The Moore County Board of Education can’t ever replace Bruce Cunningham and it ought not try. But that’s not saying that the task isn’t a crucial one.
The board will work in the coming weeks to fill the vacancy following Cunningham’s sudden death last month. Cunningham represented southern Moore County, and his District 5 seat included Aberdeen Primary, Aberdeen Elementary and Southern Middle schools. All three schools will be the center of attention this next year, for different reasons.
But more than that, Cunningham was halfway through his fourth consecutive four-year term on the board. He served two of those years as board chairman, both of which were among the system’s rockiest. The school district went through a significant leadership crisis and board turnover. Cunningham’s patient negotiation and leadership brought the district through and, in the end, created a stronger board and school district.
Replacing that experience just isn’t in the cards. But the school board, which is taking applications through Aug. 20, can’t just be looking for anyone looking to do a good deed or cut their political teeth. Important stuff lies before this board in the short term. Talent, leadership, professional knowledge and ability to work well with others — that’s what the board needs to be looking for.
Many Priorities Loom
As it regards the District 5 seat, a new member will help cut the ribbon next year on a new Aberdeen Elementary School off N.C. 5. It’ll be the first of three elementary schools approved by voters last year. When it opens, the current Aberdeen Primary and Elementary schools will move their students in, leaving those buildings available for sale.
The new school, long needed by this community, will change the educational dynamic drastically and require a strong representative to help guide this change.
Second, a new member will be a key decision maker on how to proceed with school redistricting. Attendance lines for each school will be redrawn, and chief among the schools drawing fire from redistricting opponents is Southern Middle in District 5. That school, which has suffered from poor state grading assessments the last few years, has strong leadership and good teachers but needs an academic lift.
We think the implementation of a well-known magnet program of some academic rigor will help attract new students — and mollify some parental concerns. And it will stimulate the experience of students already there.
And a new board member will wrestle, along with the other six, over budget issues. Two of the three new schools under construction are struggling to stay on budget because of wildly inflated materials costs. This isn’t the district’s fault, but it is suffering the consequences.
A Wish for Experience
It certainly depends on who applies, but ultimately we’d like to see a new board member who has business experience, especially one who has sweated a payroll. Common-sense business management would be a welcome skillset to have on the board.
We also would like to see someone who possesses the ability to achieve consensus but who also knows the courage of their convictions. Superintendent Bob Grimesey is a man who seems at times to careen from one major issue to the next, taking his board with him.
A new District 5 board member must respect Grimesey’s passions and deep knowledge, but also be strong enough to push back when necessary. Maybe it’s time we spent less energy on ambitious achievements, give teachers a breather and work on the steady execution of learning.
This school board has been a whirlwind of action the past four years, making up for a lot of cans that had been kicked down the road over the years. Change can be positive, but too much for too long can also be disruptive and dispiriting.
Let’s find someone willing, ready and able to lead.