The Shenandoah County School Board is composed of elected members and its superintendent. They determine the scope and quality of education for our children. The educational budget proposed by the School Board and approved by the Board of Supervisors determines the amount you and I pay in property taxes. Both bodies play important roles in preparing our children for the future. Unfortunately, many are playing politics using our kids as game pieces, and have lost sight of the big picture.

I have seen political drama for many years “inside the beltway” before I wised up and made this valley my home. And this “come-here” was relieved to see very little of the same puerile political posturing and drama from Shenandoah County officials. But with the coming of “cancel culture,” identity politics and petty “microaggressions” that earn well-meaning people a modern scarlet letter, going through the motions has taken a decidedly sinister turn.

I see elected officials who have taken an oath to represent their constituents, completely ignoring their wishes in order to push a personal political agenda that they dare not submit to a public referendum. Yes, public hearings are held, but those who speak may as well be talking into an empty 24-ounce tomato can for all the feedback they receive. The message seems to be that the public is accountable to its elected officials – not the other way around – and therefore is not entitled to open, public dialogue.

As a 40-year civil servant, I was sometimes torn between serving my personal views over the views of those whom I served. Even though it was difficult at times, I followed the rules and defaulted to the wishes of those to whom I was accountable. By contrast, thousands of valley parents with school-age children have been forced to the realization that the Shenandoah County School Board has prioritized liberal politics ahead of the needs of kids, parents and, yes, teachers. Their accountability has simply vanished.

Let’s put an end to the School Board’s political drama that only serves to divide the community and alienate thousands of citizens. Let us ensure that there is two-way public dialogue between the School Board and citizens of Shenandoah County. For starters, let’s work on what the kids need to learn and how to teach it, instead of trying to impress Northern Virginia with how hip and “woke” we are. Let’s change the paradigm by working together to re-discover and address the real mission of our public schools.

James R. Poplar III, of Quicksburg, proudly served with the U.S. government for over 40 years. He specialized in national security affairs at both Vanderbilt and the National Defense University.