“Either you support parents’ rights or not, That’s how simple it is for me,” Spotsylvania School Board Chair Lisa Phelps, said in an August 17 Free Lance-Star story about implementing a new conservative transgender student policy. “If you support parents’ rights or not, this vote is very telling.”
So now the chairwoman of the county school board is all-in for parents’ rights. When did this change? She supports the views of the right-wing school board majority and former chair Kurt Twigg’s unqualified political-crony-turned-school-superintendent Mark Taylor. Together, those five take away the rights of every single parent in the county—with the exception of one, Jen Peterson, who is on a personal crusade to ban books in county schools. (No doubt The Central Rappahannock Regional Library will be next.)
It doesn’t take a lot of people in power to ruin a good organization.
If Phelps believed in parents’ rights, she wouldn’t usurp the decision-making of Spotsylvania parents. It’s their decision, not hers, as to what their children read. Instead, despite her protestations to the contrary, her votes on the board actually show her disdain for parental rights.
She is the self-appointed guardian of virtue. Yet, her contempt for voters and those she was elected to work with is revealed when she turns off the microphones of other elected School Board members who disagree with her during public meetings. This is the behavior of a middle schooler having a hissy fit.
Ironically, according to Ballotpedia, Phelps’ political philosophy in 2017 when she was first elected was “to bring civility into politics.”
This should all end following this November’s School Board election. Her majority will no longer exist, and come January a new majority will have to begin the rebuilding process—if Spotsylvania voters exert less apathy than when Phelps was elected and reelected.
A new board will have a lot of damage to undo. But don’t think it’s not over yet. Who knows what harm the current Tea Party majority can do between now and the end of the year?
The new board must begin its cleanup process by first addressing school superintendent, a.k.a. political crony, Mark Taylor. He is unqualified and overpaid and was given an iron-clad contract that apparently can’t be undone until his retirement. County taxpayers are stuck with that big fat bill thanks to Kirk Twigg (who’s been indicted for fraud).
Already, according to a local realtor, the school system’s problems are affecting the residential real estate market. She lost a sale in the county recently because parents of school-age children didn’t want their kids attending Spotsylvania schools in their current state.
I suggest the school board do a gut check and make Taylor the highest-paid janitor in the state. And then make the point clear to county voters why: this is the cost of voter indifference.
The county has become a laughingstock, and that reflects on the entire region. Fredericksburg’s name is often dragged into the fray by news broadcasters who have no idea where Spotsylvania is on the map.
Administrative staff and teachers have left in droves. It’s questionable how well the school system will operate this fall. Yes, you can say all school systems are struggling to fill positions, but Spotsylvania’s 400+ school system vacancies this summer was more than Stafford, Fredericksburg, King George, and Caroline combined. Now, how do you suppose that happened?
And to think only a few years ago the Spotsylvania school system was rated at the very top of places to work in Virginia. Well, no more. Four people sitting on the school board did that.
It reminds me of Dan Snyder, the former owner of the Washington Redskins/Commanders, and how he destroyed a once-revered football dynasty. It doesn’t take a lot of people in power to ruin a good organization.
Voters beware. Your vote in important. Many today believe elected school boards are more important than boards of supervisors and city councils because of the damage they can wreak. Nowhere has that been made clearer than in Spotsylvania County.
Rick Pullen is a bestselling novelist, retired magazine editor, and former staff reporter for The Free Lance-Star.