AKINOSHO ENDORSEMENT PEEVES | Did it really happen at O’Neal?
The Herald, like all newspapers, occasionally gets “hate” mail and calls from folks unhappy with our coverage, especially around Election Day. It goes with the territory.
Sometimes you can engage those who are unhappy in a good conversation. Case in point: I’ve spent part of my day today sparring with some of our more conservative readers (mostly via e-mail) about a number of issues, including illegal and poorly-placed political signs, First Amendment rights of Iraqi war vets, undone repairs at Lee County High School, blog postings, the fiscal wanderings of certain elected governmental boards, and whether the movie remakes of the old TV shows “Starsky & Hutch” and “Miami Vice” were worth watching.
Sometime you can’t talk to those who are unhappy. That’s when it gets frustrating. Case in point: the following letter to the editor which came through our website (www.sanfordherald.com) and provided a fake e-mail address as the “sender”… There was a name and phone number attached, but they don’t correspond to what’s in the phone book and multiple calls to the number weren’t answered. Anyway, here’s the letter as it was received:
Subject: Akinosho Endorsement?
I Can’t help but wonder did you really decide to endorse Akinosho at your meeting at the Herald or did it happen during a PTO meeting at the PRIVATE O’NEAL SCHOOL in Southern Pines where BOTH of you have children attending? Thanks for your opinion on what’s best for MY children in public schools, but I really don’t need an opinion or representation from people who choose PRIVATE school for their child, all the while saying they have our best interest at heart. Hope all is well At O’neal.
Obviously someone smells a conspiracy. Mark Akinosho is on tomorrow’s ballot for one of four Board of Education seats. Six candidates filed for the seats, including an incumbent (Bill Tatum) and two sitting BOE members (Dr. Lynn Smith and Shawn Williams) who were recently appointed to their respective seats; there are two other first-time candidates (Kim Lilley and Cameron Sharpe), like Mark, and two who have proclaimed themselves as “write-in” candidates (current board member John Bonardi and past board chairman Ruth Gurtis).
The Herald endorsed Akinosho, Tatum, Smith and Williams for seats. We didn’t consider Bonardi because our editorial board (Editor Billy Liggett, News Editor Kevin Degon and Special Projects Editor R. V. Hight and myself) didn’t meet with him. We also didn’t meet with Gurtis, who announced her candidacy after our endorsement, although we did endorse Gurtis for the seat the last time she ran. (A side note…it was our first time endorsing Ruth and she lost…every other time we didn’t endorse her, she won. Go figure.)
Two members of our editorial board don’t have children; another not only has two children who graduated from Lee County High School, but his wife had a long career as a teacher in the system. The Herald has worked closely with the system over the years and considers it one of our strategic “Community Partners,” and one of the highlights for me during my last year on the Chamber board was working very closely with Andy Bryan of LCS on a strategic response to the business community to dropping test scores and rising drop-out rates in our schools. We are supporters of a number of LCS programs (including Kids Voting), so we have plenty of connection to the system.
But the fact that one of Akinosho’s children, and all three of mine, attend O’Neal provides a recipe for controversy, at least to this letter-writer.
Seeking a board of education seat and having a child attend a private school outside the county is curious, and for some people, notable. The fact that one of Akinosho’s four children attends The O’Neal School, an independent college preparatory school in Southern Pines, has indeed come up during the election. Kitan Akinosho is a junior there and is actually also up for election – as president of next year’s senior class. She is the recipient of one of the most coveted scholarships at O’Neal. Two of Mark’s other children graduated from Lee County High School, however, and a fourth is a student at West Lee Middle School.
I asked Mark about it during a conversation I had with him when first meeting him about two months ago. As the parent of O’Neal students and as a member of the school’s board of trustees, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I wasn’t even aware that Kitan attended O’Neal. (There are more than 40 Lee Country families represented down there, and I don’t know them all.) Our oldest child, a sophomore, knows Kitan, but I didn’t even know Mark until he announced his candidacy for the BOE.
For reasons Mark would be better to explain, O’Neal was a better environment for Kitan, who’s obviously a bright and talented student. (She had to be to win the scholarship she did.) But should he have to explain his educational choices for his children? For my wife and me, giving our kids every educational advantage was paramount in our decision to commit to O’Neal. Lee Ann, my wife, taught school in the Lee County system for four years, and our plan was always to home school…but for us, in the end, we felt the best place for our kids was at O’Neal. It doesn’t mean we’re not confident in Lee County’s ability to educate our kids…it’s just that O’Neal’s a better fit in terms of preparing them for college. And they’re excelling at O’Neal, where 100 percent of the graduates go on to college.
Did it impact our endorsement? I can’t imagine how. Mark Akinosho was on all four of our editorial board endorsement ballots, and I can only speculate that the O’Neal connection didn’t factor into the other votes.
It’s hard to say whether the letter-writer is more displeased with Mark or with The Herald or with me, but I think it’s possible to care about two school systems at once. Things are well at O’Neal, thanks…we all want them to be good in our schools here as well.