Few people know that I have a secret desire to be on reality TV. I don’t want to be a contestant. I want to have my own reality show called What Were You Thinking? Recent headlines relating to the brouhaha between Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Bill Harrison and Fayetteville City Councilman Charles Evans have given me a slew of candidates for my show – the obvious Evans and Harrison – the less obvious the parents of the students at the school, T.C. Berrien, that started the discussion between the two.{mosimage}
    So, let’s avoid the elephant in the middle of the room for a few minutes and start with the less obvious problem. Evans maintains that the parents and faculty at the school were afraid to speak up about the roach problem at their school. Really? People are really afraid to talk about a roach problem? What has the school system been doing – executing staff at dawn and expelling children to the far reaches of Siberia? I think not. If, in fact, there was a raging cockroach problem at the school and no one said anything, and needed Mr. Evans to take a stand for them, then the entire staff needs to be fired and the parents all need to go to parenting classes.
No one speaks louder or better for the rights of children than their parents and the teachers and administrators who are in the school every day. I cannot believe that everyone sat silent for fear of retribution and didn’t tell anyone in the principal’s office, the maintenance office or the superintendent’s office that bugs were more numerous than teacher work days. Had anyone stepped up to the plate, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Shame on them.
Now to the elephant.
    I have to say up front, I like both these guys. Dr. Harrison is responsible for bringing the Cumberland County Schools system out of the dark ages. He has, and continues to work diligently and passionately, for the children of our community. He is a capable educator with a proven track record. Councilman Evans, during his tenure on the council, has tackled some tough issues and taken some unpopular stands — and that’s commendable. So, it makes this a particularly tough column to write; however …..
    Without a doubt, Dr. Harrison, who is usually a man of great tact, spoke out of school. When I read the article, where Dr. Harrison compared Mr. Evans to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, I turned to my friend Jerry and asked, “What was he thinking?”
    I can’t imagine what was going through Harrison’s mind or thoughts when he made the comment. It was, and remains totally out of character for this respected educator. But, it has to be said, he was out-of-line.
I was not surprised to read that Harrison apologized for his comments. That is in line with the gentleman I know. Harrison will suffer from his mistake — he’s doing it now — in the newspapers and in the court of public opinion. It’s my hope that he can weather this storm and continue to do what he does best — build a better school system for our children.
    Now the ball is in Mr. Evans’ court. Without a doubt, he was done wrong here, and Harrison has admitted it. But Mr. Evans now has to step up to the plate and do the right thing. Headlines aside and newsprint be darned, Evans needs to look at the bigger picture and see that in the end, taking this issue to the mat will benefit no one. Had the issue of bugs been discussed through proper channels instead of on the front page of the newspaper, this would, again, have been a non-issue. Mr. Evans has fallen into the trap of many people new to the political arena — he’s quick to play to the media before working the issue quietly. But that’s something he’ll learn over time.
    Back to the issue at hand. There are not many people who, once involved with drugs, make the kind of turnaround that Mr. Evans has made. And I, along with every other Fayetteville citizen, should commend him. But, he has to understand that the bad thing about having a past is that it will sometimes rise up and bite you. This is not the first time Charles’ past has been raised. It was, in fact, raised during a city council meeting by employees of a homeless shelter when that issue was front and center. That reference did not make headlines. It didn’t sell papers.
    Evans must face the unfortunate truth that many in public life have had to face — you can’t escape your past.
    When I read Evans’ comments in reference to Harrison’s apology, I again had to ask, “What was he thinking?”
    Instead of manning up, taking the high road and accepting Harrison’s apology, Mr. Evans took the low road, turning the issue into one of race. It was never, and has never been one of race, and there was no need to go there. Playing the race card benefits no one — not Evans, not the school system and its staff or the children they serve.
    From where I stand, there have been a plethora of mistakes made. That’s the past. Where we go and what we do from here is what counts. It is my hope that Evans will show our city that he is the type of man who can show grace; that Dr. Harrison will think before he speaks; and that the parents and the staff of our school system will use their voices when they need to be heard.
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