ver the course of a pair of debates among candidates for the Columbia County Board of Education, observers reached a disappointing conclusion: If attendance is any indication, there is a disturbing lack of interest in these important races.
Columbia County's school system is among the top reasons new residents cite for moving to our community. Each day, more than 20,000 of our children are entrusted to more than 2,000 educators, administrators and school staff.
The future and fortunes of all those important people are guided by an elected, five-member Board of Education. This year, three seats are up for election; in one of those, the incumbent is unopposed.
That means four people are vying for two seats on the elected body that governs the daily lives of 20,000 of our children.
Yet barely two dozen people showed up for this past Wednesday's forum at Lakeside High School, down from the pitiful number attending the September forum at Greenbrier High.
The Columbia County Republican Party, criticized for bringing a partisan atmosphere to the non-partisan school board races, instead deserves credit for setting up these two forums. Their value is limited, however, when the public fails to take advantage of them.
Teachers have long lamented that they can present information to students, but can't open up their heads and pour it in. Yet teachers are still held accountable for those children learning the lessons and passing state- and federal-mandated standardized tests.
The school board members, who oversee the professional administrators who, in turn, oversee the schools and teachers, are responsible for making sure those schools and teachers have the resources and expertise to do their best. And since it is the voters -- many, but not all of whom, are also parents -- who decide who sits on the school board, the voters ultimately get exactly the schools they demand and, indeed, deserve.
ith a last-minute rush to the Board of Elections office last week, Columbia County now has 66,000 voters registered. Just over 10,000 voters each are in Districts 2 and 5, where the two school board seats are up for grabs.
It's an interesting coincidence that the number of potential voters roughly equals the number of students and staff in the county's schools. For the schools to be successful, those students and staffers have to do more than just show up every day; they have to study and prepare to put the most in, and get the most out of, their lessons.
That's a good model for voters to follow, too. Coming to the polls on election day is important, but casting one ballot that potentially affects the future of 20,000 students should take a lot more preparation than just showing up.
We expect more from our kids than that -- and they deserve better from us.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.