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We have a new hero, and he’s only a junior at Collins High School. His legend wasn’t built on a playing field or stage, like so many of his classmates, but he certainly is a star in our minds.
That’s because we think he sets a refreshing example of how adults in positions of authority should handle themselves in moments of public scrutiny.
His name is Steven Cheppo, and when he was asked by the Shelby County School Board for his assessment of the 2-year-old Accelerated Academy program to push students through high school and into college, he answered the question very clearly and was prepared to name names.
Here, in part, is what Mr. Cheppo told the school board about the academy during a meeting on May 23: “I feel like some of our teachers are not that great. It feels like we were limited in our ability to learn by some of our teachers.”
Those straightforward comments – direct answers that pointed directly to solutions – were quite wonderful to the ears and eyes of those of us who are not used to straight answers. We hear and read mostly rebuttals and challenges littered with political posturing, the sorts of responses that accomplish little but to rile the other side of the debate.
Certainly, we expect that those instructors charged with teaching courses in the Accelerated Academy at Collins and Shelby County High School are “riled,” and well they should be. A finger was pointed at them, and fingers always feel like weapons of the greatest megatonnage. Those pointed fingers feel deadly and fierce, which we guess is why Bill Clinton favored the pointed thumb and not the index finger, a gesture adopted by so many these days.
But Mr. Cheppo most definitely pointed fingers in the way of an old-school minister outing sinners, and then he offered to tell board members exactly to which teachers he was referring.
That idea quickly was squelched by Superintendent James Neihof – a tactically sound move to save Mr. Cheppo from unintended consequences, we would guess – but how refreshing that he had the answers ready to be revealed.
How often do we see those questions have no real answers? Would you agree that there are seldom answers and mostly questions answered by questions?
For instance, we still don’t know why members of Shelby County Fiscal Court decided to forgo the appropriate and cost-effective decision of establishing a county-wide curbside garbage and recycling program.
We have not been given the names of those whose influence turned what appeared to be a strong and forthright tide to forego the building of a $3.2 million solid-waste and recycling facility and take the onus off the taxpayers – both in their trash and the property taxes they would spend for an outdated idea.
We simply can’t believe that three predominant speakers out of maybe a dozen who addressed the county’s Legislative Committee about this issue – one of whose arguments included some spurious facts, we now understand – spoke for some 12,000 households and 43,000 residents and killed this measure in a cloud of personal complaint.
Surely if Mr. Cheppo were part of the county’s Legislative Committee, he would have told us who influenced such a decision. He would have given us the names and the “why” and not just the decision.
All we know is that the matter died in committee, as good legislation sometimes does because of politics. Another lesson from Mr. Cheppo: He didn’t seem to care about politics. He simply appeared to want to improve education in Shelby County.
We would guess that Mr. Cheppo has not taken an Advanced Placement course in political science as part of the academy. Surely if he had, Mr. Cheppo would know that in the political world, you say as little as you can to avoid being the focal point of the complaint, the slain messenger.
We have seen that in debates about health care, taxes, federal spending, Benghazi, the IRS and just about any other national topic you want to name. We are long on who thinks what but sadly short on why a person thinks that way. The truth usually is horribly hidden in the rhetoric.
We have no idea what area of study Mr. Cheppo plans to pursue when he graduates next year, but we would suggest he avoid a political science major. He certainly has proven that he doesn’t have the right approach to be successful in that world, and he may find the teachers not up to his speed, either.
No, Steven Cheppo might not like the way the world approaches answering questions.
But we certainly wish that the world had same approach as he does.