose to run for one reason and one reason only. I love this city and want it to be the very best it can be. I have no allegiances to anyone except the citizens of Hartselle. I am retired and answer to no special interest groups. I have no personal or business agenda.
This allows me to be unbiased in my assessments of our problems and my recommendations for solutions. A number of those who have publicly and repeatedly criticized this council and myself cannot make the same claim. They include relatives of baseball players and administrators, coaches and even a former teacher (also a relative, albeit by marriage, for a school administrator).
Some have criticized the council for questioning the school boards policies and procedures. Please remember that currently the council appoints the board of education and therefore is ultimately responsible for their actions. This does not afford us the luxury of looking the other way when it becomes obvious that we should question certain policies and actions taken by school administrators and board members. I am the first to sing the praises of Hartselle's school system. Both of my daughters graduated from Hartselle schools and I am very impressed with the education they received. However, no school system is perfect and there should be no sacred cows when it comes to the welfare and education of Hartselle's children.
Actions taken by certain school officials and subsequent actions taken by the school board have forced our council into action. No, it is not pretty. No, I don't like doing it. But if we are to be responsible leaders, then we have no choice but to do whatever actions are necessary to insure that our students are afforded the best representation, and therefore the best education possible. All students should be evaluated fairly and evenly, regardless of whether or not they participate in extracurricular activities. We need a comprehensive drug policy that will insure those students who need help will receive it. We also have to protect our school system from the liability that it can incur when school officials take matters into their own hands.
This is not a witch hunt. This is good business. We live in a litigious society. Unfortunately, this requires that we protect ourselves, our city and our school board from those who might find fault with our actions. Our policies should be clear, written and public. They should protect the innocent, not the guilty.
While there has been a fair amount of criticism, the council and myself have also received an immense amount of support for our actions. Many of those who support our actions are those who are truly in the know when it comes to what's going on in our schools. These include parents and teachers who are reluctant to come forward publicly for fear of ramifications against themselves or their children. However, they are encouraging us to ask the right questions and take the necessary actions to solve the problems that they know exist within our school system.
This controversy has brought about some very positive and necessary changes. The school board is holding public work sessions. They are establishing a drug policy committee. Dr. Hartsell has agreed to meet on a regular basis with the city council in order to facilitate open communication and insure our tax dollars are being well spent. He has also volunteered to bring state officials to Hartselle to outline the specific duties and responsibilities of both the superintendent and the board to alleviate any questions as to scope of authority. Numerous teachers and concerned citizens are now attending council meetings. We welcome this level of community interest and involvement. This can only mean good things for our city.
While we all want to bring about an end to the negative publicity and media coverage of what has been termed our dirty laundry this can only happen when we come together as a community and recognize that none of us like to find fault with others. But when it exists, we have a responsibility to expose it and take steps to insure that those same results are not repeated.
These and other changes are rarely brought about without a certain amount of disagreement. I ask only that you, the public, attempt to find out all the facts, not just those few that have been bantered about. Ask questions, keep an open mind, and remember – we are all one community. We all love Hartselle. We may not always agree about how to lead our city, but that is the beauty of a democratic system. Get involved, run for office. Help plot the course for our city's future. We do this because we care, not because it is easy or popular. Doing the right thing is rarely easy or popular.
But to do less is unacceptable. To do less is most certainly not why we were elected. And to do less is not the message I chose to send our youth.
Hartselle City Council member