Once again, Smyth County School Board has admittedly fudged the numbers associated with a recent poll having to do with renaming Sugar Grove Combined School and this has once again resulted in them having their way rather than us having ours.
Let’s take a look at what’s been going on here for the past little while.
The idea of renaming our school was first noted in a statement from Rye Valley District school board member Jesse Choate in a statement he made to Smyth County News & Messenger in July 2014 that was as follows: “Chairman Jesse Choate asked if there would be a name change for Sugar Grove Combined School since the middle school division has closed. He asked what it would take to change the name to Sugar Grove Elementary School.”
This statement was buried in an article with an unrelated headline and slipped by under the radar like so many other statements made by the school board in their recent history of events. The statement was indicative of the board’s usual “good ole boys” manner of operation and quite obviously should have been and was addressed at the next school board meeting where the opportunity of public input was proposed prior to any name change.
Sugar Grove was assured that their voice would be heard and considered in the matter of renaming the school in our community but what we ended up with was a very unprofessional online poll that allowed unlimited voting from any location worldwide.
Whenever this situation was discovered and quickly brought to the Superintendent’s attention, his response was as follows: “We have set up the poll so that it logs IP addresses so we can adjust the numbers to accurately reflect the votes.” and “to better control this, we listed the poll only on the school’s webpage which would significantly reduce traffic to the poll from people outside of Sugar Grove.” There are issues with both statements–first of all, Smyth County School Board employs IT Professionals. These “professionals” should be able to better control the content of the websites they maintain without having to manually alter anything. It is also implied that more than one person would be involved in altering these results. Next, throughout the whole duration of the poll. Sugar Grove Combined School’s webpage within the Smyth County School Board’s website was not updated. In fact, the website has not had new information posted to it since last school year up until this past week when they changed the name of the school at the top of the page and the URL!
This poll was openly available on the school board’s main page and was at the top of a list of updates appearing on the page for almost a month. This made it easily accessible. You can view a similar statement in print from the Superintendent in this recent article from Smyth County News & Messenger.
The reason that this poll is another number fudge on the part of the school board is simple–they can’t even claim that the numbers represented in their results are anywhere close to accurate based upon their own process of elimination and protocol for determining the validity of incoming online votes. For example, let’s say that you have a household consisting of 4 people who wish to vote and cast their votes from the same computer/internet connection. Those 4 people would have the same IP address and therefore 3 of the votes that were legitimate would be discarded. How many legitimate votes were thrown and not counted? If you apply this scenario, more than 50% of votes that should have been valid were not even counted.
The end result was that Sugar Grove Combined School was renamed to Sugar Grove Elementary just as a school board representative suggested previously to the Superintendent but the votes only reflected a slim preference for this. It seems that the general preference of the community on the other hand was in fact “Sugar Grove School” over the selection that seemed to win the poll.
This is another slap in the face for Sugar Grove from the Smyth County School Board and the question begs to be asked–If they are going to fudge the numbers openly in this manner on something as simple as a name change for a school, where else are they going to fudge numbers to get what they want? Might I suggest that the numbers were fudged to show a one million dollar figure attached to Sugar Grove Combined School on a budget reduction sheet while only half that figure was shown for two other schools? That didn’t add up and neither does this.
What can we do about it? An online petition has been set up that will run until the next school board meeting. The petition directs Smyth County School Board to discard their admittedly altered poll results in exchange for the more accurate collection of signatures that represent actual legitimate community input suggesting “Sugar Grove School” as the name for our school. By signing this petition, you are taking a stand to preserve and protect our community’s resources, history and heritage. Even though the name of the school may seem like a minor thing now, I assure you that it is a big deal. If we do not exercise our rights as a tax paying community, we will continue to be on the receiving end of the school board’s agenda based activities. These activities do not have the best interest of our community or tax base in mind. The only interest they have in mind is creating additional cash flow for the Superintendent’s reckless spending.
Please share the petition with your friends–additionally, because the school board’s poll was open to everyone (including the student body) this petition is also open to everyone who would like to sign it. Our goal is 447 signatures by next month’s school board meeting because that’s how many total results the school board reported before they altered their results. We need at least that many to reverse their decision.