by Joe Fitzgerald

They’re the exaggeratists. Maybe the Exaggerati. They take the smallest thing and blow it up to a crisis. Their eye is not on the sparrow, but on its feathers. And heaven help the sparrow whose feathers don’t decently cover her.

In the city this year the Exaggerati went door to door speaking of pornography in the school libraries. There was this one book, and it’s off the shelves. They claimed parental rights were being abridged because of what pronouns kids wanted to use. Couple of dozen kids, maybe, out of 6,000.

I worked hard for the School Board candidates who opposed the Exaggerati and beat them by 20 points. Partly because all politics is personal, and I care who my wife Deb serves with on School Board. And partly because I don’t want to live in the kind of city the Exaggerati would give us, and I don’t live in the city they imagine.

Still, I could have made a strong argument for voting for the Exaggerati out of concern for the city’s future. Think about what may happen in Rockingham County next year. At least two long-serving pragmatic members are leaving the county’s School Board. Lowell and Dan share decades of experience on the board and they’ve kept non-school issues out of their service. But the Exaggerati already hold one seat and will try for more. If they land a majority on the board, the county schools will take a turn for the worse, and parents who aren’t obsessed with wedge issues will have to look for somewhere to send their kids.

The argument for voting for the Exaggerati this year would have been to guarantee the city schools would move backward at the same pace as the county’s might. A shared sense of educational disaster would give the county’s parents nowhere to go, and save our schools from an onslaught of new students. I mean, we’re already building a new high school and will probably have to build a new elementary if the City Council approves the Bluestone Town Center next year. There must be limits to a city’s generosity.

But thanks to the efforts of people like me and the EAK ticket, the city will still shine on the hill. So we should take advantage of the benefits of the county’s potential backward move.

Think about it. Two more ill-tempered, cross board members cross the electoral bridge, so to speak, and wind up sitting across from someone who shares their views. Education professionals will roll their eyes and look for work elsewhere, and the best the county can get for a new superintendent is someone whose management experience is running a nail parlor in Southside Richmond and has educational experience teaching classes in buffing and polishing.

Let’s look at the bright side. Teachers in the county, hounded by board members about what’s on their bulletin boards or which bathroom kids use will become fed up, and many of them will be examining their options by the end of the ’23-’24 school year, just in time for the opening of Rocktown High School in ’24-’25. With a nationwide shortage of experienced teachers and a dearth of new ones, a new high school could be hard to staff. But it will be easier with several hundred educators in the surrounding county looking to escape micromanagement bordering on harassment.

This modest proposal ignores the needs of the county’s children, but that’s what modest proposals do. If changes in county school management drive parents to the city, it will happen gradually while they sell their county homes and find repurposed student apartments in the city. The teachers, who can live anywhere, can start immediately.

This solution, which begins with city progressives working for candidates in the county whose principles they despise, is a short-term fix. But in a world where the word “crisis” pops up like dandelions in a field, we can’t solve the police crisis, the teacher crisis, the housing crisis, and the common sense crisis quickly. Especially when the only ones who have to think ahead are teachers preparing lesson plans and high school seniors looking at colleges. Everyone else can keep kicking cans down the road until the clatter deafens us all.

What are the long-term implications of electorally trashing the county schools to marginally improve the city schools? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Joe Fitzgerald is a former mayor of Harrisonburg. This column is republished with permission from his blog, Still Not Sleeping.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


25 responses to “Crossing the County Line”

  1. 747 words in that article, but very little of substance.

    “But thanks to the efforts of people like me …”

    Don’t break your arm, patting yourself on the back.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      On the contrary, there is a great deal of substance in the article along with some fine tongue-in-cheek writing. It is probably that you do not agree with the substance.

      1. Glad it works for you.

        I prefer articles that lay out specifics from whatever point of view. He doesn’t stand for anything in this article that I can see, other than opposing anyone who disagrees with him.

