Kristen Johnson and Mike Roth are heroes.
It takes a lot of guts to get up and speak at a school board meeting, knowing your job could be on the line. But both Johnson and Roth did it anyway at last Monday’s meeting.
The Board of Education was getting ready to vote on a $210 million budget that includes raises and promotions at the Douglas County School System’s central office and a 1 percent raise for teachers and other employees.
Johnson, an economics teacher at Chapel Hill High School, and Roth, a media specialist, also at Chapel Hill High School, rightly pointed out that the school board’s focus should be on the educators and students in schools and not on giving already highly paid administrators new titles and hefty raises to go with them.
The budget adopted Monday is about $10 million more than last year’s. Surely, the school board could have found more than 1 percent for those educators in schools working tirelessly to educate our children. As Roth pointed out, 1 percent doesn’t come even close to covering annual cost of living increases for teachers.
The decision by the BOE, instead, to add back assistant superintendent positions that were cut during the recession sends the wrong message to the teachers and others who’ve done more with less for way too long.
The Sentinel’s story reporting on Johnson and Roth speaking out was viewed on social media and shared online nearly 20,000 times. Many of those views came from frustrated teachers who posted similar sentiments to the ones expressed by Johnson and Roth at the meeting.
Douglas County property owners fund a large chunk of the school system’s budget. But those in charge — including the five elected school board members and Superintendent Gordon Pritz, who it’s worth noting pays his property taxes in Cobb County where he has continued to live since being appointed to the job in 2010 — give the appearance that they’re concerned more with taking care of their inner-circle than they are with rewarding teachers and being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.
As Douglas Bailey pointed out on the Sentinel’s Facebook page, government officials are a lot more inclined to act in the public interest when they’re being watched. Unfortunately, the governments in this county rarely have to face citizens at meetings. Bailey suggested that every citizen should try to attend at least one government meeting this year to let the school board, city council and board of commissioners know the taxpayers — their bosses — are watching.
Bailey’s idea is spot on. Johnson and Roth had the courage to say what hundreds, maybe thousands, of their colleagues were thinking.
One person speaking out can make a difference. We’ve seen the county commission change an outdated ordinance after just one person spoke out. Imagine what could happen if more people showed the courage of their convictions the way Johnson and Roth did Monday.
CONTACT THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
• Gordon Pritz, Superintendent
• D.T. Jackson, BOE Chair and District 2 Member
• Carol Lindstrom, District 1 Member
• Tracy Rookard, District 3 Member
• Michelle Simmons, District 4 Member
• Jeff Morris, District 5 Member