Roanoke Times editorial writer Christian Trejbal, a lightning rod who stirs up even more controversy than this web site, recently found a pattern involving the Superintendent of Floyd County’s school system and the superintendent’s son, who runs the school system in Giles County.

Writes Trejbal:

Most schools closed on King’s holiday, as they do every year, but not schools in Floyd and Giles counties.

MLK Day, the third Monday of January, has been a national holiday since Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1983. The states, however, had to adopt it individually, and some did so more quickly than others. Today all of them recognize it in one form or another.

In Virginia, lawmakers first tied it to Lee-Jackson Day. That odd juxtaposition of Confederate generals and civil rights crusader ended in 2000, when the General Assembly moved Lee-Jackson Day to the Friday before MLK Day.

But just as Congress refused to impose MLK Day on the states, the commonwealth did not impose it on local schools. Most state offices shut down, but school boards and superintendents decide whether classes meet.

The state Department of Education does not track which schools take the day off, but in the New River Valley, it’s everyone except the two school systems headed by the Arbogasts. That’s father Terry Arbogast and son Terry Arbogast II, the superintendents of Floyd and Giles schools respectively, where only 2 percent of the students in each county are black.

The elder Arbogast did not return calls for nearly three weeks seeking comment and only obliquely answered questions posed by e-mail. At least the younger one was willing to talk about the Giles policy.

Giles schools set the holiday aside as a makeup day. If there are no weather cancellations before it, students and teachers get the day off. This year, there was a snow day on Nov. 18, so class was in session on Monday. Most years there is a snow day.

In the father’s schools, they do not even have the pretense. School is in session on MLK Day most years. This year was an exception because it happened to fall at the end of a term. Kids got the day off, but teachers and staff worked.

Some comments to Christian’s column accused him of calling the Arbogasts racists — a charge he denies — and of hyprocrisy because the Times publishes on MLK day (the day is, in fact, a paid holiday for employees of the Times).

Few places around here recognize MLK day as a holiday, which is not surprising. Those who recognize both MLK day and Lee-Jackson Day get a four-day weekend, which isn’t bad if you are willing to overlook the irony of beginning the weekend celebrating two Confederate generals and ending it in remembrance of a civil rights leader.

I don’t believe Terry Arbogast is racist. However, I do see a pattern in his reluctance to discuss the question with Trejbal. He doesn’t trust the media and was openly critical of The Roanoke Times at the last meeting of the board of supervisors for the paper’s reporting of the state budget crisis and its effect on schools. He also told others that I "misrepresented" his remarks during a confrontation with supervisors over a budget issue last year although he never addressed those concerns to me directly nor did he ever ask for a correction to the story I wrote for The Floyd Press.

Arbogast is a tireless promoter of Floyd County schools. His appearances at the county board of supervisors meetings are entertaining presentations that are part carnival barker and part evangelical preacher but his reports are sometimes long on hyperbole and short on detail.

The final decision on whether or not Floyd County schools stay open or closed on MLK day is made by Floyd’s school board based on the recommendation of the school superintendent. In the past, the board has been less-than-candid with county residents and parents. In 2007, the board downplayed lead contamination found in two water fountains at Willis Elementary School.

Had Arbogast been open and candid with an editorial writer from the Times, the tone of the story might have been different. It’s easy to find hints of racism, especially when a public official avoids discussing the matter with the media. A school superintendent, of all people, should remember just how easy perception can become reality in today’s society.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Mark, as recently as fifty years ago, were relatives of yours beaten or did they have fire-hoses turned on them for being “southern-born”? Were they refused equal rights? A place to eat or a water fountain? Being “mocked” is a far cry from the legacy of Dr. King and the Reagan-instituted MLK national holiday. The proliferance of racism speaks to us as a people and is, ever, a call for alarm and action.

  2. Unfortunately, why guy, racism is alive and well everywhere. I do not think it is possible to rid any public school of it. If you know a way I am all ears. What we as a county/state/society have to do is learn to live amongst it while doing our part to educate those who spread it. I think the article was using racism as a way to sell newspapers and that is dispicable.

