Candid chat clears the air with Taylor

The Bladen County Board of Education, and Superintendent Robert Taylor to a large degree, has been the target of pointed opinion pieces here over the past several months — and we would argue that some of it is justified, but not all.

We come to that conclusion after a relatively lengthy and candid “clear the air” talk with Taylor recently.

First, we will say, he called us, and we appreciate his reaching out.

During the discussion, Taylor emphasized the fact that he did not take a two-week family vacation last month, as we had stated. Instead, the vacation amounted to something like 10 days — only six of which were work days, since they are on their summer schedule.

He also said the vacation had been planned for six months or more and that, even if the county commissoiners had wanted to hold a budget work session to discuss the BOE’s request — which he said he was never asked to do — he would not have been able to postpone the plans.

Are there still issues with that? Well, sure. We don’t think any high-ranking official with the BOE’s Central Office should plan a vacation during the month of June, since budgets are rarely set until the end of that month.

Taylor also wanted to talk about the “apparent deterioration” of the relationship between his office and the Bladen Journal. He’s right — there used to be a very good relationship, up until recent months. That’s because, we explained, there is far less transparency by the school board.

For instance, board members regular point us in the direction of Public Information Officer Valerie Newton when they are asked questions, and she is rarely quick to respond; calls to the Central Office for Taylor are also often funneled to Newton; and requests for information, even through a Freedom of Information request, are sometimes postponed for weeks.

Taylor said he will take care of the latter two, but added that he has never asked the board members not to speak with the media. Instead, he said, that suggestion came from the N.C. School Board Association’s attorney.

Are there still issues with that? Absolutely. Residents who elected the school board members have every right to know why their representative voted one way or another, and rely on us to ask those questions. Rather than pass the buck to Newton, the board members should take the time to explain their position when asked — regardless of what the NCSBA attorney suggests.

Finally, Taylor promised to be available, transparent and cooperative going forward — and we promised to clear the slate and move forward with renewed confidence. We hope not to be disappointed, because a bitter, back and forth tug-o-war is never in the best interest of the community we both serve.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It’s not a person’s mistakes which define them, it’s the way they make amends.” (Freya North)