02 open our schoolsThe first segment of the 2020 Virtual Candidates Forums has aired, and the second segment featuring Cumberland County Commissioner candidates concluded Oct. 20. We can only hope that the second Commissioner's Forum provides more insights and substance than the first. With very few exceptions, the six school board candidates that participated (two did not) for the Cumberland County Board of Education segment were extremely unimpressive, lacking substance and details.

The 2020 Virtual Candidate Forum introduces candidates to the community so voters can evaluate their talent, intelligence, desire and capabilities to be responsible public servants and successfully move our community forward. Regretfully, if you are a parent or guardian with children in the public school system, once you have viewed the candidates' forum, you will probably consider moving out of the county, advocating for school education vouchers, or scrambling to enroll your child in a private, Christian or charter school program.

My disappointments with the segment were many. However, there were two that struck me as most conspicuous and egregious. First, the emphasis many candidates placed on the need for more funding and financial resources from the state and county. It was like their sole solution to a more responsive and effective school system was "more money!"

More money seemed to be the answer and overall panacea for all the ills, woes and challenges facing the CCS. Crazy! I acknowledge the current school board had to spend a lot of their financial resources dealing with the COVID-19 situation. Yet, with approximately $13 million in reserve remaining, I hardly think anyone believes they can spend their way out of a steadily declining school system.

Secondly, and the most disturbing to me personally, Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly was never mentioned by any of the candidates during their interviews. The word "superintendent" was never spoken or even referenced in any context. How could this be? For decades Cumberland County has prided itself on the talent and leadership qualities of our school system superintendent. With Dr. Marvin Connelly, we have one of the best administrators with over a quarter of a century of proven success in North Carolina public education. School Board candidates did not even mention his name or indicate their willingness to work with him to support the school system's successful management. Several years ago, Dr. Connelly came to Cumberland County from Wake County, one of the state's largest school systems. The school board hired Connelly for his experience and expertise in managing large school systems. It is disturbing that no candidate recognized his contributions, accomplishments, leadership abilities, or indicated their enthusiasm and willingness to work with him and other board members to produce and secure the best possible education for the children of Cumberland County. Extremely disappointing.

Yet, many of the candidates spoke openly of the importance and need for working together in harmony by having more productive and effective communications. Again, never mentioning the school superintendent. In my opinion, a very glaring omission for anyone serious about seeking a board position. You be the judge. Go directly to the 2020 Virtual Candidates Forum at https://vimeo.com/467489706 or log on 24/7 to any one of the websites hosted by the sponsors: Piedmont Natural Gas, The Fayetteville Observer, Longleaf Pine Association of Realtors, the Home Builders Association of Fayetteville, Greater Fayetteville Chamber, and Up & Coming Weekly community newspaper.

Do this today. It is vitally important. Open Our School signs are popping up all over the county. There is a critical message here. Parents and guardians want to know who the people are looking out for their children's best interests. They want competent and responsible leaders. They want people who will reopen the schools to minimize and avoid the risk of raising our next generation of children intellectually deficient and socially ill-prepared to meet real-world challenges.

Parents, guardians and teachers alike want intelligent nonpartisan education leaders who understand the consequences of humanity's harsh realities. These realities crush ignorant, uneducated and culturally disadvantaged children without empathy in as they are helpless while trying to survive in a competitive, ruthless environment. With fifty thousand Cumberland County student lives at stake, an unqualified, inept and politically charged board of education will be engaged in a high-risk gamble using our children and future generations' lives as table stakes. It's a sucker's bet we cannot afford to make. We must know beyond a shadow of doubt in whose capable hands we are entrusting our childrens' education.

The following week's forum will feature North Carolina legislative races, and the last segment will include statewide offices, according to Henry Tyson, chairman of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber's governmental affairs committee. Forum segments are currently online. The questions presented to the candidates during the forums were provided by the Government Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, the Legislative Committees of the Longleaf Pine Association of Realtors and Homebuilders Association of Fayetteville.

Get involved. Vote! Someone said, "…. the threat of losing our democracy and American freedoms is only one generation away." Well, folks, that generation is starting kindergarten in 2020. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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