    I know there is racism in the schools. I see it everyday in my job. I am sure most of the people in this county are aware of what is going on. It is our duty as leaders to educate the ignorate and chastize the users. Dr. arbogast refused to become a “player” in CT’s editorial. By not responding to it, you and some others have already found him guilty of being a hate monger and I do not think that is true.

  3. Oh, slightly over 100 years ago, my Irish relatives were treated as you describe, but since that doesnt fall within your 50 year timeframe, it shouldnt count??

    I guess along your lines of thinking, 50 years from now, the history of Blacks being segregated will fall by the way of the Irish, Slavs, American Indians, etc.?

    Please, I understand that there is discrimination prevalent today still towards people of different colors, nationalities, ethnicities, etc., but beating down two very good school systems and making the analogy that racism may be involved (when two other counties nearby also do not take off for MLK or Lee-Jackson day but were conveniently unmentioned in the orginal article) is simply a cheap shot that didnt need to be taken by someone who hasnt even lived in the area very long. Now, had this been an article titled “A closed-minded view of 2 out of 4 local school systems by a writer who didnt do his homework” then that would be slightly more accurate.

  4. Eric, first you make the leap of accusing others of making Dr. Arbogast out to be a “Hate Monger” when I don’t see that in any of the posts. Both Doug and I shed light on the fact that, for someone in a very public office, he’s not too good about dealing with the public. And then Mark slips in that Trejbal hasn’t lived here for very long, a comment that comes right before “if you don’t like it here, leave.” Trejbal is an editorial writer and writing an editorial is just what he did. It’s an opinion with more than a little basis in fact, with a big question mark at the end of it. And folks like us are answering the question.

  5. Wow guy, I think you are the one making the leap by assuming i want Mr. Trejbal to leave. I never said anything like that at all. You know what it means to ASSUME, right?

    The only question marks about the article (remember now, we are talking about the article, not your fine posts regarding it), is why (A) the Arbogasts are not criticized for not taking off from school on other recognized holidays and (B) How come schools like Wythe County and Carroll County arent mentioned as well?
    Is it because there are no Arbogasts running those shows? What if Giles didnt have an Arbogast in that position? Wouldnt that make the point of the article moot?

    Do you think Mr. Arbogast would be more willing to discuss with Mr Trejbal why they are not out of school for Yom Kippur or for Lee-Jackson day?

    You know, if a school superintendent doesnt want to give interview time to an ‘editorial writer’ known for taking cheap shots at people in the past, thats his prerogative.

  6. Mark, we really seem to have read two different articles. Again, as a resident of Floyd and the father of two children in its school, I was interested because of my own past direct dealings with Dr. Arbogast on the subject of racism in our schools. Then, as now, Dr. Arbogast’s way of handling the subject seems to be NOT to handle it, no comment. You start to connect the dots after a while.

  7. Oh im sorry, let me try again… There are 4 schools* in close proximity that do have school on MLK day. Upon further inspection, 2 of them have a father-son superintendent connection. Of those 2, only 1 was very forthcoming on the school policy.
    Therefore, the article could have read “Im miffed that someone didnt return my calls, even though other schools have blatent racism and predjudice that do (and some that dont) observe the holiday, im still miffed.”

    I wonder if the other 2 schools’ superintendents were contacted and whether they responded? Maybe they did and Dr. Arbogast was then the odd-ball out?

    *And please save me from the “Well Christian is an NRV-based writer and Wythe and Carroll do not quite qualify as NRV schools”, Mr. Trejbal has a current article about a Pittsylvania County representative as well.

  8. Again, my very real concern as a resident of Floyd is what goes on in Floyd and, in particular, our school system. Trejbal’s article speaks to that. If you want to be mad about all things Trejbal, well, that’s certainly your perogative.