  2. So am I hearing you correctly? Sexually graphic material in elementary school libraries is okay, and any adults who disagree are exaggeratists and will cause teachers to run elsewhere? Maybe there’s more to the story considering Harrisonburg City had SOL pass rates of 39 in 12th grade and 42 to 48 in grades 3-8. (grade 9 not shown, grade 10 pass rate of 61 for13 students total, and 77 for11th grade.)

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      No, you are not hearing him correctly. He is not saying that sexually graphic material in elementary school libraries is okay. He is saying that there was one book in the school library that was objectionable to some parents and now it is off the shelves. Nevertheless, a small group of parents “went door to door speaking of pornography in the school libraries” They took one instance they objected to and exaggerated it out of proportion.

      1. Allowing one such book still sets a precedent, and it indicates the attitudes of the school board and school staff who approved it. Parents and community members should be informed.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          That sounds like an exaggeration to me.

    2. Sexually graphic materials seem to be just fine, it’s anyone who disagrees that must be purged.

      So says Mr. Fitzgerald, a Democratic party activist. Isn’t that the party that prides itself on diversity and inclusion?

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I don’t see that he is advocating purging anyone.

        1. “I worked hard for the School Board candidates who opposed the Exaggerati …”

          1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            Working to make sure someone gets elected is not the same as purging their opponents.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            unless you’re a conservative…..

          3. If you are candid, you would agree that the tone of the article was such that anyone who reads it would come away with the clear impression that those whom he opposes on cultural issues are bad. He has no use for them, and wish them all gone.

            I got no hint within the article that those who oppose pornography for example represent a segment of the population which, while he may disagree, have a right to be represented on the school board.

          4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            I came away with the clear impression that he felt there was a small group that was unhappy with what their children were being exposed to and wanted to impose their views on the schools as a whole and he felt that it would detrimental to the school system and the children in it for those people to be elected to the school board. Conversely, I am sure that those people felt that people like the author should not be on the school board.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    All politics is vocal… very, very vocal.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      where have you been. explain yourself!

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Went slumming north of the DC area.

        Hey! Rode the 495 for the 1st time in a few years. When did MD change the speed limit to 55MPH on the beltway? It ain’t workin’.

        And here’s a new thing. When did the Maryland idiots start brake-checking every time they change lanes? Sheesh. Pull in front of you and tap the brakes.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          hmm… usually when someone does that, they’re telling you they did not like something you did earlier!

          Maryland uses speed cameras also.. combine that with lower speed limits and… hmmm

          Wife drove Charlotte a week or so and said the speed limit was 65 and anyone who went 65 got abused…

          1. how_it_works Avatar

            Maryland uses speed cameras only in construction and school zones or where the posted speed limit is 35MPH or less. The last place I drove in Maryland where I saw speed cameras was a construction zone on US15, and it was very obvious that it was there, with signs and “YOUR SPEED IS” warnings.

            I saw none on I495 on the section between College Park and I66 when I last drove that a couple of weeks ago.

            As far as the speed limit on I495, hasn’t it been 55MPH since Nixon had that great idea?

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Well it weren’t me. They change lanes and instead of speeding up right away, they tap the brakes. I suspect it’s because they cut over right on the back bumper of the car in front of me.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            It’s a NoVa/Md thing and they bring it with them when they move to Fredericksburg for a more “affordable” house but still commute north to their jobs.

            Oh, and to hear them tell it, they are often heard to say ” people don’t know how to drive” which is code for – “get out of my way or else”.

  4. Paul Sweet Avatar

    I’m glad they only found one such book in the Harrisonburg school libraries. Unfortunately, I expect that a lot of school systems would have many more such books.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    If you want to see how this works when the Exaggerati take a 4-3 control of the school board, just google Spotsylvania.

    Their new policy was NOT presented to the public nor were they allowed to comment but changes were made to it just before it was put to a vote with 3 board members never seeing the changes.

    When one of the four can’t make the regular meeting, they cancel the meeting then schedule a “special” meeting so all 4 can be there.

    There’s more. Every week more “stuff” plays out!

  6. killerhertz Avatar

    The sooner your kind disappear and government schools fail the faster we’ll be able to truly educate children.

Leave a Reply