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OUR VIEW: There is a time and place for everything

few weeks ago, Valley Mayor Leonard Riley called out the Chambers County School District, citing too many fights, unbalanced funding for Valley-based schools and other issues.

Riley, who previously served as superintendent of the school system, took time at the end of a Valley City Council meeting to make his opinion about the current state of our schools known. To be clear, the city of Valley has absolutely no authority over the school system.

“I apologize for this rant, but I think things have gotten to the point where I needed to speak up,” Riley said.

Chambers County School District Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge replied Friday to Riley’s comments in the form of a 700-word press release. Hodge’s press release compared Riley’s time as superintendent to hers, going point by point on fights and spending.

“Mayor Riley’s intentional distortion of the facts does none of us any good,” Hodge said.

“It only sows more seeds of contentious division in our community during a time when we should be pooling our resources toward a common goal in a factual and concise manner.”

Riley shouldn’t have said what he said. As a former superintendent, it’s clear he has more insight into how the school system should be run than just about anyone, and certainly his opinions on the state of the system are relevant and important, but maybe he should have handled it differently, if not privately.

Regardless, at least when Riley made his comments the coronavirus pandemic was nowhere near where it is now. Hodge’s response came after Chambers County had a positive case of coronavirus (it now has two) and after schools had been closed.

She obviously has every right to defend herself, especially since Riley jumped into criticizing the school system unprompted. However, the timing felt off, almost as if we weren’t right in the middle of a global pandemic.

The truth is that our schools are always at the top of everyone’s mind, but right now those concerns are a lot different and a lot more important as we all work to determine what the best measures are to keep each other safe and work toward getting things back to normal – if that’s possible.

We certainly understand and agree there is a need to analyze the current state of our school system, and everyone’s comment on this important topic is needed, but now is not the time for the mayor and superintendent to be duking it out about who is right and who is wrong.

It’s about making sure our cities are reacting appropriately to this critical health challenge. It’s about making sure students are fed and getting the learning materials they need while out of school.

Hodge and Riley should call one another, sit down in a room — 6 feet apart — and work out their differences for the betterment of our community.

At a time when we need our community to come together, the best medicine would be for them find a way to work together to resolve their differences.

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