  9. Are you upset because there is racism in the school or are you upset because Dr. Arbogast did not return the phone call of an editorial writer. I believe I already stated that I KNOW there is racism in ALL public schools. I asked you what is your master plan for this eutopian school system you have in mind. I would love to fix the problem.

    Secondly, we have no idea WHY Dr. Arbogast did not return the phone call. Was he sick, out of the office, on vacation, busy, or just plain did not want to get caught up in it all. Who knows. I can not speak for him. I do not know why he is not willing to be more “in the public.” I simply disagree with the fact that the reason that Floyd and Giles don’t have a holiday is because of the Arbogasts.

  10. Guy, first it was my relatives then it was all things Trejbal… you certainly are all over the board here.
    Remember, you know what it means to ASSUME, right?

    Anyway, Christian’s article speaks to the point that something that happens in Floyd, happens in other areas too, but singles out Dr. Arbogast inparticular because he didnt respond. It could have been about MLK day, the age of the books in the library, or the size of the grass outside the school.

  11. So, if I understand correctly…if Trejbal wrote an article about the size of the grass outside of Floyd schools and then wrote, in addition, that Dr. Arbogast refused to comment on the grass that would upset you just as much as the article regarding MLK Day? You appear to have some “history” with Trejbal, as you said in a post that he’s taken “cheap shots” at people in the past. Do you care to elaborate?

  12. For the record

    I sent a response to Mr. Trejbal’s letter to Shay Barnhart, who is listed as the NRV Editor in the front of the NRV Current, on Tues at 8:28 am.

    I got this response back at 9:50
    ******

    x_ exceeds our 200-word limit for a letter and is not between 500 and 750 words for a guest commentary.

    If you would like to correct the problem(s) and resubmit, we would be happy to review a revised letter. Please contact Christian Trejbal at christian.trejbal@roanoke.com or 540/381-1645 if you have any further questions.

    Sincerely,

    Danielle Dunaway

    Danielle Dunaway
    Editorial Department
    The Roanoke Times
    540-981-3257

    *******
    I revised my letter to 200 words exactly and resent it to Ms. Dunaway at 11:39 AM on Tues and asked if it could be considered for printing now?

    Hearing nothing I sent her an email today, Jan 28 at 11:36 AM asking if she received my revision and if it was going to be considered for printing.

    As of 4:20 today I haven’t heard a reply.

    Interesting…

  13. Nah, no history, i have just ready many o’ his articles before and you can tell when there is an unfair ‘attack’ on someone simply for making a ‘good story’.

    The purpose of the article started out as “All schools should take off for MLK day” (which BTW i think is a great idea personally). If you cannot see through your Trejbal colored glasses that the article took a swift turn towards “Dr. Arbogast mysteriously will not comment on MLK day” then perhaps you should get a different prescription.

    I dont particularly want to delve into CT’s propensity for creating articles to attack conservative, faith-based public figures by trying to cram society’s problems into one school system or neighborhood here on Doug’s good site, but here is some light reading for you if you wish to drive down “The Crooked CT Road” or “Whine Down the CT Trail”:
    http://blogs.roanoke.com/rtblogs/roundtable/2009/01/26/shooting-across-the-tracks/
    http://blogs.roanoke.com/rtblogs/roundtable/2009/01/06/could-norm-coleman-beat-a-dog/

  14. First and foremost…has anyone ever complained to the school board about this issue?
    Thats the first place to start if you have issues with school policy.
    I personally think it is none of Trejbal’s business about this issue…unless 1)he has children in the schools mentioned or 2) someone from these school districts has made issue with it to the R’noke Times.
    Next..I doubt very much that anything Dr. Arbogast said would make any diffrence to Trejbal and he (Trejbal) would only print what he wanted to anyway.
    So here’s my opinion..if FLOYD COUNTY citizen’s have issues with the MLK day or any other school issue …make a point to see your Board member…if not forever hold your peace…
    And as Forrest Gump says…that’s all I have to say about that!

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