The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 19, 2013

Extremist minority prevents school bond in Fayette County

By Paul McClung
guest columnist

— As chairman of the Meadow Bridge citizens group during the Fayette consolidation litigation in 2001-2002, I was very pleased with the solidarity of hundreds of citizens who gathered for the common good of all schools, not just Meadow Bridge.

Members of other citizen groups in the county will recall that members of our Meadow Bridge group went to their communities and helped them organize. The collective citizens, countywide, prevailed and can again.

A Central office faction and a minority of elected officers refuse to accept these facts or democratically hear the voices of many communities. A very small but radical segment of those who favor consolidation has recently used hysteria and misinformation to commandeer communities into harboring ill will against other communities.

Their conflicting and self-incriminating propaganda undermines credibility with the state BOE, and it abets a lynch mob reaction wherein Meadow Bridge becomes the root of all evil.

This summer, their single-minded mentality prevented the only real chance this county ever had to pass an infrastructure bond, yet the Fayette board arrogantly and callously plows ahead under the delusion they can pass one in May.

In March, Dr. Phares appointed Carolyn Arritt and me as two of five members of a grass roots bond steering committee that continued into the summer.

The Register-Herald (Oct. 10, 2013) quotes State BOE Superintendent Dr. Phares as follows: “The thing that disappointed me about the [grass roots] study that was done this summer was that you all found everything that people would not support but couldn’t find the one thing that they would all support.”

Dr. Phares’ insightful criticism summarizes the opinion held by Carolyn Arritt and me. As indicated in my mid-May letter to Dr. Phares, Carolyn and I finally realized that Mr. Butcher rarely considered our advice concerning critical aspects related to the architect’s report, press releases, public perception, and the County Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC).

I repeatedly asked that public relations be established and a broad, dynamic, and comprehensive interpretation of the architect’s report be presented to the public and to the CFAC. Implementation of the grass roots intent appeared so ridiculous to me that I quit.

The final inadequate information used by the CFAC was very hurriedly “guided” forward with disastrous consequences. (Just one example: Is 15 minutes long enough to study a technical 36-page architect’s report?) As a result, the public remains unaware of viable options that could have resulted in the best infrastructure bond ever proposed.

It is not too late for the state BOE to salvage the data obtained by the local board, regain public trust and closely control design of an infrastructure bond. This could ensure a full and accurate disclosure so as to obtain public support while realistically obtaining a cost the public is willing to bear.

I ask that all communities involved realize the Meadow Bridge Citizens group wants what is best for each individual community, just as it did a decade ago.

— Paul McClung is a resident of Meadow Bridge and has been active in Fayette school consolidations for a number of years.