CANDIDATE Larry Lower used the word "inclusive" at least five or six times in my 30 minute conversation with him.
And when Lower, a current school board member who was first elected to represent a Southside district in 2012, says “inclusive,” he’s talking about rapport among school board members.
It’s why he decided to run.
“The main reason was because the present president is an ‘I’ person and not an inclusive person,” he says, referring to Jolene Byrne.
Lower and Byrne have butted heads several times in meetings over the years. “It’s what that person wants to do instead of try to include board members,” he says.
The next logical question becomes why, when Byrne decided not to seek a second term, Lower stayed in the race.
“I still feel that there’s some things that can be done to be more inclusive, especially with the other candidates,” he says. “One that I know for sure who wouldn’t be as inclusive.”
He’s referring there to Joe Buck. Lower and Buck served on the board together when Buck was president. Lower didn’t like Buck’s leadership style, either.
And now Buck’s running for his old post.
What does all this political in-fighting have to do with educating children? Well, a lot, actually. A dysfunctional board can land the school district in a lot of trouble.
In fact, last year, Chatham County schools were placed under a review agency’s microscope. And our district was found to have violated two accreditation standards, namely those dealing with school board ethics, roles and responsibilities.
Now, who deserves blame for that and whether “inclusivity” has anything to do with it are, frankly, outside the scope of this article. However, in presenting the most honest profile of candidate Lower possible, this is the main reason he says he’s running.
I did talk with him about other things, like his background. He’s retired after four decades in law enforcement. He worked in several cities around the country as a police chief before returning to Chatham County, where he chaired the Board of Assessors. He also started a security company and is a former Marine drill instructor.
“I’ve been in leadership roles all my life,” he says. “I’m not someone who walks in and says I have all the answers because I don’t. The answers are with the people who got to do the work.”
In terms of policy, he says he’d like more support for lower grades education and less distraction with what he calls “social things” like food support and social workers.
“That’s a parental responsibility and the community needs to jump in,” he says.