Cham­ber pres. speaks out against Meadors

The Covington News - - Front page - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­

Cham­ber Pres­i­dent Hunter Hall ad­dressed the board of ed­u­ca­tion Tues­day, specif­i­cally Dis­trict 1 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jeff Meadors, ask­ing that Meadors cease writ­ing his col­umn for the New­ton Ci­ti­zen be­cause Hall be­lieves the in­for­ma­tion Meadors is fo­cus­ing on could be detri­men­tal to the county and po­ten­tial busi­nesses that might con­sider lo­cat­ing here.

Hall specif­i­cally ad­dressed Meadors’ Aug. 21 col­umn, say­ing it was harm­ful to the community.

Hall’s big­gest com­plaint was that Meadors was us­ing data in the Aug. 21 col­umn — and oth­ers that Hall had read — that pit­ted New­ton County last, “when we all know there are three years worth of pos­i­tive trend­ing data,” and “in­cred­i­ble suc­cesses” he could have used. While Hall con­ceded that the in­for­ma­tion was ac­cu­rate, there was plenty of data he could have used that didn’t show New­ton County as last.

“If I’m sit­ting in the seats of your board mem­bers, you’ve put a knife in my back. Be­cause they’re bust­ing it ev­ery day to pro­vide a sys­tem and a struc­ture that this school sys­tem can suc­ceed in. And ev­ery teacher and ad­min­is­tra­tor who is in a school, who read that, said, ‘ Why am I even do­ing what I do if my board mem­bers opin­ion is that?’” Hall said.

“Be­cause if you ask the ques­tion, af­ter list­ing all that data, that says ‘Where would you live if you were... mov­ing to this

area?’ as a board of ed­u­ca­tion mem­ber who sits in Dis­trict 1 — where Bax­ter is lo­cated, as an em­ployee of GPC, whose school is lo­cated in that dis­trict — you’re not ask­ing a ques­tion. That is a state­ment of con­fir­ma­tion that you do not sup­port or be­lieve in the ef­forts that you guys are work­ing on.”

Hall also said that he and Meadors had spo­ken pre­vi­ously about the col­umn.

“My com­ments are cer­tainly not com­ing from anony­mous posts,” he said, caus­ing some peo­ple in the au­di­ence to chuckle.

Hall asked Meadors to quit writ­ing the opin­ion col­umns al­to­gether, say­ing there was noth­ing pos­i­tive that could come from it. Or, if Meadors chose to continue, Hall asked him to bring so­lu­tions or high­light the pos­i­tive things go­ing on in the New­ton County School Sys­tem.

“I would ask, and es­pe­cially in light of your cur­rent le­gal sit­u­a­tion, that you just re­frain al­to­gether. I see no good that can come out of the anony­mous posts that come out of your pieces,” Hall said.

When Meadors be­gan to in­ter­ject, Chair­man Eddie John­son spoke up, ask­ing Meadors to al­low Hall to fin­ish his pre­sen­ta­tion.

Hall left a book for John­son called “Switch: How to Cre­ate Change When Change is Hard,” say­ing that the book in­struct­ing the reader to use bright spots — to chase them and high­light them.

“Do not preach to the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, raise the stan­dards,” Hall said.

He also said that The Ci­ti­zen should not be blamed be­cause they were a busi­ness, and al­low­ing for anony­mous posts in­creases their web traf­fic, some­thing they could use to sell on­line ad­ver­tis­ing to po­ten­tial clients.

“Your job, as a board of ed­u­ca­tion, is not to give them any­thing to write about.”

Hall ended by telling the board that the Cov­ing­ton-New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce was their big­gest cheer­leader, and would continue to be.

Fol­low­ing his pre­sen- tation, most in at­ten­dance clapped loudly, in­clud­ing a few board mem­bers. John­son told Hall he had “knocked it out the ball park.”

Su­per­in­ten­dent Gary Mathews also ad­dressed the board, and those in at­ten­dance, say­ing that he felt com­par­ing New­ton County to coun­ties like Jasper, Mor­gan and Wal­ton was un­fair be­cause the pop­u­la­tion was not only dif­fer­ent, but also smaller than New­ton.

“It’s like com­par­ing ap­ples to or­anges,” he said.

Dis­trict 4 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Al­mond Turner ended the topic of con­ver­sa­tion with ap­plaud­ing all school sys­tem em­ploy­ees for the hard work they do ev­ery day, and said the board has al­ways and con­tin­ues to sup­port them.

Meadors did not at­tempt to speak on the topic af­ter all com­ments were made. How­ever, he did re­spond to ques­tions later Tues­day night through email.

When asked, Meadors said he was not go­ing to stop writ­ing his col­umns, and that al­though he re­spected Hall’s opin­ion and his right to speak out, “by the same to­ken, I have the right to ex­press my opin­ion.” He added that Hall had told him in a pre­vi­ous con­ver­sa­tion that Bax­ter of­fi­cials were aware of sys­tem achieve­ment data and that it was one of the “great­est chal­lenges of at­tract­ing new busi­ness and in­dus­try.”

Meadors also said that since Hall ad­mit­ted he had not read but a few of his col­umns, per­haps he such read all of them be­fore mak­ing “such an an­nounce­ment.”

“The ma­jor­ity of my col­umns have high­lighted pos­i­tive achieve­ments in the school sys­tem and in sur­round­ing sys­tems. I be­lieve that when we look at hon­est data we can use it as a place from which to grow. That is my in­tent. Truth is our friend. Hope is not a strat­egy... I feel that I am in­form­ing the read­ers in a mean­ing­ful way.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Meadors ad­dressed Mathews’ com­ments, say­ing that while he be­lieved the su­per­in­ten­dent had “done won­der­ful things re­lated to school im­prove­ment, the two “dif­fer[ed] as is typ­i­cal on some is­sues. There is more than one way to look at data.”



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