Former school board member, educator against adding politics to education

MORGANTOWN, W.W.. – The proposed amendment to the state constitution, which would change the non-partisan elections of school boards to party elections, is receiving feedback throughout the state.

Joint Resolution 106 of the House of Representatives remains under discussion in the House of Delegates. If approved, school board elections will be held in May 2024.

Former member of the education council of Manongalia County Barbara Parsons said politics should be kept out of education.

Barbara Parsons

Parsons has served 18 years at BOE, eight as president. Her classroom experience includes teaching business and management at the University of West Virginia and the University of Fairmont. She also served as vice president of labor relations at Fairmont General Hospital.

“I know that personally, I probably would not have run if I had been associated with a political party,” Parsons said. “I think it’s a very important job that we do at the local level, we have to keep in mind that the first concern we have is the needs of the students.”

Parsons said parents and the public are always welcome to meet regularly or offer a contribution by email or phone. She saw benefits in non-partisan problem-solving with parents and staff.

“If there’s a problem or an issue we need to solve, we’ll figure out how to do it,” Parsons said. “It’s like you don’t have a vote at a school board meeting – you definitely have one at the meeting, and you have one when you vote.”

School board members are asked to provide the best education with resources, within the state code and to meet academic standards. Adding that the influence of political parties can influence a candidate to adhere to ideology rather than to the opinion of parents and staff or statistics from experts.

“Will I be re-elected if I make such a decision? Or will I ruin my chances of running for another government position if I do ?, Parsons asked. “I think it’s very difficult and difficult to be more objective and solve local problems.”

According to Parsons, this is a familiar trend and is happening across the country as debates erupt in schools about critical racial theory and issues related to sex. Voices are raised when parents oppose mask and vaccine mandates join.

“This is an initiative that is taking place across the country,” Parsons said. “School boards have focused on political campaigns so Republicans can have more influence.”

Parents, teachers and students many times have different priorities and tasks regarding the same issues. These differences can be blurred by honest communication, but policies can add another potential barrier to building these relationships.

“We have so many problems when a lot of us are appointed to a party, it becomes you with me or you against me,” Parsons said. “And that’s not what the democratic process is about.”

The resolution was sent to the Judicial Committee of the House of Representatives with a recommendation for adoption.

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