Reservations About The Signal Mountain School Split

Monday, December 4, 2017

The first time most of us were aware that there was an effort to split Signal schools off from HCDE, and gain control of the buildings, was after the last election.  It’s possible that if it had been known, other candidates would have come forward.  Apparently only a small segment of the population was “in the know.” 

It should come as no surprise that there are many up here who have grave reservations about this idea. The idea of running a parallel investigation into the economic viability of an independent school system, separate from the Signal School Viability Committee, was floated by one councilmember, Dan Landrum.  He received no support from the other four council members.  The purpose of the parallel group would have been to challenge numbers and assumptions made by the SSVC.  Given the financial obligations an independent school system would put on this very small town, there’s no such thing as too much information. Given the impact on students and teachers, there’s no such thing as too much information. Given the impact on taxpayers, there’s no such thing as too much information. 

So, a group of dedicated citizens stepped in on their own time and on their own dimes to investigate this proposal and to fill a much needed void. This is in the best tradition of citizen engagement. Why would they do it? The bigger question is why wouldn’t they?  Why accept second hand conversations, held away from public scrutiny, as gospel?  Why not do what they have done and contact municipal, county, and state officials for answers to questions – straight from the horse’s mouth?  Signal’s organizational chart places citizens at the top of the chart – same thing goes for every level of government in the state.  We can, and ought to pick up the phone from time to time and make our own calls.  Send our own emails or heck, drive to county offices, or even Nashville, to state offices. 

The group of citizens who are checking numbers and relevant material are doing so knowing that they risk marginalization and retaliation.  I’ve personally heard a member of the SSVC, a volunteer, disparaged in public meetings for scrutinizing information that the SSVC was including in their report.  That member was not present to defend his statements.  This is something I’ve never heard before in all my years of attending town and county meetings.  It is odd that the majority of our town government would not welcome testing of their viability report.   

I’m still waiting for answers to questions that have been asked in public meetings.  It seems to me that questions have been answered – just not the questions that were being asked.  This may be the way of politics these days, but we should continue to reject any reply that isn’t straightforward.  
Again, it is unfortunate that this issue was not brought up during the past two campaign seasons.  The citizens of our small town are just now trying to play catch up and get a grasp on this situation.  Kudos to those who are doing their dead level best to keep the record straight.   

Melissa Cantrell

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